My Complete Post Natal Fitness Mom Blog

Created by Elly McGuinness

Last Updated: November 3, 2020

CATEGORIES: Healthy Moms

I started my post natal fitness blog as a way to help inspire other new moms to stay fit and healthy after the birth of their baby. Four and a half years on from the birth of my daughter, I compiled all my YouTube videos from throughout my postpartum period and turned them into this post. In November 2020 I checked and updated links and information to check they are still accurate and working. I hope the videos inspire you to know that you can be a fitness mom if you want to, and you can get even stronger and fitter than you were pre-pregnancy, if that is your goal!

I got tired of the naysayers. I got tired of people saying that everything would change and my pelvic floor would never be the same. That my body would never be the same and my fitness would go out the window. You know what? It’s true, things aren’t the same. My body is different, my challenges are different, and I’ve adapted my fitness regime as I’ve needed to along the way.

But here’s what happened…

I got stronger, leaner and fitter than I was pre-pregnancy.

It’s not about getting my old body back. My new body has stretch marks and is a different shape and I love it.

It’s not that the naysayers are wrong. They’re just looking at things from a closed, negative perspective. And there are different ways to look at things.

As with my pre-natal fitness journey, none of this is supposed to be prescriptive. You are on your own journey and there are so many variables that will make your experience different from anyone else’s. It won’t be easy, but what comes easy isn’t often worth much. And your mom fitness journey WILL be worth it.

Let’s start by taking a look at where I was just one week after giving birth.

Fitness mom: 1 week post natal

This mom fitness blog highlights the start of my journey as a fitness mom. Three days after the birth I started by doing my pelvic floor exercises. These are extremely important throughout the post natal period and even beyond. They will be the start of a strong foundation for other activities down the track.

A couple of days later my postpartum exercise plan continued with my first walks with bubs. I explained in the video that a good quality mountain buggy and a front pack that converts to a backpack were the only two things that we spent money on. Because it’s important for me to continue a fit, healthy, and adventurous lifestyle as a mom, I had to consider the important pieces of kit that would allow me to do that.

You can see below the exact buggy that I chose to fit in with my desire to be a healthy and fit mommy.

Click on the video below to watch my one week post natal fitness vlog.

Fitness mom: 1 month post natal

At this stage of my post natal fitness journey, the cms around my stomach are slowly starting to come off. As you will hear in the video, my measurements are currently the same as they were when I was five and a half months pregnant. Gosh people can be daft. You’ll hear in this video about how I came across someone who was confused that I could already be as “pregnant” as I was with such a small baby. Hmm.

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Now this is the second point in this mom fitness blog that I should say that none of this is prescriptive. Your situation is different to mine. Yes I started a slow “shuffle” (barely a jog) a month after giving birth. This doesn’t mean that you should. At the time I had run a FULL marathon only a couple of months before I got pregnant. I have been living a fitness centred lifestyle for many years. My birth experience and my family life is different to yours.

Would I do the same thing if there’s a “next” time?

Four years on, would I “run” (shuffle!) again so soon after giving birth? Probably not. It’s not generally recommended to run this early after birth.

BUT the reasons I probably wouldn’t do it so soon next time are to do with the fact that my health and fitness status is now different to what it was four years ago. I haven’t run for a couple of years so I wouldn’t be inclined to. It also wouldn’t be sensible to start running at the same point if there’s a number two baby (after now not having run for so long).

So again, treat all this as inspiration that you can plan to make health and fitness part of your life as a new mom. What your exact plan will look like depends on your own personal situation, history, goals, etc.

There’s a bit of a mention about my postnatal diet in here. It’s the festive season and my mum has an endless supply of delicious homemade cheese cakes, caramel cake and carrot cake in the fridge. And I don’t say no to any of it; it’s just too delicious.

However, the foundations for a healthy post natal diet were formed when I pre-prepared 24 freezer meals before my daughter was born. That got us through the first few weeks, and then we headed North to spend time with family. At this point, I had my mum cooking for me (which apart from the cakes, is pretty healthy stuff). So the foundation of healthy meals was there from the beginning.

Click below to watch my one month post natal fitness vlog.

