Monthly Archives: May 2010

Energy Crisis: Beating chronic motherhood fatigue

Man, motherhood is tiring! Like, really tiring. Talk about an energy crisis. I’m in dire need of a boost. Chemical, thermal, nuclear, hydro, solar – whichever. If it can get me through the day, I’ll take it.

Those were my thoughts two months ago. I was five months postpartum and feeling seriously drained. Even with a good stretch of nighttime sleep ( ‘good’ being relative, as you mothers know), I was feeling exhausted throughout the day.

Yes, exhaustion is to be expected. The perpetual cycle of feeding, diapering, playtime and play dates is definitely a calorie burner. But should I have been that exhausted? Was it normal to feel like a plug had been pulled and my body totally drained? Was it normal to flop onto the bed depleted at 6pm?

Friends suggested nursing as a likely culprit. “I didn’t know how tired I was until I stopped. I have so much energy now”, I was told by the mother of an 18-month old. I was an envious shade of green.  Then my doctor shared the results of my recent blood work. “Your hemoglobin count is low. Have you been taking your iron supplements?” Ah, the iron deficiency that has plagued me most of my life and especially in pregnancy. It was still wreaking havoc on my body. I should know better. Still, having lived with anemia for many years, I knew that this felt even more severe. This was fatigue beyond fatigue.

Nuclear power sounded like the heavy duty charge I’d need. But since I had no idea how to harness nuclear energy, I’d have to look at some more practical methods.  Consults with a postnatal trainer and with the good ol’ internet revealed these suggestions for an energy boost:

  • Multivitamin
  • Vitamin D
  • Iron
  • Water
  • Lemon

Since I’ve been chronically lax in taking my iron supplements, it was safe to say I’d fare no better at a popping more vitamin pills. I didn’t even try. I did however, increase my water intake. I even had a good run with lemon and citrus slices. Fancy.

Good news. I’ve indeed seen a difference over the last few months. I am sometimes sleepy but less often fatigued. It’s hard to say how much the water has factored in. Though I do know that adequate water intake is a cornerstone of good health. That clear magic potion ensures all the body’s systems function properly. That said, I think what ultimately helped was an improvement in my overall nutrition.

By eliminating processed foods which are often laced with unhealthy sugars and opting for more whole foods, I’m naturally getting more vitamins and minerals. Yes, those same vitamins all wrapped up in cute little pink tablets. Oatmeal, berries, apples, spinach, nuts, eggs and lean meats are pretty much a part of my daily diet. That’s vitamins A, B, C, E, K, calcium, magnesium, potassium, folate and yes, iron among too many others to list. As for vitamin D, that comes mainly from the eggs and my daily walks.

The other change I made was in the gym. Or more accurately, outside of the gym. I suspect that my cardio and strength sessions were actually working against me. If breastfeeding, iron deficiency and poor nutrition were already zapping my energy, then the high resistance workouts must have put me over the edge.

If there’s anything I’m learning, it’s that this postpartum body is definitely a different animal. The same rules don’t always apply. The habits you got away with before baby may not be so good to you post-babe. Well at least I’m learning. And now I have the energy and brain power to do so!

Are you still a tired mom or have you found a way to boost your energy?

GOOD TO KNOW: Low iron levels can result in a “dead tired” feeling, poor appetite, headaches, dizziness, unhealthy weight loss, irritability and a pale and listless appearance.The recommended daily intake of iron for women 19-50 years is 18 mg.  Pregnant women require a daily intake of 27 mg of iron.  The requirement for iron is 1.8 times higher for vegetarians due to the lower bioavailability of iron from a vegetarian diet. (http://www.thesoko.com/thesoko/article1234-0.html)

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Working It Out: Contemplating a career shift

Many women consider a career change after having children. Again and again I hear this sentiment: “If I’m gonna be away from my kids, I’ve gotta love what I’m doing”. Funny enough, I adopted this outlook even before my daughter was born. As she was growing in my womb, I was already conceiving my new fitness career.

I think it’s safe to say that my decade-long career in advertising and marketing is over.  I think. No more corporate clients, no more late-night revisions, no more questionable ethics. I’m trading my pumps and briefcase for runners and a gym bag. OK I never owned a briefcase but you get the point.

