Age Is Just A Number and Programming Works

Here I am.  Approaching eight months postpartum from baby number three.  I’m turning thirty four this year.  I talked to one of my best friends from college on the phone last week and we reminisced on how much our lives have changed since graduating.  Did people ever expect us to grow up?  Anyways, she is expecting her first child in July.  As I walked off the stage upon receiving my graduate degree in accounting, if you would have asked me what my life would be like ten years later, I would not say this.

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Lo and behold, I am no longer an accountant (unless I am reconciling my own bank account or working on my business expenses).  In college, my max run distance was about eighty feet down a flat runway.  When my coach asked us to run easy for ten minutes, I pondered if I could go slow enough that I would only have to run two laps in that period (I called it “the bounce”).

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I always thought I would have a stay at home husband.  Seriously.  I left college with a great job and every intention of climbing my way to the top of the business world.  When my first daughter was born that changed.  I stuck around corporate America until my second daughter was born, but something about me changed when I became a mom.  I found a new empathy for every human being.  I guess I figured out through my pre and postpartum fitness journey that I was capable of a lot more than I gave myself credit for (and so are others).

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Here goes nothing.  I hear all the time from people in my peer group that I am so fit.  I must workout all the time.  They will never be an athlete like me.  They could never do Flywheel, a Spartan Race, a Flybarre class.  You name it.  It’s not that you can’t do it.  It’s that you don’t give yourself credit.  Everyone has to start somewhere.  So, here I am to show you some of my stats (because ultimately this is the easiest way to prove that you can get better if you commit).

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I went back to my Athlinks account and found my pre-marriage race results!  Who knew you could even do that.  Why didn’t I think of it before.  I graduated from Virginia Tech in 2007.  I did a handful of races from 2008-2012 (most of them actually longer distances).  The Charlotte RaceFest half marathon was my “pre-wedding” race.

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I found out I was pregnant with my first daughter in 2013 and my second daughter in 2014, so I didn’t do much racing.  As you can see, I participated in two Thanksgiving Day races (one while I was pregnant) in a matter of two years.

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My time commitment shifted in 2015 when my second daughter was born.  I was now 31 years old, and I realized the importance of strength training.  I went all in.  Instead of just doing workouts when I could, I decided to actually program my training towards specific goals.  I wanted to be faster.  I wanted to be stronger.  Instead of jumping in workouts because they seemed “fun”, I decided to be deliberate about what days I would run.  What days I would lift.  What days I wold ride.  I saw a SIGNIFICANT drop in my mile times at road races.  Somehow, I went from running mid 8:30 miles to less than 7:30 miles.  Okay!

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We always knew we wanted to have three kids, so I knew at some point all of this would scale back and I would have to go through the whole postpartum fitness journey again.  That I did, and here I sit.  Almost ten years from my first post collegiate road race.

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Last weekend, my husband and I had the privilege of starting the Cooper River Bridge Run together (he ran much faster than me).  I say privilege because I am thankful every day that I have the ability to go for a run.  Much less see improvement as I age.  I crossed the finish line four seconds faster than my previous Bridge Run time in 2016.  Would you believe I was disappointed?  I have been spoiled with seeing results.  Quick results at that.  When I took a trip down memory lane, I almost laughed at myself.

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Through the process of seeing what I am capable of in an entirely different way, I have made myself believe that all of that hard work actually worked.  Programming works.  Whether it is Crossfit, running, riding, bootcamp.  Having a trainer/mentor who knows what they are doing makes a difference. As I close on this post, I want to remind you that setting benchmarks can be such a positive tool.   Not doing something because you feel to old, you wouldn’t  fit in or it’s too hard is so relative.   The day I decided to try new things is the day I started to see a change in my performance as well as my self image.

My Top Workout Tips for Busy Parents

Hello February.  Hello 2018.  Hello blog.  I haven’t been able to keep up with posting as much as I would like to because quite honestly I have been busy.  Busy is good.  I live for having things to do.  Feeling engaged.  Being involved.  However, since the start of another year, I have noticed how hard it is to balance doing everything I want to do with my physical activity (outside of working).  I was recently asked by Spartan Race to list a few tips for the busy parent to stay active and maintain a workout routine.  I think some of these tips could apply to anyone.  Here we go!

