Saturday, September 24, 2011

Post Partum Body Image & other ramblings Part 2

I wrote a blog with this same title a while back.  I have been concerned with health & fitness since I was very young.

To me health & fitness go hand in hand.  I find it odd that some people can eat healthy & yet not care about physical fitness.  And then there are people who care about physical fitness yet live on junk food.  I've never understood it, they totally go together in my mind.

And so when I speak of postpartum body image it's not so much about the physical (vain) aspect of it.  It's a matter of getting my muscles strong & fit once again, after having been so stretched out during the pregnancy.  This is mostly true of my "core" muscles as they refer to them in pilates.  Basically it's the whole torso area.

While I was pregnant I was concerned about getting back in shape after having the baby.  This was mostly due to my age, being pregnant in my late 30's.  Body's aren't as forgiving & don't snap back as easily & quickly as you get older.  During my pregnancy I mapped out my post partum fitness plan & I stuck to it well.  It has evolved as time has passed, obviously.  Of course you start out gradually & work your way back to where you were before you were pregnant.  But I recall "hoping" I'd have my body completely back in shape by the time he turned 1, but just in case I was allowing myself until he turned 2.  This was just a mental note to myself, as I didn't want to be crushed if I couldn't get my body back in shape in one year.

I did gain A LOT of weight while pregnant (47 lbs to be exact) & I did lose most of it quickly.  Within a couple of weeks most everyone was telling me it looked like I had never been pregnant at all.  But of course from my perspective my body was not the same & it certainly wasn't as strong or as fit.  And by the time he turned 1 it still wasn't.  I was a bit sad, but figured I'd give myself another year.  And so that year passed & he turned 2.  And while I was definitely more fit than I was when he turned 1, I still didn't feel as fit or as strong as I had before being pregnant.

Next month he will be 2 1/2 & I am just now really feeling back to my old self.  I feel very fit & strong & I've lost some more weight (still at least 7 lbs heavier than I was before getting pregnant at best).  I am very happy to report that I feel like I finally got my body back.  :)

The only exception is with pilates.  Prior to getting pregnant I was at the level of a professional pilates instructor.  I LOOOVED pilates & was perfect at doing it.  I loved the challenge of the difficult moves & building up the strength to be able to do them slow & controlled like the instructors.  I continued to do "pregnancy pilates" through my first 2 trimesters of pregnancy (I also did pre-natal yoga & spinning).  But after he was born I kept trying & just absolutely couldn't do pilates.  I just couldn't engage the muscles properly.  I kept trying & would give up, & would promise myself to try again later.  And I would, but it would always be the same.

So a month or two ago I decided to keep at it on a regular basis.  I've been doing it about once a week for maybe 6 weeks now.  I would really like to do it more than once a week to be able to reach my goal with it sooner, but I just don't have the time.  I also do weight lifting/strength training & running, & I don't want to skip either those.  I have ALWAYS tried to focus on a balanced fitness plan of 4 components (strength, cardio, pilates, & stretch).  I am still trying to fit in more stretch time, so I certainly can't dedicate more time to pilates.

Since I had a c-section that means that my abdominal muscles were actually cut.  And I already know that a cut muscle will NEVER regain the strength it had prior to being cut.  So I am extremely doubtful that I will ever reach the same level I was at with pilates prior to pregnancy, but I do think I can do better than I am currently at.

When I was 12 I had surgery on my chest/rib cage to repair a ribcage deformity I was born with.  They cut my chest muscles when they did that surgery.  And prior to that surgery I had very good chest strength.  I could do a million pushups, etc.  Ever since, no matter how hard I work, I have not been able to come even close at regaining my chest muscle strength.  And so, because of that experience, I know that my abdominal strength is going to be a real challenge for me.

Quite some time ago I had actually gone through my closet & thrown out a lot of clothes (mostly tops) that just didn't work now that I had a baby.  Most of them were too short & I didn't want to be showing my "mommy tummy" off.  So my closet has been pretty empty all this time.  There was also a small section of tops that were tight &/or clingy & they really showed my "mommy tummy" but I put them aside in the closet, in their own little section as it were, to be tried on again at a later time when I had lost more weight.  And that time has come & I tried them on & only had to toss one of them.  There was one that was just a tad too short, but made me uncomfortable.  All the clingy ones now worked for me.  And my stepdaughter recently put out of a bag of give-away clothes that I chose to go "shopping" in (she says she doesn't mind & I am not too prideful to do that) & so now my closet is looking much fuller. :)

But overall I am very pleased that my body is totally feeling back to normal & strong these days.


