Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Fitness & aging rambling

I recently posted a blog post on physical appearance & aging.  Another aging issue that's very important to me, probably moreso than the physical, is maintaining my fitness & strength as I age.

I must admit that getting pregnant & having a baby really threw a curve ball into my fitness.  I knew it was going to affect my fitness, but I never imagined it would affect it to the extint that it did.

I continued working out through most of my pregnancy, I stopped somewhere in the 3rd trimester because I was having complications & was placed on modified bed rest. 

I resumed working out 3 weeks after I had my son.  I had hoped to resume 1 week after, but since I had a c-section it wasn't doable for me.  At 2 weeks I probably could've, but I chose to wait one more week just to make sure I was really ready.  Of course these were workouts designed for post partum that gradually got you back into your usual routine, not a full blown workout of the same level I was doing prior to pregnancy.  At 8 weeks I was back into a full on workout, but I still took it easy until I was 12 weeks out. 

At 12 weeks out I went full blown with the workouts.  And everyone kept telling me how great I looked.  But I couldn't get my ab strength back.  I've said it many times before: I don't workout for the looks, but for the health & strength benefit of it.  I workout for the health aspect, to be strong & fit & healthy & independant. 

I started working out at age 19.  And I did some pretty hard core workouts.  In my late 20s I knew my workouts would need to change over time to accomodate my aging body, if I wanted to maintain my fitness level.  I've had a joint pain issue since my mid-teens.  I personally believe it was caused by an MMR booster that I received around that same time.  The joint issue becomes more of an issue as I age & I have to stop doing so much high impact work as time goes on.  Somewhere in my late 20s or early 30s I got into pilates.  When I first started I hated it.  But for some reason I kept revisiting it every once in a while.  And one day I realized that I wasn't doing it right.  It's one of those exercises that's easy to cheat on & not do properly.  Once I realized this & realized how hard it was to do it properly, I was sold on pilates.  I took on the challenge of mastering it.  And master it I did.  I LOVED pilates & was a total pro at it.  But I couldn't let go of my usual strength training & weight lifting.  If I did pilates exclusively I found that I would lose muscle mass & physical strength.  But I LOVED the way I felt when my core was in tip top shape from pilates.  Especially for me, since I have a lower back issue, a mid back issue, & a major neck issue as well as scoliosis.  Having my core in tip top shape really supports my whole body in whatever it's doing & it takes a lot of pressure off of my spine.

At some point, in my early 30s I think, I tried the Lotte Berk & Bar Method type workouts (I don't know what the official name of this type of workout is).  And while I really do enjoy it & I sure do feel the results, just like with pilates, if I do it exclusively I lose muscle mass & strength.  So I didn't do these very often.  Although they are definitely in that category of workouts that are easy to cheat on & do wrong.  If you do them right they are extremely tough. 

After my c-section I found that if I did traditional ab work, which contained a lot of oblique work, my abs would start sticking out a lot.  I kept trying to do pilates & found that I couldn't do it, I had zero ab strength & couldn't contract my ab muscles properly to even attempt pilates exercises.  The best workout I found for this time was Lotte Berk's Hip Hugger Abs.  The only drawback is that it's short, so I never felt like I got a full & complete workout from it due to that.

Because I had a c-section I've tried to really take my time in getting my ab/core strength back since having a baby.  I didn't want to injure myself, & since I had surgery & my muscles were actually cut I felt it was a big risk for injury.  But now my son has turned 3 & I still find myself with abs & a core that is not anywhere near where I would like it to be.  Anytime I've asked people who I thought would know, they would just brush me off & tell me I looked great.  But, like I said before, I don't care about how it looks, I want my STRENGTH back. 

A few weeks ago I was looking around on youtube, amazon, google, etc.  Looking for ideas on how to get my core & abs back in shape after a c-section.  Now that my son is 3 I feel there's no more reason to wait & take things slow.  By now everything should be healed up fully.  In fact, I'm sure it was quite some time ago, but I was being extra cautious.  I ran across  a decline bench for abwork.  I found one for cheap on amazon & was able to earn enough points on swagbucks to get it for free.  I've been using it daily & after just a couple of days of using it I could already feel a difference in the strength of my abs.

Now I am very picky about fitness equipment.  I won't just buy anything.  I don't have a lot of space in my garage gym & I don't want it cluttered up with stuff I don't use.  Everything I have I do use.  I have always been very careful before making a purchase.  And it's been a long time since I've added any new equipment, but I am happy to say that this is a great addition.  When choosing equipment I also look at the long term aspect of it.  So much equipment out there is easily maxed out & it's then no longer useful to you.  With the decline bench I can add on weights to keep making it a challenge as time goes on & my abs get stronger.  That's a major plus in my book.

I was also getting bored/burned out on my current workout rotation.  I have a good amount of DVDs to choose from, but I was really itching for something new & different.  So I got a few new workout DVD s from amazon.  It's been a really long time since I've bought anything new, so I felt it was time to do so.

I got myself a pilates fitness circle workout (I already had the fitness circle, just never had a really challenging workout that incorporated it; this one is really great).  I got a pilates BOSU workout (I already have one, but this one is very different, so I love the addition of new exercises in that format).  And I got a few workouts from Leah Sarago.  These fall in the same category as the Lotte Berk & Bar Method workouts, I'm not sure what that type of workout is called.  I especially love the ab workout by Leah Sarago--it's 45 minutes of ab work!!  And none of it is traditional sit ups, crunches, etc.  It's really fun & I REALLY feel my core getting stronger when I do it.  And I'm still doing a Cindy Crawford workout at least once a week to maintain my muscle mass & overall body strength. 

Occasionally I do a yoga workout, but haven't for a while now.  For me I usually do it if I'm especially sore or if I need to see a chiropractor.  I can usually avoid seeing a chiro just by doing yoga, hehe.  I have to admit I also love hearing/feeling my bones snap back into proper alignment as I do the postions/stretches. 

I absolutely love how fit & tight my core is feeling now.  And I love how it lessens my back & neck pains.  For the first time since pregnancy I am finally feeling back to my old self, physically I mean.  And it's a glorious feeling.  The Lord has always guided me & directed me in what workouts & equipment to buy.  And He's never steered me wrong.  I always pray about what to purchase & it always turns out perfect. 

I am also a fan of Suzanne Bowen.  She leads the Hip Hugger Abs DVD workout in the Lotte Berk series.  And she now has her own studio, doing that type of workout that I don't know what it's called.  And she is going to start filming a DVD in August.  I am sure I'll have to get that DVD as well when it does finally come out.

One piece of equipment I am still hoping to get someday (I've been hoping for many years now) is a pilates reformer.  And of course workout DVDs to go along with it (Stott Pilates has some that I really want).  But this is not a cheap piece of equipment, so I'll be dreaming for a long time I suppose.

Guess I'm done rambling for now..........

I'm editing this blog here to post this video from youtube.  This is a good explanation of the type of workout that reference a few times in this blog post--stating that I don't know what it's called or how to explain it really.  I will say that it is definitely addicting.  After a workout of this my muscles just feel sooooo good.  And I want them to feel that way again & again & again.  :)

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