Cheers to the post-baby body!

This week, I posted something on Facebook that clearly resonated with a lot of mamas. It wasn’t my intention to strike a chord, but I guess I did, and I couldn’t be happier. Here’s what I wrote:

“I have decided I really dislike the phrase ‘get your pre-baby body back.’  Partly because my body is different now, plain and simple. But mostly because a post-baby body can be pretty amazing too. What no one tells you is this: after giving birth, it’s like you have a required rest period and then a blank slate. You have a fresh start to make your body what you want it to be. Never in my life have I been able to do pull-ups, and now after working with some amazing trainers, I am *thisclose* to being able to do them unassisted. So do I have my pre-baby body back? Nope. But look at what my post-baby body can do!”

Eighteen months ago, when I was in the throws of pregnancy, I never could have imagined how I would look or feel at this point, almost one year exactly after giving birth. Looking back, this is what I would say to my pregnant self:

1)  Stop worrying. Easier said than done, of course. It’s hard to relinquish control over what is happening to your body as it grows to accommodate human life. But you need to take a deep breath and let go. Let go of your self-judgment. Let go of your comparison. Let go of your need to control your body. As long as you are making healthy choices, eating smart, and still moving, you will be fine. In the meantime, you must allow your body to do what it needs to do for your little one. If that means gaining 50 pounds- the healthy way- then so be it.

2) Let go of expectations.  And while you are at it, let go of timelines. You have not yet met your post-natal self, just as you haven’t yet met your baby. Becoming a mom will change you, and it will change your body. But how you change is not just chance. Part of it is up to you. Cross that bridge when you get there. For now, respect the wisdom of your body. It knows what it is doing.

3) Set yourself up for success. Start practicing now for an easier recovery later. Keep your body strong. Work on proper posture. Use your breath to strengthen your deep abdominals by pulling the baby to your spine with each exhale. Keep reminding your neuromuscular system how to hold yourself in space. Eat healthy food and avoid excess sugars. These things alone will jump start your postnatal routine.

4) It will all be ok. Sure, you will probably have to work to meet your goals. Sure, it could take a year before your feel like some semblance of yourself again. But you know what? You won’t be worried about it as much as you are now. You will have something (someone) else that will occupy your thoughts, heart and emotional space more than anything else you’ve ever experienced. Meanwhile, you will be on the downhill slope as pounds drop when you aren’t even looking. Take a deep breath. It’s not that bad, I promise. Before you know it, you’ll be doing pull-ups.

 

 

Advertisements

Third Trimester Park Workout

Spring has finally arrived in Colorado and I’ve been itching to get out of the house! Its the best time of year- when exercise doesn’t feel like exercise but instead an excuse to get fresh air, soak up some rays and enjoy this gorgeous world.

Though my workouts are definitely much different than they were in the beginning of my pregnancy, I notice that my body feels much better when I’m keeping up my strength. I have shifted away from heavy cardiovascular sessions; my SI joints (where your pelvis meets your tailbone) were not having it, and all the added bladder pressure made it pretty uncomfortable. At about 35 weeks, I noticed my hip flexors would be all jacked up for a couple days after “doing cardio”…. And realized it was time to shift my focus.

At that point, strengthening exercises – using little more than my own body weight or an elastic band- felt so good. After weeks of feeling like my joints were spreading and stretching, pulling them all back in with muscle strength and control was just what I needed to feel like I was still making progress, and quiet the burgeoning aches and pains.

This park workout has been one of my recent favorites- just enough to get the blood pumping and to fatigue my muscles, but still leaves me feeling strong and pain-free at the end of it. You can make it difficult or simplify it as needed, day to day, depending on how you feel. Get creative and try to move your body in as many different planes of movement as possible to achieve a full body balancing effect. Here’s what worked for me:

1) Start with a brisk walk to the park (about a mile) where there is a 3/4 mile gravel-paved loop.

2) At the first bench, do a set of ten tricep push-ups, elbows in and legs a little wider than hip distance. Holding plank is always a good option to modify.

20130407-130621.jpg

20130407-130658.jpg

3) As I walked I added in some lateral arm circles to hit the deltoids…

20130407-130831.jpg

4) When I got to the picnic table, I did step-ups on the bench. Start with one leg leading for ten reps, then switch sides for ten. Try to keep the hips as level as possible rather than hiking the hip on the way up. Use your arms in front of you for counterbalance but try to avoid pressing down on your thigh to get up. This is great for the glutes, core, and hamstrings when done correctly!

20130407-131328.jpg

20130407-131418.jpg

5) At the next bench, I did some tricep dips, keeping my legs slightly bent to modify.

20130407-131536.jpg

20130407-131547.jpg

6) Continuing around the circle, at the next picnic table it was side step-ups and lateral pelvic tilts. I have been trying to focus on glute medius strengthening, to take some pressure off my piriformis and relieve the hip aches and pains as my pelvis spreads. What does this mean? Lots of one-legged balancing, side leg work, and keeping my hips as level as possible!

20130407-132556.jpg

20130407-132605.jpg

7) Continuing the walk around the loop, I added a shoulder rotation exercise and a row- always trying to counteract that rounding and hunching of my upper body! The key when doing these sans resistance? Don’t let your ribs pop open or your back arch. Isolate the movement in the shoulder joint only and you’ll feel much more.

20130407-132819.jpg

20130407-132830.jpg

20130407-132842.jpg

20130407-132851.jpg

8) I took a break at the next bench to do hold plank, and side plank as long as I could… Reverse plank is another great choice which will open the chest, and work the back side of the legs. And as always, plank on the knees is a great option.

