I questioned whether or not I really wanted to write this post after being encouraged to do so by a few friends. Having celebrated Thomas’s first birthday two months ago, I’ve been thinking a lot about the crazy changes a woman’s body endures from pre-pregnancy to the pre-natal journey to the aftermath. Our bodies definitely get thrown for a loop, no matter how fit or healthy we are.
I’ve been asked several times how I “got my body back” after pregnancy. This is seemingly a common concern among mothers and mothers-to-be everywhere. It’s hard enough dealing with everything that comes with having a new baby, let alone feeling confident in a bathing suit or fitting into your skinny jeans again. I remember locking myself in our bathroom when Thomas was 2 weeks old, crying because breastfeeding was such a struggle, looking like I hadn’t slept in years, and thinking that I had an unrecognizable (to me) figure. Would I ever master this nursing thing without feeling like I was being attacked by a razor blade? Would I ever sleep more than 3 hours in a row? Would my belly ever go back to looking like it used to?
The answer to all 3 is a resounding yes.
You see, I love health and fitness, but I don’t think I epitomize it. I know many people who eat healthier and workout harder than I do, and those whose post baby bodies might put mine to shame. However, I am certainly happy with where I found myself one year postpartum. I’m going to be honest, though… it wasn’t easy. I know some women who can pop out a baby and look like they did pre-pregnancy within a couple of months without much effort, but it wasn’t so simple for this girl. I wanted to feel muscular, strong, and firm. I wanted to be able to happily run 10k again. I wanted to get certified in Body Attack, which meant I needed to push my cardio limits. I wanted to set a good example and prove to myself that having a baby wasn’t going to hold me back from being in shape again. And to do this, it was going to take commitment.
For anyone who is struggling to find their “happy place” after a physical setback, here are ten things that I believe helped me to finally feel like myself again:
1) Work Out Like A Champion
Leisurely walks around the block were lovely ways to get out of the house with a baby, but it wasn’t going to get me into shape. Of course I began slow and steady, but eventually I had to kick things into fifth gear. High intensity exercise was required, with a combination of cardio and weight bearing activities other than carrying around an infant.
2) Schedule Exercise; Make It A Priority
Get a day planner. Every Sunday, I decided upon my week’s worth of workouts and scheduled them accordingly. When I try to fly by the seat of my pants, it becomes far too easy to skip out on exercise and make excuses.
3) Plan Out Your Weekly Meals
Another Sunday activity. Having a weekly “meal plan” (especially for dinners) helped to ensure I had my grocery lists made and healthy food was planned each night. Diet is 70-80% of the battle in getting in shape, so food needed to be a priority.
4) Read Blogs For Inspiration
I frequently read healthy living blogs, but whenever I felt like I was in a bit of a rut with diet or exercise, I looked to a few of my favourite bloggers (particularly those with children or who’ve overcome a physical setback) for ideas, inspiration, or a simple kick in the pants.
I certainly wasn’t one of those “sleep when the baby sleeps” type of mothers. I used my downtime for things like showers, cleaning up, making food, blogging, catching up with emails and friends, etc. However, as soon as Thomas sorted out his nighttime sleeping, I made sure to get to bed at a decent hour so that my body had enough energy the next day to workout and make good nutritional decisions. When I am exhausted, I tend to skip out of workouts and eat poorly, so sleep was essential to my overall vitality.
6) Dish Out The Dollars
When I pay for an activity upfront, I feel obliged to attend. I signed up for Baby Boot Camp this time last year when Thomas was 9 weeks old. It was definitely an added expense, but it motivated me to throw on my running shoes and get my butt to the studio on those days when I reeeeally didn’t feel like getting off the couch. I could just envision my money being flushed down the drain. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it once I got there! It would have just been much easier to skip out on the workout if it was for free.
7) Plan A Vacation or Event
Having something to look forward to always keeps me in line, especially if it involves a beach and a bathing suit! I know it sounds silly, but it’s just another form of motivation for keeping my goals in sight.
8) Hide The Scale
Dropping the baby weight wasn’t so much of an issue. I was within 5 lbs of my pre-pregnancy weight by my 6-week postnatal appointment. However, weight does not reflect my body composition. I felt like a bag of milk. Once I started Boot Camp and getting back into a fitness regime, I actually gained more weight due to an increase in muscle mass. My clothing fit much better, though! I put the scale away, as it was kind of depressing to see the numbers rise despite my hard work. Not worth the mind games.
9) Limit Processed Food Consumption
I had (and still have) my fair share of “soul food”, but I made a huge effort to choose real food as snacks and meals throughout the day, bake my own treats, etc. It definitely helped, particularly with my energy levels.
10) Easy on the Alcohol
Since I was nursing the entire time and I hated pumping, this wasn’t so much of an issue for me. I’d have a glass of wine with dinner some nights, and there were a few special occasions throughout the year. Otherwise, alcohol wasn’t really on my radar.
Of course, every person requires something slightly different from the next. These are just a few things that I truly believe helped me attain the physical results I was after. At a year postpartum, I’m not ready to enter any sort of fitness contest and certainly still have my “trouble areas”. However, I am positive that if I hadn’t put in the dedication and effort over the past year, then I wouldn’t be close to where I am today. If you’re anything like me, staying in shape isn’t a walk in the park. It’s a commitment.
We will all have physical set backs at some point(s) in our lives, but it’s important to remember that we are never stuck. Fitness is a journey, and sometimes we just have to work a little harder to reach our short term destination.