While celebrities and Instagram influencers seem able to shed their pregnancy weight within a few months (while cheerfully chronicling the process on an hourly basis) the reality is quite different for most women. I didn’t bounce back, I sort of crawled, and it’s hard not to feel at a loss when you’re so tired even looking at your trainers feels like work.
Between the lack of sleep and having to recover from one of the most physically demanding experiences the human body can go through, just leaving the house is an achievement in itself, let alone exercising. While the NHS recommends waiting until after your six-week postnatal check before doing anything strenuous (longer if you’ve had a caesarean or complicated delivery), experts also recommend regular activity to keep you fit, help your body recover and possibly prevent postnatal depression.
That’s all well and good, but being able to hit the gym when you’re trying to juggle childcare and everyday upkeep often feels unrealistic. It’s been almost a year since my daughter was born, and I still struggle to find time to do more than a brisk walk to the shops for more nappies to get my heart rate up.
So when Nintendo released Ringcon for the Nintendo Switch in October, a unique game controller designed to get you exercising at home, it felt as if I’d found a potential solution. The first game to support the device, Ring Fit Adventure, features a range of traditional, guided exercises, mini-tasks and a story mode that sees you partner up with a talking ring to take on the dark influence of the insanely ripped dragon, Dragaux.
The package includes a Ring-con – a resistance hoop for one controller to slide into – and a leg strap for the other. It works by using sensors within the controllers that help track your movements as you exercise. It’s a surprisingly sturdy piece of kit that genuinely feels like exercise equipment despite its unusual shape. However, at £65, it’s a pretty big investment and, if you don’t own a Nintendo Switch, you’ll need to factor that into the cost as well.
While I had to find a safe spot far from baby’s reach to store the ring and leg strap, having it at home felt like a convenient way to fit in a workout without having to worry about the babycare logistics of going to the gym. You can set your fitness level to determine how hard the exercises are, though starting with the lower-impact casual settings is a good idea as your ligaments are still more flexible after birth so are at increased risk of injury if you stretch too much. It was enough to get my heart racing without being too far out of my comfort zone.
Feeling a little silly about squatting while holding a hoop, I drew my curtains so that no one could see, but the in-game exercise guide is clear and reassuring, and that initial embarrassment faded quickly. The adventure mode sees you jogging through various areas and occasionally stopping to battle monsters by using various exercises such as knee lifts and chair pose to deal damage. The exercises feel like a mix between an aerobics and a pilates class, and, with the controllers tracking your movements and rumbling with each rep, you get a good amount of feedback to keep you on track. It feels way more effective than just following a video class online thanks to that guidance, and the gaming element made me feel as if I had achieved something even after a short session.
There’s also the option to customise your workout or quickly access “sets” that focus on certain areas of your body. I found the back and shoulders sets particularly useful because I’ve been dealing with back pain – a common ailment after having a child. It hasn’t been a miracle cure, but it has eased after stretching these areas out.
What has surprised me most about using the Ring Fit has been the mental benefits. I had gone into this hoping to find a more convenient way to shift some baby weight, so I wasn’t expecting to have a personal epiphany about my own body. No matter how many times you hear how wonderful growing a tiny human inside you is, it still feels totally surreal. The body you’ve known your whole life starts changing whether or not you want it to. It’s suddenly not just yours any more and that’s a huge thing to get your head around as your feet swell inexplicably and all of your ligaments soften to accommodate your expanding bump.
Even after the baby arrives your body is not your own – it’s used for sustenance, sleeping on or as a mode of transportation as you dutifully carry them around. Squeezing in a 10-minute workout with the Ring Fit between nap times helped me feel as if I was finally reclaiming my body. It was moving in the ways that I willed it to rather than just responding to the needs of my child.
After giving birth, my self-confidence and body image has taken a huge knock. Appearing at the gym or jogging in public feels unapproachable right now, but being able to have guided exercise within the privacy of my own home has given me a gentle kick to start getting fit in a more manageable way.
Even if I don’t lose any weight on my adventures with Dragaux, reclaiming that sense of control over my own body has been invaluable.