A sick FitActiveMom

I haven’t posted, not just because I am new to this blogging thing, but also because I have been sick. And a sick FitActiveMom is not very active and doesn’t feel very fit!

Last week was quite miserable, and on Tuesday I went to the doctor who prescribed antibiotics (safe for breastfeeding). So I thought I should probably not run home, and I took the bus.

Huge. Mistake. It took forever, I was stressed about timing, and it was just bad for my blood pressure and cuddle time with my baby!

So for the rest of the week, I still took it slow, but I got home on foot. Even when sick, being active helped me feel better, and was the fastest and most satisfying way to get to my sweet Pixie! I’m feeling better, so hopefully will be able to get back into the groove quickly and easily!

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What to give a FitActiveMom for her birthday

I had my birthday a few weeks ago, my first as a mother. Leading up to the day, my husband asked me what I wanted. Two things emerged, and I think they will apply to many new moms:

1. Time together as a family. For us, it was a day next to the sea (my special request), walking the white cliffs of Dover. With the ocean, my husband and my precious baby, I truly felt that I had something (many things!) to celebrate. The fact that it was something active was even better, since we all feel better when we are able to get a bit of a sweat going! It was a wonderful way to spend time together in a special way.

Of course, after so much time together, the next day (my actual birthday), I got another present:

2. Time alone. I went to a 60 min spin class, leaving Pixie with BD. It. was. glorious. To be able to take the time by myself, to exercise in a way that I love and can’t do often now that I have a little one, was truly a fantastic birthday present!

So there it is. Both were wonderful, and both had me feeling loved and grateful and even still active! Hooray for birthdays!

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!

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!

Getting my pre-baby body back: Real exercise

I know lots of women think (worry) about what will happen to their bodies after having a baby, and wonder if they will ever have as cute a figure they might have had beforehand. Well, I did anyways. So I exercised throughout my pregnancy (for my own health and that of my baby’s), and planned my triumphant return to exercise and cute pre-pregnancy clothes. I called it: Operation MILF.

The c section threw somewhat of a wrench in my plans, since my plans hadn’t included major abdominal surgery. But I readjusted quickly, and spent the first 2 months focused on recovery and setting a strong foundation for my delayed triumphant return. I researched exercise programs and as soon as I learned that Shaun T (of Insanity fame) had a new workout called Focus T25, I was hooked and eagerly counted the days to my checkup when I would hopefully get cleared for exercise.

I am not sponsored by Beachbody (the company that produces Shaun T’s programs) or anyone related – not that I would mind it! – but I have been such an ambassador of Shaun T ever since I did his Insanity program a few years ago and ended up with a 6-pack. Insanity is amazing and I knew that Focus T25 probably would be as well, with the added bonus of each workout taking only 25 minutes. With a new baby, I wasn’t prepared to commit any more time than that for a workout video. I’ll do a full review some other time, and focus for now on getting back into the swing of an exercise routine. But seriously, it is a great, great program – and not just for post-pregnancy! My husband did it also and has had fantastic results in terms of strength and definition since he didn’t need to lose any weight.

I got the ok to exercise from the doc at the 8-week checkup. I want to emphasize that recovery was and continued to be the priority – anything that felt uncomfortable (i.e., pulling at the scar or making it hurt) was a no-go. I started the program doing the modified moves, as shown by Tanya who also used the program to get her amazing figure back after having a baby. This allowed me to do the exercise without putting too much strain on my injury. As my recovery continued I gradually moved on to the full movements. The whole program lasts 3 months; I felt like I had my body back after 2. I still have a little bit more wobble than I had before, but I think it’s mostly extra skin and a little bit of fat that’s hanging on for breastfeeding (that’s what I’m telling myself) and will come off when Pixie gets weaned and I start running home from work.

So. How did I do it? For starters, I picked a program that had a realistic time commitment. By 2 months old, I could know with relative certainty that Pixie would have a nap long enough for me to do the program and shower. If I had picked a program where each workout was 40 min, I never would have completed it. Also, after taking such a long time off from exercise, 25 minutes was not too intimidating of a length of time. I could spend most of it telling myself that it was almost over!