  • Plan ahead.  If that means weekly, or even monthly, set your expectations early.  My husband and I both need regularly scheduled workouts to stay sane.  It is nearly impossible for us to work out at the same time.  We have coordinated a schedule in which one of us works out early on specific days of the week, the other during the day or evening. If it is my designated day, he encourages me to maintain my schedule.  As do I. 

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  • Hold yourself accountable. Let’s face it.  Some people are way more self motivated than others.  Do what you need to do to ensure you make time for exercise.  There are a few ways you can do this:
    • Join a group that expects (and gets excited) for you to be there.  Camaraderie and community make such a difference.  If you feel seen, rather acknowledged, you feel proud.  I run with a group of girls one morning a week that typically involves a track type workout or running hills.  Our paces are variable, but having them push me (and hold me accountable) has made such a difference in my running.
    • Sign up for a class that if you cancel last minute you will be charged.  Nothing is worse than paying for something you don’t use. 
    • Sign up for a race that you need specific training for to feel good about crossing the finish line.  You know what I’m talking about here.  An obstacle course race or a longer road race.  Something that you can’t just decide to do on the day of.

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  • Find time for “fun” workouts (with or without the kids). Easy days should be banked into everyone’s routine.  On these days, do something fun!  Take your kids to the playground and practice monkey bars with them.  Set up a mini obstacle course in your driveway and run through it with them.  Try something new that doesn’t leave you feeling completely spent.IMG_6448
  • Splurge sometimes.  If you are like me, you work hard professionally and as a parent.  Every once in awhile you need to reward yourself.  Set a date on the calendar to go on a “fitness date night”.  Get a babysitter and check out a climbing gym, running trail or boutique fitness studio with your significant other.  Don’t they say couples that sweat together stay together?

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  • Don’t put so much pressure on yourself.  In a world where everything seems perfect (or not so perfect) remember to use your workout time as an opportunity to lift yourself up.  If you wake up one day and you just aren’t feeling it, then take a day off (and be okay with it).  Exercise should leave you feeling like a better person.  Feeling like a better person will allow you to interact better with those around you throughout the rest of the day.
  • Remember, you are your child’s biggest role model.  If you don’t want to make time for fitness to benefit you, think about the impact it will have on your child.  I love having my kids see their mom set a goal, train for it, and reach it.  Being active is a lifestyle that your child will adopt if you set the tone early.  Maybe you even sign up to do a race with your child so you have the opportunity to not only connect but support each other’s training.

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What I Have Learned About Postpartum Fitness After the Birth of My Third Child

It’s me again!  It has been way too long since my last post.  I had coffee with two good friends this week who inspired me to pull out the old laptop and get things together.  That said, I also felt obliged to post given that I am now three months out from the birth of my third child AND I have officially competed in two races since having her.

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If you followed my blog through pregnancy number three, you know that I kept up with my fitness for the full forty weeks.  While the events leading up to my delivery didn’t necessarily go as planned (they never do), my delivery was short and sweet.  For that, I am thankful.

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And for that, I want to share some of my thoughts on postpartum fitness after the birth of my third daughter.  You don’t have to agree, but you should consider (and remember these are just my thoughts).

  • Trying to hit a number on a scale as a goal to getting back to your pre-pregnancy self is annoying.  I will be straight up with you.  I am still not back at my pre-pregnancy weight, and I don’t care.  I actually find the posts about losing weight really annoying.  See thought number two.
  • Pre-pregnancy functionality should be your first goal.  If you lose a bunch of weight, but your core is torn to shreds and your back hurts doing daily activities, does it even matter?
  • Take the pressure off yourself.  Social media has made it impossible for us to not compare ourselves against other people in how quick we can get back to our old selves.  In the grand scheme of things an extra month of two means NOTHING!  Just like when you feel like your pregnancy is taking forever, once it’s over, it seems like it flew by.
  • You will learn more each pregnancy.  Gosh, I wish I could go back and talk to myself as a teenager, college student, first time mom.  Hindsight is 20/20.  No one will ever be able to explain that feeling to you until you have been there yourself.

