After pregnancy, better yet after having a c-section, I knew I had work to do with my strength. Enter Kate. Kate is a performance specialist. There are no bicep curls and lat pull down bars involved. It’s 100 percent functionally moving the body the way the body moves. And that means a heavy emphasis on core strength.
I’ve been looking forward to this assessment for weeks. Actually, since the end of our first tests in September! In that time, I’ve cursed Kate, praised her, recommended her and broken up with her. I’ve been an athlete for many years yet she (inflicted) showed me a whole new way to work and hurt. She taught me what it truly means to be strong (and not just fake it!).
Why am I talking about this? Few athletic women have chronicled their journey through pregnancy and even fewer talk about the journey back. Not just getting your body back – getting your strength and fitness back. And I know why – sometimes, it ain’t pretty! It’s painfully slow and at times you are so tired and stressed from being mommy that it’s easier to ignore yourself.
Take my word for it: do not ignore yourself. You – your goals, desires and needs – are worth it.
I started with Kate at 6-weeks after delivery. By then I was back to a full schedule of swim/bike/run. Though I stayed very active during pregnancy (up to 90 minutes a day; swim/bike/run/strength), at that point I knew I had two choices: I could ramp my training back up and hope that my strength followed (chances are it wouldn’t and at some point I would probably get injured from an imbalance or weakness). The other choice was to actively work with someone to rebuild my strength.
And that is how I decided to work with Kate. Sure, spending another hour a week and more money on sport is a big investment that none of us can afford. But I felt like focusing on strength was something I couldn’t not afford. Injury or underperformance is not cheap in terms of time or your head. It was worth it.
During the first strength assessment, Kate started by bringing out the calipers. Trust me, the last thing I wanted to see at 6 weeks post-partum was a measure of my body fat. Yipes! But I needed an honest baseline. Then we moved on to core strength, movement, posture, balance. While I had done a lot of good work on strength when pregnant, that wasn’t going to be enough. There were pieces of my strength missing. I had limited ability to contract my lower core, to hold plank, that is proper plank, side planks, proper push-ups, etc. Notice the word proper. If it wasn’t proper, Kate was there correcting me. As soon as she corrected me, often the test was over. I couldn’t do much with proper form!
16 weeks went by. I worked, sweated, cursed, held a kettelbell above my head while windmilling with fear that it would come crashing down right into my face. Woke up with delayed onset muscle soreness that sometimes lasted 4 days. Knew that of all the workouts I did, my 1 hour with Kate was perhaps the hardest one. She took my weaknesses, threw them right in front on my face and then made me work on them. There were times I almost cried! Why? Because I was trying to correct years of doing things the wrong way.
Change is not easy!
On Monday, the strength testing arrived. I was ready. Since September I know I’ve made gains. Each week I stand in her studio, in front of the mirror, and I see a different me. It’s not the old me but here’s a news flash to all women – after pregnancy your body will never be the same. Not your stomach, your boobs – none of it. Don’t lament over what is lost. Instead, find beauty and strength in what you now have.
First things first, Kate weighed me. Drum roll please....
I’ve lost 7 pounds since early September.
Let’s try that again. Rub my eyes, look at the scale….
I’ve lost SEVEN FREAKIN’ POUNDS since SEPTEMBER!?
But that chick on I Used to Be Fat lost 7 POUNDS IN ONE WEEK!
Truth be told, weight loss after pregnancy is painfully slow. Like I just bonked and found myself with 30 more miles to go so I might as well crawl by way of tongue to get back home.
All joking aside, Kate tells me this is ok because I’ve gained lean muscle and lost *some* body fat (but not much – again, a mathematical enigma that I will not try to solve at this time plus I’m really bad at math and as all my athletes know my abacus has been broken for some time).
The better news is that I have lost nearly 30 pounds since giving birth. That's like losing 3 chihuahuas!
(Chris, was I really that big, and he answers simply with yes)
My posture is better. I’m holding plank 48 seconds longer than before. My side planks are held over 2 minutes longer. I did 10 more push ups with better form. I’ve gained over 2 inches of hamstring flexibility. More body weight rows. And this just in:
I DID 4 REAL PULL UPS!
Last time, I did NONE. Just hung there like dead weight from the handles. Pull ups were the challenge I hated to love. Kate had me doing pull ups from the TRX, from some scary chains hanging from the ceiling all while she held me up. IT WORKED!
Now all of that other progress was nice but I was more interested in this:
The wall sit.
Jennifer Harrison holds the record for wall sit, holding it for a brilliant 7 minute and 11 seconds. Then she declared herself in retirement from doing it again because she had been unchallenged.
I had my eye on this record for weeks (16 weeks to be exact).
I pass my baseline (3:23) and set my sights on 5 minutes. Then 7 minutes. Then I fly by Jennifer’s record. I’m at 7:40. I tell Kate I’ll go until 8:11. At that point Kate said something about Jen coming out of retirement. I may or may not have said then I’m going to make her work for it. I hit 9:00. Kate then ups the ante by saying Katherine Switzer can hold it for 11 minutes and she was a pretty good marathoner. 10 minutes. I can go until 11. I know I can hold it more. My quads are quivering, my butt is on fire and I want to vomit. I hold it until 11:12 and feel like I’ve just ridden 30 minutes at threshold.
A NEW BENCHMARK HAS BEEN SET! I’m like the Roger Bannister of wall sit. I bet in no time someone will hold it for 12 minutes. And maybe it will be Jennifer. But I suppose first she’ll have to come out of retirement.
As soon as she steps away from the birthday cake!
With tests completed, Kate set some new goals for me. I have to hold plank for 7 minutes. And I’m going for 10 pull ups along with a bunch of other things about balance, crossover, glute strength, blah blah but what about wall sit?
As for the wall sit, until challenged, I’m in self-imposed retirement.
In less than 2 weeks, Max will be 6 months old. Aside from a permanently herniated belly button and 5 extra pounds that seem to really REALLY like me, I feel mostly back to me. I am stronger. I am getting fit. There were times when I was pregnant where I thought I would never be fit or strong again. And the 8 weeks after birth – those were the worst. The hormones, the waiting, the still looking pregnant even though you’re not. Learning to accept yourself as you are and trusting that with hard work you can get close to where you used to be is difficult. But as I sit here, feeling fitter, stronger – I’ll say the work is worth it.
Not easy (you will never have the time and will always have 100 excuses waiting) but it’s definitely worth it.
What’s that? You haven’t seen a picture of my little guy lately? Glad you asked.
So worth it!