Fitness mom: 2 months post natal

This month saw me getting a little more variety in my postpartum workout plan. I had my first bike ride back, a paddleboard session, and even a bootcamp session. As I mention in the video I completely modified the bootcamp session. I did this by jogging lightly instead of sprinting, skipping the abdominal exercises and avoiding any heading loading.

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I managed to increase my run distance but not without some challenges. After feeling intense pain in my knees I visited both the chiropractor and physio and discovered my weak, tight glutes were to blame. So I left with a collection of daily exercises to do that would strengthen that area back up and provided a strong foundation for my fitness mom lifestyle. Pain in the joints is not a good thing and shouldn’t be ignored. Perhaps these were signs that I should have eased back on my running goal. Instead I did the exercises that were prescribed and listened to my body. However I wasn’t ready to throw it all in just yet.

Remember that this is just me sharing my real, raw experience of executing my first post natal fitness plan. I am experienced in listening to my body and knowing when to modify or pull back.

The cms are slowly continuing to drop away. At this point I have 10 cm left to lose from my stomach.

A postpartum girdle

Before you watch my two month postpartum update, I’m throwing in an extra little section here. The text in italics below is just a little message I’ve added in 5 years down the track, after the birth of my second daughter! It wasn’t something I really wrote about in this first postnatal journey, but it’s relevant to this post, so I’ve added it in.

Have you been wondering whether a postpartum corset will help you heal from childbirth? Some people choose to wear one to help heal their diastasis recti, and others choose to wear one in the hope that it will help their body shrink back in a little faster. I did have a postpartum girdle after my first pregnancy (the one you’re reading about in this post). However I only wore it a few times, which is why I haven’t really talked about it.

After the birth of my second daughter I wore a postpartum girdle every day for six weeks! My main goal was to help heal my diastasis recti as well as I possibly could. Anyway, if you are interested in finding out about my results and what I think of the Bellefit corset I wore, then check out this post:-).

Bellefit Postpartum Girdles and Corsets

Click on the video below to hear about my 2 month postpartum fitness update.

Fitness mom: 3 months post natal

At this stage in my mom fitness journey I’m up to 10km in run distance and have lost another 2 cm from my stomach. Eight to go (and about 6kg I believe). In the video I mention that I was disappointed to see a big poster advertising that women could fit back into their jeans six weeks after giving birth, with some program that was being advertised. This might be possible for some moms, but for many, myself included, it’s going to take longer than that. So try not to listen to the media if it’s throwing unrealistic propositions at you. And try not to compare yourself to others, who are on their own journey.

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This was the first point where I noticed that my pelvic floor muscles aren’t quite what they used to be. That doesn’t mean that they’re not going to be as strong as they once were. In fact, I got a check up a year or so after the birth and the pelvic floor physio said it looked like I had never had a baby. It just meant that at this point I needed to make sure I was extra diligent with my pelvic floor exercises.

It’s easy to ease off doing them when you think everything is fine and your have no symptoms. I was aware that I was doing a few activities that place extra strain on this area so I was careful to pay extra attention to my exercises at this point. Listen to your bodies ladies…and seek professional advice when needed. Most pelvic floor weakness can be fixed with a properly executed strengthening plan.

Click below to listen to my three months post natal fitness vlog.

Fitness mom: 4 months post natal

This month was a bit of a turning point. I had to say goodbye to my half marathon goal for now. A calf strain that I wouldn’t be able to work through forced me to pause on the running this month, and choose some new goals. But that is all fine; there are plenty of other things I CAN do. I’m not saying goodbye to running forever. My bootcamp sessions finished so I had to create a new plan to replace those sessions, and the runs.

I realised at this point that home workouts weren’t working for me as there were just too many distractions. So instead I created a new plan with a couple of different park based workouts that I could alternate between and keep my fitness up. Many changes in direction will be needed during your journey as a fitness mom. The important thing is to realize that there are alternatives and you don’t need to quit completely!

