How to know if you are exercising at the right intensity when you are pregnant or just had a baby

Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) What it means:  It is a way to measure your exercise efforts during cardio-vascular exercise and intervals without the need for a heart monitor.
 0-1  On the sofa pushing buttons on the remote control
 2-3  Light exertion, walking around the house
 4-5  Warm up pace, you are breathing faster and the body feels ‘glowing inside
 6-7  Moderate exertion. You’re breathing harder and probably sweating. You can talk, but it’s getting tougher. THIS IS A GOOD LEVEL OF EXERCISE INTENSITY WHEN YOU ARE PREGNANT.
 8-9 Hard exertion. You’re breathing much harder and you can only say a few
 10 Hardest exertion. You cannot keep this pace for more 30 secs to a minute. This is your limit and you could not speak.

Lose baby fat for the holiday season

It goes without saying that most people’s fitness goal is to lose your baby fat and shape up (unless you are running a Marathon) especially as Summer is approaching, you want to get into your Swimsuit with confidence and you may have Weddings to go to.

The shocking news is the UK population is catching up with the world leader in obesity, the USA.  Nearly a quarter of adults now classed as clinically obese and we are being labelled as ‘Fat Britain’.  Thirteen million of the population have a BMI of over 30. The BMI is calculated by dividing weight in kilogrammes by height in metres squared.

For the most, the causes of accumulating too much fat are quite simply a combination of eating too much of the wrong types of food and not taking enough exercise.

Being active burns calories and being very active burns even more calories.

What is the best way to burn fat? There are two choices:

  • Steady Pace training – exercising continuously at one speed, such as a
    cycle ride or steady run or jog
  • Interval Training – this is where you vary between working at a high
    intensity and low intensity for 60 secs or so and repeat several times.

Which is most effective?

Of the two, interval training gets the best results. Plus it is more time efficient. It can improve fitness quickly, a great workout for busy people who don’t want to spend 2 hours in the gym. Intervals improve your basal metabolic rate (how many calories your body burns at rest or just to get perform usual daily activities) and therefore increase the total number of calories you burn on an on-going basis.

Losing fat – the science (simplified)

It takes 3,500 calories to burn one pound of fat.
It takes 3,500 calories to add one pound of fat (yeuch and it is a lot
If you can increase your basal metabolic rate to burn 200-300 calories
day over one week you can burn 1,400-2,100 calories a week so over two weeks
you would lose one pound of fat. Add exercise to the equation and you can burn
an extra 200-300 calories a day to increase your fat lose by another one pound
over two weeks, or a pound a week.

Interval training which should feature in your exercise routine twice a

Some sample interval training workouts for you.

Ensure you warm up with dynamic stretches and a light intensity version of the form of
cardio-vascular activity you will be doing in the main workout. Cool down afterward and do static stretches.

Your intervals will generally last for about 30-60 seconds and these versions are good to get started with.

Here are three sessions. Choose one and pick your type –  rowing (lower impact), stationary cycling (low impact) or run (advisable after 4-5 months post natal) or boxing (watch the video):

Tips to make intervals more fun!

  • Download your favourite tunes to your Ipod and crank up the volume
  • Do your intervals on the sandy beach on holidays in barefoot – a great workout and invigorating with the sea air
  • Involve a partner or friend and get competitive
  • Have your little one time you and act as ‘coach’ – they will love it!
  • Join an exercise class which incorporates these
  • Recuit a personal trainer you find encouraging and motivational

Find out your rate of perceived exertion

Pregnancy – going at a high intensity rate is not suitable in pregnancy. You can do intervals but your must keep to at a rate of exertion of 5-7, so you can still hold a conversation. Be sure to get your GP’s check to exercise.





Delicious Baked Fish

Preheat the oven to 170ºC. Soak a pinch of saffron in 2 tbsp warm water.

Slice 1 medium potato per person into 1cm slices and par-boil for approx 6-8mins. Drain and layer them across the bottom of a roasting pan, big enough to hold a sea bass/ sea bream (for 2) or any white fish.

