Pip Black is the co-founder of Frame and Mumhood. Together with her business partner Joan Murphy, the pair launched the first Frame fitness studio in Shoreditch back in 2009, in an attempt to “disrupt the fitness industry”. Based on the mantra ‘getting fit shouldn’t be a chore’ they were the first pay-as-you-go class-based studio in London and now run 1000+ classes a week spanning dance, fitness, yoga, Pilates, barre and PT, across six sites (they have recently launched studios in Fitzrovia and Hammersmith).
After becoming mothers themselves (Pip is mum to Phineus, age 3 and Romilly, 8 months and Joan is mum to Zayden, age 4 and Jayla, age 1), the pair came up with the idea for Mumhood, an online exercise and wellbeing programme for pregnant women and new mums. The site launched officially in 2017, but they have always offered pre and post-natal classes in their studios.
Pip says: “When we became pregnant first time round, it was amazing to see how confusing and hard to find, the information on exercising during pregnancy was. Even working in the industry we were confused. Pregnancy is a time when more than ever you want your body to be fit and healthy, as you’re growing a human (and need to push it out), so it didn’t make sense to us that the common message was that it was a time to sit on the couch and eat cake.”
Aimed at looking after your physical and emotional wellbeing, the Mumhood programmes help mums to get active and look after their bodies at their own pace throughout pregnancy and the postnatal period. Certified by doctors and physios, each programme includes carefully tailored fitness videos, equipment, a nutrition plan, a monthly Q+A webinar with Pip and Joan and access to the Mumhood Fit Mums – a community closed Facebook group. And as everything is available online, the stress of leaving the house with your baby (or bump!) is totally removed.
Pip currently lives in a converted schoolhouse in east London, and juggles her time between her family, running Frame and Mumhood, whilst keeping active (she takes her Jem + Bea Marlow bag to the gym). We asked her what you can do to keep fit during pregnancy and why it’s so important. Read her tips and advice below…
WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT TO KEEP ACTIVE DURING PREGNANCY?
Staying active is going to help your physical and mental wellbeing throughout pregnancy. Exercise is great for increasing energy levels, easing anxiety, helping you to relax, reducing common pregnancy aches and pains, and also helps to prepare you for labour – improving your circulation. It allows your baby to get into the right position for labour – the list goes on. If you follow the Mumhood Pregnancy Exercise Guidelines and listen to your body, then exercise should make your pregnancy a much more comfortable one. Ensure you always check with your healthcare practitioner before starting an exercise programme and watch out for any contraindications.
IS IT SAFE TO EXERCISE IN EVERY TRIMESTER?
Yes absolutely. What you should be avoiding varies slightly, as will your energy levels, so we’ve created really in-depth trimester-by-trimester guidelines, which you get as part of the Mumhood Pregnancy Programme.
In the first trimester, although you may not look any different to normal, you’ll find that you get short of breath very easily. This is because your blood vessels are relaxing and growing in volume, and therefore it requires more effort to pump the blood around the body. This is also the time when you’re most likely to have morning sickness, so you might not have the energy to do too much. We always suggest making the most of those days when you’re feeling good, and stick to walks in the fresh air on the other days. It is important to listen to your body and how you feel. That said, it is advised to lower the intensity and the length of aerobic exercise during your first trimester, especially between 8-14 weeks, whist your body gets to grips with the significant changes occurring.
In the second trimester, you tend to feel the best and this is the time when you’ll probably fit in the most exercise. Some people feel fine to exercise right up to birth – you just need to listen to your body and modify exercises accordingly. Never push yourself too hard, and also think of exercise (strength and mobility work) as a great way of helping to limit any common pregnancy aches and pains such as pelvic and lower back pain.
As you get bigger you’ll want to take the intensity down gradually, and also some exercises will no longer be accessible, but there’s still plenty of different types of exercise that you’ll be able to do. If in doubt, walking and swimming are both great options.
WHAT TYPES OF EXERCISE SHOULD YOU BE DOING?
The key thing here is that if you have a straightforward pregnancy then you should be fine to continue with any exercise that you did prior to becoming pregnant. However, for example, now is not the time to start lifting heavy weights, if your body isn’t already used to doing so.
As with any time of your life, it’s good to mix up your exercise – not just for the benefit of your body, but for your sanity too! Try to alternate between cardio and conditioning, and don’t forget to stretch. There are many common pregnancy aches and pains, and exercising in the right way can go a long way to help deal with these.
You want to limit any high impact exercise and stick to lower impact – so more conditioning work with your own body weight and weights, Pilates, and yoga. We really love a resistance band here at Mumhood – the amount of exercises is limitless, and they are so light and easy to shove in a cupboard!
Swimming and walking are great for some additional cardio and if you are a regular runner, you can continue up until the point where it starts to feel like it’s not quite right. The main reason to step back on the impact is that you have a lot of relaxin in your body and so your joints are less stable, and it’s more likely to lead to injury, or result in stretched ligaments, which can be difficult to mend.
