My Body, Herself

I remember feeling the need to blow off some steam during pregnancy and since soothing myself with a glass of wine was not an option I turned mostly to exercise.  When I was worried about not knowing enough about childbirth or childcare I would turn on a pregnancy or mom-based podcast and run or walk around the neighborhood.  Fear of not being strong enough to get through labor was soothed by strength training.  When I needed to figure out how exactly to move about and get comfortable in my ever changing body I turned to yoga.
Once I learned we were having a daughter I imagined how lovely it would be to teach her how to be comfortable in her own skin since I spent majority of the first three decades of my life uncomfortable in my own. I wanted her to learn to move because it feels good, not because it burns calories. I looked forward to teaching her about nourishing and taking care of her body because it took me so long to be able to do that for myself.
I’ll admit I started down the path of exercise and nutrition not because I wanted to be healthier but because I wanted to be skinnier. Growing up as a dancer with short legs and a naturally curvy body I was never the skinniest girl in the room. In college I envied the handful of girls in my program who were able to maintain a slim physique while eating burgers and drinking beer. I found it easiest to maintain a weight I could live with by existing on microwaved egg whites, saltines, lots of coffee, and consuming Splenda like it was its own food group. I went to the gym every day not because I enjoyed how it felt but because I wanted to look good in a leotard. Weight loss was the main goal, stress relief and strength building were just consolation prizes. Life continued much in the same way when I moved to New York after college but somewhere along the way I had a paradigm shift. I began focusing on exercising to be strong and healthy rather than skinny. I began eating in ways that gave me energy and nourished my body rather than starved it. This continued in Chicago as I dove further into my career in the fitness industry and in many ways still continues today.
When I became pregnant the worry that I wouldn’t be able to handle the physical changes that came along with it was always in the back of my mind. What worried me most was the loss of control. No matter how healthy I ate or how much activity I performed my weight would still be on an upward trend for nine months. At the beginning of the first trimester I read a book called “Does this Pregnancy Make Me Look Fat” to come to terms with these changes but after a while I became less concerned about my weight. The awe for what was happening inside my body took over and knowing that I was nourishing my growing daughter with every bite I took made eating more satisfying (at least after the first trimester when most things made me want to throw up). My appreciation for what exercise could accomplish grew once weight loss was completely taken out of the equation. It became another way of taking care of and connecting with my daughter and also offered a release when stress got the best of me.
In yoga the asanas exist to burn off energy and make the body strong and flexible so one can sit comfortably in meditation for longer periods of time. In a larger sense movement of any kind allows us to burn off stress and tension to be able to sit more comfortably with whatever is going on. Never have I experienced this more strongly than in the weeks since Eve’s death. The particular pain of a losing a baby has left me with an astonishing variety of emotions to work through, burn off, and eventually learn to sit with. My fight or flight response has been so strong and constant that without exercise I think I would internally combust and turn into a giant puddle of cortisol. My relationship with my body has become infinitely more complex. On one hand I am amazed at its ability to grow a baby and bounce back from a strange and painful labor and delivery process. On the other hand I am angry because the umbilical cord that my body created to lovingly nourish my daughter and give her life killed her in the end. The illusion I had of complete control over this body I inhabit has increasingly diminished. The most I can hope for is to be at peace with it.
At first I thought it an unbelievably cruel twist of fate to be left with a postpartum body and no baby. Was it punishment for the years I spent obsessing over every calorie and movement of the scale? Though I still find it difficult I now view it as a challenge instead of a punishment. It is the ultimate test of being comfortable in my own skin. It is forcing me to relinquish control. It is exactly what I wanted to teach Eve had she been able to inhabit her body outside of the space of my womb. It is what she is now teaching me instead.
When we returned home from the hospital, amidst all the painful planning that involved funeral homes and cemeteries and in the ultimate act of love, my husband found time to plan an anniversary trip to the island where we honeymooned. It was a strange juxtaposition, my postpartum body against the Caribbean beach, but as I glanced down at my belly I was surprised to find the usual shame was replaced by a strange sense of pride. My not yet faded vena cava was like a sign reading “Eve Was Here” and for that moment I was at peace with my imperfections.
I think about who Eve would have grown up to be every single day. I look to the memory of her little body for clues. There are so few things I know…she had a lot of curly dark hair, was on the bigger side and tall for infant standards, and had exceptionally large feet. Would she have wished for her dark curly hair to be straight and blonde? Would she have preferred to be shorter or have a smaller shoe size? I hope she would have seen herself through the eyes of her mom and dad; a perfect, heart-achingly beautiful little girl. I wish I could have had the chance to teach her how to love her body but the roles have been reversed. Every deep yogic breath, every delicious stretch, every powerful leap and bound is infused with the essence of Eve. This body I inhabit was her home and out of respect for her I will take care of it, aching empty arms and all.

