Getting active with baby

We have covered fitness in pregnancy, post-delivery and beyond. And most of my descriptions talk about activities that I did/do while my baby is asleep. And really, I think that if you want to make serious change to your body and have a more dramatic result, you have to do it that way in order to be able to push yourself without keeping one eye on the baby. But what about doing things with your little one?

First, the very act of taking care of a baby is quite physical. Picking up, putting down, rocking, holding, trying to hold while they feed (the older they get, the more acrobatic they become – a challenge no matter what, most especially when you are breastfeeding and they try to take the boob with them!) – and so it goes. There are also classes that incorporate your baby into exercise, but I don’t know much about them since I could never get the timing to work for Pixie and also they seemed a little silly to me. But I have friends who love those, so there is that.

But there are also plenty of things that you can do that are “getting active” with your baby without paying for and having to deal with the scheduling of classes. Walks, I have mentioned before, and really are the perfect example. You can take the pram, in which case you are pushing something with weight. Adding things to the weight, going for hills and speeding up your walking can increase the challenge and fitness level. Taking the baby in a baby carrier works your legs and core by adding the baby’s weight onto your body. Again, you can go for hills and increase your speed for more burn.

Another favourite in our house is the dance session. Now, I am a terrible singer. And I won’t ever win awards for my dance moves. But you know what? My baby loves both my singing and my fierce moves. Go figure. So something we love to do is dance around the house, accompanied by either my atrocious singing or real music (she isn’t picky). And let me tell you, dancing around with a baby in your arms is no joke. Singing adds to the challenge, but anything upbeat with definitely get the blood flowing, and in all likelihood also get your baby laughing like crazypants which is its own reward!

Another one. My baby loves to be lifted. Whether it is airplane around the house or just lifting up and down like an elevator, the sensation of being up higher than everyone is novel to babies and they just seem to love it. And in the meantime, you get a fantastic arm, shoulder and core workout.

In addition to these, all the time you spend with your baby can be active if you keep mindful about it. Leaning down, sitting down and getting up again, squatting with baby in your arms (for all reasons – to pick up toys, clear the dishwasher, anything), rolling around, tickles – all of these things take physical effort. I’m sure there are more dedicated activities you can do with your baby, but these are the most common in our house, and the main benefit is that you end up spending great quality time with your little one. My baby loves when we play with her, and she loves going for walks, so it is a win-win situation. Most of this is common sense, but sometimes it helps things to sink in. Happy playing!

Advertisements

Back to work and a new workout regimen

My maternity leave ended and I returned to work last week. It has been lots of things – sad to leave my baby, strange to be without her all day, nice to be around adults and have adult conversations, relief that I don’t have to fight with her about meals and naptimes (she is generally too busy to bother herself with those activities and resents any insistence to the contrary), and I miss my little constant companion of the last 6.5 months. And the list goes on. But all in all it seems to be positive, with Pixie appearing to be adjusting to nursery quite well which is really what makes me feel better about everything.

With this new schedule, there is no more time for the leisured morning workouts I enjoyed while on maternity leave. So how am I going to fit exercise into my newly-busy schedule?

Answer: run home from work. I live about 3.5km from my office, and it takes about 20 min to run home. For contrast, it takes 30-40 min to take the bus. So actually, it is the fastest way back. Also, Pixie waiting for me at nursery is a powerful motivation to pick up the speed on the run!

Granted, this isn’t a full body workout solution, so I’m still working on ideas to incorporate some strength work into the mix. But given that I haven’t run on a regular basis for over a year (and haven’t run on a daily basis for much longer than that), I’m first letting my body get used to the new commuting method and will then look at adding exercise as appropriate (meaning if I can handle it!).

Yes, I do arrive at nursery dripping with sweat and gasping for breath. Yes, the carers look at me like I am nuts (so does my daughter) and I literally soak Pixie with perspiration. But actually, I have fit in my workout and shortened my commute time in one move, so I think I can count it a win.

Exercise, activity and pregnancy

And now, a look back to before I was a fit active mom, when I was a fit active mom-to-be…

I have been a fitness enthusiast for many years. Many, many years. When I was trying to get pregnant, I dialed down the intensity of my workouts a bit to increase my fertility via the estrogen stored in fat cells, but I didn’t stop completely. It was always very important to me to stay active while pregnant, both for myself and for my baby. There are all sorts of articles and studies (here are a few) about the mental and physical benefits to both mother and baby, but actually I found those after I was already doing it. It’s good to know that science supports it, though!

Around the time we found out I was pregnant, BD and I were exploring the paleo lifestyle. We had just determined that BD is gluten intolerant and this triggered an investigation into the way we eat and move. We found Mark’s Daily Apple, a blog by a guy called Mark Sisson who promotes a primal way of living that is different to the way most people approach both diet and exercise. This includes slowing down the way we exercise, which I was more than happy to embrace as I was suffering through my first trimester! Neither of us are diehards, but he has some interesting ideas that are worth taking into consideration.

In my first trimester, once I found out I was pregnant (when I was around 6 weeks along), I pretty much only walked as my daily activity, per Mark’s primal blueprint philosophy. I was exhausted almost all of the time, nauseous much of the time, and it was what felt right for me. I took it easy, but walked every day. Interestingly, I didn’t gain any weight during that time and had a bump you would only recognize as such if you knew I was pregnant.

On the day I started the second trimester, I woke up wanting to go to the gym. So I did. I wore my heart rate monitor at every workout throughout my pregnancy as a way to monitor my exertion levels. I won’t try to tell anyone how to do it, since a lot of it was instinct for me, but I made sure that my heart rate remained significantly lower than my max and slowed down whenever I started getting close. While I was committed to exercise, I was equally committed to not overdoing it (something I have been known to do!).

