This month’s That Mama is UFIT trainer and nutritionist (and mama of four!) Wendy Riddell
A few of us on Team Sassy had the pleasure of meeting Wendy Riddell this January when we participated in the UFIT Clean & Lean Challenge (highly recommend it by the way — read all about our amazing results here! And click here to sign up for the next one with 10% off!). Wendy’s enthusiasm, positive attitude, and most of all, outstanding sense of humour were a big part of what got us through those tough early days! The first thing you notice about Wendy – a trainer, CrossFit competitor, and nutritionist – is her impressive physique, and your admiration only grows when you find out she’s a mum of four (Charlotte, 9; twins Cameron and Jonathon, 7; and Brodie, 5)! Read on to see how she makes it all work along with her tips for helping mamas get fit and healthy; unsurprisingly, her interview is laced with a healthy combo of humor and no-nonsense insights!
Can you tell us a little about yourself, your career and your family?
I’m 44, and originally from Aberdeen Scotland. I’ve lived in eight countries since l left in 2000. I studied Nutrition at Robert Gordon’s University in Aberdeen and have done several sports-related courses as well. My first job out of Uni was at a chicken factory in Quality Assurance; let’s just say that wasn’t for me. So since I started travelling I’ve worked in Fitness and Nutrition hand in hand. I’ve been with UFIT since 2014 but had started with another bootcamp company in 2013 which merged with UFIT. From a personal point of view that was the best thing ever. The rest is history, as they say.
I took over Clean & Lean which I adore, and bootcamps which I live and breathe. I’ve 4 great kids under 10, all born within 48 months of each other so that was a crazy ride, and I’ve adored every second (once we started to get some sleep again). We’ve lived in Singapore for six years and my husband works in Azerbaijan on a rotation, so I’m here most of the time with the kids. I’ve also got a crazy Beagle. I’m very blessed.
Can you talk us through your career pre- and post-baby?
Before babies it was much easier, I did Personal Training, Bootcamps, consulted on Sports Nutrition, early morning late nights and weekends with no guilt about it. I worked until three weeks before Charlotte was born and when she was 8 weeks I moved to South Korea. This was a great experience where I met several people who will be lifelong friends, however from a work perspective there was little opportunity and I found it very difficult.
After the twins were born we moved to another city in Korea and I decided then if I couldn’t find a job, I would create one and set up my own bootcamp company and consulted on nutrition amongst the expat community (my Korean is shocking). This led in nicely to moving to Singapore and ending up at UFIT in some ways by accident, although I think it’s fate. I work six days a week, however UFIT are amazing at flexibility so I can usually structure my work day around school drop-off and pick-up and on the weekends a lot of the time the kids can come with me. It’s not unknown for me to start at 6am and still be doing emails at 11pm, but the balance UFIT affords me is amazing. Since joining I went from three bootcamps a week and one or two Nutrition clients (my youngest was 4 months at this point) to Director of Bootcamps and Nutrition.
How did you get back into the swing of things after having kids?
It was a step-by step-process. I felt guilty leaving them at first, but I soon learnt that to be a good mama you need to feel good in yourself, and for me that involved working and working out. Happy mama, happy kids .
Did you struggle with feeling physically “ok” after any of your pregnancies (with regard to fitness or nutrition)?
With the first two pregnancies it was easy, I was one of those mums that dropped weight like no tomorrow when I was breastfeeding, back in the gym ASAP like nothing much had really happened. That came back and bit me in the bum really hard with my third pregnancy/fourth baby. From 24 weeks I was threatening early labour and with three kids 3 and under to look after that was really tough. I put on almost as much weight as I did with my twins, then he just wouldn’t come out so I had an emergency C-section, and I was in theatre for four hours totally knocked out. It took me at least six months to feel anything near normal — I honestly felt at that point I would never be as strong or as fit as I had in the past.
I was right, cause that made me so determined I got stronger.
What tips do you have for mamas who might be struggling physically post-baby?
Be kind to yourself, this isn’t a short journey. It took nine months to grow the baby — your body needs time to recover. Start moving slowly and don’t be in a great hurry to hit it hard. Listen to those around you (even though at that stage we mostly don’t want to!).
