Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Worth It

On Monday, I had my strength re-testing with Kate.

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….


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.

That slow.

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)

Moving on.

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:


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!


Anonymous said...

SE-VEN MIN-UTES! SE-VEN MIN-UTES! Congrats again on your success at your re-test this week! I am further committed to coaching athletes' to better functional fitness when I see a phenom athlete like yourself, already doing amazing training with amazing success, find gains amongst the planks, TRX, and BOSU insanity I program design for you! Now go do a plank. properly. -Kate

cherelli said...

Love this post....11min wall-sit - that is utterly insane! Nicely done on making all that work WORK. it's inspiring.

Anonymous said...

This is totally inspiring, thanks for posting!! Nice work! Makes me realize I haven't been working hard enough in the gym to improve my strength. Just doubled my scheduled gym time tomorrow a.m. :-)

Beth said...

Love it!! The wall sit deathmatch between you and Jen!! :) You CRUSHED that old standard. Just as I'm sure you will crush many more. Great work Liz!

RJR said...

You have a rather large Chihuahua.

TriGirl Kate O said...

Oh, hooray for new Max pictures! I'm in love all over again.

I need a Kate...

Adrienne said...

Thank you for posting this. I am due next week and trying to decide what to do to see if it is even possible for me to run Boston in April. I have been contemplating crossfit to help my body get strong again, and reading this, it does appear that I need strength training and not just running.

E.L.F. said...

Joe - you calling my dog fat? Boss is about 10.2 pounds right now. In his defense, we call it his winter weight. He'll be back to dog park racing weight by spring.

Jennifer Harrison said...

OK OK gang..I am OUT of retirement now. I was getting here I come!!!

I love Elizabeth like a sister, but at the end of the day, i like to win too.

So, I will beat that 11.12 record. Because 7:xx was not that hard. So, I am going to do that - I was in retirement - now at 40, I can kick ass too. After I stop eating cake!

And, Elizabeth can keep chasing the pull ups...because I can do 4 with one arm.

And, I have graduated from the plank - and now am in trx Elizabeth, this gal is not going anywhere....I know you wish I would. But, I love you too much.

And Max and your dog too.

PS you know I think this is all awesome!!! LOVE IT.

GoBigGreen said...

Ok now that i know it was YOU and not #4 that did the 11 minute wall sit i am even more impressed. And when Jen is lollygagging at camp i am going to remind her she had better be doing repeats back and forth in front of me up Lemmon to get ready for the rematch.

Kim said...

ohhh i love the $hit talk between you and jen! :) max is way too cute for words!

LZ said...

Congrats on all your successes! Love the post and your little guy is just adorable! Keep up all the hard work. You definitely have inspired me to do some more strength work.

Shan said...

SO INSPIRING! Nice work!

I've just recently gotten back to training after a year+ hiatus (and am working with JHC now actually), and this really inspired me to go GET IT!

You rock!

Anonymous said...

Your blog is hysterical and refreshing...I love it! Kudos to you on the wall sit. I'm impressed!

Regina said...

I felt like you were talking to me. I was not a triathlete before getting pregnant, but I was very athletic: playing soccer three times a week, a black belt in karate and spending 5 days at the gym strength training. I looked and felt great when I found out I was pregnant....but I was 37. I kept working out until about the last three weeks of my pregnancy when I felt like my pelvic floor was going to land around my feet.

I had a C section as well. At 6 weeks I was still really sore. The first six months were hell for me. It took me four years to finally lose the weight (ok, maybe it didn't HAVE to take me THAT long, but it did). Here, enter triathlon. Still, the weight didn't budge until I got a coach. I finally made it to my pre preggo weight, but as you say, your body is not the same as it was. No matter, I am happy and fitter than I have ever been. That said, despite the fact that i am strength training, I may need to up the ante.

Thanks for the inspiration.

RJR said...

"Fat"? Not as far as you know. I was merely pointing out that you have a 10.2lb Chihuahua. Understood about the winter weight - I can see how it would be easy for him to gain a few lbs (or double his weight)...

Haley Cooper-Scott said...

Wall sits, planks, whatever. That is one frigginly adorable baby!

trish said...

Love this..pregnant with number three right now and can vividly remember all the feelings you are describing getting back into shape after the last two, but I did it and will do it again. I will also stop asking my trainer the point of all the core work we continue to do (since it's just going to be fat)...guess I will be better for it later!