20130407-133105.jpg

9) Finishing out the loop, I did ten walking lunges on each leg, aiming to keep my ear, shoulder, rib, hip and knee in one line, and hips even with each other.

20130407-133334.jpg

Some days I do the whole circuit again before heading home. But if I start feeling more Braxton Hicks, I call it a day and walk the mile back to my house.

Remember to be adaptable. Maybe running five miles doesn’t feel good anymore or your hour long power vinyasa class is leaving you achy and sore. Or maybe you are a couch triathlete whose body is starting to hurt more as your pregnancy progresses and moving a little is just what you need. There are many different ways to add exercise into your day- the key is to remain open, listen to what feels good, and get creative. Your body and baby will thank you!

The journey from BURN! to Birth

Five months ago, I. Was. Killing it. By that I mean: I was a fitness fiend. A day without some type of workout was all but unheard of; some days I might have even doubled down. Now, I should mention that I work in fitness – I’ve worked at gyms since I was 16, taught Pilates and group fitness for 9 years, and certified new instructors for 6. A large part of the last 15 years of my life has been spent inside of gyms, studios, and clinics… so I’m lucky that “getting to the gym” isn’t usually that difficult. Even still, I was especially driven in the last few years to really push myself: to reach for new goals (running half marathons when I HATE running), to be more aware of what I was putting in my mouth (a pumpkin spice latte has HOW many calories?!), to add to my list of “tricks” (Peacock pose. Look it up.).

To a certain extent, I believe I was not only competing with myself, but with that omnipresent, addictive beast: the Facebook Newsfeed. Yes, that’s right. When you work in fitness, and if you are friends with your colleagues, your newsfeed is a log of incredible feats of super-human strength. Well, ok, maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration. But there’s a lot of “I just crushed a 50 mile run!” and “Try this super amazing juice fast!” So, when you are eating an ice cream sundae in your sweats and checking Facebook, if you HAVEN’T worked out that day, you may feel a little…well, lazy.

Then, one week, things were completely different. Monday I set my alarm for my normal 5:15 am workout time… and slept right through it. Tuesday, I did the same. Wednesday came and I thought, ok, maybe afternoon hot yoga is a better option. And as I lay face down on my mat, dripping sweat, in a room heated to 97 degrees, I felt it coming… that moment when you KNOW you are about to puke…

That Saturday I bought a pregnancy test. And let me tell you, that little blue line did NOT need 3 minutes to process. It was there immediately. My husband and I had just decided to start trying that month… so we were both in a bit of disbelief. There’s no WAY it happened so quick! So I took the second test in the box. Same result. I even bought another brand of test, and still, the same result. I was pregnant.

There are very few things I’ve known with certainty in my life,  but knowing I wanted to be a mom was one of them. I have always wanted this, as far back as I can remember. Even as a toddler, I named my baby dolls after my newborn cousins, as a child I begged to go visit the newborn unit of the hospital, and as a teenager I spent my Friday nights babysitting. That’s probably why, in my head, I always thought getting pregnant would be nothing but rainbows and butterflies. But no one really tells you the not-so-shiny part, do they? The first trimester got underway, and though we were thrilled, I suddenly found myself feeling miserable, and freaking out.

Suddenly my workouts were much harder, if they existed at all.  I could barely find an ounce of energy. When I forced myself to work out and did my regular cardio, I started bleeding…. WHOA, that was scary (after visiting the doctor, I found out it was not the baby, thankfully). I felt so conflicted – I didn’t know what was safe or what was normal, when to push and when to back off. My doctor told me to do 15% less of what I was doing before… but even with that in mind, my body wasn’t having it.

So I did what every health and wellness geek does when she doesn’t have the answers. I started researching. As much as I could. And wow, was I disappointed. Everything I found seemed to be very generic, written for women who were not active before pregnancy. Most consumer articles approached pregnancy and exercise from an one-size-fits-all, overly-cautious standpoint; which makes sense, since it is a risky situation to write guidelines that apply to everyone when every woman- and every pregnancy- is so different. Even the scholarly articles – the very, very few that I found, were somewhat vague, and rarely discussed the woman who was fit and active before she was prego. Or, they addressed a broader subject than what I was seeking – like, does exercising while pregnant result in shorter labor times? But what I wanted to find was specific fitness information based in research: a what-to-expect-when-you’re-expecting for the fitness fiend who already had some basic knowledge. Of course I didn’t want to start anything new or push myself too hard. But, I had questions none of these articles seemed to answer. For example, what was it  about jumping rope that made my cervix bleed? Is it true that deep twisting is contraindicated even in the first trimester, and is it due to a risk of diastasis recti? Is a drop in testosterone levels the reason why my muscles feel soft all over, even though I’m still including resistance training? Is it normal that I have a little extra cushion-for-the-pushin’ even in my BACK?  These are the answers I was seeking.

I still continue to research, and would welcome any suggestions from any of you who may have answers. In the meantime, I decided to start this blog in an effort to share my own experiences, knowing that there are women out there like me who want to remain active and healthy during pregnancy, while making educated, smart decisions. Furthermore, I find it silly that women don’t talk about the not-so-good, the bad, and the sometimes ugly parts of being with child… sometimes, it’s laughable. And if we can all laugh about it together, then it will make it that much more enjoyable.

I hope you find something here that inspires you, motivates you, and makes you smile. I hope you join the conversation,  and tell your friends. And I hope that throughout your pregnancy, you remain Fit to Glow.