Many women struggle with fitness issues once they become mums. Who has time to exercise when you have kids to take care of? Here, we share how one mum schedules fitness as a priority in her life, and how being fit has helped her become a better mum.
As a former school gymnast for 11 years, Yvonne Chee (pictured above) has been active her whole life. The 38-year-old has always enjoyed sporting activities and switched to leisure running when she was older.
Yvonne completed her first marathon in 2007 and in 2013, she crossed the finish line of the Antarctic Ice Marathon and became part of the 7 Continents Marathon Club – an elite group of runners who’ve ran a marathon on all seven continents. Globally, there are only slightly over 200 members who qualify.
Her next goal? Conquering the North Pole Marathon.
Since she’s such an avid runner, it seems unsurprising that Yvonne has already completed 17 marathons to date. Her last one in March 2017 saw her representing Singapore at the New Taipei City Wan Jin Shi Marathon where she finished with a personal best timing of 3 hours and 23 minutes.
What she didn’t expect though, was that she was already six weeks pregnant with her second child.
“Had I known, I definitely wouldn’t have done a full marathon when I was still in my first trimester,” says Yvonne. Thankfully, her pregnancy went by smoothly and her second daughter Eva was born in November 2017.
Throughout her second pregnancy last year, Yvonne kept fit by exercising daily. She took part in eight races – of up to 10km each – while she was expecting, and even finished
in first place during a 10km race she did when she was 20 weeks pregnant.
“I ran until I was in my seventh month of pregnancy. In the last two months of my pregnancy, I switched to working out on stair climbers and elliptical machines at the advice of my gynaecologist as it became increasingly uncomfortable to run when my baby got heavier,” Yvonne says.
To keep up with her fitness regime, Yvonne also had to adjust to carrying more weight around while running, and to learn to overcome the fatigue she faced during her first and third trimesters.
“In order to cope, I adapted a flexible approach for my training. I didn’t have a target pace or heart rate to hit and I continued running at a comfortable pace.”
After all, a healthy mama means a healthy baby, and working out during her pregnancy was a way for Yvonne to feel good about herself in spite of the physical changes her body was going through.
Listen to your body
“Ultimately, it’s important to listen to both your doctor and your body. If you’re going through a normal pregnancy with no complications, I’d advise expecting mums to keep doing what they’ve been doing before they got pregnant – be it yoga, pilates, spinning or running – but to tweak the intensity and duration of the workouts accordingly,”
These days, as a mum to two young daughters, Yvonne only averages about five hours of interrupted sleep each night before she gets up at around 5am to run.
Every workout is time away from her kids, so she tries to sneak in her runs before they wake up. Though only four months post-partum at the time of this shoot, she was running daily for at least 50 minutes in training for the London Marathon in April.
But don’t be fooled into thinking it’s easy. When asked if there are days she wakes up and doesn’t feel like running, Yvonne will tell you point blank: “Every day! But I push myself to do it knowing I’ll feel better after a run.
“Working out is as important as eating and sleeping so if you make exercising a priority, it will happen.”
I work out because… I want to stay healthy and because I enjoy the post-workout endorphin rush.
To me, being a good mum means… loving my children for who they are and providing them with a safe and nurturing environment to grow up in.
The thing I love most about being a mum is… waking up to my girls, watching them smile and grow up and finally understanding what true and unconditional love is.
My children make me… a happy and contented person.
My biggest time-saving tip is... to exercise during lunchtime at work.
If I only have five minutes to work out, I will… pick up a skipping rope and skip.
When other mums tell me they don’t have time to work out, I say… it’s about prioritising.
My motto as a mum is… to try my best. I won’t know everything and may fail at times but at least I’ve tried and will learn from my mistakes.
Watch our video for easy pregnancy exercises you can do.
A version of this story first appeared in Shape Singapore.
(Photo of Yvonne: Shape; others: 123RF.com; video: Young Parents)