After 2 and a half years of dragging myself to the gym with no real results, I took my post-child birth body on a 4 month long mission to get in shape. Here is what happened to me, a self-confessed lazy bum when I hit the Barre…
Right after I gave birth to my son back in 2013, I left the hospital having lost 6 kilos because baby and placenta were finally out. The following weeks, the sleepless nights and no dinner after 7pm policy were fueling my obsession to lose the remaining 5 kilos. In fact, I was so terrorized by the idea of never losing the weight, that I made it my mission to starve the first 6 weeks.
After my body had healed, I started hitting the gym three times a week, doing a lot of cardio on treadmills, steppers and the rowing machine. From a distance, my body looked fine but at the end of a day of eating 3 meals, I looked pregnant again.
I knew deep down inside that cardio wasn’t going to cut it and that I needed to rebuild my core and muscle mass, so after a year wasting my time on the treadmill, I hired a personal trainer for 3 months who would make me do interval cardio exercises, exercises of resistance building and core muscle rebuilding on the Swiss ball and the TRX. The sessions were literally torture for me and I wasn’t even losing any weight or firming up, perhaps because I wasn’t fit enough at the time nor excited about the idea of working out. You have to bear in mind that when you see your belly stretched to a point where a basketball would fit, it is pretty difficult to imagine that you can attain that goal. The other disadvantage with that personal training method, is that none of my large muscle groups were being tackled properly nor was I motivated or pushed on a one-to-one basis. I guess that by nature I like company and mostly competition. This is why for example I play my best tennis when I am with a strong player or a coach and tend to give a less than stellar performance when playing with players of my own level.
A year and a half later, a good friend dragged me to a high intensity cardio dance mash-up class (visit The Studio Dubai website for booking details) which I love and still go to twice a week when the weather is hot: the music, the energy in that class is just so uplifting and the number of calories burnt somewhere around 600 calories per hour meant that my hips and waistline were already starting to shrink further. A year on, after all that dancing and morning runs and tennis, my body was still not compact, my belly was still large and carrying a 12 kilo boy around was becoming more and more difficult.
I came to the blatant realization that I will never get my strength and muscle mass back unless I go down the difficult route of resistance training and core targeting… Core is a scary word when you’re a mum, it seems like an almost impossible mission to ever have a core.
September 20th is the day I started surmounting that obstacle, I signed up to my very first class of Barre at New York renowned Barre gym Physique 57 Dubai. The studio resembled a loft space and was full of eager women who wanted to take control of their bodies. Some women were already extremely fit and looked what I can best describe as compact and strong. From the beginning of the warm-up to the very last second of stretching, my body was screaming for relief… with every repetition and thigh burning squat, I was counting down to the end of the session. At Physique 57, repetition of ballet-inspired movements at the barre to the point of exhaustion is key to their method to transform the body: “if it burns it works” chanted the instructors with every collapsing student. Every exercise targets a specific part of the body, especially the seat area and thighs which are the highest calorie burning muscles, something I had been using in all my cardio workouts. However the point of Barre workout is to build muscle mass and slowly burn away that fat. Every targeted exercise also got the arms and core working as well in a very unexpected kind of way.
After 4 weeks of going to Physique 57 class twice a week, and alternating with two other days of cardio and tennis, my upper arms started to look more defined, a hint of a dimple appeared across the fat on my upper arms and before I knew it, I could carry the supermarket bags on one arm and my son on the other. However my belly still looked… well… pregnant or bloated after a heavy meal. My lower thighs just above the knees, started to also take shape; that layer of fat which made the knees look more rounded and the area just above more voluminous was slowly starting to disappear.
After 6 weeks, happy with the way my legs were starting to take shape, all I could think of was the new workout wardrobe I would be able to wear at Barre Class, I was obsessing about mesh paneled leggings by Brazilian active wear brand Michi and those shiny superhero leggings by Koral Activewear. Surely a bit more muscle definition and slimmer legs and thighs would look better on those flashy leggings, so I kept going and pushing myself to the point of exhaustion. It wasn’t getting any easier, that I can assure you of but every time I felt a hint of a muscle tightening up and the general feeling of being able bodied and strong, it seemed all worth it.
At 8 weeks of hitting the Barre, I hit a plateau, a very difficult one because I still felt fat around the upper thighs and my waistline wasn’t shrinking despite the minimal carb diet and smaller portions, it could have been water retention or perhaps the fact that I still hadn’t built enough muscle… I wasn’t kidding myself, I have neither the morphology, nor the metabolism to ever turn into an Alessandra Ambrosio or even Gigi Hadid, but I did want to go back to my size UK8 on the verge of 6. Was that too much to aim for?
Looking at my shiny new leggings I thought I should still keep going, at least exercising at the barre was making up for the guilt of a nice dinner twice a week. Now at 16 weeks, I finally see the difference and other people can too: my lovely tennis coach who looks like a model herself noticed the muscle definition on my legs and thighs, as I was bending them with each forehand swing, my new muscly physique made me also faster and more agile on court.
Then came a warm weekend by the beach, where my friend and fellow mum who gave birth to my son’s best friend the same week, literally blurted out: “oh my god I can see your abs!” I was finally getting back to a stronger state of core and my muscles had been slowly burning away the fat. I am still no Lily Aldridge but I am proud to feel stronger and fitter and a little bit more compact. Will I go back to my size 8 on the verge of 6 in 3 months? Only time will tell. For the time being I am just happy to hit the Barre in my sexy mesh-paneled leggings twice a week.
To all the mums worried about how to get in shape after baby, Barre workout is a quick fix. Trust me on this, you won’t regret the decision.