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If I’m going to throw all of these thoughts at you, I feel I need to give you some explanations as to how I reached them.  Let’s start with my journey following the birth of my third daughter.  As confident as I might seem, I suffer from what I want to call “mom anxiety”.  Ever since I had children, I fear the worst for myself.  I don’t want anything to happen to me because I am afraid of what I would miss out on if I weren’t around.  Let me be clear, this anxiety doesn’t consume me, but I tend to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to taking care of my personal health.

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That said, after my third pregnancy, I vowed to ease back into activity and really focus on  rebuilding my pelvic floor and core before going full blown anaerobic.  After four to five weeks of not doing much, I got on the phone with my doctor and explained my concerns to which she responded that as a result of my non complicated labor and deliveries, I was free to do whatever I wanted.  Even though the advice was coming from my doctor, I took it with a grain of salt.  Mom anxiety.

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Each day I did a little more and on days that I didn’t feel right, I didn’t do anything.  I really had no goals for the rest of the year, as the most important thing to me was being an active part of my growing family’s lives.  Anything else was just an added bonus.  Surprisingly (yet not surprisingly), my body responded well to my transition back into training. I began to reset benchmarks to refresh my training for my postpartum fitness levels (i.e. I ran a mile time trial, I put myself on the torqboard at Flywheel, and I reassessed max pull-ups and other body weight exercises).  Let me be clear, my fitness is not comparable to anyone but myself.  Prior to getting pregnant, I had competed at Spartan Race World Championships and I was able to maintain many of my obstacle course racing workouts throughout.

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We had a lot on our plate and maintaining a regular exercise program, while also finding time to myself (I mean all by myself) was a serious need to keep me sane.  We traveled to Virginia when my youngest was just a few weeks old.  We also took our kids on their first flight of 2017 for a family vacation to Naples, FL.

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These are the things we live for.  We love spending time together.  We love family.  We love being busy.  For some reason in all this hoopla, I decided to sign up for a Spartan Race and continue a family tradition of running the local Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving.  With my most laid back approach to a race, baby weight still to lose and a few hours a sleep at night, I managed to compete at as a high level as I did pre-pregnancy.

  • 8th place overall in the Carolinas Spartan Race Sprint (my first top ten finish EVER in a Spartan Race)
  • 8k Turkey Trot – 36:22 (7:19/mile) – 2016 time 7:09/mile, 2015 time 7:21/mile

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It was through all of this madness, that I truly realized that the human body is an absolutely incredible machine that should never be subjected to a number on a machine.  It should never be compared to another.  Everyone’s circumstance is different and if you are functional, proud and just plain happy you get it.  Everyone’s postpartum journey is their own.  I think I have finally found a way to own mine, and I can only feel such gratitude that I have the ability to share my thoughts with others.  Please feel free to reach out with comments or questions.

The First Two Weeks (Postpartum)

Time sure does fly!  As we close in on our second week as a family of five, I wanted to write a short little update on how things have gone.  I spent just under 48 hours in the hospital.  That’s two nights (including the night my daughter was born) essentially bed ridden as nurses, doctors and lactation consultants regularly checked in on me (regardless of if I was sleeping or not).

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To keep me sane, my husband brought my two older daughters in to visit and my parents and sister also stopped by.  Bless their hearts.  Isolation in a hospital room is not the ideal toddler playground.  We gave each of the girls a present from their baby sister.  In return, they brought her a balloon from the gift shop.

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We watched Nickelodeon and got creative with any and everything that we could in the room (including the grippy socks).  The girls also enjoyed taking their new baby sister for a stroll around the maternity wing before stopping at the nursery to get their very own “I’m a Big Sister” hospital bands.

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At 5PM on Saturday evening, we were released to head home.  This was a big moment.  We took our first family of five picture on our way out and made sure to document the entire event.  I think all of the nurses knew my girls by the time we rolled out of there.

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All of the excitement must have made us lose our minds slightly.  We managed to leave my hospital bag outside on the steps where my husband picked us up.  We got all the way home before the hospital called to tell us my bag (along with my wallet) had been dropped off at the front desk.  Thank goodness there are honest people left in the world.  I can’t imagine what someone could have done with all of that information at their fingertips.

