From fitness tips and energy tricks to instant mood boosters, find out what you need to know now!
WORDS RACHEL KWEK
Modern mums like you have so many things on your plates. The demands on you to fulfil various responsibilities often leave you with little time to take care of your own well-being. You need to recognise that staying fit adds value to your life. Staying fit is not just about looking good, although that is a positive side-effect of putting in an effort to nurture your health. Freedom of movement comes with being physically fit. More than that, it also boosts your energy levels and mood. In combination, a robust body and mind allow you to better take care of all the responsibilities you have.
Staying fit is not a tall order. It is all about eating and moving right and it all starts with having the right mindset, says Kareen Lai, author of 18 Again and mother of two. She is on a mission to shape up the nation one mother at a time and uses her expertise to coach mummies on getting back into shape and feeling good post-pregnancy. “I hated the thought of proving people right – that women are expected to be out of shape after they become pregnant,” she says. Whether you are struggling to lose the post-pregnancy pounds or are finding ways to improve your energy levels, read on to find practical advice to feel great.
Be mindful of eating habits
When you are pressed for time, it is easy to not pay attention to what we are eating and the kind of effect it has on your bodies. Indeed, we are what we eat. It thus pays to consciously take note of your daily eating habits to learn which of them are contributing towards your fitness goals and which ones are sabotaging them. With this awareness gleaned from monitoring what and when you eat, you are empowering yourself to develop better eating habits that will contribute to your fitness goals. It is fine if you are not comfortable overhauling your dietary habits overnight. After all, they have been formed over many years. Make small adjustments like replacing unhealthy snacks with healthier options and reducing your intake of sugar, salt and saturated fat.
Count nutrients not calories
The value in calorie counting is in ensuring you are eating enough to supply you with your daily energy requirements. Beyond that, it doesn’t serve any purpose. In order to be healthy, your body needs to get the nutrients it needs and that is why nutrient counting has far more value than calorie counting. One way to give your body more nutrients is to eat wholesome food. What is wholesome food? Lai says the easiest way to tell if a food is a whole food or not is to see if it looks like its natural form. Typically, food that has undergone little or no processing is whole. In other words, you get more nutrients from grilled chicken than from a chicken sausage or patty. Avoid highly processed food if you want to feed your body well. Not only have most of the natural nutrients been lost in processed foods, they are also usually packed with fats and excessive flavourings, colouring and preservatives.
As with eating right, moving right is about knowing what to do and when to do them.
The kind of exercise you choose really matters
Stuck in a rut because you are not seeing results with the exercises that you do? The chances are that you are not doing the right exercises. Despite the fact that any physical activity is better than none, it is vital that you do exercises that will help you meet your fitness targets. If you are looking to burn fat, jogging leisurely and taking long walks are not the most efficient ways. “Essentially, you need to teach your body to tap into your fat reserves as your source of fuel. The key lies in generating a high level of energy expenditure,”
Spot reduction is an absolute myth
Lai points out that fats have their way of looking for their favourite storehouses in our bodies too. If your body fat tends to accumulate in particular areas of your body, those will be the last places where the fats will be burned off. Running strengthens your leg muscles but does not necessarily burn fat within them. In the same vein, doing crunches endlessly will not help you lose the bulging belly. Rather than giving you the taut abdominals you desire, doing them excessively can increase your chances of diastasis recti (abdominal separation) common among pregnant and postpartum women. Lai points out that big, unstable movements like sit-ups, crunches and planks are detrimental to the recovery of the abdominal tissues that are strained during pregnancy.
She strongly advocates doing compound exercises that work the whole body and various muscle groups at the same time to reap the highest fat-burning return for the amount of time spent.
LAI’s tip: work on your bum because your glutes form one of the biggest muscle groups in your body and burn more energy. When you work on them, you have a higher chance of turning your body into a fat-burning furnace.
Make time to move
The Health Promotion Board recommends at least 150 minutes of physical activity a week, which works out to be about 20 minutes a day. If you think about it relative to the amount of time we spend on other activities, it’s really not a long time. Moreover, regular exercise improves your metabolism over time. Better metabolism means your body uses more of its food stores and you would be more energetic. Consider cutting down time spent on other activities or replacing unproductive ones like watching dramas with some exercise. Remember: it’s all about the choices you make.
Many mummies have desk-bound jobs and spend long hours sitting at their desks. One way to find time for exercise is to find opportunities to weave activity into your everyday routines. Climb up the stairs to your home or office instead of using the lift. You can even take short exercise breaks during work.
You don’t need an expensive gym membership. Instead, try these exercises that Lai includes in her “Corridor Workouts”. Do 12 repetitions each and repeat three rounds.
More to Boost Energy
Surround yourself with a supportive network. Firstly, having people to help you with tasks leaves you with more energy to handle others you need to personally attend to so you won’t be drained of all your energy. Secondly, being with people with high energy will inspire you to be more spirited as well.
“If you keep hanging out with people who are constantly negative and lethargic, you will never get that optimum energy you deserve,” Lai says.