posted on September 4, 2018
Honestly though, I feel probably more like Arnold did after his heart surgery this year than his iconic Terminator movie. It’s been a long three months away with lots of ups and downs in the lonely maternity leave world. Balancing a brand spanking new baby with (sometimes slightly overzealous/obsessed) six year olds while trying to encourage my own health, wellness and recovery is…tricky. Naturally, my training took a back seat. Like a seat in the veeeeery back of a of veeeery long bus. Or no, not even. My training didn’t even get to ride in the bus. It was carted in a trailer behind the bus. So now, three months later, I’m back to work and things have started to settle down a bit on the baby home front. Even though that handsome sleep stealer is still new, he’s not brand spanking new anymore, so I (finally!!) feel I can start to focus on my training again. Since I shared my pregnancy workout journey with you before my handsome little man entered the world, I thought I’d share what that journey looks like now that he’s here!
With the twins I had a planned C-section at almost 40 weeks. With the newest bundle, I was hoping for a VBAC but after almost 42 weeks he was not budging. Stubborn. Hmm, I wonder where he gets it from?! Long story short, nothing went according to plan and I ended up with another C-section, this time with more complications that prolonged my recovery process. Which leads me to my Post-Baby Training (or PBT) Lesson #1: Things will sometimes not go according to plan, no matter how well thought out they may seem or how badly we want them. This can sometimes be a hard pill to swallow. I wanted so badly to be one of those moms that walked out of the hospital as fit as they were before they got pregnant. After all, if anyone deserved that it would be me, right? I’m a personal trainer, a coach, a yoga instructor! I worked out diligently my entire pregnancy! I eat healthy! NEWS FLASH, ALISON: that mom does not exist! There is no such thing! It’s a fallacy we are fed and we believe tirelessly, even despite having been to that rodeo before and knowing better. My well thought out labor and delivery plan crashed through the window before it had a chance to even open and so it was time to throw out the false and detrimental beliefs about postpartum recovery too. And so I did exactly that—I threw out all the garbage ideas I had about my training during maternity leave and sat on the couch to feed and snuggle my new baby boy. I did that, nothing more, for 6 weeks.
When I could finally begin to scrape myself off the couch and get the baby to unlatch from me long enough to breathe, I started to come up with a couple ideas for training which leads me to my PBT Lesson #2: Go Slow. Anyone that knows me well probably has an idea of how hard this one is for me. When I have an idea or something excites me, I like to go full steam ahead at 1,000mph. I wanted nothing more than to snatch a barbell over my head like the good ole days. But I knew better. I knew that I needed to heal and rebuild before I could even touch a barbell again. So I dedicated myself to twelve weeks of short bodyweight workouts & breathing exercises designed to heal abdominal diastasis and promote mindful movement. It was back to basics and, to be honest, it felt really good to start from square one. Instead of looking at it like I was taking so many steps back, I viewed it as a chance to renew my movement patterns and start from scratch. It was an opportunity, not a disadvantage or a punishment. In addition to those workouts, I added in some “cardio” aka: walks around the neighborhood wearing the baby in a wrap, chasing after 6 year olds on scooters, cleaning the house, cooking healthy meals and, if I was lucky, the occasional ride on the dusty elliptical or rower in my basement.
I knew it wouldn’t be healthy or advantageous for me to check my weight every day, so I promised myself I would only weigh myself once every week or two. Yet despite all of my efforts, beyond keeping three children alive, I found myself still plateauing on that dreaded scale. I would often text my coworkers about my frustrations on feeling comparatively weak during my workouts and about how the weight was not coming off as fast as I wanted it to. Casey would remind me that what feels hard today will feel easy in no time as long as I kept trying (and considering all the Casey has been through in the last couple years, I knew to take this advice to heart). Lindsey would remind me that my body composition is changing and it’s not just about numbers on a scale. And she would occasionally remind me that, you know, I had just had major abdominal surgery and birthed a human being. Ryan would bring me coffee from Whole Foods. All of which bring me to my PBT Lesson #3: Be kind to yourself. What that means is not allowing the negative thoughts to take precedence to the positive ones or blind you from seeing the positive changes. I can be vulnerable enough to admit that there were (still are, really) tons of negative thoughts about my body, my abilities and self-esteem that swirled around in my head at any given moment. Yet, we can practice kindness towards ourselves by shoving them to the back or better yet, dealing with them. But that takes practice too. It’s a daily exercise, just as important, if not more so, than your basic breathing exercises. And yes, practicing kindness even means taking a “time-out” to actually sit down and drink that can of (amazing!) coffee your friend brought you.
So what does my actual training plan look like now that I’ve learned all these important lessons? Well, I sat down at my desk and concocted a 6-day per week program for the next three weeks. It was perfectly planned out, with just the perfect amount of work packed into one week (read: WAY OVERDOING IT) and I was pumped to start. That was, until Ryan looked it over. With his eyebrow raised in that smirky I’m-proving-a-point way, he asked me one simple question, “How much sleep are you actually getting, Alison?” Which leads me to my next PBT Lesson #4: Sleep is so, so, SO important to training and recovery. With one silent eyebrow raise, I knew. It’s something we harp on time and time again here at Union Fitness and I was guilty as charged. My training, and subsequently my recovery from training, would never be where I want it to be until I can start sleeping more regularly instead of the 90 minutes or so every 3 hours at night. If I went through with my training plan, I would just be spinning my very tired wheels. Ryan’s eyebrow was telling me everything I already knew but just needed to hear (or see in this case). That being said, it doesn’t mean I can’t train at all, but that I just need to take down the intensity and volume for a little bit. And that in turn leads me to my final PBT Lesson #5: Repeat lessons 1-4 as often as necessary. Ok, so I’m a little stubborn (I know, surprise surprise). If you haven’t caught on by now, the theme of all of these lessons is that they aren’t easy to do or accomplish. It all takes time, patience and effort. Luckily I have a little bit of all of those things. So for now, you can look for me taking it easier than I’d like to in the Strength Lab or catnapping in the office.