Ask any new mum about exercise, and chances are it’s often on the mind but not high on the priority list after having a baby, something Pip Black and Joan Murphy know all too well...
The fitness industry experts (they created Frame, a unique fitness studio concept across London, which offer drop-in and fun-filled, feel-good classes) have added Mumhood to their fitness stable, an online programme that guides pregnant women and new mums on exercises to do from the comfort of their own homes as well as offering expert advice on general post-natal wellbeing. “When Joan fell pregnant the second time, the timing felt right for us to seriously think about launching Mumhood which we had been quietly working on for the past year or so. Through Frame we had started to see the number of pregnant ladies coming into the studios confused and wondering what they can/can’t do, but keen to keep exercising and we wanted to do something positive that would be of benefit both to our current customers, but also to those pregnant ladies and new mums around the country, who may not have access to somewhere like Frame,” explains Pip Black. Through a combination of yoga, pilates and barre, Pip and Joan’s online programmes allow for mums to get active and look after their bodies at their own pace throughout the pregnancy and post-natal period, minus the stress that comes with exiting the house with a baby, a feat which can never be underestimated. Read on to hear more from Pip and discover how the two fitness experts approach motherhood, business and their own health and wellbeing…
What have you learnt about running a business over the years?
-Dedicate time to building a strong and engaged team around you. You can’t do it by yourself and you need an awesome team who you can trust and who share your vision. If you do make a wrong hire, then end it before it starts to affect the rest of the team. If you leave these situations too long, it’s generally not great for anyone. -Manage your cash flow. If you don’t have the money, then don’t spend it. -You’ve got to be prepared to put in the hours and do all the ‘not so great’ jobs, so that you can expect others to this further down the line. Joan and I have worked in every part of the business and this has made a huge difference as we understand completely how every department works. -Laugh. Things are always going to go wrong, but you have to be able to laugh about them. If you don’t have a sense of humour, being a business owner can be a pretty stressful place to be.
Tell us about your apparel line?
Move Your Frame is all about ‘fit for purpose’. The cuts and the styles work just as well for barre, yoga, dance and box fit classes, as they do for running to the bus, sitting in a cafe, having an after workout drink. We’ve created the range with our customer at heart: the 25-40 year old woman who loves exercise and the way it makes her feel but also knows that exercise is part of her life, not her WHOLE life, so she doesn’t want to spend crazy amounts on the clothes she’s going to sweat in and doesn’t require ridiculously high tech materials (she’s not doing Iron Man!) but what she does want is something that fits perfectly, flatters her body shape, doesn’t show her knickers in the downward facing dog and allows her to move freely, feel supported and confident and look great.
Talk us through what we could expect from classes such as Beyoncé Barre and Bend It Like Barbie?
It’s quite funny because these are the two classes that everyone always talks about even though they are a very small part of what we do! All classes at Frame are created to give a complete workout, working in all planes of motion, including endurance, power and flexibility. Bend it like Barbie is a dynamic stretch class for those who aren’t necessarily into yoga. Stretching is something that is often overlooked and lots of people don’t include enough of this in their workout routines. It works for people of all different flexibilities and the idea is to work with your own body. Beyoncé Barre is our signature Frame Barre class, but performed to a Beyoncé-only soundtrack! You should see everyone secretly singing along! Frame Barre is a low-intensity class designed to work your entire body and increase your strength and flexibility. Isometric movements target your smaller, supporting muscles creating the long, lean body of a dancer. This is a barefoot class.
And tell us more about the launch of Mumhood?
When Joan and I fell pregnant for the first time, it was quite a shock to find how limited the options were for pregnant women to continue to exercise. Advice was contradictory and definitely fell on the side of caution but, at the same time, having done our own research into it and being extremely active pre-pregnancy, we knew that staying active would keep us sane and would, ultimately, be best for our bodies and help create the best possible start for our babies. As a new mum, exercise, especially group exercise, will help get you out of the house and help to prevent postnatal depression. It will also help you to get on with your daily life without injuring yourself and help to boost your energy levels. When Joan fell pregnant the second time, the timing felt right for us to seriously think about launching Mumhood which we had been quietly working on for the past year or so. Through Frame, we had started to see the number of pregnant ladies coming into the studios confused and wondering what they could and couldn’t do, but keen to keep exercising. We wanted to do something positive that would be of benefit, both to our current customers and also to those pregnant ladies and new mums around the country, who may not have access to somewhere like Frame.
What has motherhood taught you?
To be patient. To come to terms with not always being in control. How to multi-task like a ninja. How to function on less than four hours sleep. How to be kind to ourselves and accept ourselves for who we are. When you have kids there are more important things to concentrate on!
What has been the most challenging part of motherhood and how have you overcome any challenges?