Secondly, I always work out as early in the day as possible. “They,” who lie about many things, say that you should sleep when the baby sleeps. But as soon as baby starts sleeping for longer stretches in the night, you don’t really want to go to sleep within a couple of hours of having gotten up for the day! So I aim to work out during Pixie’s first nap. Even when she has had a terrible night and is up at 5am, I pretty much never want to go to sleep at 7am. It’s also generally her most regular nap, so that helps as well.

Having an exercise program that came with a calendar and instructions of which exercise to do on what days helped a lot. I didn’t have to think about it, and seeing it on the calendar made it more of an external commitment. Even more, doing it with my husband was great motivation – on days that we didn’t do the video of the day together, I still wanted to make sure to do it so we would still move on to the same video on the next day. Plus, I really really wanted to get back into my pre-pregnancy clothes. I got them out of storage as an extra boost of motivation.

And that’s pretty much it. I have loved doing this program, and I am loving the results. I have prioritized recovery while not letting any excuses get in the way. I’m going back to work in just over 3 weeks, and know everything will change in terms of how much time I have available for exercise, so it will be an interesting transition… But in the meantime, at least I’ll fit into my work clothes!

First KIT day: how it went

As mentioned in my previous post, I went into the office for the first time this week. It was an interesting insight into how my life is going to be from now on, with a little one at home. Of course, I only wish I could work the hours I worked on Tuesday, but it was a first taste nonetheless.

So how did it go?

Pixie was up at 5:15, as per her usual. We all got up, I fed her, the adults had coffee and we all played together. BD and I worked out while she was down for her first nap of the day. He was working from home and watching her while I was gone, so he wasn’t rushing anywhere which was nice. We ate breakfast, and then I fed Pixie again when she woke up. As soon as she finished I jumped into my work clothes and tried to have a long and drawn out goodbye, but BD was having none of that and pushed me out the door.

It was strange to be in work clothes. Good, but strange. It was strange to go to the office. Again good, but strange. Same with being there. Most things at work are the same, though there are some new faces and I realised there are people I work with who had never seen me not-pregnant. Anyhow the day was mostly about catching up on emails and what is going on at work, which is what I did. Every time I messaged BD to ask how it was going, I got an adorable picture of my baby. And I became That Mom. You know, the one who shows everyone pictures of their kid(s) even when no one has shown any inclination or interest. Ah well.

I started to get antsy and so headed home a little earlier than I had thought I would, but it was good timing because just as I walked out of the office, I got a message from BD asking me to please start making my way home! I had originally thought to run home, but a friend mentioned that she would be bringing me a few things so I didn’t bring my stuff, and then because of BD’s message I caught a bus instead of walking which had been my backup plan. I rushed in the door and fed my little love bug, who had been refusing the bottle. All in all the day was good, but also hard. I should have done one of these days ages ago, I have so much more appreciation for my maternity leave now!!

I can see how much harder it will be to fit in activity and exercise once I go back to work, and I am going to have to make a real effort. I am planning on running home every day, and I’m hoping that the fact that running is the fastest way home will be enough motivation. I have also started looking for quick high intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts that I’ll be able to use to round out my exercise. I’m not sure what the timing on evenings where I have worked a full day will look like, but I would like to squeeze in something if I can. My goal is to remain a fit and active mom, even when I am working!

Into the office

I’m going into the office today for a “keeping in touch” day, and it will be the longest I have ever been away from my baby. I’m nervous, but also looking forward to it, and already emotional about missing her and her missing me.

I’ll exercise before I go (as soon as she goes down for her first nap, as usual), and hopefully that will help regulate my crazy emotions. It usually does! It’s not a trial run of how things will be when I go back to work full time in August since I am just coming in when I can (aka after her second feed), but it will be a first experience of work and motherhood and I’m glad to fit in activity today, as well. I may also walk home from work, just to get a little more movement in.

And the experiment begins!