Clean the fish and slash it several times each side and then season.

Lay the fish on the potato slices and scatter 2 red peppers, 1 courgette and 2 large handfuls of cherry tomatoes either side of the fish and pour over the saffron water, a glug of stock and cover with several sprigs of thyme and/or parsley. Drizzle over 4tsp regular olive oil and season.

Cover with foil and bake for approx 1hr or until the fish is cooked through. Serve with a handful of leaves and some olives.

Recipe courtesy of Stephanie Ridley, Nutritional Therapist. or

The new way to get fit quicker (for a busy mum)

Beach_bodyWhether you’re hitting the beach in a few weeks time or just wanting to get into shape for the great weather – as busy mums we need and want something quick, fun and easy to do, that also gets us radical results, right?!

Enter the best (secret) way to get fit in no time – cardio intervals. These are based on the American method of Tabata training. It is the most effective, time efficient cardio workout you can have. Alternating short bursts (30, 45 or 60 secs usually) of exercise – running, cycling, rowing or swimming at a ‘high/fast pace’, followed by a similar period of time (30, 45 or 60 secs or so) at a slow pace, repeated several times for three times a week over eight weeks.

Why it makes you super fit, quicker!

Shorter, higher intensity exercise works your body and cardio-vascular system harder so that it boosts your metabolism. Your body responds by becoming leaner and stronger, improving your body shape improving your muscle tone. Plus they are acutally quite fun to do – believe me – and they are over quickly! They are not however suitable if you are pregnant or less than 16 weeks post natal. Make sure you’ve had the green light from the Doctor or Midwife to say you’re OK to exercise!

This is a maximum fat burning technique and far more effective than slow, long cardio like walking of swimming leisurely for 40 minutes or so, where you don’t feel out of breath. To back this up if you swim gently you burn about 6 calories per minute. Times that by 30 minutes (30 x 6) and you burn 180 calories (equivalent of a glass of wine)!

If you swim front crawl at a higher/faster pace doing say a length (25 metres) in 25-30 secs, you would burn approx 10 calories per minute, if you did that for 30 minutes then you would burn 300 calories.

HOWEVER, as you are going at a much faster pace, it’s not possible to keep going for 30 minutes (this would be asking you to sprint for 30 minutes – sprinters only sprint for 20 secs or so, hence we do the short intervals. If you did eight intervals of fast swimming you’d burn approx. 80 calories in 8 minutes (8 x 60 seconds fast pace at 10 calories per minute) and burn 48 calories during your slow gentle swims (in between the fast ones).

That would total 128 Calories in 16 minutes ( 8 x 60 secs fast pace, 8 x 60 secs slow pace). So you can see you burn nearly as many calories in half the time of doing slow gentle swimming for 30 minutes!

You can also try skipping, cycling or running.

The actual Tabata training is based on eight 20 second bursts of exercise done at the highest level you can with eight ten second rest periods to make up four minutes. This is known as the four minute workout. HOWEVER, it is NOT suitable if you’ve just had a baby or for people who are not fit.

Instead follow the following variations:

Always WARM -Up first for 3-5 minutes at a slow pace and perform dynamic stretches and after the workout cool down at a slow pace for 2-3 minutes and stretch

Introductory: (for twelve weeks post natal if you exercised before your pregnancy)
30 secs fast
2 minutes – slow
Repeat 4 times

Beginner: (for minimum twelve weeks post natal if you exercised before and during your pregnancy)
30 secs fast
60 secs slow
Repeat 5 -6 times

Intermediate: (for sixteen weeks plus post natal and if you feel fit and exercised before and during your pregnancy)
60 secs – fast
60 secs – slow
Repeat 6 times

Advanced: (for minimum five months plus post natal and if you feel fit and exercised before and during your pregnancy)
45-60 secs flat out
30 secs – slow
Repeat 6-8 times

Considerations if you’ve just had a baby!
• You must, you must do your pelvic floor exercises – especially if you are doing higher impact activities such as running.
• Listen to your body – you experience any short, sharp pain or chest pains you must stop immediately.



