This past week my daughter celebrated her first birthday. Everyone always told me it would “go by quickly,” and they were right. I remember the day I found out I was pregnant, our first doctor’s appointment, the first kick in my stomach and the day she was born like it was yesterday. Then I blinked and she was a year old.
My husband and I weren’t sure we wanted to have a child when we first got married. We loved to travel and the flexibility to do whatever we wanted whenever we wanted. As time went on and we celebrated our third wedding anniversary, we decided it was time to add a little person to our happy family of two. I have shared on social media many times how I was very nervous about what would happen to my body when I got pregnant. You can look at my Instagram page for lots of bump photos. I would look at other fit women who still looked super-fit post baby, and their journey gave me the inspiration to trust that I could be the same way.
I had a very active pregnancy. Before I got pregnant, I was in great shape. I taught 5 spin classes a week, including a double on Tuesdays, and I lifted weights 4 times a week. I also had a very easy pregnancy. I had no morning sickness, and I really did not get any more tired than usual, so I was able to keep up this rigorous schedule without many modifications. My heart rate was still very high when I taught class – but I was able to talk and teach. I reduced my weights when I was targeting very large muscle groups – during squats and lunges. Other than that, it was business as usual.
And the belly kept growing…
I described myself as a “laid back pregnant chick.” I did not go to extremes to avoid certain foods. I still had 1-2 cups of coffee a day, occasional sushi and red meat that was not well-done. I drank protein shakes and took my BCAAs along with my daily prenatal vitamins and fish oil. My diet was mostly whole foods, lots of vegetables, green juice, and plenty of homemade chocolate chip cookies. I ate healthy 80% of the time. In the end, I gained 35 pounds after 40 weeks, and I didn’t weigh myself at 41 weeks pregnant when I delivered exactly one week late.
My labor and delivery was again, easy. I was in labor for 8 hours and pushed for 30 minutes. Hello healthy 7 pound 14 ounce baby! My recovery, also easy. I was able to return to my workouts at 4-weeks postpartum.
I cannot say for sure that my health and my diet was to thank for my easy pregnancy, my easy delivery, my easy recovery or my easy BABY – a great sleeper to this day. But I can say one thing for sure – it didn’t hurt the cause.
After I delivered, I still had 12 pounds of baby weight to lose, and the journey to lose it was a struggle for me. Everyone told me it would “fall off” after I finished nursing at 12 weeks, but that was not my experience. Every pound was a struggle. A STRUGGLE. I hovered at 140 for a long time. I remember being very sad some days because I was still very uncomfortable in my skin. I didn’t like having to wear loose shirts. I remember crying on a date night with my husband because I felt so badly about my extra layers. He just looked at me and told me that it didn’t matter to him. But it mattered to me. So I got my ass in gear. I set some goals, and at 8-months postpartum, I got to 3 pounds below my pre pregnancy weight for a photoshoot I did for my lululemon athletica ambassador photos: 129 pounds. That lasted for about a day, then I returned to 132 quickly afterwards. Today I hover at 135 pounds, since I’ve made some muscle gains since then.
Now at one-year postpartum, I can honestly say that I am in the best shape of my life. I am stronger than I have ever been. I have ABS! I NEVER had a six-pack before I got pregnant, but the way that my body has reverted back has allowed me to achieve the six-pack look, which is super cool because I’ve always wanted one.
I never thought that I would be training for a bodybuilding competition at one-year postpartum. I never thought that I would care less about the scale than ever before, because the scale does not tell the whole story. Pictures tell a story. How your clothes fit tell a story. The number on the scale does not represent your fitness level. It is there as a gauge only.
And most important of all. I am grateful that I overcame a huge fear in my life, and I had a baby because the joy that I have experienced in the past 365 days, is greater than any that I have ever known. I mean, who wouldn’t smile when they looked at this face?
So I have said it before, and I will keep saying it. Do not let your fears hold you back from achieve anything your heart desires. Fear is a liar. Move past it. Crush it. Be grateful. I’m off to lift.
Women always ask me where to begin when it comes to lifting weights.
Today, I’ll share with you some important information that I’ve learned over the past 4 years since I took my own weight lifting from a cardio-afterthought to a serious part of my workout routine. I hope this information inspires you to step outside of your comfort zone and into the weight room. It’s really not as scary as it seems.
- Did you know that after the age of 35, muscle mass begins to decline at a rapid rate? According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, “After age 35 you will lose between .5-1. percent of your muscle mass annually unless you engage in regular physical activity to prevent it. By engaging in regular resistance training and following a sound diet that includes adequate amounts of protein, you can prevent most of the muscle loss associated with age. Health experts recommend that you engage in some of the resistance training that focuses on all major muscle groups a minimum of 2 times per week and up to 5 times per week depending upon your goals.” I always recommend to my clients over the age of 35, that OVER HALF of their workouts per week are resistance training and not cardio-based. So in regards to how often, my recommendation for a schedule where you workout 5 hours a week is over 2.5 hours of that exercise time is resistance training. Personally, I workout for 9 hours a week which includes 4 hours of cardio and about 5 hours of weight lifting. I always take at least one full rest day per week, sometimes two.
- There are many different ways to structure your weight lifting routines, so you will have to take into account how much time each week you can devote to your training. There are three different splits to consider which you can read more about here. Personally, I prefer the 4 day split, which I break into 5 total days. Here is how I structure my weight training days:
- Mondays: Chest & Back
- Tuesday: Legs & Glutes
- Wednesday: Biceps & Abs
- Thursday: Shoulders & Triceps
- Friday: Legs & Calves
After you’ve determined which split you are going to follow you should buy yourself a small notebook and any other equipment that your gym lacks, so that you are ready to hit the ground running on Day 1.
Personally, I love these Phantom Fit resistance bands for warming up my glutes during leg day. I also use these ankle straps for cable kick-backs, since my gym does not offer them. At the beginning of each week, I write down the exercises that I am going to complete each day so when I start my workout, I know exactly what I am going to do. Then I write down my weights for each exercise and how long I rested between sets. If you don’t know which exercises you’re going to do, start with some of the circuit machines versus free weights. Machines are a good place to start for beginners because it forces you to practice perfect form, whereas free weights leave a lot of room for error. You’ll want to stick to the same routine for 4-6 weeks, and then change it up, so your body does not get bored. Focus on increasing your weights as the weeks go on. Aim for 4 sets of 15 reps one week, and then next week try 4 sets of 12 reps at a HEAVIER weight.
- If you get nervous by the phrase “lift heavy” and you envision super bulky men with veins popping from their biceps, grunting and throwing their weights on the ground, think again. Here is an image of women a who lifts heavy. Not too shabby, eh?
A good rule of thumb when choosing a weight that is right for each exercise is to choose a weight that 1) allows you to practice perfect form, 2) makes it HARD to complete 12-15 reps, 3) you are STRUGGLING to complete your last set of reps with. If you can complete more than 30 reps at once using the weight you’ve chosen, that the weight is TOO LIGHT. Step it up! I always see men and women compromising their form in their effort to increase their weights. Remember, MOMENTUM IS NOT A MUSCLE! Perfect form first. Heavier weight second.
For more information on lifting weights check out bodybuilding.com for tips and free online programs. I also highly recommend any of Jessie Hilgenberg’s ebooks which you can learn about on her site: jessiefitness.com.
I hope to see you in the weight room one day very soon! XO, Mary