Monthly Archives: April 2010

Will Power: The strength of a mom

This entry, like most of my entries, is being composed at the end of the day. This day was an unusually trying one. I’m in front of the computer, finally eating dinner and asking myself where I found the strength.

How she looked. How I felt!

I woke up sore and tired after sharing my bed with the little one during the early morning hours. Then I faced the usual stream of soiled diapers. I sat patiently as she pushed spoonful after spoonful of cereal away. I rescheduled plans three times trying to work around her day.  I bore through the escalating teething cries. I took a deep breath after misplacing the Anbesol. A deep, deep breath. I gave into her need to be carried all day. I withstood the evening onset of cabin fever. I quietly wiped away the bedtime projectile spit up. I held my love tight until she fell asleep.

I had to muster all my strength today. As an athlete, I’ve mustered before hee hee, great word! I’ve pulled it together in the third set of a volleyball final. I’ve forced my lactic acid-filled legs through hill sprints. I’ve dug deep to workout on a 900 calorie/day competition diet. The strength I found today, is the same strength I’ve tapped into before.

Reflecting on the day led me to draw parallels between motherhood and fitness. I realize that the will I have as a mother is the same will I have as an athlete. It’s the same dedication and commitment to a goal that get me through the tough moments.

And that folks, led to this piece of brilliance. These are my thoughts on motherhood, well-being and will power:

  • If you can abstain from alcohol, you have the will to abstain from soft drinks
  • If you can change a dozen diapers a day, you have the will to drink one litre of water a day
  • If you can tolerate teething, you have the will to make it through a series of bootcamp workouts
  • If you can commit to breastfeeding for one year, you have the will to eat clean for three months
  • If you can stand by as baby “cries it out”, you have the will to do one more set of any exercise
  • If you can host a weekly playdate, you have the will to attend a weekly cardio class
  • If you can carry baby on a walk, you have the will to do full push-ups
  • If you can wake up for a 3am feeding, you have the will do wake up for a morning run
  • If you can withstand baby’s hair-pulling, you have the will to withstand the burn of a strength class
  • If you can haul a stroller on and off a bus, you have the will to do bicep curls and bent over rows
  • If you can survive labour, you have the will to accomplish anything you want!!!

There’s a quote I love. I wish I knew who said it. “The difference between the attainable and unattainable lies in a person’s determination”. So I ask you, ladies: Are you as determined to care for and nourish your body as you are your child’s?

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I’m Walking. Yes, Indeed: The benefits of springtime strolls

I’m walking. Yes, indeed. Is it ironic that Fats Domino performed that song? Whoa, way too early to digress. Let’s start again.

I don’t walk. I’m usually running late and wearing unsuitable shoes. Streetcars and taxis are my preferred mode of transportation. But here I am, six months postpartum and baptized into the congregation of urban, stroller-pushing moms. I’m walking. Me! And I’m getting trimmer by the minute. Yes, indeed.

Shortly after my daughter was born, a friend shared the secret of her impressive postpartum weight loss. “I walked A LOT” she revealed. Not only did she lose the baby weight, she lost some of the regular old weight too. I didn’t doubt her at all. I just didn’t see walking as my thing. You know me. I’m all about heavy weights and high intensity.

Then the spring weather came and I sang a new tune.  For weeks, I’ve been strolling the streets and parks with the best of ’em. It’s an affordable way to stay busy. It’s a must to preserve my sanity. And it’s a great fat-burning workout.

Walking is a low intensity exercise. That means the body uses fat stores for fuel. Literally fat-burning. So one or two hours of walking ain’t too shabby – especially when pushing a 20lb load. Oh, and did I mention the inclines? You may not consider downtown Toronto hilly, but I certainly notice the uphill slopes when pushing baby plus the bag of essentials I dare not leave home without! Incline work wonders on the legs and glutes.

Some days I don my workout wear for a sweaty walk to the park. Water, supportive running shoes and clothes the “breathe” make this most comfortable. Other times, I opt for casual wear and a slightly more leisurely stroll with a fellow mom. Swept up hair, sunglasses and stylish yet comfy shoes make this most yummy-mummyish.

