After baby Arnold was born, you spoke about the pressure on women to bounce back after birth. What would be your top wellness advice for new mums?
I think it's important for new mums to recognise, even though we have had the baby, that there are still hormonal changes affecting how we feel and how our body functions. Recovery and healing should be the focus, not bouncing back or losing weight.
We have to approach post-baby time with sensible emotional and physical healing – rebuilding the pelvic floor, stomach muscles, joints and being kind to ourselves. Connecting with our newborns is the most important thing.
As a trainer, I know how delicate the body can be and if you push it too soon after birth you will cause other issues or long-term problems. Take the pressure off, smash the countdown clock you feel is hanging over your head, cherish the newborn bubble, and gently and slowly enlist experts such as a women's health physio, personal trainers and Pilates professionals to help you feel strong again.
Have your views on wellness changed since having a baby?
I've always believed in the power of exercise as transformative for the mind. I predominantly exercise because it gives me focus and mental clarity; I love the mood boost and it makes me feel so good! I've always had a balanced approach to exercise. Some days I'll do taekwondo, others a walk, sometimes it's a stretch at home or a TIFFXO workout (the fitness website she created) in my backyard or lounge room.
Having a baby pushed my body to the limits. I was so sick with HG (hyperemesis gravidarum), I put on a lot of weight, I had pubic symphysis pain, pelvic instability, I broke my coccyx in childbirth, then broke my ankle soon after in the fog of sleep deprivation. I lost all my lean muscle mass, fitness and strength, and I had a big battle ahead of me to regain my sense of self.
I had to be even more adaptable, flexible and approach it with self-love otherwise I would have damaged my relationship with exercise forever. I knew if I focused on '30kg to lose' I would hate my journey back to fitness.
Exercise to me has never been as important as it was postpartum – it became my rock, my "me minutes". When I felt my body belonged to my baby, exercise helped me to find my strength again. By strength, I mean not only being able to do a handstand again, but also pushing through tired days and learning to listen to my 'mum gut.'
When you're feeling stressed, what do you do to refocus?
I like to do calm, focused breathing exercises. For three minutes, I focus on the breath entering and leaving my body, letting thoughts pass and my mind wander, before bringing my mind back to the present.
This helps the body to switch off the fear centre of the brain that is pumping stress hormones through the organs. The parasympathetic nervous system is also activated, which replaces stress with calming chemicals. After just a few minutes, I'm in a better state to make decisions and plan my next move.
How do you get motivated to exercise on the days when you don't feel like it?
Who says you have to exercise every day?! Exercise is a relationship, you need to nurture it.
I don't force myself to work out ever – I respect my body telling me when it's tired. If I have a bad night with Arnold, then I give myself permission to do something less intense the next day. I might do a slow and controlled TIFFXO Tone session at home, a walk with the stroller or a stretching session.
When you're tired, you don't get results anyway and you only push your body into a further state of stress and depletion.
What is one exercise myth you would like to see disappear?
That crunches get abs! This is so archaic!
Firstly, we all have abs, it's just dependent on if you can see them or not due to body fat percentage. Abs reveal themselves when you eat well and reduce your body fat, but abs in themselves are pretty useless.
When we talk of the abs, we're speaking of the transverse abdominals, the brick-like muscles down the centre of your stomach. They are not very helpful
for overall core strength.
I want to move away from the 'beach body ab goal' towards more of a focus and education on overall core strength which includes glutes, pelvic floor, diaphragm, lower back and obliques.
Crunches don't improve your core strength. If you want a phenomenal looking tummy you have to focus on your whole core, and eating well too. It's a holistic approach. Training your core for seven minutes a week will do more for you than 700 crunches ever will.
What's the best piece of wellness advice you've ever heard?
It's from my grandmother and it comes from our relationship with ourselves and our essence of self-worth. "Self love is like great bread. It has to be baked fresh every single day".