Run, Laura, Run

Seven weeks ago today I delivered Eve.  It was the first and last time I held my daughter and the most physically and emotionally challenging day of my life.  It has surprised me in the weeks since how much my emotions have had an effect on my body and vice versa.  I’ve always believed that the mind-body connection is strong but wasn’t sure if it would somehow be severed during the recent upheaval that has brought me to this current place in my life. The fact that I have found movement to be healing at a time when there is so much healing to do is comforting. It is good to know that what I have preached for so long still holds true when so many other beliefs have been severely altered.
During the first week after delivery I started with some gentle stretching and short walks which quickly turned into full yoga practices and long walks. Soon after I returned to running.
Though I run just about every day I have never really considered myself a runner. I rarely keep track of speed or distance and more often than not don’t really know where I am going to run to when I step out the door.
I used to worry if running was doing more harm than good. I’ve done the research and am well aware of the risks of constant repetitive impact on muscles and joints. I’m in the middle of reading “Born to Run” in which the author studies why some people can run safely while others are destined for injury. After weighing the risks I’ve come to the conclusion to acknowledge the risks and do it anyway.
The release I get from running trumps concern about potential injury right now. After my first run postpartum I told my husband I might just “Forrest Gump” it and run until I couldn’t anymore. All of the separate emotions that make up the larger entity of my grief fuel this desire to run. Fueled by anger my run is fast and furious. Out of despair it is slow and steady, complimented by sad music and sunglasses to camouflage the tears. Sometimes they are short, other times they are long. Sometimes I go with my dog, other times I go alone. When I am running I don’t have to make small talk with the neighborhood moms wearing their infants in a baby bjorn or pushing them in a stroller. I can speed up to a sprint when passing the playground where I’ll never get to push my little girl in a swing. When I am out running the clouds part for a bit and upon returning home the present seems more bearable and the future less daunting. What I’ve found most healing about running or any type of movement is that it makes me feel alive when most of the time I feel like a large part of me has died along with Eve.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in the past seven weeks is that being careful only gets you so far. At one point I was sure that if I went above and beyond to have the healthiest pregnancy possible everything would turn out well in the end when in reality there were still many factors beyond my control. As much as running may be risky for my joints it is therapy for my mind and like Forrest Gump if my body says it’s time to turn around and go home I will do just that. For now I will keep on running and though I will never be pushing Eve in the jogging stroller we had purchased for her arrival I’ll forever be holding her in my heart.

A Tribute to Eve

As I lie here in my hospital bed several hours from being discharged with the hard knowledge I will be leaving here having gone through labor but will not be bringing home a baby I wonder what the next 24 hours, or for that matter all my days here on out, will bring. I started out the year 2013 pregnant, miscarried early on with my first, and after a D and E and one cycle got pregnant again with my second. As I mentioned in my last post this second pregnancy has been almost flawless. I kept working, teaching, and training until less than a week before my due date. I stayed strong and relieved stress by practicing yoga each day, strength training many days a week, and going on daily run/walks to keep my endurance up. Although I went past my due date I felt strong up until the very end. Unfortunately the end looked very different from what I had imagined.

On New Year’s Eve I was 40 weeks and two days pregnant and my husband and I celebrated the day by running some last-minute errands for the nursery and making last-minute preparations. My husband made my favorite half spinach pesto half spinach sauce and cheese pizza with a whole wheat crust (our newly nicknamed “Christmas Pizza”) and the baby went wild for it inside my belly as I ate. We joked about her Herculean strength and about how the pizza would surely induce labor later that evening.

The next morning started out like any other, I took my dog out for a run/walk. After breakfast we all cuddled on the couch for the Rose Bowl parade and I noticed the baby seemed quiet. I prodded my belly for a bit and did feel slight movement. I thought she might be engaging her head in the birth canal and ready to come out since at our last appointment the nurse assured us movement would slow with time.

A few hours later I was still concerned so my husband encouraged me to call the emergency obgyn number to get in touch with a doctor. I did and the doctor recommended lying still and drinking something with glucose. If we felt any movement within that hour we could relax. I did this and felt a few small kicks. Though still less than usual movement was movement and we could wait and see if things picked up. I took a warm bath and did some prenatal yoga to calm myself down hoping this would relax me enough to go into labor and meet my baby girl that night.

After no movement during dinner we tried the rest and glucose test again and felt nothing. At this point I called the doctor again and he told me to come to the hospital to get hooked up to a fetal monitor.

Shaking, I anxiously got in the car and my husband drove me over. We were taken to a triage room and they checked the baby for a heartbeat. For the first time since that fateful day during our first pregnancy the nurse couldn’t pick one up. Different nurses came with different devices but none worked. The doctor was called in to make the final and terminal announcement: there was no longer a heartbeat to be found, our baby was dead.

