Brit Williams is one of London’s most sought-after personal trainers and feels passionately about motivating people to use exercise as a resource for an empowered life. While pregnant with her first child, Brit encountered endless conflicting advice about prenatal exercise, which struck her as confusing for women in general.
Having trained throughout her pregnancy and enjoyed movement as a means of physical and mental preparation for labour and motherhood, Brit is determined to advocate a pregnancy-positive message via her unique strength training programme and wellness book Mind, Body, Bump; The Complete Plan for an Active Pregnancy. Prior to setting up Fit Brit Collective in 2016, Brit was a fitness journalist writing for some of the leading wellness and lifestyle publications in the UK and US. A bubbly Canadian, Brit now lives in South West London with her husband and daughter.
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1. First of all, how is life as a mum to baby M? She’s gorgeous, by the way!
Thanks! She has turned my world upside down and back again but I absolutely love looking at life with the fresh perspective she gives me! At 15 months she’s already showing herself to be strong-minded, independent and resilient… when she shows her feistiness (read: tantrums!), I just take a deep breath and remember that those characteristics will see her into strong, capable womanhood!
2. When you discovered you were pregnant, what steps did you take to learn about exercising during pregnancy?
I was already qualified to coach pre- and post-natal exercise and had worked with several pregnant clients during my years as a personal trainer, but my own pregnancy definitely made me dig deeper and internalise my knowledge. I looked for books, guides and communities where I could trial exercise specifically designed to support pregnancy and connect with other mums-to-be who loved to train, but I was underwhelmed by what was available.
I thought there must be a middle-ground, so I set out to write the book I wanted to read. I dug deep into the very latest science, sense-checked my work with leading consultant obstetrician Dr Maggie Blott, and of course put the programme to practice with myself and my expectant clients. I really hope that a community of mums-to-be doing the #mindbodybump programme will develop, too!
3. How long after the birth did you start to feel your old strength coming back?
There were a few major transitions when I started to feel like I was coming back to my pre-pregnancy strength. I did a lot of Pilates-based rehab and training from six weeks until about three months postpartum, and that stood me in really good stead to make a confident return to weight training. I started weight training quite seriously at the same time as I started teaching my sling-based fitness classes – three months postpartum – and those two things made me feel a lot more like the ‘old me’ again. Running continued to feel a bit unstable until I stopped breastfeeding (that’s when the joint-softening hormone relaxin starts to leave the body), so it’s only in the last few months that I’ve felt really confident with high-impact exercise again.
In some ways I feel like I’m stronger than I ever was – I certainly integrate my pelvic floor and core more mindfully across all exercise – while some skills (I was hot in the pursuit of handstand walks and some other gymnastic-inspired exercises) continue to be a work in progress. I’ve stopped thinking about my old body vs my new body and see it as a single, evolving body with a few happy hints of the precious cargo I recently carried!
4. How did your workouts change between each trimester?
In my book I talk a lot about ‘pregnancy-progressive exercise’. In traditional pre-natal guides, the language is grounded in what not to do, but that can be a bit demoralising if you’re used to having free reign on all your favourite movements. Instead, I talk about what is especially beneficial at each stage of pregnancy, and throw in some new bump-safe variations on old favourites to keep nostalgia at bay. As my pregnancy progressed, I looked for more low-impact exercises, swapped heavier weights or complex movements for slower more controlled exercises and added more frequent rests to accommodate my reduced lung capacity.
5. What advice would you give to someone who’s struggling with the reality of their body not performing as well as it did pre-pregnancy?
Two things. Check in with your online habits and make sure you’re not comparing yourself to anyone else on social media. Unfollow anyone who causes you anxiety or lack of confidence – you can always follow them again later when they don’t cause you to feel that way. Then do your research and truly get to grips with what your body is achieving in order to grow another human. What you’re doing is already a phenomenal performance, so anything on top is just a bonus.
6. If they weren’t very active before pregnancy, where is the best place to start?
For beginners, I would suggest keeping exercise low-impact and prioritising bodyweight exercises or working with lighter weights. Just like any new exercise regime, it’s important to master the foundations; learning major movements like squats, deadlifts, lunges, bridges, rows and press-ups will help you feel more confident when you get back to exercise after baby’s arrival. I’d suggest working with a trainer, at least for a couple of sessions, to get some guidance on these if you’re a complete beginner. In terms of higher priority goals, strengthening the muscles of your back body (hamstrings, glutes, lower and upper back) will be hugely beneficial for reducing changes to your posture and giving you the strength you need to carry and manoeuvre your babe and all the equipment they require!
7. Do you have any tips for what features to look out for in workout clothes during pregnancy?
There are lots of great maternity athleisure brands out there now – JoJo Maman Bébé included! – so stock up on a few essentials: supportive over-bump leggings, stretchy vest tops, an easy-access sports bra in your pre-natal bust size (no pull-over bras unless they’re super stretchy ones for yoga and low-impact exercise, or else, ouch!). You can continue to wear non-maternity clothes if they feel comfy, too – look for very soft high-rise waistbands in leggings and relaxed fit vests and tees. Try to choose neutral trainers (ones that don’t offer too much support) as they will allow the proprioceptors in your feet to be more responsive to your changing centre of gravity. Doing low-impact exercise barefoot will feel lovely sometimes, too!
8. What kind of tips and advice can we expect to see in your book Mind, Body, Bump?
The title speaks for itself! The book offers loads of support to help you stay calm and confident through your pregnancy and into early motherhood, keep your body strong and improve your postnatal recovery, and protect and nurture the babe inside your bump! There is a month-by-month breakdown of exactly what is going on in your body and, most importantly, how those changes impact your unique fitness and nutrition needs. To put your knowledge to practice, there are two workouts per trimester, plus two postpartum workouts, and several recipes I’ve personally selected from Mindful Chef’s inspiring repertoire to deliver the best nutritional benefits for you and babe.
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