So You Have Given Birth… Now What?

This is the follow up to my last blog on training during pregnancy. You didn’t think I would give my advice on what to do while pregnant and then leave you hanging once things really got interesting, did you? In case you forgot the major takeaway point of that article, I will remind you: you are awesome! You housed a tiny human for 9 months, continued to train in a way that worked for you, and made it through X hours of labor as gracefully as possible. I’m proud of you!

As in the last post, I want to put this right here before reading any further…

(Disclaimer: I am not an OB/GYN. Please always consult with your doctor about your training program, diet, or any concerns you may have during your pregnancy and postpartum period.)

Now you’re home from the hospital with a new baby. What happens next? It is safe to say, things are different now. Besides the numerous thoughts of just WTF are you supposed to do with this tiny human, combined with the seemingly never ending panic every little cough and hiccup brings, YOU are also different. You’re a mom. Giving birth actually changes the structure of your brain in what is thought to increase feelings of love and protectiveness and bonding with your child (read more about that HERE). Your body is different too. Your organs literally rearranged themselves to allow your uterus to expand. You have crazy amounts of hormones zinging through your body. Your hips probably feel wider. And don’t even get started on your belly. Why doesn’t it shrink back to what it used to look like right away? You are probably already looking forward to the day you can get back to the gym to start working on losing the baby weight and “get your body back”.

Stop right there. Stop those negative thoughts. Let me remind you – you DO have a body. An amazing body that recently birthed a human.

It is time again to lament the accessibility and constant influence of social media – and the unnecessary pressure it puts on women in particular. We are basically smacked in the face with transformation photos every day. I know I am guilty of posting a selfie – or 9 – from time to time when I am proud of something I’ve accomplished, and I can understand and definitely relate to any and all feelings you may have about yourself and your body after giving birth. It’s almost a desperate need to regain something that is familiar to you and that you are proud of. Before you embark on a weight loss journey after giving birth, I ask that you take a moment to think about WHY. Why do you need to lose those extra pounds so quickly or feel the need to jump back into training the way you used to?

If your answer is “because I am a professional athlete who needs to make a certain weight class” or “because I am a model who makes a living based on how I look” then by all means, you do what needs to be done in order to achieve that goal. If your answer is “well I saw my friend post photos of herself at 3 months postpartum, and I want to look as good as she does”, I will lovingly tell you that you are not your friend (or whatever random person you compare yourself to on Instagram) so stop focusing on her. Now is the time to create a priorities list. What are the top three things you need to do for the foreseeable future?

May I suggest something like:

  1. Feed the baby
  2. Try to sleep
  3. Take a shower

Keep it simple. Know that things will not always be this way. You are basically in survival mode for the first few months with a newborn. Your priorities will forever be in constant rotation, and you will save yourself a lot of unnecessary stress if you accept that and focus on what you are capable of handling at any given moment/day/week/month. Another thing you will learn is time passes quickly once you have kids. The days may seem long, but the years fly by.

I know the question you are wanting to ask: what about getting back to training? When can I do it? What should I do?

My answer is it depends. Giving birth is quite a traumatic event that your body goes through, and it needs time to recover. Even if you had the easiest birth in the entire history of birthing, I still believe you need to take steps to let your body heal, but those steps may look different for every woman. A few things to be aware of with your new postpartum body are

  • Abdominal separation. This is known as diastasis recti and can be present in varying degrees postpartum. It’s important to have your doctor check your abdominal separation at your follow-up appointment!
  • Relaxin. The effects of that hormone are still present in the postpartum period, and it can take months for your ligaments and joints to return to their original positions and stabilize.
  • Posture. Carrying a baby 24/7 and breastfeeding all have effects on your posture. Your shoulders round forward or your hips shift if you tend to carry him/her on the same side.

When it comes to getting back into a workout routine after having a baby, I will always try to make the case for taking things slow. Your life has just changed in a major way and your body has performed an amazing feat and it could take awhile to settle into a routine and find your new normal. It’s ok to feel lost and not know what you’re doing most of the time…and it’s also ok to feel like you are handling this transition like a rockstar. I will still suggest you wait to begin a training program until you see your doctor at your 6-week check up and get the ok to resume working out. Those first few weeks are an important time for you and your new family to bond and for you to rest and recover. The gym will always be there waiting for you!

