HEALTHY AND HAPPY
Three inspiring mums share their secrets to staying fit both during pregnancy and after having kids.
As a former school gymnast for 11 years, 38-yearold Yvonne Chee has been active her whole life. She has always enjoyed sporting activities and switched to leisure running when she was older. Yvonne completed her first marathon in 2007 and in 2013, she crossed the finish line of the Antarctic Ice Marathon and became part of the 7 Continents Marathon Club – an elite group of runners who’ve ran a marathon on all seven continents. Globally, there are only slightly over 200 members who qualify. Her next goal? Conquering the North Pole Marathon.
Since she’s such an avid runner, it seems unsurprising that Yvonne has already completed 17 marathons to date. Her last marathon in March 2017 saw her representing Singapore at the New Taipei City Wan Jin Shi Marathon where she finished with a personal best timing of 3hr 23min. What she didn’t expect though, was that she was already six weeks pregnant with her second child at the time. “Had I known, I definitely wouldn’t have done a full marathon when I was still in my first trimester,” says Yvonne. Thankfully, her pregnancy went by smoothly and her second daughter Eva was born in November 2017.
Pregnancy tends to be a time when many women scale back their workouts, preferring to err on the side of caution and take things easy. But staying active also has its benefits. Throughout her second pregnancy last year, Yvonne kept fit by exercising daily. She took part in eight races – of up to 10km each – while she was expecting, and even finished in first place during a 10km race she did when she was 20 weeks pregnant. “I ran until I was in my seventh month of pregnancy. In the last two months of my pregnancy, I switched to working out on stair climbers and elliptical machines at the advice of my gynaecologist as it became increasingly uncomfortable to run when my baby got heavier,” says Yvonne.
To keep up with her fitness regime, Yvonne also had to adjust to carrying more weight around while running, and to learn to overcome the fatigue she faced during her first and third trimesters. “In order to cope, I adapted a flexible approach for my training. I didn’t have a target pace or heart rate to hit and I continued running at a comfortable pace.” After all, a healthy mama means a healthy baby, and working out during her pregnancy was a way for Yvonne to feel good about herself in spite of the physical changes her body was going through.
“Ultimately, it’s important to listen to both your doctor and your body. If you’re going through a normal pregnancy with no complications, I’d advise expecting mums to keep doing what they’ve been doing before they got pregnant – be it yoga, pilates, spinning or running – but to tweak the intensity and duration of the workouts accordingly,” she says.
These days, as a mum to two young daughters, Yvonne only averages about five hours of interrupted sleep each night before she gets up at around 5am to run. Every workout is time away from her kids so she tries to sneak in her runs before they wake up. Though only four months post-partum at the time of the shoot, she runs daily for at least 50 minutes each time as she’s training for the London Marathon in April.
But don’t be fooled into thinking it’s easy. When asked if there are days she wakes up and doesn’t feel like running, Yvonne will tell you point blank: “Every day! But I push myself to do it knowing I’ll feel better after a run. Working out is as important as eating and sleeping so if you make exercising a priority, it will happen.”
I work out because… I want to stay healthy and because I enjoy the post-workout endorphin rush.
To me, being a good mum means… loving my children for who they are and providing them with a safe and nurturing environment to grow up in.
The thing I love most about being a mum is… waking up to my girls, watching them smile and grow up and finally understanding what true and unconditional love is.
My children make me… a happy and contented person.
My biggest time-saving tip is… to exercise during lunchtime at work.
If I only have five minutes to work out, I will… pick up a skipping rope and skip.
When other mums tell me they don’t have time to work out, I say… it’s about prioritising.
My motto as a mum is… to try my best. I won’t know everything and may fail at times but at least I’ve tried and will learn from my mistakes.
She finished a marathon with a personal best timing despite being six weeks pregnant
It’s hard to imagine life without exercise when you are Dawn Sim. The 39-year-old yoga and pilates instructor, and founder of Trium Fitness, has been active every day for as long as she can remember.
From the tender age of six, she took part in swimming competitions, competed in track and field, and went on to race in triathlons and marathons. As such, her weekly fitness routine comprised running, swimming, yoga, pilates and resistance training at the gym. “I don’t take days off where I do nothing. I’m an advocate for daily exercise. Movement is therapy,” she says.
Even when kids came – four, to be exact, Dawn kept working out by making smart modifications. “During my pregnancies, I did power walking instead of running, and swam two or three times a week to maintain my stamina. I continued to practise yoga and pilates daily as that helped with nausea and improved my mood and energy levels. I also did resistance training during my second, third and fourth pregnancies.”
According to Dawn, exercising helped her avoid back pain, pelvic floor weakening and urinary incontinence, which are common complaints among new mums. Working out during pregnancy also let her maintain the strength she needed to manage her kids and household chores without help.
Of course, she has had a fair share of obstacles.
During her third pregnancy, Dawn had amniotic fluid leakage, which meant that her baby was at risk of a premature birth. And in her fourth pregnancy, she suffered from excruciating pelvic pain that made it difficult to get in and out of bed. “Throughout these challenges, I scaled down or modified my movements so I could still get some exercise in. The key thing is to know how to safely modify the moves to avoid putting myself and baby at risk,” says Dawn, who got certified in pre- and post-natal yoga training as well as active birthing after having her second child.
As if working out during pregnancy wasn’t challenging enough, maintaining a fitness routine after having kids proved to be trickier.
In her first few years of motherhood, she lived in France and the US, as her husband, a Lieutenant-Colonel with the Republic of Singapore Air Force, was posted to those countries for work. “I didn’t have anyone to help me watch my kids, so I had to be creative in order to fit in my postnatal workouts, housework, sending my older kids to school and back, and teaching yoga to the community where we lived,” Dawn recalls.