Having company is great. The adult conversation is much appreciated but there’s more. I also get an automatic gauge of exertion – “the talk test”. I like to work up to a  mild huff and the odd puff, along with a light sweat. I don’t do any crazy power-walking. There’s no special technique or  heavy-duty jogging stroller for me. Just good old-fashioned walking with an umbrella-style stroller.

I get out for two to three good walks each week. I love the dose of fresh air and vitamin D. I love the break from entertaining the little one.  Squirrels, trees, and trucks are far more interesting than I am. Most of all, I love seeing my thighs, hips and butt getting leaner. Pre-prego jeans here I come!

So don’t be annoyed when you see a brigade of stroller-pushers coming your way. Kindly bare with us as we get our tummy-sloughing walk on. And don’t be bothered if we temporarily invade your local coffee shop. Trust me, we’ve earned that soy latte break!

What are your favourite Toronto walking routes?

GOOD TO KNOW: Walking is a great activity if you are new to or resuming exercise. It provides an effective, low-impact workout that will prepare your body for more vigorous exercise later on.

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Get In Line: Physiotherapy for moms

Back in January, I received a very informative response to my “He Said, She Said” post. It was from a physiotherapist named Julie. Since she checked me out, I decided to check her out. Curious, I keyed in http://www.interiorfitness.com.  Am I ever glad I did.

I learned that Julie is a physical therapist with a special interest in postnatal core restoration. At the time, I wasn’t sure what physiotherapy had to do with mummy tummies. Having recently participated in her seminar, I get it.

It’s easy to focus on our cosmetic exterior – the stretch marks, the loose skin, the concave belly. I’m guilty of this for sure. It’s easy to forget the importance of our interior structure – our posture and total core conditioning. The state of our interior can certainly impact the form and function of our exterior.  And yes, a weak core can be associated with a protruding belly.

Julie Wiebe, Interior Fitness

Julie delivered a one hour seminar packed with information. She covered A LOT of ground. Some of it went over my head for sure, but some actually stayed put between my ears.  The gist of it all was that pregnancy impacts our core and our posture. Corrections often need to be made postpartum to realign the core and improve posture.  These corrections help our bodies function optimally, minimize pain, and let’s face it, the one we care about most, can help flatten our tummies. Did I get that right, Julie?

Ever since the seminar, I’ve been conscious of my alignment. Julie showed me how my shoulders have rounded and how my midsection hinges back. Ha, and I totally thought I was standing straight.  That explains why I can’t do a proper squat anymore! Now I’m in auto-correct mode. I catch myself and try to adjust to a neutral posture where my core (diaphragm, TA and pelvis) is in line. Rest assured Julie, something did sink in, LOL.

Julie is also no stranger to diastasis. She was so cute. Having read about the trials and tribulations of my separation, she couldn’t wait to check it out. I couldn’t wait to show her. The cool thing is that the information she gave me actually complements what I learned through Core Expectations. Now when I do my contractions, I’m conscious of making sure my core is properly aligned first.

There was one other interesting finding. Julie measured my abdominal separation as two finger widths, not four. Hm?? I guess with any manual measurement there is bound to be variation. I do recall reading different variations on how to properly measure diastasis.

All in all, the seminar was great and a nice change of pace for my mom’s group. Julie didn’t provide any magic answers. She provided education and awareness, which I think is more valuable. I found it really interesting to compare the advice of a physiotherapist to that of a personal trainer.  Because they have different expertise, they offer different perspectives on the same issues. If you can take advantage of seminars or consultations from either, or better yet both, I say do so.

We are lucky to have so much  information available to us. To think, most of our mothers relied on good genes or a girdle. End of story!

What practitioners have you seen in relation to a pregnancy or postnatal issues? – Midwife? Massage Therapist? Physiotherapist? Chiropractor? Doctor of Natural Medicine?

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Progress Update: 6 months postpartum

Six months! Wow, there was a time when six months was almost unimaginable. April seemed like a far away oasis –  a clearing at the end of a long, dark tunnel. Now here I am. I’ve emerged. And OMG, I can’t freakin’ believe it. I think I’m actually getting my body back!