I got things rolling last year with two fitness certifications – Personal Trainer and Pre & Post Natal Fitness Specialist. I also worked part-time as a Running Room clinic coach. Loved that job! Even with these new skills under my belt, I’m not quite sure where I’ll go from here.  A gym job? A recreation role? Unrelated work that finances my competition training? Protein powder and sparkly suits don’t come cheap, LOL. I have a grandiose long term vision but no short term plans. 

Feeling a bit lost, I decided to browse some jobs sites. Perhaps a job description would stand out and give me some ideas. It worked. One caught my attention. It was a full-time program management job with the YMCA. The role was essentially planning and managing all the adult fitness and recreation programs at the central location. Sweet, right?

A mental picture formed in my head. Me  promoting healthy living, managing new fitness programs, even upgrading gym equipment. Shopping is always a great part of a job description. Then other pictures formed. Me leaving my daughter to day care in the morning. Working nine to five. Answering to upper management every day. Me stuck on a slow streetcar home at night. Me trying to squeeze in weekday workouts. Me kissing all my other plans goodbye. Not to mention having the YMCA song play perpetually in my head, LOL.

Not a good look!

The thing is, I’m not interested in full-time work. I’ve had a taste of the three-day work week. Now there’s no going back. Try it and you may never work five days again. I want the extra time with my daughter. I also want the extra time to train and develop my own business. So why did I briefly consider applying for this job? It was the role itself that reeled me in. I really like the idea of creating  and managing fitness programs.  Well, guess what? I don’t need the YMCA to do that. Aha!

The application deadline came and went. I did not apply. Instead of updating my resume, I took a closer look at my own interests. Whether I’m training, coaching, programming, educating, competing, modelling or writing,  the ultimate goal is self-employment. The ultimate goal is to have flexible work days and weeks. I don’t believe that a full-time job is the next step to get there. I don’t think.

A better way to spend the day, wouldn't you say?

Workshops and photo shoots; consults and pitches; coaching and mentoring; mother-daughter trips to outdoor markets; mid-morning runs by the lake; afternoon business meetings on a patio – this is the ultimate goal.

I sense I have a lot to look forward to. I will be brave and forge ahead, perhaps without the security of a handsome pay cheque or traditional benefit package for now. Perhaps. I anticipate unique benefits that far outweigh a dental plan and eye care.

It’s true. Whatever pulls me away from my daughter will have to be something I love. But this career change was underway with or without baby. Whatever work I wake up to day-by-day has to be something I love. I look forward to sharing the next steps with you And to finding out what they are myself!

SIDEBAR: I once heard Erica Ehm speak at an event for film students. I’ve always remembered her advice, “leap and a net shall appear”. Erica, among other things, is the founder and CEO of the Yummy Mummy Club – a role inspired by her own motherhood experiences. Huh.

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Progress Update: 7 months postpartum

Time flies. It’s not a cliché. It’s the truth. I know this because I’ve caught myself stating so on more than one occasion now. Time also gives one new perspective. I am more relaxed than ever. I am more accepting than ever. Weight loss, trophies and a career will come. My daughter is here and now. I am enjoying this ride.

Enjoying the ride!

Baby

At seven months, she’s more active than ever. I’m loving it of course. She rolls back and forth like a pro moving willingly to her stomach these days. Tummy time is no longer an act of torture. I see the desire to crawl in her outstretched arms and bent leg. So exciting!

I’m particularly impressed with the dexterity of her feet. It’s amazing how she uses them to manipulate toys that have fallen out of arms reach. So what will it be for my little athlete? Soccer?…Kickboxing?…Floor gymnastics? Time will tell.

Belly

While the rest of the world celebrates Mother’s Day, we are happily celebrating Mother’s Month. There are shopping sprees, spa appointments, gifts, brunches and boxes of pastries. My husband seriously came home with two chocolate muffins, a brownie, a king size Kit Kat and a package of Reese Peanut Butter Cups – all in one day! He jokes about fattening me up so I can’t run away, LOL. I’ve declared a ban on sugary treats in our home for the rest of the month. Back to oatmeal, almond butter, spinach salads, baked fish and the like. The system works.

7 mths postpartum with stomach contracted

Take a close look at my latest belly pic and you’ll see a few things.