Danielle-Marie said...

Good for you for being confident in your after baby body. I was too after ONE baby. Then I had Hannah and now my body is a total mess. Now that she's a year old I am starting to see improvements though. Where we bought our house is really close to a local gym so I'm quite looking forward to benefiting from using it. Considering investing in a good piece of equipment just for at home too... so that on the days I don't feel like going out I don't have an excuse to not exercise. My cousin is a personal trainer and has offered me some great tips, but I'd love to take some knowledge from you as well if you're willing to share :)

Frau Guten Tag said...

Well she's only a year, I was NOT at all confident when Lil J was a year. I'd say give yourself at least 2 1/2 years (maybe longer cuz it's the second time around??). I've never been to a gym. I know myself too well & know that if I had to look presentable & drive there & all that I would never even get there, LOL. I started working out at age 19 (& 20 years later I'm still addicted to working out!!) & started with VHS tapes & have now moved on to DVDs. My garage is my gym. I have free weights, a pull up bar, a spinner bike (got it super cheap on ebay), a BOSU, stability ball, & some other small equipment. I also just recently got a treadmill (totally for free!!) & am LOVING having the option to run. I've tried running on pavement in the past & it really kills my knees, but so far no knee issues with the treadmill at all. Way back in my younger days I honestly didn't even wear workout clothes, I just crawled out of bed, brushed my teeth, & worked out in my pjs. Then I showered & got dressed. I knew if I delayed I might just put it off completely, LOL. Somewhere along the way over the years I did start wearing workout clothes & sports bras. And now that I have a child I tend to him FIRST in the morning & THEN I workout. And then I hit the shower & get dressed.

I am always willing to share, but I'm certainly no expert. I know my own body very well, but I also know that not everyone is the same. I think the hardest thing is to figure out what you ENJOY. If you can find workouts that you actually enjoy it isn't quite as hard to workout. It's still a challenge, but not as much of a challenge. For me I HATE the dancy aerobic type workouts with a passion. I love strength training & weight lifting. My all time favorite workout DVD (it was actually my first one that started my love of working out) is Cindy Crawford's Shape Your Body. I also love pilates (I like Stott Pilates workouts as pilates DVDs seem to vary a lot), I also enjoy Stott Pilates yoga DVDs for when I need to relax & stretch (it also really helps my messed up neck). And I'm noticing it's much easier/quicker to drop extra pounds using the treadmill. So it's also a matter of what your goal is--to tone up or lose fat or both? And it takes consistency. I see a lot of people work out for a week or two & then quit. For me it always takes 90 days (3 months) to see change in my body from a workout. Anytime I start something new I give myself that long before I decide if I like the results or not. I hope that helps at least a little, if not feel to ask me anything anytime.

Danielle-Marie said...

Yeah, you make really strong points about wanting to look presentable and drive there (walk there in my case...which is all uphill and will suck in the snow which will be falling soon here). I think I am going to get my own equipment. I'm really ready for a change. I want to look good but I REALLY want to be healthy. I don't want to develop type 2 diabetes. I'm more susceptible to it from having gestational diabetes and my father having type 2 diabetes but if I work hard now, maybe I can prevent it from happening. Plus exercising regularly really does give me a whole whack of energy.

I love the elliptical. I have flat feet so running becomes painful for me. I do enjoy using a stationary bike as well but I feel like the elliptical is working my legs AND my arms. I've never done pilates but have heard great things. I think I'll look into ordering the Stott Pilates DVDs. I would like to work out to lose fat and tone up. I did lose 14lbs on weight watchers/doing cardio on an elliptical but loose skin doesn't look a whole lot better than the fat that used to fill it out. Do you have any recommendations for work outs that do a bit of both? Thanks. Oh and you can message me on facebook if that's easier! Haha.

Frau Guten Tag said...

Type 2 diabetes runs in my family also. But I did not have gestational diabetes.

I know people sometimes dont want to spend money on equipment, but if you look around you can get deals & you dont have to buy everything at once. Ive spent the past 20 years slowly accumulating my equipment. But I would rather spend money on equipment I like & can use it anytime I want than to pay money to a gym forever.

Ive never tried an elliptical, but they look great. I do think it'll burn more calories than a bike.

The only workouts I know of that combine strength & cardio are "the firm" workouts, but the cardio is the dancy aerobic type which I hate. I just keep my workouts separate, I have cardio days, strength days, pilates days, & yoga days.