Get yourself a cuppa and prepare to be motivated and inspired by this Active Woman Interview. From life threatening asthma to post natal depression, from being a role model to pre-menstrual syndrome, Dr Becca Moore covers it all and gives some fantastic advice for women who want to get active too.
Tell us a bit about yourself Becca.
I am a perinatal psychiatrist with 20 years expertise of working with women, pre during and post pregnancy. I work in the NHS and privately and I work very holistically aiming to give women as many treatment options and choices as possible to develop a collaborative treatment plan. This includes thinking about diet, exercise, hormones and complementary treatments as a standard part of care alongside more traditional treatments such as therapy and/or medication.
I lecture and blog widely and run an annual Birth Trauma Training Day in London, the next one is 5/1/18 (contact me at Rebecca.firstname.lastname@example.org for booking). I am writing my first book on reducing psychological birth trauma due to be published 2018. I am a Winston Churchill Fellow 2017 funded to travel to the USA to meet with peers working in the perinatal field. I am also a 70/30 Ambassador, a nationwide campaign aiming to reduce child maltreatment by 70% by 2030.
You can follow me on Twitter @dr_bjm
When did you decide to start exercising regularly and why was that?
I have always exercised on and off but after having my children was exercising far less than before and I felt really unfit, fatigued, sore and overweight.
As a child I was pretty sporty and loved swimming, hockey, horse riding and netball.
In Spring 2014 I had a massive asthma attack and I nearly died. I have had asthma since childhood and am well aware of how to manage my symptoms but this came out of the blue and within minutes I was really fighting to breathe. The ambulance journey to hospital was one of the scariest events of my life and I thought I would die on the way to hospital, I just kept thinking of my children and trying to breathe a little.
Luckily I received amazing NHS care from King’s College London, as per usual and made a quick and full recovery. As soon as I got home I made a promise to start regular exercise as part of my life and looking after my health so I signed up with a local personal trainer and started a weekly hour long session with her.
What activities have you tried and what’s your favourite?
Since returning to exercise I have tried boxing, swimming, weights, yoga, HIIT classes, circuit training and numerous gym classes.
I absolutely love boxing, it’s such an amazing workout, really tough and sweaty and a great way to get rid of stress and take any gripes out on a bag. It’s also a great way to do cardio work but in quite a static way which is good for me with my asthma.
I think using weights is really important for women over forty, I have found it has made a huge difference to my overall strength and fitness and with a family history of osteoporosis I think is vital to do this.
I could not function without yoga, my weekly class with my wonderful teacher Eleanor de Zoysa is one of the highlights of my week. I relish the opportunity to not think about anything for 90 minutes but simply to flow in and out of postures and I feel so mentally refreshed afterwards. It feels like mental detox and reboot for me each week.
The other thing I can’t live without is walking, I walk everywhere and often walk to work at least once a week which is a seven mile start to my day, I find walking meditative and I tend to listen to podcasts as I walk. I find if I haven’t walked for a few days I crave it, I love looking at London and exploring new routes as I walk and once I get in my stride my mind seems to just stop and I am just in the moment walking.
What has been the biggest barrier you’ve had to overcome in your fitness journey?
The biggest barrier to my exercise is my asthma. There are some things I just can’t do, running for example, and some weeks when my asthma flares up I have to battle my mind and not be too hard on myself and recognise it will pass and next week will be better. I have learned over time not to think too negatively and spiral into being self critical and feeling like giving up but to simply allow a bad week or two, continue with slower gentler exercise and then pick up the pace when I feel better again.
Have you had any negative comments and how have you dealt with them?
I genuinely haven’t had any recent negative comments, I have found returning to exercise in my forties I am surrounded by passionate and supportive fellow exercisers! I find that women my age are really dedicated to their exercise routine as part of their life, I think perhaps we see exercise as a key to ageing well and maintaining optimal health, rather than something to do primarily to lose weight.
If I look back to childhood there is one negative comment that really sticks in my mind, I had horses as a child and was very active, aged 16 I had a huge asthma attack and needed ventilating in ITU. As a result my parents sold my horse and abruptly I stopped riding. I was very low about the huge change in my life and piled on weight. I remember getting pains in my legs when I walked for a while and I went to see my family GP who told me there was nothing wrong with me I was just getting fat. Not the most tactful or kind thing to say to a 17 year old feeling lost in her life who as a result then started to restrict her food in a way I never had before. The power of language and words can never be underestimated!
What goals have you set and have you reached any of them yet?
I set myself really simple goals such as to commit to regular exercise, I do, three to five times per week, week in week out.
For me it wasn’t about weight loss but about good health but I have lost some weight which was a nice bonus.
Most importantly I wanted to reduce my asthma attacks and touch wood since 2014, I haven’t had another hospital admission.
The other goal was to show my children that exercise is part of daily life, it should be something we all do to look after our health and it’s fun. I want my kids to see that I care about my own health, I take responsibility for my own health and that I commit to exercise and exercise consistently. I try to get them to walk and scoot everywhere as much as possible and they have tried out boxing too which they loved plus they go to Karate twice a week every week.
My goals for this year remain simple, in Yoga I want to perfect my headstand and I want to work up to a five minute plank!
What benefits has being active brought you?
The benefits of exercise are huge for me, I feel so much happier and less stressed, I have always struggled with PMS and periods of low mood and these episodes have really reduced. I have a full time emotionally demanding job and I need exercise to help me unwind and be emotionally fresh, I really notice if I miss even a week of exercise.
I eat and sleep well now, plus I eat more than ever but don’t gain much weight which is a bonus for a foodie like me! I have so much more energy and I feel less sluggish and tired, I really notice this with my kids and am so happy I can be active with them.
What advice would you give to other women who want to start exercising?
My advice for women is to start small and build in simple goals you can achieve. I talk to the women I work with in the postnatal period as seeing exercise as part of their treatment alongside therapy and/or medication, there’s a wealth of evidence that regular exercise is effective in treating depression and anxiety. This might initially be a 15-30 minute walk around the block with the baby twice a week and that’s brilliant, start small and keep going. Do it with a friend and it can also build social networks postnatally which will impact on mood as well.
It can be so hard to find the time as busy women with jobs, families and partners but there is always a slot somewhere and you have to really commit initially. Pick a fixed day of the week and time, tell your partner and make it part of your life and it will soon be a routine, I started out with a session at 6.30am with my trainer and I was home by the time everyone was waking up. It felt brutal in the dark and cold of winter but it felt so good afterwards and I had to turn up as my trainer was making the effort for me to be there early as well. I found as I got used to my weekly session I felt so good afterwards I just wanted to try and fit in more exercise and gradually I found spaces for me to achieve this.
There are so many high quality short HIIT or exercise videos free on the internet now such as Fitness Blender for example, you could do these when the baby is asleep or after the kids are in bed. Even doing a short 10 minute HIIT workout once or twice a week will make a huge difference over time. Some gyms offer Creches for children or there are lots of Mum and Baby exercise classes now too with Yoga or Zumba for example.