Relieve stress with food

Stephanie Ridley, Nutritional therapist and founder of Nourish to Flourish relieves how addressing your food can help with stress.

   Eat plenty of vegetables and wholegrains as these are good sources of fibre and minerals that help to regulate blood sugar levels – aim for 3+ vegetables each day, eaten raw and/or steamed to preserve their nutritional content.

   Choose low-sugar fruits that are high in vitamin C such as kiwis and berries – vitamin C is critical for adrenal health.

   Eat some form of protein with every meal to help balance blood sugar levels.

   Exercise regularly but not to the extreme – regular exercise,  3 x week at 20-45 mins each time, helps to dissipate stress hormones whilst too much exercise is a stress on the body.

   Eat an anti-inflammatory diet as foods that promote inflammation trigger the release of cortisol – therefore cut back on saturated fats (e.g. butter, red meat, cream etc.) and increase your intake of essential fatty acids (EFAs) such as organic salmon, eggs, trout and raw nuts, seeds and cold pressed oils (e.g. flaxseed oil).

   Avoid stimulants such as tea, coffee, cigarettes and alcohol (a short-term stimulant) as these stimulate the adrenals, exacerbating the problem.

   Avoid refined carbohydrates and sugars as these trigger blood sugar imbalances – the adrenals are activated to increase blood sugar when it falls below normal.

   Try to sleep for at least 7 hours each night.

   Make sure you take time to relax each day, even if it is for 15 minutes – try deep breathing, yoga, meditation, reading a good book, and so forth.

Stephanie specialises in Nutritional Therapy for stress and adrenal fatigue.

Searching Fit Pregnant Ladies for magazine shoot

Any pregnant ladies feel they like their bodies more since being pregnant than before?
Do you feel healthier since becoming pregnant with following an exercise programme or nutrition?
Have you been coming to BeezKneez classes and found they gave you more energy?  

Let me know, one of the magazines are asking me as they want to find some fit pregnant ladies and have a chat with them, you’d be featured in the magazine too so you just need to be available for a photo on 12th January – email:

Why sit ups don’t get you a flat stomach..and which exercises to do instead

wants flat, toned abs, not just if you are a new mum or mum! The
problem is most people do not know how to get them.

to text books and numerous fitness magazine workouts and some health club
classes ab exercises revolve around bent knee sit ups, twisting bent knee sit
ups,curl ups and crunches. And these have been the ab training exercises
people choose for generations.

What do you currently do or have you done in the
past to flatten your abs and tighten your tummy?

  1. Fifty crunches or sit-ups/day…and you
    didn’t get results and may have hurt your neck and back from it
  2. Held the plank…without
    understanding that it needs to be flat (the area between the shoulders and butt
    resembles a sagging hammock)
  3. Used the latest ab
  4. Shoulder presses…while balancing or sitting on a swiss ball or
    bosu (half an inflated sphere)

So what’s the problem
with these exercises? 

  1. Fifty crunch lady – she is just working her abs,
    rather than her whole ‘core’, in only one direction
    (up and down) at a low intensity. If she has diastasis she will be further widening
    the gap between her abs (following pregnancy and childbirth) putting her back
    under further strain.
  2. The plank with bad form isn’t effective, however performed with good technique being
    completely straight from shoulder to toe, without flexing the lower back means
    this is one of the best exercises to work the whole core.
  3. The latest ab gizmo (don’t be fooled, bodyweight exercises are better)
  4. Shoulder presses on a swiss ball or bosu – great if
    you are rehabilitating from an injury otherwise you’d be
    better doing them with your feet on the ground and heavier weights as it provides
    more challenge to your abs and core (assuming you adopt good posture throughout the exercise)

Why Crunches and Sit-Ups don’t get your flat abs
and what you can do which will work!

Spot reduction doesn’t work and in the case of
crunches and sit-ups, it can hurt!

