Tuesday, May 7, 2013

OT: Post-Pregnancy Fitness for the Lazy

Pregnancy belly shots
As wonderful as pregnancy is... how do I reverse the damage?!

After the initial joy/shock of finding we were pregnant with Dexter, all those first-time-mom fears began to creep in. Will my boobs totally sag? Will I get cankles? Will I ever get my abs back? (Least you think I'm entirely vain, yes I was also anxious about being a good parent, etc. but for the purposes of this story, hang in there with me. ^_~) The worries in my mind must have eventually overflowed because I found myself confessing some of these thoughts to my boss in the hotel room we shared during a business trip. She proceeded to comfort me by lifting up her shirt and show me these huge, 1-cm wide stretch marks from giving birth to her 10 lb. son. Yeah, great way to calm a 8-week pregnant woman. O_O

Ice cream and fruit
It's got fruit in it so it's gotta be healthy, right?

Scared stiff by visions of my torso looking like crinkled foil, I was careful not to go overboard with the ice cream and I diligently practiced squats, pelvis tilts, and transverse ab vacuum exercises while brushing my teeth. By the end of the pregnancy, I had gained a respectable 30 lbs. and promptly dropped 20 lbs. within 1 month just from giving birth (obviously) and breastfeeding (big calorie burn).

About 3 months after Dexter's birth, I lost 5 more lbs. from simple portion control, and therefore was within +5 lbs. of my original pre-pregnancy weight. I started adding light exercise by going on 15-30 minute walks about 2x a week around the neighborhood with baby and dog, even in the snowy winter, and got down to my pre-pregnancy weight by the time Dexter was 6 months old. (Man, those last few pounds are always the hardest to shed.)

Winter walk with baby in stroller and dog
I think my makeshift baby ski mask makes him look like a ninja...

However, even though I was at my goal weight, I felt like my abs and arms were still completely flabby and un-toned. (You would think all that baby lifting would count for something.) I could never get the motivation or time to workout at home, much less at a gym. Evenings after work and the kids are asleep are for cuddling up with your significant other on the couch, amirite? :P Then I saw an article on Pinterest called Sexy Toned Arms in 6 Weeks, and I thought to myself, "I can do these 4 simple exercises for only 6 weeks." But when to fit it in... how about when K makes me watch Deep Space 9? :) So yeah, for 1.5 months, I would watch Jadzia Dax and Commander Worf get it on (eww!) while working out my guns. And so that I wouldn't tire out my arms, I also added a basic ab workout to alternate every other day.

In summary, the keys to getting my pre-pregnancy weight back were:
  • Eat a normal amount; no need to gorge yourself during pregnancy or breastfeeding. 
  • Don't starve yourself either; eat if you're hungry. Keep fruit and other healthy foods around the house so that you can grab something quick if you need a snack to last till the next meal. Don't buy candy, chips, etc. because if it's not around the house, you can't eat it.
  • Don't feel like you have to do a ton of exercises each time you workout. According to recent studies, exercising even 10-15 minutes every day is better than one 2-hour workout once a week. (I tend to work out right before I shower so it gives me a "deadline" to complete it each day.)
  • Write down what you did on a wall calendar, so you have the satisfaction of visually tracking how far you've come (or how many days you've missed).
  • To save time, I try to use the heaviest weights I can per exercise. Do each set of exercises 2 times, with about 8-20 reps per set. If you can do 15-20 reps for a set, it's probably time to increase the weight amount.
  • Don't just do cardio or weight training; you need a healthy mix of both to shed fat and tone muscle.
Anyway, hope my story helps someone out there. Even though I've only been weight-training my arms and abs specifically right now, my butt and thighs have also gotten smaller just from the calorie loss. Now that spring has arrived, I may even take up some light jogging or biking. I dunno, the sight of me running is like shaking a bag of meat up and down... it's not pretty. >_<

When I see women who run like this, I want to check to see if they're wearing magical shoes with wings. (source: Women's Health)

How do you keep in shape? I feel like I have no time in the day and consider exercise to be waaay boring. :P


Unknown said...

Weight has been a life-long battle for me. I did not have easy pregnancies and I suffered major problems with my lower back and pelvis each time--that really curtailed any attempt to exercise. Nausea and food issues messed with my ability to eat well. Sleep deprivation and PPD sapped a lot of energy I might have had to develop any sort of fitness program--as did caring for more than one kid as well as a newborn.

I am happy that you had such a great pregnancy and you were able to bounce back with ease, but that is surely not the case with all of us! My baby is five and I am still carrying around 20 of the 40 I gained with him!

Lately I have gotten in to running, but it is not to lose weight. It is to help maintain my sanity. In fact, the more I exercise, the slower my excess pounds come off but I don't mind because exercise is better for me in the long run. I motivate myself by entering races (5Ks) Showing up on race day is fun and it keeps me heading out for my workouts regularly.

Unknown said...

Well - on a gaming related note, I would recommend a dance game. They are loads of fun, inexpensive and you can do it from home, even while holding the baby (I have seen my sister in law do it with a toddler on her hip, lol.) For the rest, kudos for managing portion control while breastfeeding. I am extremely hungry ALL the time. Pregnancy cravings are nothing compared to breastfeeding! Did you also experience that? Five months along the line, I am still to afraid to approach the scale... in the beginning I felt great because anything feels thinner than that whale of a pregnancy body, but now I still feel somewhat uncomfortable in my "old" clothes.

A Gamer's Wife said...

@Jennifer - Kudos to you on entering races! I'm terrible at any kind of endurance exercising. In college, I once did a 10K kayak race with my team. Yeah, I came in last place and they had already taken the finish line down by the time I completed the race. T_T

@Naomi - Ooo, the dance game sounds fun! I once tried one with the XBox 360 Kinect while K was browsing around at Best Buy. His response when he saw me: "AHAHAHAHA!!! Yeah, no." :P Yeah, I still feel like I snack all the time, but I figure that's probably normal for breastfeeding. I'm just struggling to snack on healthy stuff instead of chips and ice cream. :)

Jake Long said...

I like to listen to music or watch television when I exercise. It also helps to have specific reasons for exercising, and reminding yourself of those. Some people use note cards around the house to remind themselves of goals. What you're doing so far looks good, and you're writing is entertaining.

A Gamer's Wife said...

Thanks, Jake! Love the idea of working while watching TV. It must work because there's a reason why gyms do that. :)