Baby

My daughter is as delightful as ever. Though you wouldn’t know it from this pic, LOL. I no longer think of her as the bundle of joy that destroyed by body. Said only partly in jest. That’s a hell of a mommy milestone, if you ask me.

Belly

I got off to a good start in March, but have since fallen off the Ab Rehab wagon. Sorry Samantha. I still believe in it. In fact, I saw a small improvement after only four weeks of the six week program. A section of my diastasis is measuring one finger width smaller than before. And get this – my lower back pain is GONE.

Here’s the thing. As with any exercise program, the key to success is to actually do the exercises. It only works if you do the work. Unfortunately, I struggle with at-home programs. I am motivated by workout environments e.g. gyms, spin studios, running trails.  But it’s not over ’til Aretha Franklin sings! I’m doing my best to wear the splint, squeeze in sets of 100s, and progress to headlifts. All this between fitness classes, playdates and every day life.

6 months pp

3 months pp

Despite my neglect, I’m really happy with how my tummy is looking. In addition to the Ab Rehab program, I think my increase in water and decrease in breads have made quite a difference. To be clear, I haven’t eliminated breads. That would not be advisable. I’ve just cut down. Like no more Nutella sandwiches at night. I know from history that bread really bloats my stomach. I see now that a lot of the roundness and puffiness I had was bloating. No more floating this bloat, LOL!

Barbells

I recently wrote that ‘something’s gotta give’ (see April 5). Well it’s not just my eating habits that have changed. I re-evaluated and altered my workout program too. Since I’m only getting to the gym once or twice a week, it doesn’t make sense to keep training two body parts per workout. That type of split is appropriate when training three or more times a week.  Instead, I am attending weekly body pump and yoga classes which both offer a full body workout. This is a much more efficient use of time.

I’m feeling a little less obsessed with strength training these days. Just a little. I’m actually really enjoying my walks and my mini-runs (see April 11,”Running Errands”). I can’t tell you how good it feels to run again.

I guess I’m feeling a little less obsessed overall. I see that I am definitely making progress. And for the first time, I actually accept that this process will take time. I’ve let go of my superstar complex. Don’t get me wrong. I’m still a superstar 🙂 But I’m also a new mom. This is a new journey for me and for my body. I still have goals. I will wear my pre-prego jeans and I will compete again. I just don’t have those dates circled on a mental calendar anymore. Acceptance is bliss.

BTW – That’s a pre-prego workout top in the pic below. Holla!

How easy/hard was it for you to accept your new pregnancy or post-pregnancy body?


GOOD TO KNOW: When time is limited, opt for a workout that increases your heart rate AND incorporates upper and lower body resistance training for a full body workout. Circuit-based programs like bootcamps are a great example.

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Running Errands: My new workout fix

I remember the first time I heard the phrase ‘running errands’. Being a child, I didn’t know what an errand was. Whatever it meant, it sure sounded posh coming from Nikki Newman, LOL. As an adult, I now run countless errands. There’s definitely nothing posh about the way I’m running them these days. Sweatpants. Hoodie. Yep, you guessed it. I am literally ‘running’ my errands.

I’ve been yearning to run. When I’m out walking, I find myself wanting to pick up my feet, pump my arms and take off. I hear my body saying “I’m ready”.

I started with a run to my lunchtime yoga class. It was wonderful! I didn’t realize how much I’d missed it – the rhythm of my step, the sweat on my brow, the sound of my breath. I wanted more. Unfortunately, most mornings find me too tired to hit the pavement. Apparently we’re not done  with the nighttime  feedings after all. Then it hit me. Talk about an aha moment.

I had to grocery shop this weekend. “OMG, why don’t I run to the grocery store?!” I donned my running gear, stuck my bank card in my pocket, and tucked three enviro bags under my arm. Brilliant! Then in the evening, hubby asked me to pick up dinner. Yes, after spending $120 on groceries, we got takeout for dinner. Within minutes, I was back in my Sauconys and Lady GaGa and I were off to get rotis!

Why didn’t I think of this sooner? What a great way to sneak in a workout. My runs are short right now, and in truth more of a jog, but that’s not the point. The point is I’m running.  Ten minutes to the gym. Seven minutes to the grocery store. Five minutes to Island Foods. It all adds up. Exercise is cumulative. Workout sessions don’t need to be long to be effective (presuming you’re not training for endurance). And whenever I wish, I can take the scenic route  to add more distance.

