The rise of the ‘post-natal fitness specialist’
By Vern Hill
Not so very long ago when a lady fell pregnant it was a time for her to put her feet up, ease back, relax, and enjoy the experience. Now thanks to the rise of glossy magazines, social media and the dreaded ‘wellness’ scene women must be seen to continue to smash their workouts, wear their heels and show no visible signs of being pregnant other than a nice neat bump – after birth it gets even tougher as they strive to look like they have never even had a baby within weeks! This is all pretty alarming and gives me much write about another time in another post…
But my concern is somewhat different – the rise of the ‘pre and post-natal fitness specialist’ and I say specialist because as I will explore later I believe that to be an expert requires one vital ingredient that many of these specialist’s lack.
A quick trawl of the internet and you will quickly discover that for just a few hours spent online or a day maybe 2 face to face you can bolt on a pre and post-natal fitness qualification to your basic gym instructor training and you are good to go ‘pre and post-natal fitness specialist’ appears in your bio – you’ve never trained a pregnant lady, maybe never even really known one, you have never trained a lady after a C-Section or tricky birth or a new mum suffering from separation anxiety but hey ho you have your certificate and off you go passing on all your newly acquired wisdom.
Now don’t get me wrong – book knowledge, proper physiological understanding and session planning are vital to make you a good pre or post-natal fitness professional and you can only get experience once you have your piece of paper and everyone must start to build their bank of experiences somehow – it is I believe the depth and breadth of these experiences that set apart the truly exceptional professionals in all areas of fitness.
So what do to – in an ideal world I believe that all pre and post-natal fitness qualifications should require a minimum of 10 hours of shadowing a fellow professional that has in excess of 250 hours of traceable delivered sessions – a sort of guru or mentor to follow and learn from, to ask questions of and whose brain you can pick – this would transform the standard of pre and post-natal exercise delivery because mostly what I have discovered over the last 12 years is that it isn’t about great ‘book’ knowledge it’s about interactions, empathy, delivery and being able to answer questions because pregnant ladies and new mummies ask boat loads of questions.
And so, to the single biggest thing that sets aside a specialist from a true expert – you need to be a parent! Man, or women, you need to have lived through a pregnancy up close and personal you need to have gone through those first hours, days and weeks or parenthood, the emotion, the elation, the exhaustion, and the love.
You can be the most qualified most willing to listen trainer or instructor in the world, sometimes you might even think you know what it is like to be tired but you can never truly understand. Sure you know how a lunge burns the legs, how a deadlift works the lower back how a bicep curl can strengthen an arm you may even know how to properly test for and correct diastasis recti (alarming how many ‘specialists’ don’t!) but do you know the burn of holding a baby in agony with colic hour after hour day after day, the burn in your back as you try and find a comfortable position to sit and rock that baby in, do you know the pain in your heart because you can’t really help but you will never stop trying. Do you really know what it’s like to be exhausted, to be unable to complete another set or rep – not because its ‘hump day’ and everything is a ‘grind’ but because you have operating on 2 hours sleep for the last 8 weeks breast feeding a premature baby – just enough – every 30 minutes – 24 hours a day – 7 days a week – and right now you want to cry from sheer exhaustion – so don’t tell me to give YOU one more rep you are lucky I am even here!!!
The world of pre and post-natal fitness is changing fast we are learning all the time what works best for parent and baby with some seriously startling upside from properly prescribed exercise during and after pregnancy. And when it comes to choosing what you do, where you do it and with whom, choose someone qualified, choose an environment that puts you at ease, choose someone with experience or a home program that is tried and tested.
There are some wonderful, accommodating, highly qualified specialists out there but until they themselves are parents be wary of anyone that claims to be an ‘expert’ or really understand the needs and wants of new mummies.
I have delivered of 20,000 hours of specialist post-natal fitness and every single week I meet new parents that are both nervous and excited about returning to exercise – often they are surprised when a big burly guy steps out to teach a babywearing fitness class but then we talk, I listen we exchange reference points of early parenthood that are unmistakable and bind us all as mums and dads and they start to understand, they are at the start of the most incredible journey and I am so very thrilled and privileged to play just a tiny part in helping them settle into the greatest, most exciting, most exclusive club in the world – The parent club x