Having had a baby, you really wish you had the motivation to exercise. Oh, to feel – and look – like your old self again. To see your toes. For your rear to move at the same time as the rest of you. For your chest to return home from its extended sabbatical down south. If only you could escape from feeding, rocking and changing endless nappies for long enough to actually climb out of your pyjamas and into your tracky bottoms.
Sound familiar? Quite often, new mums lack the time, or the firm shove in the right direction, to get out there and exercise. Linda Clucas, personal trainer and brains behind PowerBuggies, is well aware that such women are often nervous, disorganised and short on motivation.
‘Sometimes we can lose confidence after giving birth. The first few months after having a baby can be a deeply depressing time and exercise gets put off,’ she says. ‘Particularly with a first baby, you worry about everything and even leaving the house can sometimes become a big deal.’
Mum to Becky, age three, Linda wanted to return to her pre-pregnancy superfit state but had trouble finding a gym where she could take her baby. Instead, she started walking with friends in the park. She soon realised that many other mums would benefit from an organised setup, and PowerBuggies, designed to let mothers exercise and bond with their babies, was... well, born.
The sessions – a combination of cardio work, strengthening and toning exercises – are for mums at least six-weeks post-partum (Linda requires all participants to get the go-ahead from their doctor). Kicking off bright and early at 8.30am, they begin with a warm-up walk and some stretches. Then it’s off around the park’s perimeter with the pushchairs.
Linda encourages brisk walking or power walking, or even jogging for those so inclined. The buggies add extra resistance and soon the participants are pink and puffing. The beautiful setting and constant chatter – mums use the opportunity to share tips, ask advice, have a laugh or a grumble – makes the workout less arduous than a lonely spurt on the treadmill. In fact, the main attraction for many of the PowerBuggies participants is the chance to get a blast of fresh air and meet like-minded mothers.
‘When you become a mum, you’re with your baby all day long,’ says Kirsty Walker, who’s exercising with 11-month-old Lucas. ‘It’s wonderful and I love my kids, but you miss that adult connection. I could go for a walk, but that’s quite isolating. This is great. It’s done at a nice pace, and if you need to stop for a feed or to change a nappy, it’s no problem.’
In fact the kids seem to enjoy the mornings as much as the adults, if not more. Six-month-old Millie Cullinane is particularly tickled by mum Anna’s tricep dips on one of Safa Park’s bridges. ‘They seem to find it funny, watching us making fools of ourselves,’ says Anna. ‘It’s good for them too because they’re outside and they get to socialise with other babies.’
The session includes exercises that work on special ‘mummy muscles’ and are all chosen to address changes in the body during pregnancy and birth, and in the early stages of motherhood. Your shoulders, back and arms take a heavy hammering from lugging a baby around all day, while hips and thighs, on all but a lucky few, often morph inexplicably into lardy lumps. These bits get a good stretch and tone, and Linda finishes off with some dreaded but oh-so-necessary abdominal work for mums hoping to rediscover their tummy muscles.
‘After the first session I was in quite a lot of pain, but the exercises do make a difference,’ says Yasmin Dadhiwala, mum to Saleh, five months. ‘I have a lot more energy. If I was at home at this time, chances are I wouldn’t yet be dressed. Now, once I’m finished, I’m thinking “what can I do next?”, and I go shopping or whatever.’
For Jessica Hawley, a recent arrival in Dubai from London, the group was a great way for her and five-month-old Lucia to meet new people and start to feel at home. ‘It’s given me an activity. I feel more settled if I have a routine, and I’ve met people here who I would meet on a social basis too,’ she says. ‘Plus, for the moment at least, it’s the only exercise I get.’
Powerbuggies for beginners (at least six weeks post-partum) takes place at Safa Park, gate two, on Mondays and Wednesdays. Advanced sessions (at least 16 weeks post-partum and after completing six beginner sessions) are on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Jumeirah Beach Park, gate three. All classes run from 8.30am-9.30am and cost Dhs25, plus park entrance fee. Sign up for 12 beginner or 10 advanced sessions and get a free personal training assessment. Contact Linda on 050 544 1062 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.powerbuggies.net