Australian netballer, Renae Ingles, has just returned to professional netball after giving birth to twins only 8 months ago. After winning the World Cup with the Australian Diamonds, Renae sat out the 2016 netball season while pregnant and for the last few months she has been training hard in Utah where her husband, Utah Jazz basketballer Joe Ingles, is currently playing. Renae’s comeback to the netball court playing with the Adelaide Thunderbirds last week, impressed and inspired women and athletes everywhere, especially mothers. Getting back to any career after becoming a mother can be tough and getting your body in prime shape is no easy task either. We’re lucky to have had the chance to chat to Renae about her post-partum fitness and how she juggles her professional netball career with being a mum of twins.
Coming back to professional game-shape is very impressive only 8-months after the birth of twins, how do you feel?
Surprisingly, I feel really good. It has been a frustrating process at times, but it has been important to listen to what my body has been telling me and taking it one day at a time.
Do you feel that you are back to the same fitness as you were before you were pregnant?
No, definitely not. In terms of my cardiovascular fitness I am probably pretty close, but building back strength and power is a much longer process. Before falling pregnant I was in the best shape of my career after having competed at the World Championships. That was years worth of building up my strength and power. Whilst I stayed at fit as possible during pregnancy, I worked within strict guidelines and lost my lean muscle mass pretty quickly.
Was 8 months after pregnancy always your goal to return or did you just feel like the time was right now?
I never really put a timeframe on when I would return. I wasn’t sure how my body would recover and respond after giving birth to the twins so I didn’t want to pressure of a timeframe. I took my training one day at a time and focused on having healthy, happy babies!
Many athletes stop their careers to have children or wait until their professional career is finished before they start a family. Did you know that you wanted to keep playing or go back to playing when you decided to start a family? Was it difficult to make a decision to start a family and take a year off playing?
I had signed a two-year contract before falling pregnant, and the pregnancy was a surprise so in my heart I wasn’t completely done with my netball career. I have always and will continue to always put my family first, so whether or not I would return to netball was going to depend on my recovery, the health of the kids and obviously the support of Joe and my family. Whilst I was overseas I missed netball, and in particular being part of a team a lot. Training on my own just wasn’t the same, and I really missed the competitive side of being part of the netball family!
How long after birth did you wait until you got back into training? Can you please tell us a little bit about your fitness regime in getting back into shape after pregnancy?
I was out with the pram and walking 10 days after the birth of the twins, I was back in the gym after 5 weeks and I was back running (very slowly) at about 8 weeks. Whilst I was back exercising it was more about getting fresh air, and having some short time out from nappies, breastfeeding and sleeping babies. There wasn’t a lot of intensity to what I was doing in the first few months, however the mental and physical benefit to getting moving again was enourmous. Everything that I did in the gym and F45 classes was modified, and I made a conscious effort to listen to my body. If my body wasn’t up to it, I simply just didn’t do it… and enjoyed more cuddles with the babies!
It is important to note that any training that I did, was cleared by my obstetrician first.
What has been the biggest challenge for you in trying to get back into shape? Did you have to deal with any diastasis recti (ab separation) or any other challenges that other mothers may be suffering from?
The biggest challenge has been more mental than physical. It has been a long and slow process (and still is) in getting back to high performance shape. I have always trained at a high intensity, and loved it. Now, I am far smarter about what sessions I do and when. On top of this, the sleep deprivation is incredibly hard, especially when trying to complete high performance training programs. However, you learn to adapt… and the training actually gives me more energy than if I wasn’t active.
I had 3cm diastasis recti, and I am down to about 0.5cm currently. Again, it’s a slow, arduous process… however the female body is incredible. I carried two healthy babies in my belly, and my body is close to being back to normal- how cool is that!!!
How have the first 8 months of motherhood been for you? Any certain challenges or highlights?
Being a Mum is the absolute best thing in the world- and the hardest. Every day has highlights, especially now that the twins are hitting so many milestones and have their own little personalities… its great fun. The biggest challenge from day one, and still now is the sleep deprivation. Its tough, really tough… although somehow we just keep going. Its important (for me) to take things one day at a time, one bad day.. is just one bad day… and their cute little smiles seem to make everything ok. The hardwork and lack of sleep are totally, totally worth it!!!!
Has motherhood changed your attitude or approach to your sport or life in general?
Absolutely! Being a parent gives you perspective. Big things matter, small things don’t. The health and happiness of my family is number one priority, and being able to play the sport that I love is a huge added bonus in my life. Training now isn’t necessarily about quantity, it’s about the quality. If I am away from my kids for a few hours, well I’m going to make it worth it!
How do you juggle parenthood with your training? Especially now when your husband is away?
There is absolutely no-way that I could do this without the support of Joe, my family and the league. Juggling twins, training, and being away from Joe is really hard- I’m really lucky to have one of my best friends Gemma and my amazing Mum helping me in Adelaide. Joe talks to the kids on facetime numerous times during the day (and they know its him as soon as they hear the facetime ringtone- they love it!), and we made the decision for me to come home and join the team because it would be a very short time before he was back home with us all. He has been my biggest supporter, and has supported my training and comeback from day one. We owe a lot to our families for all of their help and support, not only now.. but from the day we told them we were pregnant with twins. We are extremely lucky!
Want more of this supermama? Follow her on Instagram @renaeingles