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ShapeUp Fitness owner Hanna Nytomt featured in the ‘Irish Independent’ in September 2014, when she first decided to set up a bootcamp for pregnant women. Here’s an excerpt from that piece, by Gillian Fitzpatrick.
This urge to stay fit and healthy during pregnancy has even prompted leading personal trainer Hanna Nytomt, herself 24 weeks pregnant, to develop a six-week bootcamp course specifically for mothers-to-be. It begins later this month in south Dublin – and most of the places have already been snapped up.
“I’ve had dozens of expectant mothers attend my ShapeUp classes in the past – so with me having my third baby now, it’s the perfect time to kick off a six-week pregnancy programme,” Hanna explains. “The classes will involve, naturally enough, exercise and working out with a bump, but there’ll also be time to discuss diet and nutrition – and I’m hoping mums-to-be will be swapping tips and making it a bit of a social occasion as well.”
Even for those you can’t make a weekly class, Hanna says that doing something is always better than doing nothing. “Lots of women are concerned about back pain – but back pain is only made worse by sitting on the couch watching TV. Movement will help keep your body flexible and prepare you for labour.”
Most of Hanna’s current crop of dedicated clients would agree that already passed the half-way point, her stomach remains enviably flat.
“I feel so good,” the 30-year-old shares. “No one believes me when I tell them how far along I am in my pregnancy. It’s definitely down to how active I am – I’ve trained throughout all my pregnancies and this one is no different.”
And although someone who works out for a living can be expected to be in tip-top shape, Hanna, who lives in the capital with her husband Stephen (38) and two young children, says that no one needs specialist equipment or a high-level of fitness to exercise.
“I love water aerobics, and of course walking is brilliant because it doesn’t cost anything and is ideal for pretty much everyone. Even for a woman who is overweight or has never been physically active before, it’s an activity which is very manageable and safe throughout pregnancy.”
Hanna says she felt comfortable right up until the latter weeks of her previous pregnancies: Axel is now six-and-a-half, with Alice (5) arriving 18 months later.
“I’m young and fit, but I stopped working out a little after the eight-month mark with both of them, probably because at that stage like a lot of women I felt very tired and rest was the only thing on my mind!”
Finally, though Hanna is still demonstrating the exercises in her classes now, she won’t be rushing back to the gym blindly.
“Exercise is vital before and during, but I tell every woman – no matter how in shape they are – that afterwards they do need to give themselves at least six weeks recovery time before working out again. Your body just needs that time-out following child birth.”
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The clocks have gone back, stealing every last bit of natural light not just from the evenings but the early mornings, too. With that also goes the natural desire for any outdoor exercise, at least not when it’s dark outside.
But Hanna Nytomt doesn’t see it that way. Born and raised in the small Swedish town of Hammerdal, close to the Arctic Circle, where the long winters bring on almost 24 hours of darkness, she always had a special appreciation of the need to keep some natural outdoor activity into her daily lifestyle.
Now living in Dublin, and the mother of three young children, Hanna runs a range of fitness classes – Shape Up Hanna – which put extra emphasis on this need for some outdoor activity, especially in the winter. Her evening classes have moved indoors, but she continues to run classes on weekend mornings at St Enda’s Park in Rathfarnham, south Dublin, no matter how cold or wet it gets.
“Rain or shine,” she says. “Even on a very wet morning, I never cancel. Even in a storm. We just move around the park and try to hide from the wind. I think it is very important to exercise outdoors, where possible, and much of this came from growing up in Sweden.
“Every break time, at school, we were thrown outdoors, to ski, to ice skate, to play soccer, whatever. It was always outdoors. Even in the winter. And I think growing up in Scandinavia, people have a greater sense of being fit and healthy, and looking after their health. I think the Irish people are getting there, are getting much more aware. I still think Sweden is a little ahead, but Irish people in general are getting much fitter.
“In Sweden, we would also always bring the young children outside, every day, no matter how cold. Wrapped up very well, of course. But with a little opening in their mouth, so they can breathe in the fresh air.
“I also think in Irish schools there is more of an effort being made. It’s easy to blame the school, but the parents must take more responsibility. I would always make sure my kids do some outdoor activity.”
Hanna’s love of sport and fitness is entirely natural. She admits her family weren’t particularly into sport, but that didn’t stop her: “When I was very young, at school in Sweden, I tried everything. The funny thing is my parents did no sport. But I wanted to do it all.
“I was playing with the boys, and we would always race each other, so athletics was my first sport. I think when you’re good at something, it’s more fun. I also had a brilliant trainer then, and I owe a lot to him.”
Later, while spending some time working in the US, her desire to develop a career out of sport increased: “When I was about 20, I decided would love to work in personal training. But I think it was always in me. I’m 30 now, but always had the desire.”
Since moving to Dublin and settling down with her husband, Stephen Dempsey – and three young children – her fitness classes have evolved: they’re all self-designed, using the gentle inclines of the parkland setting to add some natural resistance to her drills. Yet she avoids the “boot camp” style, which she feels some women find too intimidating.
She also realises the importance of maintaining some level exercise during pregnancy. “I always trained through pregnancy, and realised that was important too. It’s not about sitting on the couch. It came naturally to me, and obviously there are certain things you can’t be doing. But it helped, big time, in the delivery of the baby, and everything else. I think most doctors these days approve of it. And that’s a change too.
“At first, I worked on more boot camp-style fitness classes, but I wanted to do something different. I think the boot camp is okay, but if you’re a little heavier, trying to lose weight, it’s not the best. Some people are afraid of it: the shouting, and all that. I like to push them, hard, but in a nice way.
“And I have that confidence now, to get the balance right. My first classes, I’d be so nervous, trying to understand how to do it. It was all good experience, because now I feel very comfortable doing it.”
And especially outdoors, rain or shine.