That meant having to involve her thenbabies in her workouts, either having them on the mat or carrying them in the carrier. Dawn would also sneak in quick training sessions when they napped. Whenever she ran, cycled or hit the gym, she would take her kids along.
Now that Dawn is back in Singapore for good, the parenting load is shared with her helper and retired parents.
As you can imagine, Dawn’s sporty lifestyle has rubbed off on her daughters, aged 12, 10, six and two. The girls are often featured in her Instagram (@thatmomoffour) posts, imitating her movements or striking similar yoga poses.
Though the family regularly does a host of activities together – such as yoga, aerial yoga, swimming, skating and hiking – Dawn has no expectations for her children to emulate her. She says: “I only want for them to be healthy and happy individuals who enjoy being active. Seeing how they respect and care for one another and others is what brings me the greatest joy. If they decide to pursue sports that they’re passionate about, I’m fully supportive.”
Currently, her oldest girl Nyx, 12, bowls competitively, while second child Nya, 10, does gymnastics in school.
I work out because… it improves the quality of my life and sets a great example for my children and those around me.
To me, being a good mum means… being able to carry out my duties and promises to my children, and inspiring them to be amazing individuals. The impact is not there when you’re telling them to exercise and eat well, and you’re doing otherwise.
The thing I love most about being a mum is… knowing that no one can ever take my place in my children’s hearts, and hearing them tell me “I love you mummy”.
My children make me… always want to be the best that I can be.
My biggest time-saving tip is… online grocery shopping! I dread waiting in line for anything.
If I only have five minutes to work out, I will… do sun salutations!
When other mums tell me they don’t have time to work out, I say… make time.
To me, working out is as important as... brushing your teeth.
My motto as a mum is… There is no way to be a perfect mother, but a million ways to be a good one.
When Natalie Dau turned 46 years old earlier this year, she kicked off her birthday celebrations by competing in a friendly burpee challenge with her husband and their nine-year-old daughter, Lilianna. It’s clear that Natalie doesn’t run a typical household – and she isn’t your typical mum either. She is also an athlete, personal trainer, and entrepreneur – she runs her own fitness website called The Daily Escape.
Yes, she literally lives and breathes all things fitness, but this hasn’t always been so. Natalie was previously working in the corporate world where frequent business trips and late-night conference calls were the norm. She made a career change in 2013 as she was looking for a new challenge, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Most notably, she’s become a formidable competitor in obstacle course races. In 2015, she was talked into trying out the first Singapore Spartan Race by the CEO of Spartan Race Australia. “I had no idea what I was in for,” she says.
After the first race, she was hooked and has since gone on to compete in these events on a global level. Her biggest fitness achievement to date is finishing first from Asia in the men’s and women’s category of the Spartan World Championships in the USA last year.
Today, Natalie is also an ambassador for gyms like Triplefit and brands like Reebok. She works out for at least 45 minutes every day, doing Crossfit, road running, track and/or gym sessions.
You may think that juggling all these commitments will leave her no time to be a mother, but she has always made it a point to be present for Lilianna. In fact, Natalie has played a key role in developing her daughter’s active lifestlye.
“As part of my time management, I try and get a lot of my exercise in when she is at school or before she wakes up, and then I am free to watch her participate in her own sports,” says Natalie.
As such, Lilianna started swimming since she was six months old and was doing mini tennis and dance by the time she was two.
Now, Lilianna does Brazilian jiu-jitsu, basketball, swimming and athletics. It has always been Natalie’s intention to expose Lilianna to various basic sports – the ones that will lay the foundation for her to do anything, she says.
Sounds overwhelming? Not for Lilianna. Even on Mondays, her only free day of the week, she chooses to do some physical activities.
“On Mondays, I relax, watch TV and sometimes go for a swim or downstairs to skateboard,” says Lilianna. “I want to be like mummy.”
Growing up in a household where fitness runs in the blood, and seeing her mother head out to run or hit the gym is nothing unusual to Lilianna. That’s why eating healthy and exercising has become part of her lifestyle, says Natalie.
Under Natalie’s guidance, Lilianna has learned to make healthy food and lifestyle chioices on her own. She has only ever eaten at McDonald’s once in her life and she absolutely doesn’t mind that. Instead, she starts every morning with a smoothie and regularly packs salads to school.
And when it comes to spending quality time as a family, working out together trumps other activities. They go for runs and Natalie brings Lilianna along for her athletics training twice a week and bootcamp workout once a week.
I work out because... it makes me a nicer person.
To me, being a good mum means... leading by example, empowering my daughter to be strong, and inspiring her to be the best that she can be.
My daughter inspires me to... try new things and be a better human.
My biggest time-saving tip is... always be prepared for the next day. I go to bed with my clothes planned ready, food organised and bag packed so I can hit the ground running. Literally! The investment in taking those 10 minutes at night to do so pays dividends the next morning.
If I only have five minutes to work out, I will... do push-ups, air squats, situps, dips and burpees for 50 seconds each, taking 10 seconds of rest after each exercise.
When other mums tell me they don’t have time to work out, I say... you need to make time as no one else is going to do it for you.
To me, working out is as important as... eating.
My motto as a mum is... don’t sweat the small stuff as no one is perfect. We are all doing the best we can.
ON YVONNE Jacket, $49, shorts, $39, and running shoes, $199, from New Balance. Cotton top, $29, from H&M. ON LEA Top, $24.99, and skirt, $29.90, from Cotton On Kids. Sandals, $24.95, from H&M. ON EVA Top, $16.99, from Cotton On Kids. Dress, $39.95, from Seed Heritage.