Monthly Archives: July 2010

What She Said: Words of wisdom from Annabel Fitzsimmons

This is a little out of form for me.  I’ve never published works from another writer. But reading this today, I feel that Annabel Fitzsimmon of has captured perfectly what I’ve been learning over the past months. I hope you also find peace, positivity and reassurance from her words. (And Annabel, I hope you don’t mind the repost :-))

Annabel Fitzsimmons: Meditating Mummy

From The Today Show to Today

July 08, 2010

The year before I gave birth to my daughter was a whirlwind of fun, fitness and creativity. I was teaching yoga to great clients, running half-marathons, vacationing in Bermuda , doing PR for my (co-authored) book Bittergirl: Getting Over Getting Dumped, for which my two co-writers and I had book launches and press tours. I was interviewed on national radio and tv, and was featured in Glamour and Elle Girl. We were flown to New York City twice: Once for our book launch and then to appear on NBC’s Today Show. And to top it all off, I married the love of my life. It was a surreal and incredible year.

Fast forward one year after the Today Show appearance: I’m in our Ottawa apartment, sitting in a glider chair with my five-day old baby girl cradled in my arms. Tears are streaming down my face while I attempt to master the art of breastfeeding. I am trying not to move so I can avoid the the painful after-effects of giving birth to an eight-pound baby. I feel lost.

At that moment I felt like a completely different person than the Annabel of the year before. More than anything I had experienced in life, becoming a mother rattled the core of my identity. I wasn’t teaching yoga, I wasn’t writing, I wasn’t doing PR, I wasn’t planning a wedding, I wasn’t training for a race, I wasn’t having interesting conversations. I was simply responsible for this new little human being who depended on me for everything. And I was a mess. Seemingly, none of my pre-motherhood experiences had any practical application for the job of being a mom. I could see in my daughter’s beautiful eyes that she didn’t care that I’d been on U.S. network television. She didn’t care! All she wanted was mummy’s milk. All. The. Time.

I recall being worried that I would never quite resume the kind of social, creative, and physical life I had before having children. I couldn’t envision how I would be able to maintain a fulfilling work life and still feel like a good mom. But as I began to acclimatize to motherhood, some strange and wonderful things occurred. Things that had been important to me before were still important but were viewed from a new perspective. My concept of success and achievements became measured more in personal and emotional triumphs, not dependent on external praise. My daughter gave me the gift of the bigger picture.

As she grew, so too did I. We both took baby steps, I suppose. I began to teach yoga classes when I could fit it in our collective schedule. I pitched freelance articles while my daughter napped. I brainstormed with my creative collaborators (who also have children) on ideas and projects we could develop and that fit with our family calendars. I kept reminding myself to look at the big picture – that my work and creative projects didn’t have to happen NOW.  They could evolve slowly. And I simply kept at it.

Fast forward to this summer. I now have two children – my daughter is almost four and my son is 16 months. I am once again teaching my fantastic roster of clients and running an online yoga studio. I ran a half-marathon in May. I’m writing for the Yummy Mummy Club. I just returned from a girls’ trip to Florida with my high school girlfriends, and then went on a four-day family trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake to visit my parents.

This weekend I fly to London to attend the premiere U.K. stage production of Bittergirl, then I’ll come back to Toronto to see my family, attend and write a review of Love, Loss and What I Wore, before flying to Banff with my co-authors to participate in a final workshop of Bittergirl: The Musical at the Banff Centre for the Performing Arts. And the grand finale – I get to spend 10 peaceful days at a cottage with my husband and my kids.

The arrival of children is a life-altering experience – spiritually, emotionally, professionally. On one hand, life is never the same. But things return to normal – a new normal, that is. And we can carry on with our same interests, our same passions, our same beloved friends. Yet we now share ourselves with the new little people in our lives.

Four years on, when I think about what my life has become, I have a huge grin on my face. Travel, creative pursuits, teaching yoga and working in fitness are all exciting and hugely rewarding to me. But I know now that it is the sacred family time with my children and my husband that I savour the most.


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What Free Time?: Working out with active rest

Few new moms have free time to speak of. I experienced this first-hand when my daughter was born. Literally every minute of every day is dedicated to some aspect of infant care, housework, family or personal affairs. We learn to make the most of every single moment. Can you say the same about your workouts?

As important as rest is for the new mom, it is terribly elusive. We are told to sleep when baby sleeps. Often we don’t.  If we find 20 minutes to “spare”, that becomes time to do dishes, fold laundry, check emails, make phone calls, pay bills, whatever the case may be. Time is such a commodity, we want to take advantage of every second. And I guess in an odd way, despite being exhausted, we actually feel better for having accomplished more.

Active rest works in kind of the same way. For the purpose of this post, I am using the term active rest to mean the time intervals between strength training sets. (There are other definitions that deal with active rest days and recovery periods). Active rest means that instead of sitting still, fiddling with your iPod or milling around the water fountain between sets, one performs an activity that keeps the heart rate elevated. Some people choose to skip rope, do jumping jacks or mountain climbers. Here is my interpretation.

I was in the gym doing a leg workout last week. After finishing a set of presses, I sat back on the bench resting while Talib rapped in my ear. Out of the blue it occurred to me that I could be doing abdominal contractions. Yes folks, that Ab Rehab program that I’ve been avoiding for months. So I started. I did forty contractions then immediately started my next set of leg presses. I kept that up for the remainder of my workout.

