Lulu is a women’s fitness coach, offering strength-based fitness programmes that embrace the whole picture of ‘women’s wellness’. She firmly believes that it’s so important that training plans reflect the fact that our bodies – and lives – change enormously as we get older. Lulu has written an e-book on postnatal recovery with her best friend Binky Felstead, reality star and FIIT ambassador.
Here, Lulu talks about diets, motherhood, body image and crippling anxiety – but also how she has conquered it and why she is always partial to chocolate… (ahh we have something in common!)
Hi Lulu! How do you start your day?
Recently I’m trying to get up an hour earlier than the girls around 7 am so I can get a matcha latte, stretch, and meditation in before they wake. It’s easy in the summer, I love nothing more than throwing open the curtains to bright sunshine. Also, the book Miracle Morning is a very inspiring read.
What is your diet like?
Lots of protein, healthy fats and complex carbs – with a variety of colourful fruit and veg. I take a probiotic and make my own kombucha and/or water kefir. I’m a serious chocoholic though.
How important is a balanced diet?
I don’t like restrictive meal plans or programmes unless there are some good health grounds for doing so – for example, during the menopause and perimenopausal stage, a ketogenic diet can help alleviate symptoms. A balanced diet is most important in the immediate postnatal period, when our bodies are healing. I also advise mums to try to avoid sugar.
Do you allow yourself a ‘cheat’ day?
I allow myself ‘treats’ when I want them. I go roughly by the 80/20 rule – if I can get enough goodness into the 80%, it’s ok to enjoy treats!
How has giving birth changed how you view your body?
It’s given me a newfound respect for my body. I suffered an umbilical hernia during the birth of my eldest, which needed surgical repair and I have a diastasis as a result. I’ve learned not to get frustrated by the things I can’t yet do. Instead, I’ve learned to listen to my body. I incorporate a lot of mobility work and stretching because I understand how connected everything in the body is.
What are the most common reservations from mums about getting back to training after having a baby?
Issues centered around the pelvic floor and tummy separation (diastasis). Women who are experiencing symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction, prolapse or diastasis, may feel too scared to move but depending on the severity of the issue, movement can help alleviate these symptoms.
What advice would you give a mum who has lost her body-confidence and is lacking in motivation?
Postnatal exercise can be the key to gaining more energy and happy hormones to help you cope with motherhood! My training went to pot after my second daughter was born, and this coincided with me developing postnatal depression and quite crippling anxiety but I got the help I needed, and exercise does help, even if it’s just ten minutes a day.
What simple exercises would you recommend to mums wanting to ease into training?
Start with your core and floor. These are the powerhouse behind everything you do, it helps posture and powers every movement in the gym too.
How important is it to breathe through your diaphragm?
So important! Diaphragmatic breathing is the starting point for getting your pelvic floor activating correctly. Diaphragmatic breathing can be the key to keeping ourselves in the parasympathetic nervous system aka the rest, relax and digest mode, rather than the sympathetic nervous system, aka fight-or-flight mode.
Do women find it difficult to engage their pelvic floor?
Yes if they’ve been using the wrong cues! We want to be lifting through the pelvic floor, not just clenching. Also I think it’s easy for women to focus around the vagina but if we engage and lift through the back passage first, we tend to get a stronger connection through the entire pelvic floor sling.
How do you balance work with family life?
I have a nanny, but outside of nursery/nanny hours, I try my best to switch off and be present for my family. I put my phone in another room if I’m playing with the girls, but I never get the balance spot on. Anya Hayes’ book ‘The Supermum Myth’ is a must-read and being kinder to ourselves is essential.
There is a real movement towards female empowerment with a focus on pelvic health, how important do you feel this is?
Very. Learning to respect and understand your pelvic health and/or your postnatal body can be hugely empowering for women. Something that’s become quite ‘on trend’ recently is the idea of training around your menstrual cycle. Mums may find they are more susceptible to pelvic floor dysfunction in the middle of their cycle when oestrogen is low, because this affects the tone of the pelvic floor muscles. You may need to reign in the running or the impact workouts for a bit, and drop the weights you’re lifting until hormone levels balance out again.
You don’t need to avoid impact mid-cycle every month, as the symptoms/sensations may change from month to month, as one of my physio friends, Emma Brockwell (@physiomumuk) reminded me when I experienced an ‘off’ week.
How do you manage stress?
I try to meditate every day. I was skeptical at first but I now use the app, Insight Timer, which has thousands of guided meditations and yoga Nidra to choose from.
I also use breathwork practices. A 4-7- 8 breathing technique can help to lower stress: you breathe in for a count of four, hold for a count of seven and breathe out for a count of eight. A couple of rounds of this counters a heightened stress mode.
What is the mantra you live by?
‘This too shall pass’ can be applied to almost everything in life.
Dog or cat? Dog!
Crisps or chocolate? Duh, chocolate.
Wine or beer? Neither.
Book or podcast? Both, but podcasts are more realistic.
Early night or night out? Early night.
Thank you Lulu!
Find out more about Lulu:
Blog edited by Davina Gordon.