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Shakira Akabusi is a pre and postnatal fitness expert. A daughter of an Olympic medalist Kriss Akabusi, there's no wonder that sports and fitness were always a vital part of Shakira's life.
A motivational speaker, writer, and mother of two, she's also a founder of a movement called StrongLikeMum, which empowers pre and postnatal women through sports, fitness, and health.
Passionate about shattering the stereotype around motherhood, she believes that in this fast-paced world, the concept of 'mum' should shift, too.
WorldRemit spoke to Shakira about breaking down the old-school myths about being a mum, the freedom mums deserve to write their journey themselves, and about her fitness routine.
Hi Shakira! What is the StrongLikeMum movement, and why did you start it?
StrongLikeMum is an online movement, using sports as an outlet. I want to help women maintain a healthy lifestyle and to balance it with motherhood.
It started with my first pregnancy. I was told about all the things that I'd never do again. I've always been active and enjoyed sports.
"I felt like people were telling me that I couldn't be myself if I wanted to be a mother. There isn't one way to be a good mother. You can have your goals and dreams, and still be a fantastic mother."
So, I decided to set up a blog and document my post-natal journey. And it resonated with women! It has been amazing to connect with all these positive and motivated women.
I also want to be a role model for my children, to show them that you can achieve any goal if you put your mind to it, work hard, and stay focused.
What are some of the training challenges after giving birth?
For many women, the biggest challenge is to get started and get back into a routine. I like to begin by creating the main goal and then implementing smaller landmarks along the way. And then I celebrate each one of them!
Some people also struggle to stay motivated because the results aren't fast enough. My advice is to first focus on the positive mental benefits that exercise gives us; the endorphins and energy!
And the most important thing about post-natal exercising is rehabilitating your core. Many of my clients gave birth years ago, yet I have to train them as if they’re recently post-natal because they didn’t properly rehabilitate their core.
We live in a world where coffee is instant, TV is on-demand, Wi-Fi is superfast, and people are used to getting things done quickly. We need to slow down and build strong, stable foundations before adding intensity to their workouts.
How does a typical day look like for you? What's your routine?
There's no set routine for a freelance-working mum! However, in terms of fitness, I make sure to fit in some form of exercise, roughly three or four days a week. That can be anything from an hour in the gym or a 20-min jog.
I like to mix up my exercises; it keeps me interested. There isn't just one way to work out; sometimes, I just dance around! The most important thing is to have fun with your workouts, and fit them in your week in any way you can.
What advice would you give to mothers struggling to keep their training schedule after giving birth?
There’s a great quote that says: "Be stubborn with your goals but flexible with your methods."
As a mother, you need to understand that you have to be flexible with the way you achieve your goals. Every week is different, so I plan my workouts as I go. I look at what’s my week going to look like to see where I can fit in a workout.
I always have to remind myself that things change. If one of my children is unwell or has woken me up all through the night, these things will impact my ability to maintain my planned workout schedule. You have to be flexible. It’s okay if you need to miss a workout.
However, I would also advise you to get creative with your workouts! Exercise doesn’t have to be only in the gym, it doesn’t have to be burpees; it doesn’t have to be press-ups. You can get a great workout at home with bodyweight exercises. I use a chair, jump over a broomstick, or just play a game with my kids. It’s great to use playtime as a way to exercise!
What are the top three lifestyle changes you would recommend to new mums that are trying to get (back) into fitness?
Diet and nutrition
Life is for living. I don’t think that strict diets are necessary; the best thing you can do is to have a well-rounded, healthy diet.
I eat healthy from Monday to Friday and avoid fizzy drinks, crisps, sweets, or chocolates. At the weekend, I allow myself to eat some chocolate or have a glass of wine. I make sure that I have that relaxed time as well.
Workouts: not enough time?
Every little counts. If you only have ten or fifteen minutes, you can still do a great cardio workout, stretch or do some bodyweight resistance exercise. You can do squats, lunges, star jumps, or simply go for a walk around the block. It really will make a difference!
Refueling your body
Educate yourself on how to refuel pre and post-workout. Carbohydrates have a bad reputation, but I’m not a fan of cutting them out. If you want to access the fat-burning system, you actually need carbs.
But for some, the time when you eat carbs is important. I try not to have super complex carbohydrates too late in the day, after 5 pm or 6 pm.
How can someone join the StrongLikeMum movement?
Join the tribe on our website at www.stronglikemum.com, where you can find out about some exciting things coming up this year and early next year. You can also follow me on Instagram @shakira.akabusi.
The main way you can join the StrongLikeMum movement is to spread the message.
Read the blog posts, engage with sports, fitness, and health, and try to take that inner empowerment, that great feeling that you get and think about that!
Shakira's story about how she's making a real difference to mums around her is truly inspirational.
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