True story: All of my mom-friends have amazing bodies.
Common denominator of moms with amazing bodies: pre-pregnancy fitness.
For years I’ve had clients tell me that their bodies went downhill after having babies. It was the ultimate excuse for being overweight and unfit. I never debated this because I’d never been in their shoes… until now.
Yes, pregnancy does a number on your body, and babies aren’t exactly respectful of a workout schedule; however, it’s not “over” after babies.
If you were always thin without having to workout, then had a baby and lost your physique, it’s because the lack of muscle on your body before you got pregnant was exacerbated by pregnancy, and lean muscle mass is what determines the rate of our metabolism as we age. You were thin, but you were also “skinny fat.” Skinny fat means that you’re small, but you’re also soft – lacking muscle tone. I’m not trying to be insulting. In fact, at times I’ve been jealous of you for the days you were slender without trying.
If you know you want to get pregnant, the best thing to do is start a fitness routine before you conceive.
Pregnancy exercise maintenance doesn’t have to be difficult. I mostly walked, with some pushups, planks and glute bridges thrown in a few times a week. When I say I walked, I mean I walked 2.5 miles almost daily up until I gave birth (at which point it was more a waddle). Plenty of people do more than I did, but I want to point out that I wasn’t hitting boot camp all the time, and it still made a difference. Plus, it made me feel good and helped with pregnancy symptoms.
I understand that being bed-ridden, and having a desk job, can make exercise difficult. All I’m saying is, if you’re physically able to keep moving and can find even 10 minutes a day, you will have an easier time ditching the extra weight postpartum.
Another common denominator between the moms I know who’ve gotten their bodies back quickly is that they are all breastfeeding. Breastfeeding burns calories and helps shrink your uterus; although, you also have to take in more calories when breastfeeding, so it’s not the only reason these moms are svelte. Again, I recognize not everyone is able to breastfeed, and some choose not to. I’m not criticizing, I’m simply supplying information based on experience.
What I’ve done: After more than 20 hours of labor, I had to have a c-section, so I wasn’t released to exercise until 8 weeks postpartum. At 2 weeks, I started taking easy walks. Since I was cleared, I’ve mostly focused on baby, and haven’t really pushed myself yet. I do pilates leg circles, planks, supermans, pelvic tilts, pushups, glute bridges, and reverse flys about 4 times a week, in addition to walking daily – with the occasional light jog or hike.
My advice is, take your time, but still make time. It took you 9 months to completely jack your body so it could be an incubator for your little nugget, so allow yourself that same amount of time to get back in shape. We aren’t all celebrities with nannies and trainers, and your priorities should be your own health, and a healthy baby, before you get worked up about getting back in your skinny jeans.
Pre-pregnancy, I was really hard on myself about my physique. Postpartum, I find I’m actually kinder to myself because I have so much pride in what my body has accomplished. Rather than using my baby as an excuse, I prefer to look at my post-baby body as a badge of honor. I look like this AND I have a baby. I’m 3 1/2 months postpartum, and I’m not where I want to be yet, but I feel pretty darn proud, just the same.
Pregnant and tired? It’s no wonder. While pregnant, your body is in a constant state of low-level exercise, even while you’re at rest. While this information should be considered when choosing the appropriate fitness demands during gestation, it does not mean that you should cease to exercise and eat whatever you want while you’re pregnant. (Sorry to burst your bubble.)
For a long time, pregnancy women were thought of as weak and fragile state. Anyone who knows what labor is should throw the words “weak” and “fragile” out the window for fear of appearing an idiot and being drop-kicked by the nearest mama-bear. In reality, while everyone else is just sitting there, you’re making another human. Walk your badass self outside and throw a truck or something.
Potential benefits of a moderate-intensity fitness regime while pregnant far outweigh the risks, but there is no one-size-fits-all program since each person is at a different level of fitness prior to becoming pregnant.
