There are a few things you should know about me right off the bat.
1. I despise exercise (always have)
2. I struggle with weight issues (always have)
Trust me, the aforementioned points make it pretty daunting to think about getting into shape. Even more daunting, the morning I found out we were expecting baby numero uno (which was somewhat of a surprise), I had vowed to lose ten pounds in the coming months. Whomp, whomp. By the end of my first trimester, I had lost a total of 4 lbs. Who knew having a baby could be so good for the figure, eh?
But then reality hit – hard – in the third trimester, when I started gaining weight in direct proportion to the epic food portions I was consuming. Final weigh in (I like to account for lots of water retention in these numbers) put me somewhere in the 35-40lb weight gain range. Ouch!
The first few months post-baby were a free ride – I had, after all, just delivered a living, breathing human being from my body…the best excuse I know for extra baggage round’ the middle. But then said baby got bigger, and bigger…and mama wasn’t getting any smaller. There is good news in this tale of woe, and if this post were a movie, well you could go ahead and cue the cool music montage with inspiring images of sweat, blood, and tears, culminating in sweet success – not only did I lose every last baby pound, I’m currently sitting 14 lbs below my pre-baby weight.
The bad news – I still despise exercise, and I suspect I’ll continue to struggle with my weight, but I thought it might be a good mental exercise to summarize what has worked for me with regard to exercise (in the form of some contradictory points):
1. Just start…have a plan
One day, I just slapped on some sneakers and started. Just pick a day…today works…to start exercising. Don’t think about your upcoming schedule, nitpicking about some day a month in the future where the stars will align to start some intricate exercise routine. Just do it. That’s what…Nike said. Rain or shine (or in eastern Canada, snow). I think nothing of heading off in the rain these days, because exercise is a habit to me now. Thankfully, babies are pretty tolerant of the weather when dressed appropriately.
Equally, try to start with some plan – rudimentary is fine. Think about what type of exercise you hope to complete (aerobics, gym-based, walking/jogging, recreational sports). I started with walking (at first about ~2km a day, and within a month was up to ~10 km/day), and soon added jogging to the mix (see below), because they could involve the whole family (and gym memberships just won’t fit our budget).
With the plethora of MP3 players and smart phones, there is a gizmo and gadget to suit every need. There are apps to track distance and speed, apps to track weight gain and count calories. Given my hubby is an IT consultant, you’d expect my exercise journey to be marked with fancy programs. I hate to disappoint, but I’m a pretty simple gal. My one exception is a good one though – C25K. This app was spectacular. It leads you through a series of runs, increasing in distance/duration over about 10 weeks of training.
I swore I would never make it past the second week. But once I made it over that hump, I never looked back. I haven’t touched C25K in months now, but I know this is the only reason I still run on a semi-regular basis. The app will offer prompts telling you when to walk, when to run, and encourages you/horrifies you by letting you know when your workout has reached the half-way point. You can also listen to your own music in the background the whole time. For those looking for a greater challenge, there is also a Bridge210K program.
I also think it’s important to unplug. Walk with a friend and talk. Or, perish the thought in modern-day society, walk or run without any distractions. One evening my iPhone wouldn’t work properly and so I skipped my run! I thought I was wholly dependent on music to keep me going. A few nights later I ended up out without my phone, and lo and behold I ran a personal best that evening. I tuned in to my breathing and my footfall, and there were no changing rhythms with song switches. I simply distracted myself by people/car watching, thinking, and enjoying how beautiful it was to run in the out-of-doors. I haven’t used music in months now. And, just last week, completed another personal best (finishing with a ~1km uphill)
3. Invest in proper footwear…don’t go overboard
I have had foot issues for years now, and eventually gave in and invested in a pair of orthotics. While they alleviated some discomfort, I still struggled with foot pain (and shin splits) when walking or running any distance. I finally took the time to find the shoe brand that works best for my foot (my new Asics are a dream), and also took a trip (well, multiple trips, now) to see a chiropractor. He adjusted my back and feet, and the changes are incredible. Limited foot discomfort, and always directly proportional to the distance covered.
That said, don’t expect a fancy/expensive sneaker to solve all your problems. And don’t be surprised when a newer, nicer pair doesn’t boost your time or distance! Do your research ahead of time, and don’t rush into buying (wear them around the store for as long as it takes, or buy them and wear them around the house…so you can return them…for several days to isolate potential issues).
4. Weigh yourself frequently…don’t obsess over weight
While I know a few folks exercise without thoughts of weight loss/maintenance, most ladies (at least those trying to lose some baby weight), are concerned with those pesky numbers blinking on the bathroom scale. I weigh-in every day…sometimes multiple times a day. A bit obsessive compulsive…perhaps? But I find frequent weigh-in’s help me isolate problem areas, and give me motivation to work harder (if I hit a new low weight, I’m spurred on to lose more, and if I have gained, I want to watch my diet more carefully). I think frequent weigh-in’s help monitor excessive weight loss, too, which is something to be avoided (I’ve lost about 25 lbs over 8 months; the recommendation is no more than 1-2 bs/week).
I only document my weight once per week, on Monday morning. And now, I really don’t stress about the number. I’ve been sitting steady around the same weight for 3 months now. And while I’d love to lost an extra 15 lbs, I know it will come with time. Don’t forget about “skinny fat”…just because someone looks skinny does not mean they are healthy!
Off for my afternoon walk! I’ll discuss diet suggestions another time…
Oh, and invest in a good stroller. A must for all the exercising-mama’s (and papa’s) out there (we have this one).