“I’ve always been fairly into fitness. It started when I was a young girl. My little sister and I used to watch our mom work out to a morning program called the twenty minute workout, featuring women, looking effortlessly beautiful and hardly breaking a sweat. It looked easy. And pretty. And I wanted to be like those women. So, when I say that I was always “fairly into” fitness, I mean that I had a certain fascination with the idea of being fit that never actually equated to making a habit of a fitness lifestyle. My teenage years were dotted with month-long spurts of inspiration-fueled, obsessive exercising, which were always inevitably followed by months of burning out and rewarding myself for my previous great effort with a barrage of junk food.
“The pattern of on-again off-again fitness infatuation that started in my youth carried over into my adulthood. The result was that I was always just fit enough, but never actually met my fitness goals. When I got pregnant for the first time, I have to admit that staying fit was not even a consideration of mine. I bought into the old clichés that pregnancy was an excuse to “take it easy” and “eat for two.” I assumed that I’d just bounce back – that somehow I’d be extra motivated to get into a real workout routine after I gave birth. Talk about false security. The responsibility of caring for my first child was such an adjustment that working out became little more than an occasional daydream. It wasn’t that I didn’t have time to work out, because I honestly believe that we make time for the things that are important to us, no matter how much we have going on. It was more like my lifelong paradigm (of doing just enough and at only the times when I was super-inspired to do it) was no longer working for me, and I had no frame of reference for a better way of doing things. It took a while for me to figure out that I wasn’t going to just fall into a post-pregnancy fitness plan – that I actually had to be proactive about getting in shape and staying that way. Six months later, I was back into my pre-pregnancy jeans, and determined to make a habit of thinking about fitness in a new way – as a lifestyle rather than a quick fix.
“I carried this new mindset into my second pregnancy, and it made all the difference in the world. I literally wore my pre-pregnancy jeans to my two-day old, newborn son’s doctor’s appointment. No kidding. I do believe it’s possible for anyone to bounce back after a pregnancy, considering they are dedicated to making the necessary lifestyle changes (and the circumstances of their pregnancy allow for it). I want to share a few things that I learned about pregnancy, parenting, and staying fit:
“If you could do it before you were pregnant, you can try doing it while you’re pregnant. This is what my doctor told me when I asked him about working out during my second pregnancy, and his words really stuck with me. Of course, he pointed out, there are common-sense things that should be avoided during pregnancy: laying flat on your stomach, straining your pelvic muscles, jumping on a pogo stick . . . you get the picture. Basically, if you were physically fit before you got pregnant, then continuing your workout routine during pregnancy, with some slight adjustments, is not only possible, but highly recommended. Just listen to your body. It will tell you when enough is enough.
“Pregnancy is an opportunity to get in the best shape of your life. At least, that’s where I found myself after giving birth to my second child. Why? Well, imagine carrying a thirty-five pound weight with you throughout all of your workouts. That’s what pregnancy is, and it does wonders for your muscle tone.
“You don’t have to schedule a trip to the gym in order to get a good workout post-pregnancy. I got into the habit of what I called a “Mommy and Me” workout routine that included some heavy-duty playtime with the kids (I’m talking sweat-inducing acrobatics that had the little ones squealing with delight), coop-style cleanup time to dance music, and hour-long sight-seeing stroller rides/power walks in the afternoon.
“Eat well and eat often. After my first child was born, I found that I’d get so caught up in day to day tasks that I’d sometimes forget to eat breakfast or lunch. I just felt so scatter-brained that I didn’t make time to make meals, and a great majority of my food came from quick grabs like potato chips, doughnuts, muffins, etc. Not good. My solution for that, the second time around, was to keep the house stocked with healthy snacks. I also started cooking twice as much as needed for dinner and storing the leftovers in single portion-sized, microwaveable storage containers, which was a great way to get back in the habit of eating a healthy lunch. Adding better eating habits to my fitness regime gave me the physical and mental energy boosts I needed to maintain it.
“My second son turns six in a few months, and I still wear the same size clothes I did in high school. I can say, without reservation, that I attribute that to my appreciation for a health and fitness-conscious lifestyle – a mindset that was triggered by my pregnancies. Some women think that getting pregnant means the end of body confidence but, for me, it was only the beginning, and I know it can be for any woman who puts her mind to it. So, for all of you expectant mothers out there, I’d like to say congratulations and welcome to a new world, not only that of being a parent, but of self-discovery.”
Holly Lane is a freelance writer and single mother of two, who enjoys writing about health and fitness, parenting, and the joys and perils of a multi-tasking lifestyle. She spends her free time cooking, reading, working out and playing with her kids, and is studying to be a certified ultrasound technician.