In the meantime, there are many things you can do at home to get started on the path back to training. Addressing the three bullet points above with exercises designed to promote closing abdominal separation, simple strength movements to help stabilize loose joints, and gentle stretches to improve posture is a good goal to focus on for six weeks. I recommend avoiding movements that “push” your belly out like sit ups and crunches and also any movements that let your belly “hang” like plank holds. Roll to your side to get out of bed. Practice engaging your deep ab muscles and just holding them tight. At first, 5 seconds might feel extremely difficult but try to add time every day.

If you are looking for a structured training plan, I’ve developed a 14-week program designed to address the unique needs of a postpartum body – physical AND emotional. From a physical standpoint, an early emphasis is placed on restoring core strength and this is something that is continually a focus even as the progression moves into unilateral movements and compound movements in the later weeks of the program. From an emotional standpoint, I want to be there for you to answer questions, support you, and help in any way that I can. I was completely frazzled almost every waking hour as a new mom – and even now it’s probably only a tiny bit less – and the emotions that come with it all can be so intense. I think it helps to have someone say “I’ve been there, it’s normal, you can do this”, and I want to be that person for anyone who needs me. We’re putting the finishing touches on this program it and should be ready for release in a few weeks. If you are interested in learning more about it, contact us!

~ Becky

Coach Thoughts Prior to Wodapalooza

I am laying here in bed on Tuesday evening the 10th as I write this blog. Tomorrow morning, I am getting up at 4:30am to hit the 9 hour drive with one of our TTT coaches Brannen at the wheel, and our massage therapist Tony. Today I discovered I made an error in the scheduling of this week’s blog. I was unprepared to write this, but funnily enough we are always unprepared no matter how much we try to control the chaos. Competitions are no different, and we must be ready to execute when nothing goes according to plan. Neuroticism and a desire to ‘control’ too much generally ends up backfiring. And so, I don’t allow the tension in my emotions to stop me from doing what I know needs to be done for my business. I write these thoughts without a scripted topic.

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New Year of Learning

The more I experience life, the more I realize that life is an opportunity to learn – learn about life itself, learn about love, learn about triumph, learn about reality, learn about yourself, and learn about how ignorant we are to this human experience. I am writing this blog as a reminder to my future self of all the lessons I learned (or re-learned) this past year, and also because I think they could be valuable lessons for most people. I write my blogs using stream of consciousness so this is not an exhaustive list of things I feel I’ve learned this year, but hopefully I will remember 2016 as a pretty transformative year in my life, and am excited to push into 2017 and continue to build momentum for the time life offers me.

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Holiday Blog Break

The holidays are a time for family, friends, reflection, and relaxation. In spirit of the holidays we are going to take a 2 week blog break to allow everyone time to spend with their loved ones and give our coaches a break from content creation. We will pick back up with our regular scheduled blogs on Sunday, January 8th.

Exploring Stress, Relaxation and Recovery

Understanding your autonomic nervous system

Introduction
You are walking down a forest path with your thoughts turned inward. Barely aware of your surroundings you focus on breathing into your entire body and clearing your mind of the stresses of the day. With each breath, you feel yourself sinking deeper into a feeling of calm relaxation. Suddenly, shaking your peace, you hear a rustle in the bushes ahead of you. A small grizzly cub awkwardly pushes its way through the brush and stumbles onto the path. You freeze, and your thoughts start to race…if the baby is right there then the mother has to be nearby. Almost as if your mind is creating your reality, on cue, you hear the muffled grunting of a mother grizzly just ahead of. She bursts on the path ahead of you with a thud and immediately picks up your scent. Clearly feeling the protective instincts honed by millions of years of evolution, the mother rears up onto her hind legs, a towering pillar of fur and muscle. Hundreds of thoughts race through your mind, you are barely able to determine one thought from the next. An instant later the choices before you are clear: hold your ground or make a break for it through the ravine to your left. Fight-or-flight signals course through your nerves and permeate your entire body – your blood vessels dilate, muscles tense for action, and just before you make the first move to tear down into the ravine and flee certain peril, your feel the cool comfort of your bed covers and quickly realize that you’ve been dreaming.