Sleep if you need to sleep instead of getting up to work out, restoration is as important as fitness and nutrition. Eat mindfully — enjoy your food and don’t feel bad at the odd treat, but when you’re in the depth of little babies time can be short and it’s easy to inhale our food, so try sit down and take it slow. And again, be kind to yourself!
Read more: Mindful Eating Tips for Mamas
How do you maintain an identity separate from your children?
As I’ve gotten older my identity has changed, and having kids a bit older has I think afforded me the ability to be comfortable in my own skin, happy to identify as a package with my rat pack. I do always have at least an hour a day outside of work and the kids to work out and re-centre myself. That always keeps my feet on the ground.
How has having children changed the way you define work?
I need to work more “cleverly” so it’s no longer an 8am – 6pm work day; my work is more of a lifestyle and I’m very lucky to a degree I can fit it in around my kids. I can also bring them with me often times and that is a great lesson to them, I feel. In life if you really want something, you find a way to make it work.
How do you save time? What are your organisational tricks and tips?
Multitasking is my middle name — I fit in as much as possible, combining two things in one when I can — walking the dog and checking Whatsapp, doing homework with the kids as mummy does hers (checking emails). Being organised in the week and making sure everyone knows where they need to be and when.
I’m also a master in planning kids activities close to Crossfit Bukit Timah so I can do my workout while my kids are doing their activities and the be finished and back to pick them up like mummy never left.
I wish I had more time for…
Reading – for myself and to the kids.
I always feel saner after….
Working out! And being outside when I do it; the sun, the grass, the fresh air –just love it and centers me.
What part of Singapore do you live in? What do you like about it?
Currently close to Sixth Avenue but moving to Upper Bukit Timah in about a month. I love the area: green and plenty of great walks and parks close by, near all our fitness activities. Easy to get to work. And most importantly, access to some nice wee wine bars for catching up with friends.
Favourite kid-friendly activity in Singapore?
Favourite kid-friendly restaurants in Singapore?
Again, the Dutch Club, kids will be kids so it’s not easy to keep the volume down and nobody there minds, and they all know us by name, it’s like family. We also have a tradition of going to Hard Rock Café on birthdays.
Read more: Guide to Social Clubs in Singapore
Favourite family-friendly holiday spot in Asia?
With four kids easy travel is key so we love Bali: short flight, plenty of food options, and as a family if there is a beach, a swimming pool, and a gym we are loving it.
Do you have any tips for keeping the romance alive in your relationship?
No, I don’t, but I’m willing to hear from others on this! Life is pretty busy for both of us and my husband works overseas most of the time. I guess it becomes easy to take each other for granted and we should really stop every now and then and make an effort. That’s next on my to-do list.
Any favourite date night restaurants?
Senso on Club Street.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received as a parent?
Within reason, have the kids fit in with your lifestyle when they are born. Right from the offset I took my kids everywhere with me, travelled with them, and let them sleep where ever we were. Of course routine is key for littlies, but if you stop being you and try and fit into a mould of what you think parenting should be, you’ll all struggle. Just be yourself and be kind to yourself, there isn’t a manual.
As a mama I wish I were better at…
Soooooo many things, but if I had to pick one, slowing down time. It is all going way too fast for me.
What’s your favourite family ritual?
Sundays! We start every Sunday going to Crossfit Bukit Timah. The community is amazing: Jed and CY, who run the box, are amazing with the kids, everyone brings them and dogs, too! Then we always do something outdoors, mostly involving swimming, so we head to the park or the Dutch Club. It’s just being together, doing outside healthy things with no particular timeframe.
I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about….
All the things I need to do, I’m a chronic over thinker and planner, and find it hard to switch off.
My favourite moment of the day is…
It’s not every single day, but most, getting to my bootcamp location early and sitting there breathing in the air, taking in the scenery, and just being still and peaceful. It’s usually 10 minutes if I’m lucky, but it really helps me clear my head and centre for the day.
Thank you so much to Wendy and her kids for such thoughtful answers (and gorgeous photos)! And many thanks to Irina Nilsson Photography for the always-fabulous snaps!