At the gym I did the elliptical, stretched and did push ups. I tried running but my heart rate would jump up and stay up, so I stopped. I still walked every day (home from work or the gym, about 2 miles) as well. On the weekends, I would either walk, or BD and I would go out hiking, or I would just take it easy. I also did this workout sometimes, which was actually really great especially as I got bigger and less comfortable.

As I progressed through the pregnancy, my elliptical workouts got shorter, the heart rate I allowed myself got lower, and the amount of activity I did decreased. I was still exercising 5 days a week, but very much toned down. The most important thing was my baby’s safety, followed by the importance of continuing to be active on a level that felt right to me on that day. I had to do something; what it was depended on how I was feeling.

And that’s about it! Pixie was born as healthy as they come (even her lungs worked perfectly, which is a common concern with c section deliveries) and I recovered in record time, which I am convinced is partially a result of my activity throughout the pregnancy. I firmly believe in exercise during pregnancy, and encourage every woman to do so (at appropriate levels, of course)!

Gear review: Shock Absorber Ultimate Run sports bra

Having a good sports bra before I had a baby was very important. After, it became crucial. My poor breasts were so abused – filling with milk, getting sucked dry, sore nipples (sorry) – that support and comfort during exercise became more important than ever before.

I have been a Shock Absorber sports bra user for quite a while now; I started with a sports bra that seems to be discontinued and post-baby moved to the Ultimate Run sports bra. As a serious athlete and exercise enthusiast since before I had need for sports bras, I have tried so very many over the years. This one is a keeper. In fact, I have three of them.

I confess that before this, I had never tried a sports bra with two separate cups, harboring a deep suspicion that they would not give the support I need. But the one issue I have come up against time and time again is fit – with a small ribcage and relatively large boobs (now ridiculously massive as a result of baby/breastfeeding), I could either get a sports bra that fit my ribs, in which case my breasts barely fit into the allotted area, or get one that has enough fabric for the girls but was loose and offered no support whatsoever.

The fit

The fit of the Ultimate Run bra is fantastic. Because you order by bra size, it fits both my ribcage and my cup size. Revolutionary! Life changing! The cups fit but aren’t loose, and the fabric is thick enough that everything is still held together. It gives a great shape to the ladies, which is a bonus! You can adjust the bottom clasp (the same as you do on a regular bra) and on the back for how tightly you want the fit over your shoulders. Being able to adjust both is fantastic – I just wish I could pull the shoulder fit even tighter.

Performance

Performance is very good. For low and moderate impact, this sports bra is perfect on its own. For higher impact, though, (think HIIT or running), I still add another sports bra to completely eliminate bounce. I could probably be okay without the extra sports bra, but I HATE feeling my boobs bounce around when I am doing high impact workouts. To be fair, I’m not sure there is any sports bra that could do the job on its own, especially in my current inflated state. The Ultimate Run bra comes the closest I have experienced to doing it all.

The look

As for look, it’s not the prettiest nor the ugliest sports bra you will have ever seen. The colors could certainly be jazzed up a bit. I’m not the type to walk around in just a sports bra, but I think even ladies who are wouldn’t do so with this one. But I quite like the back with the open part in the middle, a happy side effect of the advanced support system. And really, if it does a good job in holding everything in place, who cares what it looks like?! So long as it’s not too ugly. Which it isn’t. So, that.

Value

The Ultimate Run sports bra retails around £38 in the UK and $79 in the US. I bought mine on sale for just under £23. These bad boys aren’t cheap, that’s for sure, but they also aren’t the most expensive sports bra on the market. In truth, I would have a hard time paying full price – it just seems like quite a lot of money to me. But on the other hand, it is something that I wear most days and makes my chest significantly more comfortable during exercise. The bra is made of high quality materials and seems like it is going to last. So I think they are probably worth the price tag. However they are DEFINITELY worth whatever price you can get them for on sale!

Conclusion

All in all, the Ultimate Run sports bra is fantastic. As I said, I now have three. The fact that it holds everything so well, and give such a nice shape, make it a winner in my book!

Starting day care

My baby has started day care. Cue the tears! I am a faucet these days.

I am going back to work on Monday, so we have been introducing Pixie to her day care. Last week she went for one hour every day, just to get to know the carers and the place. I was concerned that it wouldn’t be enough, so I added another week (this week) of settling in, during which she has gone three times, for most of the day.

The thing is, she seems to be doing pretty well with it. I mean, she screams when the other kids come near her, and she is insisting that someone hold her at all times, and she doesn’t want to sleep, but she seems happy enough when I pick her up, and so far her behavior at home has, if anything, actually improved. As in, the nights after nursery, she has slept better than on nights when she is with me all day. On the other hand, she has been increasingly clingy, and last night she woke up crying several times and just seemed to need a hand on her back to reassure her that we were there. So who knows, I guess we will be in a period of adjustment for a while now.

And me? I am an emotional mess, haha. I am so glad that she is doing all right, and in actual fact she and I both need this for both practical (I am going back to work, after all) and other (kid needs to learn how to socialize) reasons. But it is the end of a very special time in our lives, and I am sad about that.

So I have been running and shopping and getting my hair cut and will be going to a spin class today – basically all of the things I haven’t done during the last six months. Doing exercise that I can’t do with a little one at home has been so much fun, and takes my mind off of things for a little while. Being active is absolutely what has saved me on these days when Pixie is at nursery and I am not yet at work. Plus I’m hoping to reach a peak level of fitness now, so that I can just be in maintenance mode when I am back at work.

And so this maternity leave experience draws to a close, and a new era is set to begin!