There is only one major difference between what I ask of a normal client vs a pregnant client. I ask normal clients to push-through pain and give more than their bodies naturally would. Pushing through goes out the window once a client is training for two. You don’t have to scale back drastically, but you should consider what I said at the start about your body being in a constant state of low-level exercise. Put on the brakes at moderate, rather than advanced intensity.
Another consideration is that of your joints. With high relaxin and progesterone levels coursing through your body, your joints are softer, and at greater risk of injury that you might not be aware of until they harden back up postpartum. There are enough exercise options that do not impact your joints that I recommend swapping out plyometrics and running for safer choices. To be clear, I do not draw a hard-line on this since you aren’t going to “shake the baby loose” or some other silly, mythical danger. The issue is that you are carrying more weight on less stable joints.
Speaking of joint stability, a great way to support your joints is to continue resistance training. In addition to supporting your joints, resistance training will keep your lean muscle mass up and help you manage your weight both antepartum and postpartum, and you’ll also need those muscles so you can carry around your bundle of joy. The only concern here is to avoid straining, which goes back to my main piece of advice about not pushing through.
Finally, whether you plan to exercise or not during your pregnancy, I ask that you remain aware of your posture. Extra weight is pulling your body unnaturally and, combined with softer joints, it can lead to discomfort during and after pregnancy. Take care to keep your shoulders back, hold your head high – not forward, and don’t over-arch your back even as your belly works to pull it forward. You’re growing a person. Walk with pride!
Respect your body, listen to your body, and continue to take care of your body as you normally would, and as you hope your child will when it’s up to him/her. It’s no longer only about shaping you. You’re shaping another person, and that person is counting on you. No pressure.
I know my site is called, “Running for Pizza,” but, now, a more appropriate title would be “Walking for Baby.”
I am almost 18 weeks pregnant and living in Hawaii as our adventure continues.
Let’s talk pregnancy fitness.
Before taking on a triathlon, marathon, or any other major physical endeavor, you have to train, right? Well, having a baby is one of the most intense physical challenges I can imagine. Thus the name, “labor.” If it was called “blissful baby introduction,” you could prepare by sitting on your rear drinking milkshakes, but that’s simply not the case.
Pregnancy is not a good time to stop all exercise and eat your face off.
Exercising during pregnancy can lead to shorter, easier labor and faster recovery. Do you really need more reasons?
What I’m not doing:
- I’m not trying to prove how amazingly fit, strong and perfect I can be while growing a baby. I don’t want to be superwoman, I just want to be healthy and set baby and I up for success now and later.
- I’m not eating for two. The second person, the one growing inside of me (How cool is that?!) is much smaller than me, so I only actually require about 300 more calories/day + enough to supplement exercise. If I were to eat for two, I would end up looking like two of me after the baby. Nothing tastes good enough to make that worth it.
What I am doing:
I have stopped running and plyometrics simply to remove joint impact. These exercises won’t hurt your baby, but, as your body releases relaxin to help your joints expand to make room for baby, you are at a greater risk of injury that you might not fully comprehend until after baby.
I miss running like I miss wine. It was part of my daily meditation, and walking feels like it takes forever to cover any kind of distance. Having said that, I sure do feel good.
My current, daily routine involves walks of 2. 75 miles, 25 regular pushups, 25 tricep pushups or dips, 50 hip raises, 50 pelvic tilts, 50 straight-leg crunches, 30-second side planks, 1-minute center plank, and either rows, rear flies or shoulder rolls with a blade squeeze for my upper back. Since arriving in Hawaii, I haven’t set for in a gym (that all changes this Friday), so all of these exercises can be done in the comfort of your own home. No excuses.
A few rules of thumb for pregnancy exercises:
- If you were doing it before you were pregnant, you can do it while you’re pregnant, just listen to your body.
- Avoid straining, or any activity that leaves you breathless/unable to speak a full sentence clearly.
- Something is better than nothing.
- If you feel too exhausted to exercise, take the hint and sit one out, but remember that a little exercise will help your energy stores overall.
- Eat a snack before you exercise, and increase your calorie intake based on your exercise expenditures.