  • My abdomen appears to be leaner on one side. That might be my typical baby-holding side.
  • There is still a visible diastasis aka “hole” around my navel . Not surprising since I’ve been off the Ab Rehab wagon.
  • I’m wearing purple underwear tee hee

Barbells

A month has passed since I’ve seen the inside of the gym. Told ya I relaxed. What I have seen is lots of grass and plenty of sidewalk. My neighbourhood walks, along with better nutrition, have proven effective. A pair of pre-prego brown cords tell me my waist and legs are leaner than ever. Yep, inching my way closer to those beloved Twiggys.

Now it’s time for my arms to get some attention. I’ve got an important christening coming up and a sleeveless dress to look great in. With two 10lb dumbbells and twenty pounds of baby at my disposal there are no excuses.

Really though, home workouts aren’t my preference. Luckily, there’s no shortage of workout options in this town. I’ve recently become acquainted with the owner of Fit Family. Through Fit Family, Dara offers Belly Bootcamp and Babies & Strollers classes. In fact, she is offering a free trial class this month. Also easy on the wallet is a free daytime trial offer from Flirty Girl Fitness throughout May. Yes, the pole dancing place. I’d love to get my stroller workout or flirt on! Then again, I could just get my butt back into the gym. I am paying for it after all.

Two more months ’til my next reassessment. No biggie. Everything’s cool. But yes, I will definitely be putting in some gym appearances real soon.

Babies & Strollers or Flirty Girl Fitness? Cast your vote. I’ll go and give you the report!

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Gone Spinning: Highlights from my ‘Mother’s Day Off’

Outside Quad

“What a crappy day”, one girl moaned to another. We had just emerged from the dark basement studio onto the soaked city street.

“Are you kidding? This is the best day ever!” my inner voice retorted. Rain or no rain, sun or no sun, this was an awesome ‘Mother’s Day Off’.

It’s Mother’s Day weekend. Among many gifts, my husband has thoughtfully given me this Saturday off. That’s right. No housework and no parenting duties with the exception of nursing. It’s like winning the mommy lottery. How oh how would I spend this lovely gift of time? Brunch?…Spa?…Nap? Nope. At the top of my list – a spin class at Quad!

Last time I mounted a bike, I was five months pregnant. My growing belly eventually made first and third position regrettably uncomfortable. That’s when I hung up my padded shorts and spin shoes. Metaphorically speaking that is. I never did invest in either. For months now, I’ve been dying to get back. Nothing beats a high-energy sweat session with Quad owner, Micheline.

Their busy weekend schedule includes a noon intro class. This class offers more instruction and less intensity than the other sessions. It’s suitable for beginners or say, a new mom easing back into a workout routine. Of course I skip it in favour of testing myself with the regular class. C’mon y’all know me by now, LOL.

The studio

At 10:45am I was on my bike ready to go. A feat in itself! I admit, I did need a brief refresher on set up. But once the music started it was on. I easily fell back into the groove of pace rides, sprints and hill climbs. Oh it was good. The music screamed in my ear. Sweat stung my eyes. I revelled in the man versus machine battle waged against the 40lb wheel.

First position ride it out. Second position work those legs. Third position, ugh, is that my belly folding onto itself?!

If I were to grade the workout, I’d give myself a B-. My effort was earnest for sure. On the other hand, my sprints weren’t all too speedy and my form definitely suffered. Weakened core muscles made good posture a challenge. See, on the surface spinning appears to be all about the legs. In fact, it’s deceivingly a full body workout. Ever see the buns and triceps on a cycler? And as with many activities, proper performance relies heavily on core strength. Micheline was there dutifully reminding me to relax my shoulders, engage my core, and create small circles that come right from the hip.

Forty-five minutes later I was sweaty, spent and felt alive! I could sense the oxygen infusing my body from head to toe. It’s an almost euphoric feeling. So while my classmates complained about the weather, I was on cloud nine. I walked happily through the rain peeling my post-workout banana and loving this ‘day off’. I even welcome the tricep and calf soreness that will surely follow tomorrow. I already feel the crotch bruising. Ouch!

As great as it was to get back in the saddle literally and figuratively, LOL, there was one slight downer. Actually, not quite a downer; more of an eye-opener. I conquered the comeback but I didn’t experience the same thrill I had in the past. I left class feeling revived but also feeling a bit of ‘been there done that’. Spinning was my thing a year ago. Perhaps this new stage of life calls for new athletic challenges. It should come as no surprise that I already have one in mind <wink>

One final thought: I found this very telling. Given the chance to do anything I wanted today, I chose to spin and write. What an affirming insight into my passions.

Given a day off, how would you choose to recharge?