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3 Mistakes I Made as an Athlete

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Several months ago I wrote a blog about three coaching mistakes I have made. As a follow up I wanted to write a similar blog that touched on mistakes I made as an athlete. As I wrote in my previous post, the purpose of this blog is not to simply point out the errors made, but to hopefully help those who are athletes learn from the mistakes I made and not make the same ones in their training journey. Many of the same mistakes I made, I often see my athletes make. It is an interesting process that I find myself in – almost as if I am now the parent raising the child I used to be and all the poor choices that frustrated my parents are coming back on me in a strange, almost twisted, cycle. Now, as I see my own athletes making these mistakes, I want to carefully nudge them back onto the path that will help them become their best self. So athletes, read, learn, and avoid the mistakes I made.

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Being Pregnant – Now Fellas… Hear Me Out

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As soon as you call your family, text your friends, or make a Facebook post announcing you are expecting, it seems like everyone you know will take that as a cue to start giving you advice – everything from what to eat and what books to read to whether or not you should have a natural birth or breastfeed. One of the biggest areas in which everyone has an opinion lately is exercising during pregnancy. In the past, CrossFit™ has posted a few videos of women exercising at various stages of pregnancy, and all you need to do is scroll through the comments section to get a feel for the wide range of reactions viewers have to those posts. In no way do I think it is appropriate for anyone, let alone a complete stranger, to make comments about your body or tell someone what they can and cannot do with their body, but we live in the age of social media, where everyone is an expert and everyone feels the need to share their opinions. I think there has been a positive shift in the last few years towards realizing the benefits of continuing to train during pregnancy; our pregnant bodies aren’t so fragile as we’ve assumed in the past, and exercising throughout your pregnancy not only has benefits for you but for the baby as well. I want to first touch on a few important changes that you may or may not know occur during the first few months of pregnancy and then go into my recommendations for an appropriate training program.

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Breathing For Optimal Performance

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Recently I wrote an article titled, The Blind Men and the Elephant, whose purpose was to open up dialogue and give insight into what we’ve been exploring at Training Think Tank HQ.
This article will be the second, of a four part series, where I continue to shine light on our current paradigm and how our classical ideas about bioenergetics are, well, misguided to say the least. If you’ve yet to check out the aforementioned article I recommend you do so prior to continuing as this piece will be a bit more technical in nature and will build of previously discussed concepts.

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Embrace the chaos

 

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‘Chaos often breeds life, while order breeds habit.’
Henry Adams

I remember reading this quote a long time ago (yes, high school was a long time ago for me, don’t remind Becky or she’ll get depressed), and my initial thought was something like ‘What’s so wrong with order?’. It was probably the future engineer in me peeking through a bit, but I definitely felt even then that structure and routine were important aspects of any ongoing process, let alone life. But it did make me think, what do we miss out on when there is too much order?
Evan did a great job of thoroughly discussing the need for exposure to chaos in his blog post Gaining Strength Through Disorder, and how the fundamental relationship of stress/recovery should be balanced inside of a focused strength program. What I’d like to do with this article is discuss the value of chaos and variability inside of a program designed for an athlete competing in the sport of fitness. While I still find comfort in linear progressions and deliberate practice, I’ve also come a long way in terms of appreciating what a good dose of chaos can do, and I believe that the two can co-exist inside of a design to get the best of both worlds.

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Swim to Win

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I have written about swimming on the Training Think Tank blog before, always in the context of how to become faster and more competitive in the water (CLICK HERE). I think this reflects my personal bias. Having come from a competitive swimming background, I learned to value “performance” in the water rather than appreciating the physical and emotional benefits that the water could offer. I think that characterizing swimming as a training tool which athletes need to master in order to optimize performance in the sport of CrossFit™ misses the true value of what the water can provide. I believe that a large majority of the exercising population and athletes in a variety of sports could benefit tremendously from adding swimming, or at least some form of water-immersion to their training routine. This rings even more true for the “balanced fitness” athlete who is searching for ways to optimize work capacity and health simultaneously. Swimming provides both low impact conditioning tool and one of the few environments devoid from the constant sensory overload we are surrounded with on a daily basis.

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