- After 20 weeks, stop performing exercises that require you to lay on your back. Reach out to me for modifications.
This is my first shot at being a pregnant person, but I’m grateful for my additional pre- and post-natal studies and certification, and for my pre-existing knowledge on nutrition and exercise. Getting pregnant is as much about your body being in the right condition to create and support a baby as it is about the actual act of making a baby. A healthy baby starts with a healthy mommy. If you don’t want to do it for you, now you’ve got a much bigger reason to take great care of yourself!
2012 is almost here, which means (after gorging ourselves on holiday food) it is nearly time to make resolutions again.
How many of you followed through on last year’s list?
A significant percentage of the population will list losing weight as a goal, and, for the first few days or even weeks of the new year, you’ll work towards it, but the majority of that percentage will be off the plan by February.
Why? How can you change this pattern?
Simplify, and get SMART.
- Specific – Stating you want to lose weight is not specific. Assign a number, or a performance goal.
- Measurable – How will you know if you are on track to achieve your goal? Are you able to run a mile/ run a mile faster, or is the scale reading lower?
- Attainable – Do you have the means and the time to make your goal happen? Check your resources so you have no excuses.
- Realistic – Unless you live on the “Biggest Loser” ranch, a safe weight loss goal is about a pound a week.
- Timely – Set short-term goals within a long-term goal so you can check in regularly with your progress, and assign your goals to a certain number of weeks or months.
A SMART fitness goal will help you stay on track, in addition to providing smaller, more manageable milestones along your journey you can feel proud of.
Set up a rewards system for the small milestones. Treat yourself to massages, a new kitchen appliance, clothes, a trip, etc. so you have something to work toward at each step.
Sticking to a health and fitness goal requires a lifestyle modification; however, if you go too extreme, you are less likely maintain it. If you start out eating perfectly and exercising everyday, you might give up after one indiscretion. If you schedule breaks and cheat days, you’ll be less likely to fall off the wagon. Having said that, if you do fall off, get back on. You’re not going to strike out. This is your health; your life; not a baseball game.
The phrase, “lifestyle change,” sounds overwhelming. It brings to mind giving up things you enjoy. Rather than cutting out all the food you like and going to the gym instead of relaxing, just aim to do something. Make one change a day. That could mean walking to the store instead of driving, or having an apple as a snack instead of chips. One healthy swap each day can make a big change over time. And, one healthy change typically leads to another.
When you sit down to make your list of resolutions this year, make them SMART, and remember, something is better than nothing.
Happy New Year!
You do not need a ladder to do this workout, but you will need lots of energy and the will to push yourself toward a hotter, stronger physique.
Ladders are a combination of two exercises that alternate and increase number of reps from one on up to ten. You start out with one of each, then two of each, then three…four…five…….ten, as you climb up the ladder.
Below are three ladder examples. I suggest trying all of them together at your next workout, followed by at least 20 mins of cardio. They won’t seem too tough at first, but after you’ve done all of them (55 of each move), you’ll understand why they’re such booty kickers. If you are a beginner, start with modified pushups and smaller dumbbells, but if you’re in pretty good shape and want to really see results, challenge yourself with heavier weights and fully progressed form.
This workout can be done anywhere and is gender-neutral, so challenge your spouse or a friend. A little competition will make everyone work harder.
If you require additional instruction, comment and I’ll add to my explanations. Now, go burn some calories!