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At this point I’ve lost 15kg since the birth – 10 kg in the week or so after the birth, and another 5kg in the four months since then. Not quite fitting back into my old clothes but that will come. I can’t believe that at this point someone still felt they needed to tell me it looked like I was growing another baby. Sheesh, some people don’t think, and when I look at my belly shot on the video it definitely looks smaller than I perceived it to be at the time! But comments like that I guess add to insecurities. Anyway, I’m all about progress…and never perfection.

Click below to watch my 4 month post natal fitness vlog.

Fitness mom: 5 months post natal

And herein begin the major sleep challenges. Sleep challenges that started at this point as baby sleep challenges. Later on they would develop into debilitating insomnia that would adversely affect me for a long time to come. But that’s another story! Yes, we were blessed with this blissful sleeping baby in the early days, but since the age of 5 months she just turned into a bubba (and later a child) that seemed to thrive on not too much sleep at all! So from this point I had to be a lot easier on myself in terms of taking it easy when I hadn’t slept.

I got right into my 20 week challenge training at this point. The two categories I entered were strength and flexibility. Overall, I wanted to be able to do five full chin ups, 40 full push ups, and the splits! At this point I found that I could do 10 full push ups and half a chin up.

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Only a couple more kgs to go to get back to my pregnancy weight, and a few more cms. At this point I could fit back into my old clothes and I could really see that my stomach was shrinking back in, even if it did look a bit different than before (which is completely fine and expected). So ladies, keep going – you will get there!

Breastfeeding and weight loss

Breastfeeding and weight loss supposedly go hand in hand. I did breast feed exclusively so this may have helped me along a lot. I continued to breast feed until my daughter was two years old to give her immune system the best start I could. But this point I was also ready to have my nipples back so we gradually worked together to gently wean. Of course excellent nutrition and plenty of effort on the physical front were both big factors in my post natal weight loss too.

I did find that I gained two or three kgs back after I finished breast feeding (again, two years down the track). You will see further down this post that I ended up getting lighter than I was pre pregnancy by the 9 month mark. Looking back, I was eating excessive amounts but I was also exercising a lot so I think my body was simply burning through the calories. When I stopped breast feeding my body sort of reset itself into a new normal. I have settled at around 50-52kg for the past couple of years (same as pre-pregnancy).

Again, remember that your body is different to anyone else’s. Some of my friends did not lose their baby weight until they stopped breastfeeding, whereas I gained a little back when I stopped. Everyone is different.

Fitness mom: 6 months post natal

From here the progress continues slowly, steadily but surely. I’ve only got a couple of cms to go and my hips are even smaller than before. This was not a goal and I would prefer to have a larger booty in general! But the reality is that all body shapes are different and we will often lose more cms in some areas as opposed to others. Time to get onto more butt exercises!

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On a good day I can now do 20 full push ups, and I can even do one whole chin up which I’m pretty excited about! My flexibility goal is a big challenge. I have always struggled with it, even as a competitive gymnast. I tend to build strength easily but flexibility…not so much! We all have our more challenging areas.

Click below to listen to my full six month post natal fitness vlog.

Fitness mom: 7 months post natal

Woohoo! This was the month that I got back to my pre pregnancy weight and size. Well pretty much – as I have previously mentioned things aren’t exactly the same!. Overall my results were achieved through consistency, balance and dedication. As I mention in the video I do allow myself a couple of glasses of wine each week and I do allow myself to have sweet treats when I’m at other peoples houses. At home I stick with fruit and dark chocolate. It all comes down to having a bit of a plan rather than a strict (and unenjoyable) diet.

My strength goals are getting closer. I can now do 2.5 full chin ups and 25 full push ups! Click on the video below to hear all about it and get a look at my cute bubba (no I’m not at all biased:-)

Fitness mom: 8 months post natal

Ahh, sleep challenges AND sickness this month! This meant that I couldn’t exercise for about a week and then I was weak for an additional week afterwards. I’m not a very good sick person but alas it happens to all of us sometimes. But don’t despair, strength does return. I got up to 3.5 chin ups this month and 35 full push ups, which puts me perfectly on track for achieving my strength goals.

Flexibility, well that’s not so great. But as I mention in the video, I did a trampolining session this month with no leakage and that my friends is more important than being able to do the splits! Pelvic floor muscles are on track!