GOOD TO KNOW: Spinning is an excellent cardio and strength training activity. An intense hour-long session can burn up to 800 calories and thoroughly work the legs, glutes, core and parts of the upper body.



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Wear & Tear (Part 2 of 2): Dressing the postpartum body

Breast pumps, teething, day care – it’s all so new to a first-time mom. On top of the Baby 101 crash course, many of us are trying to navigate our bodies and closets. Our parts are bigger, wider, lower or just different than they used to be. As one friend pointed out, despite returning to pre-pregnancy weight, her body has morphed into an unfamiliar shape. Dare we attempt to wear something fancier than track pants and a nursing tank, we can find ourselves in foreign and dangerous territory. See “Wear & Tear, Part 1” for my first hand account.

My ‘no-more-tears’ transformation started with the all-important jean purchase. More than a month later, I am still loving my Yoga Jeans. Yay! But that local buy was all the shopping I had the time and energy for. I took the rest of my clothing calamity to a professional – style savvy mama, Onika Blackman-Lloyd.

As the mother of a baby boy, Onika understands the challenges I face. Throughout our meeting, she nodded knowingly to all of my concerns:

  • Comfort is a priority for long summer walks
  • Breastfeeding must be easily accommodated
  • The bank cannot be broken with high-priced items
  • Figure-flattering and maintaining my “earthy, sexy, cool” style are a must

Closet Clear-out

It was so reality TV.  Onika stood by as I diligently sorted my wardrobe into “wear”, “save” and “toss”. Only the items that I still love AND can comfortably wear right now made the first string i.e. front of the closet. The rest got benched or trashed. And a few adopted by Onika.

As a result, I have a lot less in my closet. But boy, was she right. Opening the closet and staring at only great options does make getting dressed a lot more pleasant! Fitted tees, I’ll see you next year.

The plan

Shopping List

I answered a few questions about lifestyle, budget, likes and dislikes. From that Onika composed a shopping list complete with our destination shops. The plan was to hit one store for budget basics, another store for fun pieces and affordable accessories, and Value Village for some unique thrift finds. We budgeted $200-300 for tanks, tees, tops, capris, skirts and accessories – a complete transitional summer wardrobe. Also on the agenda was an injection of  feel-good colours.

Figure-Flattering

Despite being busty and muscular, by body is fairly straight. Think less hour glass and more grandfather clock, LOL. My naturally thick now pudgy torso is a definite sore spot after baby. And I never did get those child-bearing hips that perhaps would create the illusion of a narrower waist. Onika suggested looking for tops that taper in at the abdomen (above the waist) then flow away from my waistline. Vee-neck shirts, pencil skirts and regular-rise pants would also work in my favour.

Beaded tank and bangle

White capris & bronze flip flops

Basics

Tank tops, graphic tees, capris and sandals are all great basics for a summer wardrobe. Dressed up or down, these essential pieces would allow me to step out in style without too much effort. And yes, I realize the white is a little daring. No peas or carrots will be served those days!

My new Ione's Dream purchase. Reserved for adult functions!

Accessories

Jewellery, scarves and bags are an easy way to add flair to a basic wardrobe. The only trick here is finding baby-friendly pieces. I opted for some new bracelets. Sadly, I’ll have to save most of my earrings and necklaces for adult functions.

Results

I gotta say I LOVED this process! As shopping-savvy as I am, it was a luxury to have somebody else do all the digging and sorting. This was by far the most focused and efficient shopping I’ve ever done – with or without baby. I even felt a bit like a pampered celebrity. Tell me every new mom couldn’t use a dose of that!

Tribal print shirt, Yoga jeans, Gladiator sandals and coloured bangles

Our first of two shopping days netted me two pairs of capris, one pair of sandals, two tanks, one graphic tee, three tops and a slew of bracelets. Any of these ten components can be mixed and matched into a number of ensembles. Yep, just like you see in the magazines. I can’t tell you the joy this has brought to my life. Not only do I love dressing my little one in the mornings, I love dressing me too. Is it a mind-trick or do I find myself feeling slimmer and fitter now too? What a far cry from where I was in March. There are officially no more tears!

What are/were your most form-flattering,  go-to items after baby?

BTW – You can read about this experience from Onika’s point-of-view at http://makemestylish-onika.blogspot.com/2010/05/stylish-new-mommy-give-yourself-early.html?spref=fb

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