I was totally in shock as we discussed what needed to be done. For some reason I had assumed there was a way to quickly and surgically remove the baby. This is typically not the case, it became clear that to avoid unsafe complications I needed to go into labor soon and birth my daughter vaginally.

I began the medical induction process late that night and was hooked up to an IV. I spent that night awake even though the nurses worked on easing pain and inducing sleep with morphine.

Family from both sides arrived the next day as the labor process continued. The forced labor advanced and contractions became more intense. Food was out of the question during the process as I vomited out whatever was put in me. A saving grace to get me through these harder contractions were yoga poses. The handful I tried with the help of my husband allowed me to get some release and I was thankful that daily practice made them possible even when my body was not working optimally. The breathing I had been practicing certainly came in handy for handling the pain throughout.

Over the next night the real contractions began and I could tell labor was progressing faster. Again, yoga poses and breath got me through the toughest part and even helped me to hold still when receiving the epidural.

As labor further progressed there was the slow realization that as the induction medication was being increased the pain relief medication was not working. My husband helped me through many painful hours of constant contracting with barely a break. It was at this time I became most grateful for the strength in my upper body. With the epidural numbing me in some areas but not the ones that saved me from feeling the intense medically induced contractions my arms were essential in changing positions which helped get me through this difficult period of labor. Thankfully it was agreed the epidural needed to be reset and afterwards things got much more bearable and labor progressed as it should have.

The final stage made me so grateful that I had kept up with my strength, endurance, and flexibility training. All three were needed for the final pushing phase. Though my body was tired from days of medically forced labor, no sleep, a fever of 103, and no food save for many cups of ice with water and Gatorade, I was able to gather all my strength to finish what needed to be done. It took 30 minutes or so of pushing to get my 8lb 8oz 23 inch long little girl into the world. The mental toughness from my endurance training allowed me to push knowing that there would be no happy ending on the other side, the breathing and relaxation techniques I learned in yoga helped me to work efficiently within the moment, and the strength I had in my abdominals and legs made each push more productive and the whole process faster. I attribute flexibility for not needing a single stitch postpartum, even after Eve’s shoulders got stuck.

My daughter Eve looked healthy, strong, and beautiful in her “sleeping” state. As I held her sobbing I wished more than anything that my actions during pregnancy could have had more control over a favorable outcome. The doctors have assured me that there was nothing more I could have done to prevent this senseless tragedy. Like any mother in my situation I am finding it extremely hard to not blame myself for what happened. The most I can hope for is that little Eve enjoyed her time inside me, the bonding we did each evening doing prenatal yoga in the nursery, the long walks and jogs where she got to react to the sounds of Dee our family dog, the classes I taught where she danced to the music along with me, and the quiet times we meditated together imagining what her life would be like once she was here. Never did I imagine what happened but what mother could?

I’ve learned the hard truth that a fit pregnancy does not guarantee a perfect outcome in the end. It can however keep you strong to deal with whatever changes come your way, both the good and the bad. I thought I’d need strength to have the ability to bounce back physically in order to take the best care of my baby and get back to my job. As it turns out I will need more strength than I ever thought possible when I am released today and in the days ahead and though I am heartbroken down to my core I am grateful for having the coping mechanisms I do to deal with things in a healthy way.

I hope Eve knew how much her mommy loved her and tried her best to keep her happy, healthy, and safe during the short time she was here. She’ll be in my heart forever and always, a humbling reminder that even though a healthy lifestyle will not make us invincible or immune to life’s tragedies it is helpful for giving us the strength to get through them, however long that road may be.

40 Weeks of Fitness

This blog has been dormant for some time.   Preparations for imagebaby and maternity leave have left me with little time to write which explains this post today, December 29th, my due date. The feeling I have today kind of reminds me of a Saturday spent rushing around preparing for dinner guests. You spend the day cooking and cleaning, hop in the shower, and have just enough time to dry your hair before their E.T.A. Just as you hurry downstairs ready to greet them you receive a call that they are running behind and won’t be arriving for another hour. Suddenly you have all this time you didn’t expect to have and it is both freeing and disconcerting at the same time. That is how I feel today except my little dinner guest probably won’t be arriving in an hour, the only food she’ll require is my breast milk, and instead of spending the extra time rearranging a tray of hors d’oeuvres I’m writing a new post.

Months ago I expressed my desire to have a “fit pregnancy”. I am happy to report that through a mixture of perseverance and good luck I think I’ve done it. It’s been 40 weeks and I am still running, lifting weights, practicing yoga, and feeling pretty decent overall for a big ol’ pregnant lady.

