A couple great articles I’ve read recently and wanted to share:

Fatigue Fallacy: Why You Should NOT Finish Your Workouts Exhausted by Nia Shanks

A good article about why you should finish your workouts feeling better than when you started. Does this mean you never push yourself extra hard? No, but the majority of your workouts should be challenging without making you feel like you’re going to keel over.

Healthy Eating: Just What Were You Expecting by Ryan Andrews of Precision Nutrition

Dismantling the myths that healthy eating entails perfection and a mastery of calories and nutrition science.

I’ve started this post a number of times but have held off on getting it done because there’s so much to say about it and so many factors that make every woman’s postpartum fitness experience different. I have some researched advice and ideas that will go in a future post, but for now, here’s what I have been doing to regain and improve on my pre-pregnancy fitness levels in the 7 months since I gave birth.

2014.07.13 07.52.21 - Welliver Photography - IMG_0874

Post-partum fitness depends on so many factors. Some women are ready for a bodybuilding show less than a year after giving birth, while others take longer to return to a fitness level they are comfortable with or decide to prioritize other things. I fall somewhere in the middle. I’m focusing on taking care of my baby, myself, and my relationship with my husband, plus a big landscaping project to re-do our backyard, working, and trying to have a bit of a social life, and balancing those means, for me, that I’m exercising more to stay fit and healthy than to reach a certain strength or  body composition goal. I’m working on problem areas of mobility, flexibility, and basic strength rather than going for major new strength goals.

Although I lost a lot of strength in some areas during pregnancy, I maintained good overall fitness and strength, so I wasn’t starting completely from scratch when I was able to start exercising again postpartum.

I rested completely for 2 weeks, doing only stretching and some easy Original Strength resets during that time. Not everyone needs to wait this long before getting moving again, and some people will need to wait longer. It’s a highly individual thing. I tried going for a walk around one week postpartum, but it was very uncomfortable, so I waited a bit longer.

The first few weeks that I got back to exercising were rough. My endurance was a far cry from where it was pre-pregnancy. Everything made me out of breath, and I felt weaker than at 40 weeks pregnant due to lack of sleep, hormones, and the adjustment to having a newborn. But after a couple weeks of bodyweight training and light lifting, I started to feel more like ‘myself.’

By 3 months postpartum, my endurance was close to where it was pre-pregnancy, and most of my lifts were at my pre-pregnancy state as well. At 7 months postpartum, I still have not regained my bodyweight pullup (pre-pregnancy I could do sets of 5), and my barbell squat is about 20lbs shy of pre-pregnancy levels. I also swing the 28kg and am only just starting to get back to the 32kg kettlebell. However, I haven’t put a focused effort on these lifts, so if I had, I would probably be back at my pre-pregnancy strength levels in all aspects.

I’m still 10lbs above my pre-pregnancy body weight, which does not make the pull-up any easier, I’m sure! I’m eating well and exercising, so I’m pretty confident that hormones are keeping that last little bit of weight on for a while, since I’m still breastfeeding. Breastfeeding does burn a lot of calories each day, but hormones play a large role, too. Some women will drop pregnancy weight very quickly, while for others the body hangs on to a bit of extra fat to fuel the breastfeeding. It appears I am one of the latter! This isn’t unexpected, since I was pretty lean before, and I would rather my body prioritize nursing my baby than losing that extra weight. The hormones seem to finally be shifting in my favor, as once I hit the 6-month postpartum mark, my weight has been decreasing about a pound a week. I’ll get there.

It was a bit of a struggle for me to accept this new shape I have, having been the same weight for over 10 years before having a baby, but I’m taking care of my body, and it’s taking care of my baby, so I will have to be patient.

So what’s my fitness routine now? It varies a bit depending on my fatigue levels and how my baby is doing that particular day, but in general, I do:

– Strength Training 2-3x/week
Sometimes this is a quick kettlebell and bodyweight session at home, and others it’s a longer session at a gym. This includes Original Strength resets.

– Kickboxing 1-2x/week
This is me ‘me time’ activity. It’s fun and cathartic, and the bonus is that it’s good for strength and conditioning.

– Yoga/Long Stretching Session 1x/week
This is currently an at-home session, and I’m not always good at fitting it in, but I feel so much better if I do. I’m trying to do more stretching and posture improvement. My right shoulder is starting to roll inward from carrying my baby all the time and not stretching/rolling my pec area enough, and I can’t get as low in my squat due to some mobility and flexibility losses that are purely the result of not keeping up with working on those areas. I have a lot of knots and tight muscles that have started to cause pain and that I’m finally getting back to paying attention to. I find it hard to maintain good posture sometimes as my baby gets heavier. I wear her a lot, and while my carrier and wraps do distribute the weight well, it’s still an effort to not let my pelvis shift into anterior tilt (which feels awful on my back).

– Sprints/Longer Runs 1-2x/week
I try to make time for some sprinting and running, and I recently made a trail-running friend who will get me back on the trails, which I’m looking forward to. I’m not planning to be an endurance athlete again, but I find trail running fun and relaxing.

So that’s what I’ve been up to for the last 7 months. Time seems to have flown by!

