When I was pregnant with my second baby I spent less time fantasizing about holding my baby than I did dreaming about doing a kipping pullup. I had just gotten into the best shape of my life, able to wear dresses without Spanx and do 20-inch box jumps, when I became pregnant with my daughter. The pregnancy was purposeful and the resulting baby was beautiful. But the 50+ pounds and time away from proper workouts had taken an enormous toll on my body.
I continued my CrossFit workouts until less than a week before my labor was induced. I scaled and modified and eventually did nothing but rowing and push presses. But I imagined that working out with the extra baggage would make me so strong that I’d be able to walk into the gym six-weeks postpartum and do my first unassisted pull-up. I was so very, very wrong.
Did you know that giving birth literally sucks the life out of you? I don’t just mean the horrific few weeks of soreness, bleeding, breastfeeding, and sleeplessness that follows. I mean the strength is completely sucked from your body. I like to believe my daughter simply absorbed my strength, immediately holding her head up and rolling over at one month old. She zapped out all of my energy and left me a weak, saggy blob. She is lucky she is very cute.
I was fortunate to have a pretty easy delivery and I was going for mile jogs just two weeks after I had the baby. 35 pounds had dropped right off and I was ready to lose the remaining 15. Slow and steady I began to work from a 12-minute-mile back up to my more usual 9.5 minutes.
At four weeks postpartum I felt ready to hit the gym – just take it slow and play with a few simple exercises. I headed for the pull-up bar and pulled out the red band. Then the blue band. Then the big fat green band I used at my very first workout. I could just about eek out three pull-ups. I headed for the rings and tried to jump up and support myself. Not even close. I couldn’t understand how my arms had gotten so weak so quickly. It was devastating.
Determined I returned to the gym as often as my crazy schedule would allow. I gradually began doing the directed workouts and simply scaling to lower weights and less reps as needed. Soon I was two months postpartum and feeling a bit stronger. But those 15 pounds on the scale would not budge.
What was going on? I wasn’t eating crazy. I mean, I have a penchant for eating too much granola but I wasn’t going out for ice cream or ordering pizza every night. I was also breastfeeding which is meant to burn 500 calories per day. In addition to CrossFit I was also being forced by the Omron Pedometer blogging challenge to walk 10,000 steps per day, which was far more difficult than I expected. How was I working so hard and still looking 3 months pregnant? After I had my son I lost 50 pounds in 3 months and I was barely exercising. What could the celebrities possibly be doing that I wasn’t?
Everyone says it takes time – even nine months to lose what it took nine months to gain. But I am not a patient person. And this was not just about vanity. It was about strength and regaining the athleticism I had only discovered in between having my children. I had become addicted to surpassing my own fitness goals and I desperately wanted that back.
At nine weeks postpartum I was able to support my weight on the rings for the first time since my first trimester. I was so excited I shrieked and the trainers looked at me like I was insane. At 10 weeks postpartum I recovered the courage to jump up on the 20-inch box. One time. And it felt terrifying. I started using lighter bands for pull-ups, but was still nowhere near where I once was. I eventually started to PR (personal record) on my lifts again. And the scale started to move, at a snail’s pace, ounce by ounce.
It is still going slow. And I fear the “hanging shelf” where my stomach once was is permanent. But I will keep working and moving. And must remember it is OK to have a piece of cake. I’ve certainly earned it.