As personal trainers, a crucial part of our job is getting to know all of our clients as quickly as possible – your individual goals, likes and dislikes, how to motivate each and every one of you, know when you're really pushing yourselves (and when you're not...) and of course to work safely, taking into account each individual’s injuries or health considerations.
We think we know you all pretty well these days, but as the HA fitness team has grown in recent months, we thought we'd turn the spotlight back on ourselves and help you get to know us a bit better. Starting with the newest member of our team, Claire Grima, we sent Kate Dorward out to find out more about Claire and what makes her tick.
Kate: Let's start with the big question...how on earth did you manage to run a marathon in 2 hours 49 mins, just 10 months after giving birth?
Claire: I did a lot of running before I fell pregnant so carried on running (not so intensively) until halfway through my pregnancy. At that point it felt like the right time to stop, although I must admit I really missed it!
At my 6 week postnatal check I was delighted when the doctor said I could run again. I took it very steadily and had to stop for a couple of weeks with a sore back; a common postnatal problem related to a lack of core strength, but after a month or so I started to see big improvements which really motivated me. I did a half marathon when my baby was 4 months and was surprised how my speed had come back. It was then I decided to go for the marathon again.
After 6 / 7 months I stopped breastfeeding so was able to train as intensively as I had for previous marathons. I'm still not quite sure how I managed a personal best! I think it was a combination of having a good run on the day, my husband doing the marathon with me (a bit of healthy competition is always motivational) and possibly just being a lot more active now with a baby, rather than sitting at an office desk. I never thought I would break the 2hr 50min mark, but as I got closer to the finish and I realised it might be possible it really spurred me on.
Kate: How do you find the time to exercise now you have a baby?
Claire: I am really lucky to have an understanding husband and an amazing mother-in-law who is always happy to help out and provide me with the time to run or get jobs done! I am also incredibly lucky to have a good baby, who has generally slept through since he was 6 months old.
Finding the time to exercise with a baby involves a lot of planning tag team with my husband. On a Sunday night we plan the week as to who runs on which night. He runs at lunch time or to work some days so I can run in the evenings, and when I was training for the marathon I tried to run a couple of times during the week with the buggy.
At the weekend we generally go after each other for a run, but sometimes a friend or family will babysit so we can run together.
It’s not always that easy to get going. Some nights I just don’t really feel like going out running, but my husband always encourages me and I know he is right - I always feel so much better if I go out than if I planned to go and then didn't.
Kate: Running a marathon is clearly very ambitious and not the norm for most of us so soon after giving birth (I didn’t do any exercise until my daughter was 5 months and I didn’t run until she was about 9 months), but as a new mum, what advice can you give to other new mum's who want to get back in shape, but who struggle to fit gentle exercise into their schedule?
Claire: Exercising with friends and planning a time helps you to stick to it. Exercising with your baby is definitely a great thing to do. Brisk walking is such good exercise, especially pushing a buggy. I know going for coffees with other mums is an essential part of new mums’ lives, but to catch up over a good long walk as alternative will really help get your fitness back and actually help you feel revitalised.
I think if you are able to change your mind-set and make exercise a fixed part of your routine rather than something you do occasionally as and when you feel like it, then it will become habitual.
Kate: What kinds of exercise do you recommend for getting back into shape after pregnancy?
Claire: Buggyfit classes!! Other than that, brisk/power walking is definitely a good option as you can take your baby with you and pushing a buggy uphill can be pretty intensive, getting your heart rate going and burning fat. Gentle jogging is not for everyone, but once you are comfortable walking at a good pace it can help you take your fitness to the next level.
The one thing that is a must is core stability work. Carrying a baby for 9 months really takes its toll on your tummy and back muscles, and with all the carrying, contorting and lifting that is an integral part of a mummy’s life, the more you can do to strengthen your core the less likely you will get back and hip pain/injuries.
When starting any exercise programme it’s important to listen to your body. If you get too exhausted then both you and your baby will suffer. If you are breast feeding then it is crucial that you eat and drink enough to cope with the additional demands of exercise on an already busy life.
Kate: How did you get into fitness?
Claire: I have always enjoyed exercise and sport. At University I started rowing. This introduced me to fairly intensive training programmes, circuit and weight training. With rowing you really had to be committed because you were relied on by the rest of the crew. It is also an endurance sport which has distinct parallels with long distance running.
I have always run to keep fit and entered my first half marathon in 2003, which I did ok in. I then did my first marathon in 2004 and have loved the challenge of beating my own times since then.
Kate: What or who inspires you?
Claire: My husband told me to put him!!
As a female runner, Paula Radcliffe is an obvious choice but Haile Gabrselassie (another long distance runner) is also amazing. I have a newspaper article on the back of our toilet door about him, which I have read many times and find very inspirational.
Kate: How do you keep motivated?
Claire: Coming back from having my baby I have found that my running times have improved in nearly all the distances I run (especially in the last 4 or 5 months) so that definitely encourages me. I find having a fixed goal works for me, so I make sure I have races lined up to keep me motivated.
For me the fear of losing fitness will always keep me on my toes.
Kate: How do you like to relax?
Claire: Like most of us I enjoy a glass of wine, watching a film or going for a walk in the countryside with some good company. I also love music and going to gigs. We were able to take our son to Glastonbury this year where he celebrated his first birthday.
My other favourite sport is snowboarding and we did manage to go this year with my then 8 month old, which was great.
I don’t only run for fitness. I find it’s good time out for myself and I always feel de-stressed after a good run.
Kate: This is the question we all really want to know the answer too, with all that running and healthy lifestyle surely you must have a weakness or two?
Claire: I love chocolate and have a sweet tooth. If there is one thing I can’t resist it’s a lovely, gooey chocolate brownie!
Kate: Finally, what's your next big challenge?
Claire: It’s quite a challenge enough juggling my new job with being a mum!! Because of that I don't have any really big challenges lined up at the moment, but watch this space...!
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Look out for interviews with the rest of the HA Fitness team: Kate, Heather and Sheldon in our Knowing Me Knowing You series!