I know I’ve been away for quite a while. I’m getting my parenting feet under me and have been busy with my baby (now 6 months old), part-time training, and a few other projects (we’ve started a full-yard landscaping project that involves a ton of manual labor). I’ll get those creaky blogging muscles working again in fits and starts here and get to creating some useful content.

A great article has been making the rounds – 20 Tips for Breaking Free of Binge Eating by Nia Shanks of Lift Like a Girl.

I think the tips in the article apply to any kind of disordered eating and are helpful even if you’re just trying to improve your eating habits in general. Things like adding foods instead of subtracting foods, not dwelling on perfection or minor set-backs, and focusing on what your body can DO rather than what it looks like at a particular point in time are all healthy and helpful things everyone should do.

How We Talk About Food

Posted: May 12, 2014 in Nutrition

Food is a fact of life. Everyone must eat, and it’s fine to talk about food. It’s part of our large-scale and personal culture. But the way we talk about food matters and affects how we think about and treat food. I think this short article really hits the nail on the head for the kind of food talk that can be problematic for our relationship with food, things like saying “I should have the salad, but I’m going to be bad and get a burger.” Don’t apologize for what you’re going to eat.

One thing I hear all the time is, “It’s my cheat day/meal.” It’s fine to have a cheat day/meal, but why announce it? People probably aren’t judging what you eat anyway, and if they are, they will whether or not you explain your meal choices. You don’t need to justify what you eat to anyone but yourself. I fall into some of these negative patterns of talking about food myself, and this article was a good reminder that no one is as concerned about what I’m eating as I am. I don’t need to explain, unless I’m specifically talking about nutrition with someone. Don’t let food consume you.

Check out the article for more:

Letting food consume you: Being careful how we talk about food

How do you feel about how you talk about food?

I have heard this number thrown around dozens if not hundreds of times, both by people telling me they only eat 1200 calories a day and, much more sadly, by magazines and fitness programs and professionals recommending this calorie goal to women who want to lose weight. It’s often described as the approximate calorie threshold for most women below which their body will go into ‘starvation mode.’ Why would anyone want to walk that tightrope? Because they think it’s the best or only way to get thin, lean, and ‘toned.’ But it’s not, and I think this article does a great job of drawing attention to the harmfulness of this misconception and recommending things that actually work, like lifting weights! I also like how it makes the point that the ‘toned’ look that a lot of women aim for is achieved by building muscle.

And the scale isn’t a good indicator of fitness – check out the pictures partway through the article showing three pictures of a woman – in the picture where she looks most ‘toned,’ she is 14lbs heavier than in the first picture where she is not as ‘toned.’ 

1200 Calories by Sophia Herbst

A Love Your Body Challenge

Posted: March 13, 2014 in Uncategorized

This blog post from Molly Galbraith‘s site is especially timely for me as I head into 11 weeks postpartum. I took 2 weeks to do nothing but rest, stretch, recover, and work on figuring out this whole having an infant thing, then began to reintegrate strength training, walking, and then sprinting and heavier strength training. I’m exercising and eating well (though some days not eating enough), but there are about 10lbs around my middle that are so far refusing to budge. I’ve been feeling pretty down about this. This is the biggest I’ve ever been (while not pregnant), and I’m not used to looking like this. My clothes don’t fit like I expect them to, having been the same size for many years before getting pregnant. I definitely can’t fit into my pre-pregnancy pants, though so far that seems to have more to do with having a different pelvis shape than before – we’ll see if that’s a temporary or permanent change!

However, I know that while some of it is body fat, some is also skin that hasn’t tightened up yet. When I flex, I’m pretty darn happy with how it looks. Plus, postpartum hormones and breastfeeding hormones play a role, and sometimes that role is keeping a few extra pounds of body fat around for the purpose of breastfeeding fuel. And although it feels like it’s been forever, it hasn’t even been 3 months yet. This is an exercise in patience.

Anyway, this post from Molly Galbraith about how even very fit and lean women have cellulite, rolls, stretch marks, and the like hit home and made me take a look and realize that overall I’m very, very happy with my postpartum body. My strength and stability and endurance are returning, and I look great, just not like I’m used to (and maybe those darkundereye circles don’t look so great, but I’m sure eventually I’ll get to sleep more than a few hours at a time!). So much depends on angle and lighting in photographs. So here are a collection of a number of very fit, lean women who have posted some of their best and worst pictures, many of them taken in the same day or week.

Cellulite, Stretch Marks, and a Love Your Body Challenge from MollyGalbraith.com

And here’s another quick post with pictures from a runway show and a workout later in the same week illustrating how much posture and lighting make a difference in how you appear:

Let’s Keep It Real About Our Bodies by Lauren Fleshman

So do I want to keep working toward flat abs again? Yup, I do. But I’m more concerned with eating well so I can nourish my baby, spending time with her, my husband, and our dog, and getting strong and fit again, looks aside.

My daughter was born this past Monday! I’ll be taking some time away from blogging while I figure out how to be a mom and start to figure out how to structure this new, wonderful phase of my life. Stay strong and keep swinging those bells 🙂 I’ll be back to it myself as soon as I’m able.