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The first night at home was all a little chaotic.  How do you even anticipate what the baby will be like the first night?  My husband is pretty lenient with me the first two nights at home.  With each of my precious daughters I have co-slept with them in a guest bed the first two nights at home.  At that point, my husband forces me to cut the cord and move them to their crib.  I can’t say we slept great the first night, but my husband had the week off from work so I rested easier knowing in the back of my mind I could nap the next day.  That I did.  We also took a short walk as a family of five about 40 yards up the street and back (see picture above).

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One thing this baby loves to do is swaddle.  This is a first for me.  Both of my older girls preferred to have their arms free.  Looking back, maybe that is why one of them didn’t sleep great?  At this point, if I can get this little girl nice and tight in a good swaddle, she can sleep a three hour stretch from approximately 9 PM – 12 AM.  Hence, when I usually hit the sack.  I’m typically getting up three times each night to feed her.  I am exclusively breastfeeding her, so I let my husband snooze with the expectation that he will handle the other girls if they wake up in the middle of the night.

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It didn’t take long for that to happen.  Our first night home from the hospital, I woke up to the sound of my second daughter throwing up in her bedroom.  I’m not convinced that her rolling around on the floor at the hospital didn’t cause her to get some sort of a bug.  Either that or she was so overwhelmed with change that it through off her system.

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I can’t say enough about our neighbors, friends, my clients and family in Charlotte.  While I did not have a baby shower for my third daughter, I came home to several sweet gifts and a generous amount of meals and snacks for the family.  What a big help.  I never would have guessed how much easier it would be to not have to plan dinner for our expanding family the first few weeks at home.  We truly appreciate the help.  I will be the first to admit that I hate asking for help, so having it forced upon me has been special.  We will be sending out personalized thank you notes over the next few weeks.

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We closed out our first real week at home with a visit from my husband’s parents.  Their visit came at the perfect time.  On Friday, I experienced the worst postpartum uterine contractions.  They literally brought me to tears and ultimately left me bed ridden for almost two hours.  With each child these contractions have gotten worse and worse for me.  Being knocked off my feet (quite literally) forced me to realize that I needed to slow down.  It’s difficult for me to “take it easy”, especially when I have three kids.

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With my in-laws in town, I was given the opportunity to truly take it easy.  They were proactive in taking both of my older girls on walks and even watching the baby long enough for my husband and I to grab a cocktail and dinner out Friday evening.  Somehow I managed to fit into a pre-pregnancy dress.  We went to Summit Room before heading to Wing Haven Gardens for their annual food truck event.

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Not only did they watch the girls, but my mother-in-law also cooked for us two of the four nights that they were in town.  Why is it that when moms cook it always tastes better than the food that I make? Maybe you can taste the love they put into it?  It was bittersweet seeing them leave Monday morning.

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By Monday, my husband was headed back to work (from home, but no longer available to readily help).  I was on my own to an extent. Having family in Charlotte has been a lifesaver.  While my parents were out of town for the weekend, they took the baby on Monday while I took the two older girls out.  Knowing they are headed back to preschool next week, I am working on spending quality time with them before it is all baby all the time in the mornings.

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A lot of people have asked me if we have taken the baby out yet.  Yes, yes we have.  While we stick to places that are pretty open or places that we know she won’t be picked up by a lot of people, we (or I ) don’t really have an option.  Not only do the other girls need to be engaged, but we still need groceries and I just need a chance to get outside.  This week, I was able to manage taking all three of the girls to the grocery store, dance class open house and even Flywheel.

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Speaking of Flywheel, I did not ride.  I also have not resumed exercise yet.  I likely won’t for another week.  While my ab separation was minimal, I have noticed that my recovery is moving somewhat slower than it did for each of my previous pregnancies.  Since I know we are done having kids, I don’t feel any urgency to push the pace too soon.  The last thing I want to do is push too soon only to set myself back yet again.

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At Cameron’s two week check up, she was treated for a blocked tear duct and weighed in at 8 pounds 2 ounces.  She is gaining over an ounce a day.  We are scheduled to head back for our one month appointment in just two weeks.  She is the sweetest thing.  My husband agrees.  I don’t know if it is because we are embracing the infancy stage since we are done or maybe we are just better at handling a baby round three.  Either way, we can’t get enough of her.  While I miss my routine, I know the change is temporary and she will grow up faster than we want her to (and so will the other girls).

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