The past week has left me itching. Itching to run, itching to set some goals, itching to get stronger. Maybe it’s because I’m feeling more and more recovered from labor/pregnancy each day, maybe it’s the frigid temps and feet of snow in Cleveland, or maybe it’s the feeling of unfinished business from my abrupt departure from spring marathon domination plans last year, but I am ready.
Not surprisingly though, my body is not. Just like the new year is a blank slate, my body is also: soft, squishy in places it’s never been before, and weaker than it’s ever been. I feel like how I always imagined Lance Armstrong felt after his bout with cancer, before I knew he was a cheating little B-word. In a way I love starting from the beginning; it’s like cleaning a really dirty house: you see a huge difference with every little thing you do. But let me tell you folks, this is a journey from the bottom and I need to be carefully realistic in setting any goals so I don’t end up disenchanted or discouraged (or injured).
Now at almost 5 weeks postpartum, I have slowly worked some exercise back into my life- and it has quickly become clear that I have quite a journey before I’m back in the shape I was pre-pregnancy. To recap, my exercise routine while pregnant was not exactly what I’d planned. Severe vomiting and nausea put an end to running at 7 weeks and when I finally felt well enough to attempt a jog 9 weeks later things just didn’t feel right. So for most of the pregnancy exercise was very infrequent and in the form of biking on the trainer or yoga or body weight strength exercises. In the last trimester I mostly went for long walks and practiced yoga and did lots and lots of squatting.
One of the things I worried about pre-baby is that I would lose motivation to run/exercise after baby. It’s happened before in my life-where life has gotten in the way and exercise has fallen by the wayside. Adding in sleep deprivation and a new person to take care of 24/7? I’ve certainly let less take me away from a fitness routine before. Strangely though, quite the opposite is true: I find myself positively yearning to squeeze in as much as I can and to start building back up. I think the reasoning is two-fold: 1. Suddenly exercise is pretty much the only thing I do solely for myself (and by myself), and 2. Exercise has always been the primary way I relieve stress, and being a new mom is stressful. It is also quite clear that at least in the beginning I will need to be a little creative in finding time to exercise, with a husband that travels and works long hours and a baby that needs to be held 99.75% of the time, sometimes it’s hard enough just making and eating dinner, much less going for a run or cross training.
The humble beginning:
My first real workout post baby was right around 3 weeks- I knew I wasn’t ready to run but after a rough night and day with baby I needed to sweat. So when hubster got home I handed her over, squeezed my newly found muffin top into some bike shorts, and hopped on the bike trainer for 15 minutes.
it was the hardest 15 minutes of my life.
By minute 3 on my “easy resistance” I was huffing and puffing. I still decided to increase the resistance for 1 minute every 5. After the first increase my lungs were burning, and at 7.5 minutes I had to rest for 30 seconds.
Seven and a half minutes. Holy crap.
I’ll be honest, i had a little mini meltdown at this point. I expected to be out of shape but I didn’t quite expect that. But I finished the 15 minutes (with another rest at 12 minutes) with burning legs, burning lungs and refreshed perspective. I’ve biked 2 more times in the last week: the 2nd time I made it the whole 15 minutes without stopping and the 3rd? Twenty minutes non stop baby! BooYah!
I’ve also started integrating some strengthening exercises into my day. This is easy, plank while playing with baby on the floor, throw in a couple sets of push-ups whenever I can (I can only do 2 sets of between 5 and 8 right now so it takes me all of 35 seconds), etc. I even got a full fledged 45 minutes in the other day while little-bit was napping! The most shocking thing to me on this front (though it shouldn’t be) is how weak my core is. Even the most basic exercises are extremely difficult. So I’m starting at the beginning and being patient. Even if “the beginning” is 20 crunches + 20 heel slides with tummy-tighten and I’m sore the next day.
A Goal for January
I have LOTS of goals for the upcoming year, but I’m going to keep those private, for now. I’m also going to try something new: a small goal each month geared to get me to my bigger goals, inspired in a way by Oiselle’s #Begin contest…which is over now and I’m really crossing my fingers that I was one o’ the three entered to win (but I’m probably not) (shameless plug).
ANYWAY, long side-note aside…My goal for January is a #plankaday goal. I needed something easy and attainable for my sometimes fragile, sleep deprived self, but I also think planks are a GREAT way to build core strength. So each day I’m holding a plank for as long as I can – bonus if I can get 2 in, but at least one. I’ll post milestones along the way but spoiler alert: my first plank was a measly, shaky 45 seconds. Room to grow.