By Janet Tappin Coelho
A fitness instructor has come up with an adorable way of helping new mums get back into shape which involves using their babies as weights instead of dumbbells and barbells.
The special classes run by Carolliny Almeida Tscherne, 31, at Corpus Training gym in Sao Carlos, south-east Brazil, allows post-natal mums to get a full workout while their infants are strapped to their chests, lying on their laps, crawling around or fast asleep on a mat nearby.
The studio environment is very different from conventional gym classes. There is no loud music and the level of activity and flow of gym users is kept to a minimum. During the warm up, the mum’s hug their cute alternative weights, play with them while doing press-ups and balance them on their knees during sit ups.
And everyone is free to take time out to calm their child if they cry, change their nappies and breastfeed.
The twice-weekly hour-long classes, which started in November last year, are for students with tots between two months and eight months old.
Carolliny explained: “We don’t accept younger babies because their necks are very delicate.
“After two months they can withstand the exercises, but we make sure they are strapped up tightly in a sling and the material stops their heads from moving around too much.
“As they get older, they become more robust and are given the freedom to crawl around and to participate in the classes with their mums.”
The idea of baby-friendly gym sessions was born out of desperation after the physical educator came close to suffering postnatal depression following her daughter’s birth in August last year.
“I used to weigh around 63kg (9.9st) and put on a 25kg (3.9st) during my pregnancy. After Olivia was born I was still overweight. I didn’t recognize myself when I looked in the mirror and I found that really annoying,” admitted Carolliny.
“I felt ugly and fed up because my clothes didn’t fit, and I was on the sofa most of the day so there was no chance of me losing the (pounds) that way. While I love being a mum and all the joy it brings, I’ve always been a very active person,” confided the first-time mother who has been a fitness trainer for over six years.
To stop herself spiralling down into the baby blues, the married mum decided to return to work and with her husband, Ozias’s (28) help adapted her exercises to include her two months old daughter.
Within a couple of months Carolliny lost 19kgs (2.9st). As soon as she posted her progress on social media showing how her child was an integral part of her fitness regime other mothers, struggling to lose their baby fat, begged to join the innovative classes.
Carolliny explained: “The sessions give a complete workout and are fun for both mother and child. We use the TRX (suspension weight training) for upper limb training, lower limb and buttock exercises. Abdominal exercises are down on the ground. All the movements are done smoothly, firmly holding the babies throughout either in our arms, on our laps or wrapped in the sling and always keeping a close eye on their wellbeing.”
During the lessons, each mother is instructed to do exercises according to her physical conditions and to respect the rhythms and limits of her body, keeping the workout aligned with her baby’s needs.
The gym instructor, who leads every session with Olivia as her replacement dumbbell, said: “I always advise my students to wait for the doctor’s all clear before starting to exercise as each case is different. For a normal delivery it’s usually between 30 to 40 days, while with a c-section it can be around 45 to 60 days.
Aline Tavalera Queluz, 33, a public relations worker, regularly attends the classes with her three-month-old daughter Luana.
She said: “I’ve always done physical activity before pregnancy and as soon as my doctor said I could start exercising again I was keen to return to the gym.
“I was excited to find I could bring Luana along too because my husband’s working hours meant he is never at home in time to look after her while I go training.
“My posture has also got better with breastfeeding, because you tend to bend over when nursing and that’s been corrected with the exercises.”
She added that Luana loves being part of the sessions and squeals with joy as she is rocked up and down during the floor exercises.
“She enjoys interacting with the other babies and mothers and is more calmer and sleeps better at night on the days we come,” said Aline.
According to experts, physical activity in the first few months after birth helps to reduce post-natal depression, anxiety, improves moods, mental disposition, relieves stress and helps weight loss.
“This is a holistic way of regaining our self-esteem and our identity without losing or undermining our roles as mothers,” said Carolliny.
“My training sessions go far beyond physical fitness because this is about supporting and encouraging each other and making this a lifestyle choice,” she added.