AND ARE THERE ANY TYPES OF EXERCISE YOU SHOULD AVOID?
Aside from taking down the impact levels, you want to stop any abdominal work that is using your ‘6-pack muscles’ – so think sit-ups and crunches, and also any twists. You do however want to work your deep core muscles as these help support the lower back and pelvis, as your posture changes during pregnancy.
When stretching, you only want to go 80% into a stretch due to the relaxin in your body – you don’t want to over stretch. It is good to stay mobile as possible, especially into the later stages of pregnancy when your body needs it most. Though be aware to limit the stretching of joints, especially if you are already hypermobile.
You also want to be careful about lying on your back post 20 weeks, as the weight of your baby can push on your main artery and reduce the blood flow to the brain. As with all exercise, if it starts to not feel good then move out of that position. Some people feel absolutely fine lying on their back all the way through to the end, so it’s about being in touch with your body.
You should also avoid contact sports, rapid changes in direction and activities where falling is more likely – e.g. kickboxing, high impact dance classes, netball, horse riding, skiing, hockey etc.
Don’t be afraid to take breaks, make sure you’re not exercising to the point of exhaustion, never exercise in hot or humid weather or go to hot yoga classes and always keep hydrated.
WHAT AREAS SHOULD YOU FOCUS ON TO PREPARE FOR LABOUR?
Deep squats are fantastic birth prep exercises, as this is a position that you’ll often find yourself in during active labour.
Being on all fours in the weeks leading up to birth is great, as it allows your baby to get in the right position to start its journey out into the world.
Towards the end of your pregnancy you also want to think about letting go, allowing the pelvis to open up to let baby out.
Labour can be harder than running a marathon, so all of the exercise you’ve done over the past months is going to come into play in terms of having a strong body and strong mind, to get you through.
WHAT ARE YOUR GYM KIT ESSENTIALS?
- Black leggings from Running Bump
- Mumhood vest – always
- Nike – full support bra
- Nike Free trainers – I like the thin sole, helps you to feel connection with the floor, and most of the workouts are low impact so you don’t need layers of cushioning.
- Martha Hoody – Move Your Frame. Perfect for with bump or after
- Jayne Jumpsuit – for postnatal. Zip down at front – great for easy access if you’re breast-feeding.
- Jem + Bea Marlow bag to throw it all into (I’d love to pretend that I would fold neatly but…)
WHERE DO YOU SHOP FOR GREAT MATERNITY GYMWEAR?
I shop at Frame because we have a perfect edit of practical yet affordable pieces. There are some extremely expensive activewear options out there these days, but personally I don’t feel comfortable with the idea of a sports bra that costs more than £100!!
WHAT ARE YOUR TOP FIVE TIPS FOR EXERCISING DURING PREGNANCY?
1. Little and often
2. Do something that you enjoy
3. Always have a nutritious snack to hand for pre and / or post workout (I LOVE almond butter and cheddar on rice cakes!)
4. Go to a class – so much easier to motivate yourself if there’s someone telling you what to do
5. Join Mumhood. Follow us on Insta, sign up to our newsletter, or buy a programme. The videos are super easy to fit in at home and we have a great mix of different videos to keep you going, split into different trimesters
EASY EXERCISES TO SLOT INTO YOUR EVERYDAY ROUTINE FOR EVERY TRIMESTER OF YOUR PREGNANCY
Even though from the outside you will only start to see the changes towards the end of trimester one, it is much more about 'prepping' to help counterbalance the growing bump and boobs.
Bent Over Row
Feet in parallel and hinge from the hips. Using either medium DB's or a resistance band under foot, lead with the elbows to pull back close to the body and squeeze the upper back. 12-15 reps x 2. Think about hugging baby in and exhaling on the effort.
Kneeling To Standing
A functional move – as when you have a baby you spend a lot of time picking your little one up from the floor / play mat. Using the incorrect muscles can lead to injuries, so this move helps practice this and also a good low impact cardio option.
Start kneeling. Step forward on your right leg. Tuck your left toes under and push through the right heel to come up to standing, using your hamstrings and glutes rather than your back. Repeat 10 times on the right and then repeat on left.
Swimming Prep / Superman
During pregnancy our multifidus and erector spinae (part of our inner core) gets weaker as you can’t do traditional extension exercises. This is an excellent exercise to keep connected with your inner core. Also being on all fours is really good to get the baby position for birth (IF they want to!!).
On all fours, make sure your hands are beneath your shoulders, back and neck straight and knees hip width apart. Draw your belly button up towards your spine. Lift one arm straight out in front of you and the opposite leg straight out behind. Keep them lifted for a couple of seconds and return, with control, to the starting position.
Repeat on the other side. Aim for 10-15 repetitions and do 2 sets.