Pushup-Shoulder Press Ladder
- 1st Set: 1 pushup, 1 dumbbell shoulder press (stand up with dumbbells at your shoulders, press them straight up)
- 2nd Set: 2 pushups, 2 presses
- 3rd Set: 3 pushups, 3 presses
- 4th Set: 4 pushups, 4 presses
- 5th Set: 5 pushups, 5 presses
- 6th Set: 6 pushups, 6 presses
- 7th Set: 7 pushups, 7 presses
- 8th Set: 8 pushups, 8 presses
- 9th Set: 9 pushups, 9 presses
- 10th Set: 10 pushups, 10 presses
- 1st Set: 1 lunge each leg, 1 squat (feet shoulder width apart, lower your rear like you’re about to sit down, stand back up at the point your rear would touch the seat)
- 2nd Set: 2 lunges each leg, 2 squats
- 3rd Set: 3 lunges each leg, 3 squats
- 4th Set: 4 lunges each leg, 4 squats
- 5th Set: 5 lunges each leg, 5 squats
- 6th Set: 6 lunges each leg, 6 squats
- 7th Set: 7 lunges each leg, 7 squats
- 8th Set: 8 lunges each leg, 8 squats
- 9th Set: 9 lunges each leg, 9 squats
- 10th Set: 10 lunges each leg, 10 squats
- 1st Set: 1 bicep curl (both arms at once), 1 seated heel touch (sit on edge of chair/bench with legs in front of you, lean back slightly with arms behind to support you, bring knees to your chest, then extend toward the floor until your heels touch, raise knees back up/in without fully touching feet down)
- 2nd Set: 2 bicep curls, 2 heel touches
- 3rd Set: 3 bicep curls, 3 heel touches
- 4th Set: 4 bicep curls, 4 heel touches
- 5th Set: 5 bicep curls, 5 heel touches
- 6th Set: 6 bicep curls, 6 heel touches
- 7th Set: 7 bicep curls, 7 heel touches
- 8th Set: 8 bicep curls, 8 heel touches
- 9th Set: 9 bicep curls, 9 heel touches
- 10th Set: 10 bicep curls, 10 heel touches
You were all set to go run, walk, hike or ride your bike, but the weather is not cooperating. It’s pouring rain outside, and your workout plan for the day is getting a bit soggy. You can’t change the weather, but you can adapt your workout plan.
As with anything in life, it’s always smart to have a back up plan. A little water falling from the sky is not an excuse to put up your sneakers and lose an entire day. Obvious choices for working out on a rainy day include going out in rain gear or heading to the gym, but if those aren’t possible options for you, give the following activities a shot.
At Home Exercises
Enjoy your favorite TV shows, but exercise during the commercial breaks. Over the course of an hour, you will watch 16 to 24 minutes of advertisements. Rather than fast-forwarding through them with the help of your DVR/TIVO, use that time to exercise in the dry comfort of your living room. You can knock out situps, pushups, squats, tricep dips, hip raises, leg raises, jumping jacks, burpees, running in place, planks, etc. without any fancy gym equipment.
If you have a Nintendo Wii or Xbox Kinect you can challenge friends and family to a variety of sports and dance games. A little healthy competition with the help of today’s technology is sure to make you forget about the weather outside. Set up some reasonable stakes, such as the loser having to walk the dog in the rain.
If you live in a multi-level or high-rise building, now is the time to check out the stairwell. Grab your iPod, turn on your workout mix, and set your watch for at least twenty minutes. Stairs are a great way to get your heart rate up without stepping foot outside.
Video stores, and even some cable plans, offer exercise videos in addition to movies and games. The short-term commitment means you can swap them out regularly without actually purchasing any. You can actually workout with Jillian Michael’s or Bob Harper in the comfort of your own living room.
Do some deep cleaning. Vacuuming, dusting, rearranging furniture and other household chores all burn calories. Turn on some upbeat music and you’ll be shining floors, tubs and countertops at the same time you’re toning up to the beat.
If you’re into team sports, most gyms offer indoor space and equipment rental for basketball, racquetball and volleyball.
A rainy day is also the perfect time to check out a climbing gym, latin dance club or roller skating rink with friends. Learning a new skill makes working out fun, and it’s a great way to meet new, like-minded people. Even bowling burns calories.
Your friends are probably looking for rainy day activities, too, so get everyone together and make a day of it.
Although shopping and culture are not typically synonymous with exercise, malls and museums offer lots of space to walk. When it’s raining outside, take in a new exhibit or do some window shopping. The scenery, sales and people watching will make you forget you’re burning calories. Just make sure to keep up a good pace.
