Olympic gold medallist Jessica Ennis-Hill on staying active during pregnancy and beyond and launching her new app jennis fitness
We interview Jessica Ennis-Hill, Olympic gold medallist, mama and founder of Jennis Fitness.
Tell us about jennis fitness. What is it and what made you want to launch it?
Jennis is a fitness brand that is very close to my heart. It was born out of my personal journey through my two very different pregnancies – despite being an elite athlete I faced all the same dilemmas that other women face – will exercising hurt my baby and what is safe etc. After a bit of internet browsing I turned to my physio and coach for their expertise and as a result I had two good pregnancies and came back strongly after having my babies. I had so many people ask me what advice I followed and thought by sharing what I learned I could really help other women facing the same lack of trusted information.
Why is it so important for mamas-to-be to keep active?
Pregnancy and childbirth are very special times in a woman’s life but no one prepares you for the massive changes your body will undergo. All these changes enable you to grow an incredible little human inside you and then give birth to them. If you work to strengthen the muscles that stretch over the nine months and increase your balance you can really help yourself both in terms of comfort but also in terms of recovery after having your baby.
What are the best activities for pregnancy and what should you avoid?
Most of the exercises I have included in the Jennis app – such as circuit bases using weights and therabands – are trimester specific and aimed at increasing strength and stability. I also included some yoga and meditation as well. It is safe to run, cycle and swim – but all at a lower intensity than pre pregnancy. We would advise women to seek advice on the more cardio based activities as we are all different and temperature and heart rates are key concerns.
What areas should women be focusing on to prepare for labour?
I think an overall level of fitness can really help you prepare for labour and I definitely valued the yoga breathing practices I learnt.
With pressure on mums to ‘bounce back’ after birth, what would be your advice for after your baby arrives?
Do not feel under pressure to bounce back – I believe slow and steady is more important. For the first 8 weeks after my pregnancies the most I did was pelvic floor work and rectus diastasis exercises – I followed a step by step programme to build up the right muscles in the right order and it has definitely worked. I have to admit I was impatient with my return from my first child but my physio was super strict and I now know she was right.
What was it like winning a gold medal just 13 months after giving birth?
It was so unexpected and is one of my greatest achievements as an athlete – the journey back after having my son was a tough one – the changes my body had gone through were with me for the whole year and I had to work really hard to strengthen muscles and tendons but all the work paid off. I still smile when I think about crossing that line in the 800m knowing I had won gold again!
And finally, how has motherhood changed your relationship with sport and staying active?
My relationship with being active is really different now – I am no longer using my body for my job. Sport has been a massive influence in shaping the woman I am today. I take the values and discipline of sport into my day to day life but now I choose to be active as a lifestyle choice. I love the feeling of being fit and healthy and more than anything I feel being active makes me happy. I want to share not only the positive effects being active has on your body but also your mind.
Jessica Ennis-Hill has launched her new fitness app jennis fitness which has two offerings – jennis fitness and jennis pregnancy & post-natal. Available to download on iOS and Android for £9.99 per month.