Personal trainer and fitness rule-breaker, Shakira Akabusi is currently inspiring a wealth of new mothers to toss aside the stereotype that claims we’ll never be physically the same again, post birth. Not true, actually! Striving to help as many women as she can to stay in shape for the sake of health, wellbeing and frankly, defying those so-called norms, Shakira lets us into her awe-inspiring world, where keeping fit is just one of life’s essentialities and certainly not a dreaded task to tackle with self doubt – kids or not!
First of all, thank you so much for taking some time out to share a snippet of your life with the team at Alex and Alexa – you’ve inspired us all and we’re feeling very motivated! A general question, we know, but is motherhood everything you’d expected it to be? What has surprised you most of all about it?
Motherhood has certainly come with some surprises. Fortunately, I’ve found them all to be really positive! During my pregnancies, I found lots of people would tell me all the things I’d never do again; I’d ‘never sleep again’, ‘never have time to exercise’, ‘never wear a bikini’ etc. However, I’ve found motherhood to be quite the opposite.
I’ve never felt so motivated and inspired to be healthy and to really enjoy being active! I feel like there is so much technology around these days and as children grow up, old-school activities like climbing trees or playing tag aren’t enjoyed as much. I want my children to like being outdoors and enjoy running around, just playing! I think it’s important to not only lead by example but also to play with children on their level, and I’m sure most parents will agree that it can take up a lot of energy!
In short, I’ve found motherhood liberating! Of course your children are the priority but for me that also includes, showing them that it’s ok to follow your own goals and to never let anyone tell you what is and isn’t achievable in your own life!
It is often said life after giving birth cannot resume as normal and is painted in a negative light; you defied those supposed norms, regardless. At what point did you decide that you were going to do things differently?
I think it was actually during my first pregnancy. When everyone was telling me that I wouldn’t have the time or energy to be active, I almost felt as though they were saying I needed to lose a part of myself in the process of becoming a mum. As someone who’s always enjoyed sports and fitness, I wanted to show that it is possible to balance fitness with motherhood!
You are a qualified personal trainer. Have you always been a keen fitness fan?
I grew up in an active household. My dad was an Olympic athlete and my mum a personal trainer, so yes exercise has always been a part of my life. However, I was dancing and singing in musical theatre until I was 21. That was when I re-trained as a personal trainer and eventually specialised in pre and postnatal fitness.
What does an average day look like for you and the family?
We are outside every day, no matter the weather, even if it’s just for 10 minutes. I try to workout first thing (6.30am before my husband leaves for work) however if that’s not possible, I’ll exercise with the kids outdoors later in the day. We also have a dog Hugo, who we walk every day so if I’m not doing a workout that day, we’ll always go outside with him.
I also love to cook, so most days whilst my youngest naps in the afternoon, I’ll prep dinner with my oldest Rio, 4 years old.
One of my favourite moments of every day is just before bed. We have a relaxing ‘free play’ time just after their bath. It’s a time when the boys and I just play creative games and use our imaginations. It’s great to calm them down before bed.
What music are you working out to at the moment?
My playlist changes every day and usually depends on my mood. Often in the evenings I’ll listen to acoustic music for a slow jog, such as Passenger or Ed Sheehan however, for early morning workouts, I love power songs such as ‘Woman’ by Kesha or Urban beats like Stormy or Skepta.
You recently created The StrongLikeMum Method which focuses on postnatal health, in all aspects – can you tell us a little more about this?
My StrongLikeMum Method focuses on three main components, Language, Fitness and Mental health. I want to shatter the stereotype around pre and postnatal fitness, and I feel that this three dimensional approach to fitness is crucial.
The language used around the fitness industry can be so demotivating for women, in particular new mothers. Phrases such as ‘Pre-Baby Body’ or ‘Drop a Dress Size’ send negative messages and I feel that we should instead, be focusing on words such as ‘active, mobile, stability, strength’ and ‘flexibility’. By changing the language around the wellness industry, I feel we can make exercise much more appealing and accessible for everyone, thereby, encouraging a positive mental association with fitness and promoting whole body health.
The language used around the fitness industry can be so demotivating for women
Do you ever manage to grab some time for yourself to relax and recoup amid all the chaos of running a business and bringing up little ones?
It can be challenging to balance motherhood with fitness whilst also building a business however, it is possible. To be honest, it takes a lot of support from my family and friends. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help if you need it! It’s also about planning and managing your time effectively. I do a lot of work early morning before my children wake up or occasionally during nap times when they rest. Taking time to rest is also crucial. I try to make sure all technology is off by 9pm and spend the time before bed unwinding and relaxing.
Every child develops their own unique personality. Tell us a little bit about your sons, Ezra and Rio. Are they similar or are they completely different from one another? What are their likes and dislikes?
Oh my goodness, they are so different, which really threw me at first! Rio was a relatively ‘easy’ baby and we had so much time alone together. Rio has such a creative imagination and loves to play games such as chef’s or builders. Ezra is only 1 however, he already loves ball games and climbing frames. Rio is a fantastic big brother though. He takes such good care of Ezra and they get on so well. Ezra finds Rio very funny!
I had a lot more time to exercise when Rio was little and he is still so patient when we’re out and about, and I try to squeeze in a workout. Ezra however, is less patient and much more demanding of my time. It’s wonderful to see them interacting as brothers though, and I really enjoy how different they are.
Your blog offers mothers a great insight into postnatal life and the many ways you can get yourself back, not just physically but emotionally too. Now that the StrongLikeMum Method is here, where do you want it to go? Have you any big plans for the future?
I would love to write a book about the StrongLikeMum Method. It would include a physical fitness plan but also highlight all three issues I raised earlier; Language, Fitness and Mental health. I’m also working on launching my own podcast and will hopefully very soon be hosting the first StrongLikeMum event, combining motivational talks with family nutrition and fitness tips.
And finally, what advice would you give to expectant mothers?
Take your time during the postpartum period. Don’t allow others to pressure you into moving at a faster pace before you’re ready.
When you are ready to begin exercising, make sure you seek advice from a pre and postnatal specialist. It’s important to build strong foundations and not rush into high intensity exercise, to get into ‘pre-pregnancy’ jeans… There are so many more health benefits to exercise and family wellness.
I would also stress that it’s important to be flexible with your exercise schedule. Children can be unpredictable alarm clocks and sometimes that means changing your plans. There’s no rush to get everything done straight away, so don’t worry about the occasional missed session.
As a parent your children are, of course, your priority. I’m a big believer that we should lead by example. Sports and Fitness is my passion however, regardless of industry, I’m eager to show my children that it’s possible to achieve their goals, whether in business, sports or personal life. It just takes passion, perseverance and patience.
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