OK so let’s do some math. My leg workout includes three sets of extensions and curls plus six sets of presses.  That means I have eight rest periods between sets (just between sets not between exercises). Eight rest periods consisting of forty contractions each equals 320 contractions. Not bad.

This isn’t really the textbook version of active rest but it works for me. 320 contractions is far from the 900/day I’m supposed to be doing, but also a lot better than the 0 I was doing until now. And since my time in the gym is so limited, it makes sense to use every second effectively. Oh and how’s this for an added benefit? Now my “rest” periods are perfectly timed. No more letting a 40 second rest slip into a 90 second break. After 40 contractions I’m onto my next set right away. I’m not sure that my heart rate stays elevated during this active rest. But I can tell you that those contractions are no slow walk in the park. Done correctly, they are  hard work.

So there you have it. It’s workout multitasking, if you will. I’m packing as much exercise into my 90 minutes as possible. There’s no time to spare. This busy mom hopes to erase “reduce waistsize” from her to-do list very soon!

How do you use active rest in your workouts and in life? Do you walk on your ‘off’ days?.. Email while in transit?…Lunge and squat while the kiddies are on the swing or slide?

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Power-Packed: Baby formula and protein powder

The best nutrition, I believe, comes from natural sources. We adults thrive on naturally grown meats, fish, whole grains and produce, for example. Our young babies thrive on our breast milk. But we live in a time and place where science also thrives. Food science has given us other sources of macronutrients. Some I accept without question. Others leave a bad taste in my mouth (ha ha). While protein supplements are a great option for me, I am not as accepting of formula supplementation for my young one. It appears that what is good for this goose is not good for her gosling (LOL).

A high protein diet is essential in bodybuilding. Protein helps build lean muscle and increases the body’s fat burning ability. When I was training for competition, I would aim for at least 130 grams of protein each day. Maintaining a moderately high protein diet is also a helpful weight loss tactic for non-meat heads.  Many experts suggest that proteins account for 30% of the daily diet. Whether you’re aiming for 100 or 150 grams of protein per day, it can be hard to get it all from natural food sources. That’s where protein supplements come in.

There are many brands and products on the market. There are protein powders made from whey, egg, soy, rice and even hemp. There are different grades of quality. There are different flavours. The powder form is perfect for making shakes or mixing into meals. The ready-to-drink shakes make great quick portable snacks. There are all-natural and vegan options. There are also formulae with perhaps more questionable ingredients.

I’ve personally been fond of Allmax Isoflex and Myoplex shakes with a soft spot for chocolate. But once I became pregnant, I packed away my protein powders. Yes, I had been consuming the presumably artificial ingredients for many months without question. Regardless, I was not willing to pass these on to my growing baby.

As a nursing mother, I am still abstaining from the muscle-building supplements. Some new moms await the day they can down a full-bodied wine or a stout glass of tonic. Me, I look forward to a thick chocolaty shake packed with 40 grams of protein. I’ve recently learned about 100% natural products from Vega and North Coast Naturals. I’m still a bit hesitant. I may give Vega a try or I may just wait out the three months until my little one is weaned.

Now while I’m generally accepting of protein supplements for moi, infant formula for the babe is another story. I chose to breastfeed for a few reasons. Mainly, it seemed the natural healthy, God-designed thing to do. And I certainly appreciated the convenience and cost-efficiency. I know that formula has benefited millions of babies. Still, I questioned how man could make a substance to replace breast milk. What is it made of? Funny enough, I’ve never asked the same about protein powders.

I never considered using formula until my daughter was almost six months old. It was a particularly tiring time. I thought maybe supplementing would give me a break from marathon nursing. In the end, I never bothered. Is it just me or does preparing half-and-half bottles sound like even more work?

I’ve had “an emergency” tin of formula in my cupboard for months. You know, so in case I get hit by a bus or run away with Vin Diesel, baby would be fed. It wasn’t until May that we actually opened it. No, I didn’t meet Vin. I had a “Sex and the City 2” date with the girls and wasn’t sure I’d make it home on time for a feeding. Hubby would only prepare it if he really had to.

I returned home from the movie and got the full report from hubby. My daughter had indeed tried the formula. “Did she drink it? Did she like it? How much did she have?”, I drilled. I had unexpected and admittedly irrational feelings. I felt that for the first time in almost eight months, someone rather something other than me had nourished my baby. Huh! I never felt that way about protein shakes. In a weird way I felt hurt, betrayed and maybe a little unneeded. I took my baby into my arms and could smell the scent of another on her. Seriously. It was like smelling perfume on a cheating boyfriend.

Now don’t get me wrong. I see absolutely nothing wrong with choosing to supplement. It just wasn’t the choice for me. And I know that some women don’t have much choice at all. I count myself lucky that I’ve had a successful and  (mostly) pleasurable breastfeeding experience.

That said, we’ve kept the formula on hand for the times when my boob is not. I can’t say that I’ve warmed up to it at all. Funny enough, neither has my daughter. She’s never had more than an ounce or so. I like to think her rejection of the packaged product is a silent sign of support for Mama.

There’s no rational explanation for this one. It’s just the way I feel. May science help lead me to bodybuilding Pro status. May nature help my baby build a strong healthy body. Amen!

How do you feel about nutritional supplements for yourself and/or baby?

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