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Pre And Postnatal Exercise With Women's Health Expert Lucy Young

Tell us a bit about yourself

My name is Lucy Young (@lucyolympiayoung) and I'm a brand new mama with an unwavering passion for all things health & fitness. I’m also a certified trainer with a strong background in HIIT and strength training, as well as being a pre/postnatal exercise specialist and corrective exercise specialist (CES).
After a decade working in fitness, training many women through their pregnancies and postpartum, and becoming pregnant myself, I’ve seen the significant lack of understanding in the pre/postnatal exercise realm. My mission is to demystify pre/postnatal exercise so women can feel empowered to train safely and effectively while growing their bub and as they rehabilitate post-birth. 
When I’m not working with new mums & mums-to-be in the fitness realm, I’m on the track. As a previous Canadian track & field athlete, I now call the Australian track home where I train for 200-400m sprints.

What first drew you to running?

Growing up I was incredibly sporty, and while I loved sports like basketball, I realised quickly that my legs often traveled faster than my hands could dribble. My transition into running happened quite organically as I realised through trying other sports that I loved how free I felt when running at top speed. I’m incredibly competitive by nature so I have always been up for the challenge when someone wanted to race.

What's your preferred distance and why?

My favourite distance is the 400m. Crazy I know, considering this race burns the lungs and creates intense lactic acid in the legs. While I love short sprints, racing experience has taught me that I thrive when the race is just that little bit longer. The 400m feels like the perfect balance between being short enough that it’s over fast, but long enough that you need to also have strong cardio.

Lucy Young running at full stride on athletics track

What are some of the biggest myths around pre/post-natal exercise?

There are MANY myths in the pre/postnatal exercise space simply because it’s an area that requires so much more education! I’ll debunk two common ones here:

MYTH - Don’t lift anything over 20lbs during pregnancy

Blanket statements like this are rarely sound advice because we are all individuals with different strengths and abilities. I typically advocate for a reduction in intensity when it comes to prenatal exercise (e.g. this could come from reducing the number of sets/reps/weight etc.) however there is no ideal lifting weight that suits everyone. What’s especially important is understanding intra-abdominal pressure, how to breathe correctly when you lift weight, and having proper lifting technique.

MYTH - It’s normal to pee yourself postpartum

Incontinence during the postnatal period can indicate pelvic floor dysfunction. Countless times I’ve heard women say ‘I cannot do high-intensity exercise because I’m a mum - I’ll pee myself!’ as though leaking is a natural, and inevitable part of becoming a mum. I cannot stress enough that incontinence doesn’t need to be accepted as part of a ‘motherhood package’. Working with a pre/postnatal exercise specialist and physio can help.

What are the most important things to remember for mums navigating their pregnant exercise journey?

Take the guesswork out of prenatal exercise by leaning on expert advice. Too often I’ve seen women blindly continue with their pre-pregnancy training, not understanding whether the exercises they’re performing are safe or not. Alternatively, I’ve also seen women abruptly stop all prenatal training for fear of doing the wrong exercises - placing them and baby at risk. Remember, there is support out there, and a qualified pre/postnatal exercise specialist can help guide you and make sure you understand what is and is not safe. 

My other big tip is to look out for the 3 P’s, that’s ‘pressure’, ‘pain’, and ‘peeing’. AKA, if you notice any pressure or heaviness downward on your pelvic floor, or any pressure escaping through the midline of your stomach (Toblerone shape) then it’s time to modify or regress an exercise. The same can be said if you notice any pain and/or incontinence. All of the above can indicate that your body is struggling to handle the expected physical demands. It may also indicate that you do not yet have the right tools in place to handle intra-abdominal pressure, and/or you are needing to alter an exercise due to common pregnancy pains (e.g. SI-joint pain).

Lucy Young in front of barbell

How did you go following the advice you had previously delivered to others during your own pregnancy?

If I’m being completely honest, I found it challenging at first. I am an athlete used to pushing my body past physical and mental discomfort and I had a rude awakening in my first trimester when my heart rate was pounding out of my chest after just the warm-up during my track sessions (hormonal adjustments in the first trimester can have this affect). I knew then and there I needed to trust the council I’d given to so many women that pregnancy is a marathon, not a sprint, and it’s not the time to set running PB’s and/or max out with weight at the gym. 

Outside of running, what training does a track athlete perform?

A week typically involves 2-3 speed sessions, 1-2 gym workouts, and 1 bike workout. My runs are split between the AssaultRunner Pro, the track and the sand hills for incline speed work. Given I’m still in my first year postpartum, one of my strength sessions has a heavy focus on core work because, while my core has rehabilitated postnatally, core strength can always be improved and a strong core is important for running.

Lucy Young squatting with slam ball

What are the top 5 home gym items you couldn't live without during your own pregnancy journey?

  • The AssaultRunner Pro: For speed walking intervals or long walks.
  • The AssaultBike: I stopped running early in my pregnancy because I was experiencing pelvic floor heaviness and wanted to safeguard my pelvic floor as much as possible, so the AssaultBike became my new best friend for speed intervals.
  • Small pilates ball: I use the pilates ball for a lot of adduction work (e.g. squeezing the pilates ball between the knees) in order to target the pelvic floor. I also use it for exercises designed to strengthen the deepest abdominal layer (TVA).
  • Resistance bands: Postnatally, I use the long resistance bands a lot, particularly for cross-body core work (e.g. resistance band Dead Bugs). Prenatally, they’re so versatile for upper & body strength work.
  • Pair of dumbbells: In my opinion, you can’t go wrong with buying a pair of dumbbells. They’re a requirement for BUMPSTRONG pre/postnatal strength & conditioning workouts because it helps to have options outside of bodyweight exercises when maintaining strength. I recommend buying a pair of adjustable dumbells so you can 

Why do you choose to train on the AssaultRunner Pro?

I train on the AssaultRunner Pro because being efficient with my time is essential as a working mum. The AssaultRunner Pro allows me to jump on during Ocean’s nap times and complete fast, snappy intervals. It’s also great for my track training because, it’s is powered by your own stride like being on the track, it’s low impact which helps mitigate injury (unlike pounding the pavement outdoors), and the curve shape encourages my knee-drive which is great for sprinting form.

Lucy Young full stride on the Assault Runner manual treadmill

What's the greatest advice you've received (and who was it from)?

My partner and I met as Varsity athletes in University and he used to come to all my track races, or watch them online. He understood it could be intimidating competing at the university level and so he used to tell me ‘limits begin where vision ends’. I used this to fuel so many training sessions and races because it’s a reminder to challenge your self-image and push yourself outside your comfort zone in order to achieve big things.

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