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In this vid I also talk about starting a baby sitting swap so that I can get into some types of fitness that I can’t do with Ayla. For me this would be going for a swim or a run in the hills (yep, I’m back into running – nothing last forever:-). The relationships I had with other mums were crucial for getting me through this sleep deprived period. I had to find other mums that shared similar values as me. We went out on some amazing hikes and tag teamed other fitness sessions, which helped to keep me a lot more sane than I would have otherwise been during this period. You can scroll down to my 18 month post natal fitness installment further down the page to see what I mean here.

Otherwise, click on the video below to listen to my 8-month post natal fitness vlog.

Fitness mom: 9 months post natal

Welcome to the final video installment of my post natal fitness blog. As you will see further down, I decided to do a written version when I got to 18 months post natal.

The final week of the 20 week challenge has seen me achieve not 5, but 6 full chin ups and 40 full push ups…..things that I haven’t done in 20 years (yes, since I was 13!). And although my lack of flexibility continues to be a major challenge, I plod along and work on it as best as I can. As time goes on I find out more about what causes pain in my hips and back. I know that the journey of discovery in this area will be the most rewarding. My body is smaller yet again even though I eat copious amounts of food. I can think of a few main reasons why this may be occurring. I don’t count calories so I can’t pinpoint an exact reason, but I suspect it’s a combination of a few things.

This theory is based on what is different in my life now, as opposed to before I was pregnant.

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Here’s what has changed

  1. Burning a huge amount of calories through breastfeeding and not quite keeping up with the calories requirement of this, even though I am eating to my heart’s content 5-6 times per day
  2. Doing exercise 6-7 days per week instead of 3-4. I have been a health and fitness trainer for many years, and during this time I have focused on my clients fitness more than my own. This has been my opportunity to work on my own goals. At the same time, the frequency of exercise has stopped me going insane some days. It has helped me to feel happy through endorphin release, helped revive my energy after nights with little sleep, and it has helped keep Ayla happy and content.
  3. Eating more organic food. In the past, I have made organic choices where possible, but having the sponsorship of ‘Just Organic Ltd’ throughout the challenge has enabled me to increase my intake significantly. This means my body isn’t having to work as hard to flush out toxins. Instead it can focus on secondary functions such as burning fat.
  4. Lack of sleep. This one is not ideal but it’s the way things are right now. My system is active for longer periods and is being woken regularly throughout the night by Ayla. Again, this is not ideal, especially as it makes me vulnerable to getting sick, but I am doing my best to rest when I can. It is possible I will regain a few kgs once I stop feeding Ayla and start sleeping more – we will see.

We all face challenges

What I want to be understood is that mothers (like everyone) face challenges all the time. Yes, there are wonderful times where it’s all roses and light, but there are lows as well as highs. Sometimes us mums feel like we need to put on a happy face and pretend that everything is perfect, when it’s not. We struggle with feelings of guilt for wanting time away from our babies or for feeling like we’re not doing a great job, and also for feeling that there are much bigger problems in the world than what we have.

We’re working out a new identity, adjusting to the changes that have taken place in our life, and sometimes feeling like we don’t know what our goals are anymore. The nappies, washing, cleaning and feeding can seem endless, as can the teething, colds and drying. As well as this we are quietly trying not to listen to the well-meaning advice that doesn’t sit well with us. We are also trying to ignore suggestions of what our child ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ be doing by now. Once again, yes there are great times, but it’s a rollercoaster ride for sure, and mums out there…..you are not alone.

You CAN do it

What I want you to know is that you CAN achieve whatever you want to. You need support. You need to learn how to plan, prioritise, and focus on one thing at a time. It necessary to put in effort, have determination, and be consistent with positive actions. You need to be flexible and willing to change your course of direction where needed, and this includes changing your exercise plan in line with what’s right for both you and your baby. But most of all, just know that you CAN do it. Tomorrow is another day that you can move one step closer to your dreams.

Here’s my final video installment below. Below it I’ve also included my 20 week challenge video so you can see some of the exercises Ayla and I got up to during this period. I hope it inspires you (p.s. I went on to win the new mum’s category of the challenge).