Research from a study at a State University in
Ohio tested how effective sit-ups were with 71 men and women split up into three groups. One
group didn’t do any sit-ups, another did three sets of 20 sit-ups three times a week
on non-consecutive days. The last group did sit-ups six days a week. The difficulty of
the sit-up was increased every four weeks. The
researchers were surprised by how ineffective the exercise proved to be. None
of the three groups showed any strength gains, muscle tone or reduction in waist size
or body fat percentage. Therefore the group which didn’t do any sit-ups got the same
results as those doing 60 sit-ups per day, six days a week.  The
research authors stated “This finding suggests that training the abdominals
with Resistance
levels short of fatigue is inadequate to produce strength gains,” So, a
more challenging
abdominal exercise needs to be employed to effectively exercise your abs, reduce
belly fat and waist size.

research from the University of Waterloo revealed that sit-ups can cause back
problems. According to Professor Stuart McGill (IDEA fitness Journal article – Jan
2010) “Realize that the spinal disks can bend only so often before
damage ensues,” So a crunch or sit-up is almost replicating the exact movement
to cause of bulging or herniated discs of the lumbar spine. Therefore doing
hundreds of reps is going to put your lower back at grave risk!

So what should you protect your back and flatten your abs

true function of your abdominal muscles, core and pelvic floor is stabilization
in different directions (and not just lying on your back!). So why does movement
forwards and backwards lying on your back dominate abdominal workouts? Exercising
the abs and core standing is more functional as we are standing when we need to
abs to be strong to lift, bend and carry our babies or little ones. You want a stable core, mobile hips, and a strong
but not over worked or too flexible lower back

best way to strengthen abs and improve core stability is via pillar stability
holds –  front and side pillars/planks,
hip extension holds, and all fours opposite arm and leg reach variations. Plus
it is better to focus on quality and form rather than quantity.

10-Minute Home Sample Core Stability Workout in
10 mins

We are going for perfect form and quality for the best results. So aim to do each exercise for 10 second with 3 secs rest and repeat 6 times. 
This is better than doing 1 set of
a 60-second hold, which can be too difficult and tricky to keep with good technique! 

  1. Front Pillar/Push-up Hold
  2. Left Side Pillar Hold
  3. Right Side Pillar Hold
  4. Hip Extension or on all fours opposite arm and leg reach Hold
  5. Knee Raise Hold (standing)

The Secrets to Flatter Abs Post Baby (a generic Personal Trainer will NOT know)

Vicky Warr, Specialist Pregnancy and Post Natal Master Fitness Trainer, gives her secret insight and dispels the myths on achieving a flatter tummy after babies.

help_20stomach2_0A female body goes through dramatic changes when you have had a baby, no matter when you had the baby. As the baby grew inside you, your abdominals stretched and weakened across the midline. After a natural birth, your pelvic floor would have had some loading and you may leak when you laugh or cough, jump or run. If you had a c-section you may have suffered adhesions, have some scar tissue and quite literally your abs will feel numb as the nervous system shuts down from communicating with the muscles.

The lower abdominals are a part that most women dislike and struggle to flatten. In a bid to try to lose the baby weight, shape up and tone up the stomach, many hit the gym and knock out the stomach crunches, planks and pound on the treadmill.

Recently I’ve been contacted by several women who are worried about the appearance of their tummies. They may have lost the weight but their tummy still looks ‘domed’, wrinkled or they have some sagging skin in the lower part. There are also a lot of women struggling with leaking of their pelvic floor during lifting, jogging or coughing and laughing. Some women I hear from have been working with Personal Trainers or attending buggy bootcamps or’ killing it’ in the gym. When I quizzed them as to the type of exercise they had been doing, it involved crunches, skipping, running around the park, the treadmill.

What you really shouldn’t be doing and why..

Stomach crunches can increase abdominal separation due to the forward flexion of the movement. Coupled with the tendancy to ‘dome’ or pooch out the stomach when doing them means you will have quite the reverse effect that you want!