Tennis Shoes vs. the Blues
Rain may refresh nature, but it has a tendency to give people the blues. To the contrary, exercise releases feel-good endorphins. Pick an indoor activity, put on your tennis shoes and chase the clouds away.
Don’t let a little rain get you down and ruin your plans. Instead, look at it as an opportunity to add something fun to your workout repertoire and explore the great indoors.
To really travel well in Europe, you need to be physically fit.
I don’t mean you need to look great in a bikini (although that is a bonus of being fit); I mean you need to be able to manage the physical demands you might encounter on your trip. This ain’t Cabo.
Even if you’re staying at a resort along the Mediterranean, there will likely be stairs you have to take to get to the sun deck.
You’ve invested the money and blocked off the time for your dream vacation; shouldn’t you prepare your body, too?
With proper preparation and a bit of training beforehand, you can set yourself up for success and truly enjoy your “trip of a lifetime.”
Don’t pack a bag you can’t carry.
We’ve all been guilty of this at some point, but there are multiple reasons to pack lightly, and you’ll be so glad you did. You will want to buy things while you’re traveling, and you’ll need room to include them and the added weight in your bag for flying. If you reach your destination and don’t have something you need/want, all the more reason to go buy something new and have an instant souvenir you’ll actually end up using.
Also, no matter how buff your travel partner is, at some point you will need to move your bag without assistance. There are many instances when you may find yourself dashing for a train or bus while managing your luggage, and, along the way, you could encounter stairs. Or, you might need to quickly hoist your bag into/onto your mode of transportation.
Speaking of stairs…
Whether you have a driver to help reduce the amount of walking you do, take every elevator you find, or use public transportation everywhere, there will still be times when the only way to reach something you want to see/do is to take hundreds of stairs. Whereas the United States requires handicap access almost everywhere, Europe does not. Also, going back to the part about packing lightly, there will be many times when your only option is to carry your bag up/down stairs (hello, Venice and Positano).
It’s easier to enjoy vacation when you aren’t exhausted or in pain.
Europeans walk… a lot. It’s great, and it’s why they aren’t all overweight. Having said that, if you’re not used to walking, your vacation could start to feel more like a grueling training session than a relaxing getaway.
People underestimate how hard a full day of walking can be. After all, it’s only walking, right?! If your usual “daily walk” is only the distance from your office to your car, your body is not properly prepared to tackle a European vacation.
Consider this: You might cover two miles weaving through the Vatican Museum before you’re able to enter the Sistine Chapel. If you’re not in shape, your feet and your joints will be screaming at you as you try to enjoy the magnificent ceiling.
You’re gonna want to eat… a lot.
If none of what I’ve said thus far motivates you to get fit for your next adventure, please hear my final plea: Exercise just so you don’t fit the “obese American” stereotype.
Here’s a ten minute squat-treadmill sequence that’s a great addition to any workout.
The purpose of this sequence is to get your heart rate up while toning and tightening your legs and butt.
You might feel some eyes on you when you start this sequence, but trust me, people are only checking you out because you look hardcore and they’re admiring your booty-kickin moves!
10-Minute Squat-Treadmill Sequence
- Hop on a treadmill and turn it up to a good running pace. You shouldn’t be sprinting, but you shoudn’t be lolly-gagging around either. I suggest a speed somewhere between 6.5-8.0 depending on your level of fitness. If you are new to running, start at 5.5 or 6.0. You’re only running for one minute at a time, so no excuses!
- Start counting your time once you’ve reached your running pace.
- Go for one minute, hit pause, then hop off and stand at the end of the treadmill so that your back is to it.
- With your feet shoulder width apart, perform ten squats so that your butt taps the treadmill each time – like you were going to sit down and take a break, but instead you realize you can’t sit down because you’re in the middle of a calorie-burning, muscle-building workout, so you hop back up before you actually sit.
- Make sure your feet are far enough away from the treadmill that your knees don’t extend out over your toes when you squat.
- Bring your arms forward each time, or put your hands behind your head with your elbows out so you’re doing fast prisoner squats.