Fitness mom: 18 months post natal

WhatWeek 5Week 407 days post9 mths post18 months post
Weight51.3 kg70.4 kg60.7 kg48.6 kg48.3 kg
Waist (narrowest)69.5 cmNo longer existsNo longer exists69cm68.5cm
Waist (b. button)76 cm109.598 cm73cm73cm
Hips91cm99 cm95.6 cm83 cm85cm
Bust size12 B12 D12 DD12 D10 C (just – still breastfeeding!)

18 months on from the birth of Ayla, and 9 months after my last post-natal blog I thought I’d do one final check in. My measurements and photos show that I’ve very much been in a maintenance phase and that the initial weight loss I achieved over the initial post-natal period was sustainable.

With all the changes and challenges that happen in our lives on an ongoing basis, it is not realistic to say that our body size, strength and cardiovascular fitness will stay EXACTLY the same all the time. Stress, activity levels, and nutrition can vary to some degree, depending on what is happening. So it is normal to see our weight fluctuate within a few kgs. However if we see a bigger fluctuation than this it’s a signal that things aren’t quite in balance and realistic habits still need to be implemented so the body can settle in and function effectively.

Life has certainly fluctuated for me over the past 9 months. I’ve always tried to be very ‘real’ in this blog so this is the reason I’m going to share the following information with you.

Post natal depression and insomnia

From about 6-12 months post-natal I experienced severe post-natal depression, and from about 8-14 months I had chronic insomnia.

Why didn’t I share this information earlier? Well I didn’t even admit to myself that I had post-natal depression until around 8 months post-natal, and when I was in the thick of it, it was very hard to talk about, and accept that it was happening. Additionally, for me it started around the time when society ‘expected’ that I should be getting the hang of this mothering business, not in the initial months following the birth.

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The insomnia was originally brought on by the anticipation of knowing Ayla would be waking at regular intervals throughout the night, but it was primarily fuelled by my own stress response to this situation. It was fueled by the resentment I felt for having to wake so often, the high expectations I placed on myself to get things done (including publishing my first book during this period) even though I was sleep-deprived. Finally, it was fuelled by the very fact that I started obsessing over the sleep I thought I needed but wasn’t getting.

I have challenges, just like you

When Ayla turned one I stopped feeding her during the night (because I couldn’t take it anymore). At this point she (more often than not) started sleeping through the night. However this was when my insomnia was at its worst. It was likely my own frustration at myself for not sleeping when she was that was really exacerbating the whole situation.

Anyway, I just wanted to highlight that I do have challenges, just like everyone else…and that I got through them. I have the odd ‘down’ day as many people do, but I am not depressed and I have given myself permission to enjoy my role as a mum so much more. I still have the odd sleepless night but they are becoming less frequent and I now have a strategy for dealing with them well. I’ll go into the details of my post-natal depression journey and the measures I put in place for my recovery another time.

My mom health and fitness journey continues

An average week for me now consists of 1-2 jogs with the buggy, 1 resistance based class or 1 day doing resistance based exercises at home, 1-2 yoga classes (bliss!) and 1 hill walk every fortnight-month. I have no problem choosing exercise that serves my body. Therefore, if I am energetic I will do a bit more resistance or run a bit faster. If I haven’t slept I will walk and perhaps stretch.

With all the variables that have been present in my life, training for a marathon, or even a half marathon or cycle event has not been on the cards. I’m cool with that. I have found a great mix of sessions that serve me and my family situation as it is right now. I’m still carrying Ayla up the hill in a backpack, running with her in the buggy, and bringing her to resistance training sessions. It’s just lovely that we can enjoy these things together.

Exercise is a miracle drug

I may have lost a little bit of strength. I can still do a few chin ups, although not 6 right now! More importantly than this is that continuing with some exercise, even though it was ‘lighter’ than usual kept me going (mentally) through the tough times. It really is a miracle drug.

We have a wonderful balance of ‘out and about’ versus ‘home’ time. This allows me time to continue to produce healthy food from scratch every day. This has been an essential part of minimising the negative effects of my insomnia and depression.

