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FOCUS: How a former rugby pro turned fitness journey into classes for mums

FOCUS: How a former rugby pro turned fitness journey into classes for mums

Friday 09 December 2022

FOCUS: How a former rugby pro turned fitness journey into classes for mums

Friday 09 December 2022


A midwife and former professional rugby player has shared how her return to training after pregnancy and the lack of gyms accepting new mums inspired her concept for a functional fitness group for all mums.

Jade Knight is a former Welsh rugby international and Saracens Scrumhalf who trained to be a midwife at Imperial College Healthcare Trust and currently works at Jersey General Hospital.

A mum to Emrys Knight, she founded Birthable to support women to train in pregnancy and after birth as well as optimise their health through lifestyle.

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Pictured: Jade with her son, Emrys Knight.

Describing herself as “generally quite active”, Jade says her chosen leisure activities tend to be on the active side, especially in the summer.

“Since retiring from international rugby, I have taken a big chunk of time away from training regularly to take the chance to do the things I enjoy such as leisure cycling, paddle boarding etc,” she explained.

“Since this summer, I have been training regularly again with my main focus being CrossFit at CrossFit Valiant. It’s a great sport as it is literally for everyone and the range of skills needed gives the ultimate challenge. Training for me is something I associate quite closely to my personality and it also helps my mental health massively too.”

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Pictured: “My return to fitness was really interesting and equally very frustrating," Jade said.

Jade’s fitness journey following her pregnancy planted the seed for what was to become Birthable.

“During my pregnancy, I did tons of research and programmed my own training,” she explained. “I came up with the concept that I was training for birth and no longer my sport. Fortunately, I had a straightforward birth which then enabled me to return to training quite quickly.

“My return to fitness was really interesting and equally very frustrating. I really benefited from the support my friends gave me by holding me back in my training and enabling me to access the gym with my baby too. Postnatal fitness is an area where, the slower and more controlled your return, the better it is in the long run.”

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Pictured: When training after the birth of Emrys, Jade struggled with not being able to bring him to the gym with her.

While she was able to play her first game back for Jersey when Emrys was only six months old, Jade recognised issues in her journey which she wanted to address to help other mums.

“After having Little Knight, I wasn’t able to train as most gyms wouldn’t let me bring my baby in with me, which I found very upsetting,” she said. “It made me feel like I had lost a huge chunk of my identity. Luckily, one of my closest friends let me train in his gym and bring my baby along, it was an absolute game changer.

“Over time, even though I was able to train, I always wanted another mum to train with, someone who could relate to everything I was going through. That’s where the initial idea for Birthable comes from. Since then, I have helped some of my rugby colleagues with their pregnancies and postnatal journeys.

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Pictured: Jade knew she wanted to help other mums with their fitness after stepping down from international rugby.

"It used to annoy me that policies and procedure were not in place but, again I noticed a massive gap in the support for athletes and mums. As soon as I stepped down from international rugby I knew that this was something I wanted to do.”

Speaking from experience, as someone who stayed active throughout her pregnancy, Jade recommends that mums “keep moving” – unless their obstetrician or midwife recommends not to train.

“It’s never too late to start training either,” she says. “There are adaptions you’d need to make and adjustments at different stages of pregnancy. In the third trimester, you would tapper off your training and ideally get in the pool and focus on relaxing your pelvic floor.”

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Pictured: “It isn’t a race and don’t compare yourself to the mum next to you," Jade recommended to new mums.

When it comes to new mums, Jade’s main advice is to “remove the pressure”.  “It isn’t a race and don’t compare yourself to the mum next to you. In the first three months, the slower the return, the better. Focus on the pelvic floor, the core and overall strength and you will have a fantastic foundation to build on. I would avoid any high strain on your pelvic floor and core, such as running, skipping or sit ups, until these muscles are ready.”

As a functional fitness group, Birthable caters for any mum, whether they are currently pregnant, have recently given birth or are a stay at home mum. Based at CrossFit Valiant, it gives mums access to the gym and the support of the coaches without having to leave their little ones at home.

“We have three different forms of classes,” Jade said. “’Fundamentals’, a class focused on the pelvic floor and the core, which is great to do when you are first returning to sport. It is done in a dimmed cosy room and at a slow pace.

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Pictured: The Fundamentals class is done in a dimmed cosy room and at a slow pace.

"Then there’s the ‘Strength’ class, which aims to remove the fear from weights and finishes with a circuit, and ‘Throwdown’, where you pair up with a fellow mum and tackle the day’s prescribed training session together. Additionally, we have baby massage classes which are great for bonding with your little one.”

Whilst the classes obviously focus on physical activity, the benefits go far beyond as Jade explained.

“I know, as a mum, it can lonely being with your little one all day, this is an opportunity to get out of the house, meet fellow mums and invest in your own health. Training has so many benefits including those towards your mental wellbeing. I truly believe that role modelling behaviour is brilliant for our children too. Choosing to train now will help you build a healthier lifestyle for our children in the future.”

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Pictured: "This is an opportunity to get out of the house, meet fellow mums and invest in your own health," Jade said.

“Our classes have a pre training baby group, this way the mums have a chance to have a coffee and make friends too,” Jade continued. “So often in maternity and baby groups,  we focus on the baby,  the mum doesn’t get a chance to do something for herself.

“By the time their partner comes home, mums are often exhausted. Being at home all day can be lonely and training can help you feel better. The class gives mums a chance to do something for themselves, benefit their health and meet friends who are like minded.”

This article first featured on Bailiwick Wellbeing, your free weekly guide to wellness in work and island life. Sign up now here.

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