‘Get your pre-baby body back? We just want mums to en­joy sport again’

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Women's Sport Monthly -

Ex-Eng­land net­ball coach Tracey Neville wants to help moth­ers to over­come fears, she tells Fiona To­mas

Scrolling through her in­box, Sor­cha Mac Laimhin clicked on the email sent to her by a well-known preg­nancy and par­ent­ing com­pany.

Hav­ing given birth three months ear­lier, the sub­ject header piqued her cu­rios­ity: ‘The ul­ti­mate guide to shap­ing up post-baby’.

Open­ing it, her eyes wan­dered on to a photo of bronzed, bikini-clad women with flat tum­mies, ac­com­pa­nied with the cap­tion, “seven easy ways to get your pre-baby body back!”

“I was ab­so­lutely hor­ri­fied,” re­calls Mac Laimhin. “Why was a com­pany which was meant to be sup­port­ing mums putting pres­sure on them like that?’ I just thought it was com­pletely wrong.”

The neg­a­tive mes­sag­ing im­me­di­ately struck a chord with Mac Laimhin, a com­pet­i­tive rugby player with 25 ap­pear­ances for Ir­ish provin­cial side Ul­ster un­der her belt.

Be­fore the pan­demic, she re­turned to the pitch and played a few games for her lo­cal club, Cooke RFC, and was rel­ish­ing the fa­mil­iar feel­ing of ex­er­cis­ing with friends, even if it meant pump­ing her sore breasts be­fore train­ing on sev­eral cold Novem­ber evenings last year.

When lock­down hit, Mac Laimhin felt un­easy about the sud­den so­ci­etal pres­sure to buy into the on­line home work­out craze while try­ing to nav­i­gate the tricky path of moth­er­hood in al­most com­plete iso­la­tion.

Ea­ger to cham­pion moth­ers who jug­gle sport and fam­ily life, she launched Mama Loves Sport, a plat­form cel­e­brat­ing or­di­nary mums who play sport at com­mu­nity level.

“When we talk about mums get­ting ac­tive again – that’s just it – get­ting mums mov­ing again af­ter hav­ing a baby,” says Mac Laimhin.

“It’s so neg­a­tive and dam­ag­ing. Why are we fo­cus­ing on an aes­thetic when we should be en­cour­ag­ing mums to play sports be­cause it’s fun, it’s a men­tal break and it’s great for you phys­i­cally?

“We so rarely cel­e­brate mums who play sport and the fo­cus tends to be on get­ting back to an ac­tive life­style and the dreaded ‘snap­ping­back’ – get­ting your pre-preg­nancy jeans back on and los­ing the ‘mum tum’.”

That is some­thing which for­mer na­tional net­ball coach Tracey Neville, who guided Eng­land to a his­toric Com­mon­wealth gold medal two years ago, can re­late to.

For Neville, who gave birth to baby

Nev two days be­fore the

UK went into lock­down, learn­ing the ropes of moth­er­hood in the mid­dle of a pan­demic took away her feel­ing of self-worth and height­ened body im­age and ex­er­cise con­cerns.

This even ex­tended to the most me­nial of tasks like wear­ing leg­gings for the on­line launch of the Baby to Baller series on so­cial me­dia – a free, six-week video series in­cor­po­rat­ing net­ball skills into gen­tle home work­outs de­signed to suit post-par­tum bod­ies and help new mums get ac­tive. “I was ac­tu­ally scared to do ex­er­cise,” Neville tells Tele­graph

Sport. “Some­times when I did a HIIT (high-in­ten­sity in­ter­val train­ing) ses­sion and Nev was cry­ing, I had to stop and it felt like I failed. Then I thought there was no point do­ing 20 min­utes, be­cause I was never go­ing to get it done.”

Baby to Baller was un­veiled along­side re­search from health in­surer Vi­tal­ity, which sur­veyed 1,000 women about how the lock­down had im­pacted their re­la­tion­ship with ex­er­cise.

It found nearly two thirds of moth­ers felt iso­lated, while a sim­i­lar pro­por­tion said they would like to ex­er­cise more but did not know how to with a new baby.

At 43, Neville’s preg­nancy was classed as high-risk which meant she lim­ited her ex­er­cise and one of her great­est chal­lenges was the un­cer­tainty of bounc­ing back from hav­ing a cae­sarean.

“I had a mid­wife and health vis­i­tor, the NHS were un­be­liev­able, but I didn’t leave with a plan, I just got told I couldn’t do any­thing for six weeks,” she said. “We never say to our ath­letes: ‘You don’t do any­thing for six weeks.’ There’s al­ways some­thing light they can do. [With a C-sec­tion] there’s no in­di­vid­u­al­i­sa­tion with what you’re do­ing.”

Ear­lier this month Nike launched its first ma­ter­nity sport cloth­ing range – in­clud­ing a sports bra that al­lows wear­ers to breast­feed – with elite-level mums gain­ing a higher pro­file. Ser­ena Wil­liams, Tsve­tana Pironkova, and Vic­to­ria Azarenka all ad­vanced to the quar­ter-fi­nals of the US Open – the first time three mums had reached that stage.

Iconic US foot­baller Alex Mor­gan, who gave birth in May, is plan­ning a speedy re­turn to the game by sign­ing for Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur in Eng­land’s Women’s Su­per League, and Bri­tain’s cy­cling mum Lizzie Deignan tri­umphed at La Course last month.

De­spite openly ad­mit­ting her ‘mum tum’ is now one of her big­gest in­se­cu­ri­ties, Neville was adamant Baby to Baller did not morph into another “lose weight thing” at a time when, in ad­di­tion to man­ag­ing their preg­nancy weight, women are be­ing told to shift their ‘lock­down lard’.

“I’m six months out from hav­ing a baby, I’ve not got the per­fect body, but I just want to be ac­tive. It’s not just about get­ting back into shape as quick as you can – it’s about ev­ery­thing that comes with that.”

Mac Laimhin agrees: “I’ve been in­volved in sport far too long to worry about what my body looks like. I’m far more wor­ried about what my body can do.”

Two mums, one with a grass­roots past, the other a for­mer elite ath­lete, united in their aim to har­ness the men­tal and phys­i­cal ben­e­fits of sport at a time when it is needed more than ever.

‘I was scared to ex­er­cise af­ter hav­ing my baby. I thought there was no point’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.