What the future will bring no one ever really knows, but I do know that an ongoing commitment to my own health, fitness and wellbeing will be on the menu. I’m excited and motivated and I hope that this blog helps other mums to realise that there is huge potential within them. Whilst carving out the life you want will come with challenges, you CAN do it, and it WILL be worth it.

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More reading for fitness moms!

If you missed out on my pre natal fitness journey, you can read all about it and listen to my videos here. Or you can have a bit of a nosey into my home birth story. You can also read about Linda Ho’s weight loss journey as a new mom.

If you’re after some great advice to help you on your fitness journey as a mom, then check out these essential self care tips for new moms as well as these awesome ideas for a successful postpartum exercise plan.

And finally, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment box below xx

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Elly McGuinness

6 Comments

  1. Keely

    Thank for sharing Elly. We mums need to give ourselves a break! I hope you have found some peace an balance on this journey (and it sounds like you have). I would never have imagined how one can feel so isolated when you are constantly with another. Hugs from the sunny north!

    • natural

      Thanks Keely. You’re right, we do give ourselves a hard time! And yes I have found much more of a balance thanks. I was really confused as to why I was feeling that way but then I started to realise that I needed to find a new sort of balance; I just wasn’t sure how to do it at the time. In the end I realised that I had made up my mind on all these different aspects of parenting, but some of them weren’t actually serving me. For example, we decided as a family that we wouldn’t put Ayla in any sort of care, but in the end I realised that choice really wasn’t right for me, and that I would be a better mum if I did ask for help. So she now goes to a home educator (we managed to find some care that does fit in with our philosophy) 2 mornings per week, and Colin looks after her one morning per week. It’s amazing what a difference those 3 mornings have made to my sanity, and to know that they will consistently be there each week. It also meant that I could do my work during these times, so I wouldn’t have to stay up late doing it, which in turn was making the insomnia worse. We also got into a clear routine in the evenings with a dedicated family slot from 5:30pm-7pm so that I wouldn’t need to be rushing around trying to do everything late at night, and we have dedicated family time on a Sunday. Never would I have imagined I would need to plan my life so much, but it has certainly made a big difference to do so. Also, they say it takes a village to raise a child, but most of us don’t have a ‘village’, which is I think where a lot of the isolation and stress can spiral from. Thanks for the virtual hugs…sending them right back at ya! x

  2. Pascale

    You’re not the first to tell me about the guilts! I suppose the hormonal imbalances and lack of sleep combined all help with bringing that on, and how in the media we’re supposedly invincible and super women who look amazing all the time and work and give birth and keep a clean home and fresh meals and and and and….! Ahhhhhh reality brings such humility 🙂

    • natural

      True true. It’s definitely the self imposed expectations that are the most detrimental, but I’m sure the media doesn’t help with this! For example, I’ve seen some advertising of fitness programmes that get women back in their old jeans 6 weeks after giving birth….very unrealistic for most. But then some women will set themselves this goal because they think if others are doing it, then so can they, and then they get down on themselves for not achieving it.

  3. Pascale

    Beautiful. Thank you for sharing Elly, it’s wonderful to see people more frequently sharing the truth of what goes on in motherhood. I watched a TED talk about taboos in parenting only the other day and sharing about loneliness and post natal depression was one of them. The talk was numerous and honest, very refreshing, much like this post. Looking forward to your next book!
    Pascale x

    • Elly McGuinness

      Thanks Pascale. I think one of the things I struggled with most was this ‘guilty’ feeling I carried around. I felt so guilty for feeling that way, for not appreciating being a mother, and for having a beautiful healthy, happy baby, but still feeling that way! And of course the guilt feeling made everything worse, and the hole much deeper. The truth is that it’s ok to feel like that. Yes I have a wonderful, blessed life, but it was just a bit more adjustment than I had anticipated, during a time when I thought the adjustment had already been made (as I found the early months very easy). It was amazing how the cloud really started to lift once I really started to recognise the adjustments I needed to make. I think that one of the main things that helped me to get better was that I knew the situation was temporary, even though I wasn’t sure how I was going to get better at the time.