One of the key things that links to business, is how to plan, schedule and be more efficient with where you spend your time and how you prioritise. I used to work until one or two in the morning if I needed but now, with a toddler who doesn’t sleep well and at 34 weeks pregnant, that’s just not an option. Letting go of control and fully trusting the rest of our team to deliver (and helping to upskill them so they can) has been a key learning. Also saying ‘yes’ to any help offered, whether that’s childcare or otherwise. At the beginning, I tried to be super mum doing everything myself but, unsurprisingly, it didn’t work and it’s important not to be too proud to admit that you can’t do everything and you do need support! Balance is another one. Being a full time working mum can be tricky but I’ve made decisions as to how my son is going to be bought up. He’s ridiculously happy and having a great time at nursery and with his grandparents and I am 100% with him (not on my phone) when I do have precious hours with him. So I’m not going to waste energy feeling guilty for not being at home with him as it doesn’t help anyone. It’s important to know however that family comes first and sometimes, no matter how much you want to go to a press dinner/book launch/fitness class, that’s just not the priority right now and you have to say no. Saying no in itself is actually a really empowering thing to do, especially if you have the tendency to say yes to everything!
What’s your personal approach to fitness – do you exercise daily?
Right now, I’m trying to exercise ‘officially’ – as in do a class, three times a week and then supplement that with our Mumhood videos at home. I just bought the swimsuit from our collaboration with Mamas & Papas so I’m planning on getting back in the swimming pool this week (it feels so good when heavily pregnant!). As we said, our approach is all about balance and being realistic. You have to make exercise work for you but it’s important to move your body every day, whether that’s chasing after a toddler on a scooter, taking the stairs instead of the lift, heading out on a quick 20-minute run, or just having a 15 minute stretch before bed. It’s so much more important to exercise regularly (little and often) then do a big session once a week, and then sit at your desk for the rest of the week doing nothing!
What about diet – do you watch what you eat?
We are both very conscious about fuelling our bodies with the nutrients that they need to keep working long hours and to look after our families (including breastfeeding for Joan at the moment).We’re not into fad diets or cutting out whole food groups but eating a varied diet, with a sensible split of protein, carbs and healthy fats. We try to always cook from scratch when we can or to make sensible choices when eating out but these aren’t always the ‘low calorie / low carb options’. In fact we are very aware that our bodies need fuel to keep us going and that by eating wholesome and filling meals, we are less likely to snack on crap in between times! We stick to the 80:20 mentality – eat really well 80% of the time and then allow yourself to have treats for 20% of the time. When you have treats, don’t waste energy on feeling guilty about it, just make sure your next meal is full of goodness. The mental games people play with themselves over food is a huge reason for anxiety and yo-yo dieting that doesn’t work, so the ultimate aim is to stop obsessing over it.
What’s your all-time favourite exercise?
Impossible to answer! We both love all types of exercise and it totally depends on our moods, which is why the offering at Frame is so varied – we truly believe in mixing up your exercise routine and listening to your body. Although if we could never dance again, that would be a very sad thing!
How soon after birth can women start exercising?
This comes down to what you classify as ‘exercise’, what type of birth you have and how physically fit you were prior to and during pregnancy. Every woman should wait to get their doctor’s sign off at their 6-week check-up (demand more from this – ask them to look at your abdominal separation so that you know what you’re working with). If you’ve had a C-section, it’s recommended that you wait for 12 weeks but, again, this can vary greatly between women and how your personal recovery is going. The key thing is really what type of exercise you do when you do start back. The worst thing to do is anything high-impact (as you still have the hormone Relaxin in your body which means that your joints are unstable and much more prone to injury) and to avoid working your ‘6-pack abs’ as this will aggravate any abdominal separation that you have. You should be doing low-impact core rehab exercises – think deep core exercises that you would do in a Pilates class. This will help rehab your abs and regain your connection with your pelvic floor. A common mistake is to go out running after 4 weeks when you’re feeling like you need to get out of the house and to get around the block only to find that you’ve wet yourself. This is because your pelvic floor muscles have been stretched during pregnancy and childbirth and need to be rehabilitated. Don’t panic about getting your ‘pre baby body back’ too soon as the long-term consequences of pushing yourself too early are just not worth it.
What are some great exercises for women who are expecting a baby?
The key things to think about when exercising while pregnant are: 1) Squat. It’s a great way to strengthen your pelvic floor without thinking about it. It helps to strengthen the glutes and keep your pelvis stabilised, it’s also great birth preparation as it’s a fantastic position for an active delivery. 2) Mobilise. You want to keep your sacrum free to move in order to allow for a nice smooth birth. It’s a good idea to spend at least 30 minutes on all fours, mobilising through the pelvis – especially in the third trimester as this helps the baby get into the correct position to be born. 3) Stretches. We would recommend stretching the hip flexors, quadriceps and chest every day to help limit tightness and potential pain. 4) Arm exercises. When you have a baby you’re going to be doing a lot of lifting, so train for motherhood by working on your arm and shoulder strength now, otherwise you’re likely to cause injury when you’re having to lug around car seats and the like further down the line. 5) Low impact cardio. Keep your heart rate working with lots of walking and swimming or even cycling if this is comfortable for you. These are great for energising you and ensuring that your cardiovascular system keeps working
What are some areas of concern the women you work with have?
Prenatally, it tends to be lower back pain and pelvic pain. There are lots of strengthening and mobility exercises you can do that will massively help to stabilise and strengthen these areas. Postnatally, it’s abdominal separation and pelvic floor issues. Also lots of new mums get terrible back and shoulder pain from constantly feeding and holding their babies but, again, there is a lot you can do to prevent and reduce this.
Find out more at www.mum-hood.com