- Once you’ve completed ten squats, turn around and hop back on the treadmill for another minute of running.
- Continue alternating the 1 minute run with the ten squats for a total of ten times. At the end of about ten and a half minutes you should have completed at least one mile of running, and one hundred squats.
1 min run – 10 squats X 10 = 10 minutes of running and 100 squats
The reason we don’t hold onto the treadmill with our feet on the sides and squat while still on it is so we don’t accidentally rely on our arms for assistance.
If you want to get creative, you can keep going and do another set with 1 minute of running followed by 10 push-ups (tricep style or regular) off the end of the treadmill, and then a set where you follow the running with planks with your feet elevated on the end of the treadmill, or ten sit-ups. At the end of that you’d have done at least 3 miles, 100 squats, 100 push-ups, and 10 planks/100 sit-ups. Try it out and make it your own!
Perhaps it’s what you’re NOT eating that’s making you fat.
Eating healthy isn’t all about cutting things out of your diet, eating low-fat, low-carb, low-sodium, etc.
Your body needs a variety of foods so it can perform all its functions – including regulating fat absorption. Eating a wide variety of foods helps your body to use what it needs and discard what it doesn’t need.
The right food combinations can help your digestive system absorb vitamins, minerals, good fat, and nutrients, and turn waste into bulk to move it on out.
You probably already know that having some olive oil or avocado with your salads and veggies helps your body to absorb all of the good stuff the other ingredients, but did you know that certain foods can help your body absorb less fat?
Your body knows it doesn’t need a ton of fat. We’ve got central heating if we need it, and food is always available, so we don’t really need extra insulation or large energy/fat stores like our caveman cousins did back in the day.
For those of you scanning to find the part where I get to the foods you can eat to help reduce fat absorption, I’m getting there; however, first I have to say that none of this gives you a license to go eat a ton of crap. Nothing is an easy fix-all like that, so don’t go crazy. Also, supplements won’t have the same effect as eating the right foods. In general, avoid taking pills and go straight to the source to achieve optimal health.
Without further ado, here’s a list of foods that have been shown to lower fat absorption.
- Calcium: Men’s Health reports that “dieters with the highest calcium intake from dairy foods lost 60% more weight than those with the lowest.” It’s not all about milk and cheese either; canned beans, peas and fish, yogurt, most dark greens, almonds and oranges have a high amount of calcium, too. Maybe have a glass of skim milk with your steak instead of wine… maybe.
- Apples: ShapeFit.com reports that the pectin in apples prevents your body from absorbing large amounts of fat. In addition, apples are high in fiber which helps fill you up and move waste out of your body.
- Soy: ShapeFit.com also lists soy as a fat absorption blocker because of lecithin, a nutrient that breaks down fat stores. Throw some soy nuts on your salad for a little added crunch, or use soy protein powder or milk in your smoothies.
- Sea kelp / Seaweed: Sea kelp has a natural, soluble fiber called alginate that helps halt digestion of fat. Try some seaweed salad next time you’re out for sushi.
- Unrefined whole grains: The fiber helps you excrete more fat, rather than storing or absorbing it.
The common denominator in most of these foods is fiber. Get your daily fiber intake, and get it naturally.
Also, even if you don’t believe in “fat blockers,” all of these are really healthy options for many other reasons, so there’s no reason not to give them a shot.
I like a little nightcap of 1/2 skim milk and 1/2 vanilla soy milk right before bedtime. Who knew a simple end of day indulgence could make a difference? I would never fully count on these foods to do all the work for me, but it can’t hurt to work them in a little more.
(Could I look any goofier in the still shot from the video? Ha!)
Exercises covered in this video:
- Basic Plank
- Side Plank
- Side Plank with dumbbell
- Side Plank with hip-drop / crunch
- Side Plank with leg raised
- Up-Downs in basic plank position
- 10-10-10 = 10 seconds on one side, 10 seconds in the middle, 10 seconds on the other side, repeat
- Stirring the pot – basic plank with swiss ball rotation
- Swiss ball pike – feet on swiss ball