Running too soon. Each time your foot makes contact with a hard surface or pavement, up to 7 times your body weight goes through your pelvis, joints and pelvic floor. Think about the fact that this part of your body has already taken a pounding with the baby (even with a c-section) and you are adding to the pressure. Be sure to strengthen your core and pelvic floor first before starting to run.

Personal Trainers and Gym instructors without the research, experience and through knowledge of the implications of pregnancy and childbirth prescribe their clients these kind of exercises, in an effort to get their clients to lose weight or tone up like many of their other clients who haven’t had a baby (or may be men). The extra loading of running and the forward flexion of crunches cause even more ‘intra abdominal pressure’ on an already weakened abdominal and pelvic floor structure. Basically, this pressure causes the ‘pooch’!

So, we have to take care of our abs again and coach them back from muscle amnesia.
Post Natal exercise should be mindful exercise, reconnecting, re-educating and taking a holistic approach to repairing the whole ‘core’ of the trunk – all the muscles that help flatten the tummy. The ‘whole core’ involves the lower abdominals, the pelvic floor, multifidus (lower back muscle), and the respiratory diaphragm.

It’s not only about the right kind of exercise for a women who has given birth but using the right technique and training your abs again to optimal fitness.

Through a combination of the following plus following a specific, quality post natal programme you’ll achieve flat abs again.

TheBeezKneez protocol is for contouring, restoring function and achieving ultimate flat abs is based on the following:

Checking every client’s abs. It’s called the ‘rec test’ and provides an indication of core weakness at the start, the extent of any abdominal separation and the strength of the soft connective tissue in between. We also show our clients how they can check this for themselves. I also check for bulging or doming of the abs and whether they are connecting and recruiting the deep abdominal muscles.

Breathing. The right kind of breathing is critical (especially as we do it all the time!) and is essential to pelvic floor health and flatter abs.. Pushing out the belly or belly breathing increases the downward pressure on the pelvic floor and abs. so you want to avoid that. I also coach ladies away from the shoulder shift and chest lift style of breathing, which starts to occur during pregnancy. Instead I show a style where you let go of the stomach and instead open the bottom of the ribs on the in-breath.

Posture. An instant way to discover, feel and flatten your abs is to address your posture. By standing tall and ‘zipping’ up pubic bone to navel whilst drawing your hip bones away from each other encourages a tightening in the lower abs.

Pelvic Floor! Not many do their pelvic floor exercises or realise that it is the most important muscle group of the body. You just can’t see it, so it gets ignored in the exercise process. Start with ‘lifting’ your pelvic floor muscles or tightening your back passage whilst lying down DAILY! Then progress to movement based pelvic floor exercises that are more functional and effective. I use core training balls and bands to encourage effective pelvic floor exercises.

Vicky Warr is founder of and specialist trainer at TheBeezKneez Pregnancy and Post Natal Group Fitness Programmes and Personal Training and Ambassador for the Foo Foo Fun Club in West London. She is also pregnancy fitness expert for Mothercare. The specific pre and post natal class programmes run in 6 week cycles with masterclasses, information can be found at

Banana pancakes for the family

pancakes7Pancake Day – I love it!  Feeling the need for a healthier version to adding chocolate and sugar, I sought Stephanie Ridley’s advice on how to make my pancakes healthier!

Nutritional  Therapist Stephanie says “These are great because the banana adds a sweetness which means you can get away without adding extra sugar on top – and you get the added nutrition from the banana (vitamin B6 for energy, vitamin C for healthy skin and combating stress and manganese for healthy bones) that you don’t get from sugar. Instead, serve with a dollop of plain, probiotic yoghurt on top (to up the protein content) and a handful of fresh blueberries or blackberries, if you want.  You could also add a teaspoon of cinnamon to the mixture. Cinnamon has been shown to improve blood sugar control, so it may be particularly beneficial if you have a family history of type 2 diabetes or you suffered with gestational diabetes yourself”

Here is the recipe from Food Republic:


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