This is mommy multi-tasking at its best! Bring on the errands – post office, drug store, doctor’s office – I’m there. Plus, I love stepping into my destination looking like a runner. Check it out Nikki Newman. This is how you get things done!

How do you sneak more activity into your day? Bike to work? Take the stairs? Crunch during commercials?

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Something’s Gotta Give!: Fitness assessment #2

“Something’s Gotta Give”. Good movie. Love Diane Keaton. What’s that got to do with today’s blog? Nothing, but the title works.

After my December fitness assessment, I reported on “The Good, The Bad and the Ugh!”. I’m happy to say there’s no “ugh” in this update. At six months postpartum, it’s all about “the good” and “the a’ight”.

The Good

Hitting the elliptical and pounding the pavement avec stroller have really paid off. My fitness level is much improved. It’s still not optimal, but the results of my cardio test are way better way better than three months ago. My resting heart rate dropped from 68 beats per minute to 61. A healthy average is 72 so this is a real high point. Hoo-hah! (That’s me doing Al Pacino )

The A’ight

My weight and body fat measurements come as no surprise, since I’ve been checking them periodically. There’s been no significant change over three months. But get this. I clearly see a change in the fit of my clothes not my favourite jeans, mind you, but other garments. To prove that I’m not delusional, Phil (my GoodLife guy) measured a  loss of  1 to 1- 1/2 inches from my chest, waist, hips and thighs.

The discrepancy is confusing. How could I lose inches without losing weight or body fat? Phil explained that there’s been no change in my body composition – body fat or lean muscle. This suggests that what I loss was actually fluids. I am probably retaining less water and am therefore slightly trimmer. Makes sense. Insert sullen expression of realization here.

Overall, the results are not bad. But boy, are they ever off from the reward goals I set for myself (see Feb. 9, “Lose Yourself”). I actually laughed out loud about this with Phil.  Those goals were totally arbitrary. I had no idea what was realistic for me in my postpartum state. I guess it’s fair to say losing seven inches off my waist was not! LOL.

While my reassessment results were not devastating, they did provide a reality check. If I want a more drastic change, something’s gotta give. Weight loss is a simple equation. It’s output versus input. One needs to burn more calories than one takes in.

Unfortunately, I don’t see my output changing any time soon. I simply don’t have the energy for more than two or three workouts a week. With the nice weather, I’ll certainly do more walking but that’s about it. That leaves me with input. It’s no coincidence that the two trainers I spoke with suggested the same thing. I need to assess the amount and quality of food I am eating.

Looking back, I see exactly what’s happened. During competition training, I maintained an ultra restrictive diet. When I became pregnant, I reintroduced foods I hadn’t eaten in months e.g. breads, dairy and processed foods. I wanted to be sure I had all the nutrients and fat needed in pregnancy and while nursing. In actuality, I probably took in more than I needed to e.g. ice cream, juices, granola bars. In hindsight, I think I would have been fine with a “clean” diet of lean proteins, complex carbs, fruits and veggies. In any case, I had a healthy pregnancy and a healthy child so it’s all good.

I’m not necessarily eating badly these days, but I have admittedly reverted to some old habits that  don’t do me any good. So right then, on assessment day, I walked away from it all. So long mineral water. So long high carb intake. So long cafe cookies. A hazard of coffee shop mommy meetups. So long late-night snacks. Just  days after bidding farewell, my tummy is looking less round. Hoo-hah! Did I say that already?

I’ve switched gears. I’ve turned a new leaf. I’m Diane Keaten taking the scissors to the turtleneck! Things are gonna look different from here on out. Expect big time results from my July reassessment. And just maybe a pic of me in my Twiggy jeans!

What adjustments do you make when you’re looking for a change in your performance or weight loss?

GOOD TO KNOW: “Eating clean” is a term commonly used in fitness and bodybuilding circles. It refers primarily to eating whole foods that are free of man-made sugars, hydrogenated fats, trans-fats and other unnutritious ingredients. Tosca Reno is famous for her Eat-Clean Diet.

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