So a new adventure starts for me and a brand new club, the oldest in the men’s football league yet the newest in the women’s…
Returning to exercise after baby number two hasn’t been as easy as I had anticipated. I am now 21 weeks in and getting back in shape this time round has been mentally and physically challenging.
I was 21 when I had Alfie, and at the time I was in peak shape playing ‘soccer’ in America. So to say it was a shock when I found out I was pregnant is a pretty big understatement. The same week I found out, I was due to fly home to play in two international friendlies for Wales against the Republic of Ireland. I consulted with a doctor who gave me the all clear to play. So with the doctors and Jamie’s approval, I flew home, played both friendlies and then flew back to America. I didn’t tell anyone in my family or anyone on camp, including team doctors, that I was pregnant and spent the whole week being sick and trying to keep it quiet!
Four weeks later I flew back to Wales again to play against Germany in a World Cup qualifier. I was now 12 weeks pregnant. Again the doctor gave me the go ahead to play and once again no one else knew I was pregnant. On the way to the game the coach had to pull over to let me be sick – I blamed it on travel sickness! Germany were one hell of a team, and I was responsible for marking one of Europe’s best strikers at the time, Birgit Prinz. We lost 6-0!! (Prinz scored a hatrick!!)
That was my final game that season, in May 2007, and Alfie was born December 2007. By February 2008 I was back playing for Cardiff City Ladies and Wales were still playing in the same campaign I had originally been a part of. Ironically their next game was the away fixture against Germany. I worked my socks off to get selected and I was successful. Again I was responsible for marking the famous Prinz. We lost 4-0. (but Prinz scored 0!)
You may be wondering why this is at all relevant. After having Alfie at 21, regaining fitness and getting back to playing was pretty much a breeze, and 20 weeks later I was putting on that Welsh jersey again. Now at 28, I’m now over 20 weeks post baby with Isabella, and the thought of pulling a jersey on right now is quite daunting! Baby No.2
Pregnant at 21, I maintained fitness and physical activity for as long as I felt fit too. Pregnant at 28, I was totally more relaxed (or lazy!)
When you’ve spent half your life fixating on keeping fit, over training and being disciplined with diet and nutrition, I welcomed being pregnant and letting my body rest. As much as everyone told me I looked great during my pregnancy, my mum broke the news that I was in fact rather large, even describing my ankles as ‘cankles’ and stating ‘you were huge if I’m being honest’ so I knew getting back in shape was not going to be an easy ride.
And to add insult to injury, when I was still pregnant, England international Katie Chapman had given birth to her third child and within four weeks was back on the pitch for Arsenal. There was no way I could compete with that superhuman behaviour! After seeing Katie back on the pitch within four weeks of giving birth, in my head I wanted to jump right back in where I left off, but reality was that just wasn’t going to work for me. It was hard to accept at 28 it was going to be a slower progress towards building a fitness base and I almost felt like a novice to exercise again, and for me, that was hard to accept.
Back to training
4 weeks: I made a promise to my Dad that I wouldn’t start training until Bella was at least six weeks old, so at four weeks I began power walking with baby. Not only was I power walking, I even pushed my limits with some pram lunges, park bench dips and park bench step ups – when no one was looking – however I did draw the line at interval pram sprints as I don’t think Bella would have appreciated the bumpy ride.
6 weeks: My first run. And a big reality check! I looked at my stopwatch thinking I had been running a good 15 minutes – it was in fact a demoralising seven. I honestly felt like I was towing a caravan behind me when running or running with weights on my legs! I went home and threw my running shoes in the bin! (A bit extreme but I was feeling demoralised).
12 weeks: Thankfully things were getting better and, slowly but surely, I felt as though I was making steady progress. Even though I wasn’t in work, I still had the full time duties of looking after baby Isabella, on top of the school runs with Alfie, after school activities, cooking, cleaning, bedtime duties etc, etc….so it wasn’t always that simple to drop everything and make time to fit in a gym session or go training.
16 weeks: The obstacle of training over Christmas. Yeovil were ever so kind to send me a lovely training programme to complete over Christmas! Its very easy to use Christmas as an excuse to stop training. But when you read Twitter and see your team mates and your competitors out there training on Boxing Day and New Years Day, there is no excuse not to train.
20 weeks: My first session with Yeovil was a bit daunting. Not only did I feel like the new girl at school, it was my first time kicking a ball in 18 months! However, my new manager, Sarah, hasn’t pressured me at all to get back into training. She has been very supportive in letting me ease myself back in gently. The first session back we agreed to just take part in the warm up and my intention was to just float about. I was quite happy to just be the water girl or a cone! However, once I got started I didn’t want to stop. Being back on the ball was a great feeling, the only problem was that my legs didn’t work as fast as my mind!
We now have about 10 weeks until the FAWSL season begins. If I’m being honest, I really didn’t think that I would be ready for the first part of the season, and my initial thought was to start playing after the summer break.
However, after overcoming the initial frustrations of getting back in shape, training through sore and heavy muscles, fatigue, sleep deprivation and the feeling of ‘am I getting anywhere’ I can now see light at the end of the tunnel.
And with the continued support of my husband, family and manager, I am determined to succeed. #YTLFC #AchieveByUnity
Pre-season training is now under way and the fact I can start 2014 as a professional footballer is a dream come true.
It has been an interesting off-season seeing all the movement that has taken place with players coming over to play in the FA WSL from countries like America and Australia, while some of my international teammates have also been moving clubs.
I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome Gemma Davison, Martha Harris and Libby Stout, our new signings, and I can honestly say I am really excited by their arrivals as they add real quality to our squad. Having experience of playing against Gemma, I know she will pose a big attacking threat for opposition teams whilst Martha and Libby will add extra quality to our backline. I think it’s great overseas players want to come here as it means we have to keep improving to stay at the top. As players you want to be tested against the best and I think we’ll be doing that this year.
Early in January I was away with England in La Manga and it was great to get started with the new Manager Mark Sampson. There were a lot of new faces, and there was a real buzz about the squad and now everyone is looking ahead and vying for selection at the Cyprus Cup.
A lot of the girls have been involved in the setup in some capacity, but it was a fresh start for everyone. Mark and Marianne Spacey focused a lot on creating the right environment whilst working hard and playing with a smile on our faces!
It was great to kick a ball again after the winter break especially after the torture of fitness testing the week prior to La Manga which gave us time to overcome the severe DOMS we all had from it.
A massive highlight of the trip for me was been given the privilege to captain the side in a training game against Ireland while out in Spain. It was a big surprise but absolute privilege. It’s always been my dream to play for England, but to captain the team was something special that I’ll always remember.
The following match against Norway was a great test against a really good side, and for us as a new group we were happy with the performance although it’s always disappointing conceding a goal late on to finish with a 1-1 draw.
My focus is now on Liverpool and to be now training in a the full-time environment is great. We want to make the most of it and ensure we are ready for when the season starts.
Finally I would like to congratulate my team mate Tash Dowie on being the runner-up for the BT Sport Action Woman of the Year, it is a massive achievement for her and well deserved after having a great season with us!