I’d been teaching fitness classes and training clients in much the same capacity until I started maternity leave on Wednesday and am pleased to report that all 7 doctors and the one nurse/midwife I’ve seen have been very happy with my progress and the progress of my yet to be born little girl. I am hoping all the hard work pays off in labor but if not it’s definitely paid off in pregnancy. I’ve spent way too much time looking at blog posts of active pregnant women for ideas on how to maintain fitness during pregnancy so on the off chance you stumble across this post while scouring the internet for inspiration here are some things I did to help me survive (and sometimes even thrive) during the past 9 months:

-Surf (the internet):  The ability to google any pregnancy related question that pops into your head is both a blessing and a curse.  However, on those mornings when I doubted myself and wondered if it’s really safe to run or stand on my head being x amount of weeks along doing a little internet research and finding numerous studies regarding the benefits of exercise during pregnancy helped calm my fears.  (Of course I also checked with my doctor at every appointment to obtain their blessing to continue with my desired level of activity.)

-Multitask:  There are numerous podcasts available on the topic of pregnancy and motherhood and best of all they are free!  Putting a few on my Ipod or phone to listen to while going on a run or walk proved much more enjoyable and beneficial than hunkering down on the couch with What to Expect When Your Expecting.  If there is a specific book you are interested in consider downloading an audio version so you can get a workout in and gain some knowledge at the same time.

-Submit to your inner stalker: There are many blogs out there devoted to the topic of having a healthy pregnancy and many bloggers that post week to week updates documenting their exercise, diet, pictures of their bump, and other interesting tidbits of their journey. Though this “blogger” spent much more time reading than writing this pregnancy I tip my hat to those ladies who put themselves out there for the rest of us. Google “fit pregnancy blog” followed by your current week whenever you want to get some inspiration and fulfill your social media stalker tendencies. I did this at least once a day (well, maybe actually multiple times a day….)

-Find a new release: You can’t counteract the stresses of working during pregnancy at happy hour (at least without garnering a lot of unwanted attention from bar patrons and co-workers) so why not explore a new form of release through yoga and meditation? You’ll feel better physically, learn some breathing exercises you can take with you into the delivery room, and relieve stress to benefit both you and baby. I’ve been retreating to the nursery (formerly my yoga room) whenever I feel the crankiness of pregnancy hormones, am looking to alleviate some pregnancy discomfort, have trouble sleeping, or find myself worrying about labor and beyond. Basically I’ve spent the majority of the last 9 months in the nursery doing yoga and meditating……

-Don’t be afraid to kick some ass (if you are feeling it): Every pregnancy is different but personally I needed a little Yang to go along with my Yin. I love long walks, yoga, and meditation but still felt like keeping up with some more intense forms of exercise in the form of heavy lifting, interval training, and running. That said I firmly believe in listening to your body. After getting the go ahead from your doctor only you can decide what feels right and if you can’t quite decipher what you body is trying to tell you consult a fitness professional.

I would go on but this little girl in my stomach is telling me to get up and move. In my experience one of the biggest benefits to maintaining an active pregnancy is that you grow your very own little personal trainer inside your body. This little one won’t let me be lazy for very long and shows her discontent with a few swift kicks to the ribs and forceful punches to the bladder. I am curious to see if this trend continues after her debut but until then I am off to celebrate this due date with a nice long (and hopefully labor inducing?!?!) walk. Wish me luck!

The Fabulous Truth About Fat

Remember when fat-free=healthy?  Unless you were living under a rock throughout the 90′s you probably recall the popularity of fat-free Snackwell’s cookies, fat-free Entenmann’s cakes, and fat free Kraft cheese singles.  Once under the assumption that fat would make us fat most Americans shunned it in the name of health and fitness.  Nowadays we realize that fat is an important component of a healthy diet and not only fine in moderation but necessary for overall wellness, as long as we are consuming the unsaturated kind.  Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats do the body a world of good, some of which starts before we even leave the womb!  Healthy fats are vital for brain and retinal development particularly in the third trimester.  Throughout the rest of life they help us absorb essential vitamins that promote nervous system health and reduce our risk of heart disease.  The easiest way to consume healthy fat is by eating fatty fish but for those of you who are not fish-fans fear not.  The following are some unlikely foods that will help you reach your daily allowance:

-Chia Seeds: Chia seeds contain nearly 5,000 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids per ounce, making them one of the most concentrated sources.  Though more research needs to be done on their benefits it is becoming clear that they are a worthy addition to a healthy diet.  You can read more about Chia here.

-Spinach: Thanks to Popeye, we’ve all know since the age of four that spinach is a healthy food.  What you might not know is that it is a good source of omega-3.  Spinach, along with its close cousins kale and collard greens, contain about 100 milligrams in each half cup serving.

-Tofu: With its health halo this hippie food and vegetarian staple is another food most of us would label as healthy but did you know it was a source of omega-3.?   Research has shown that soy isoflavones and proteins lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol, making it beneficial for reducing heart disease risk.

And should you be looking to replace your Snackwell’s or Entemann’s dessert:

Make some healthy oatmeal cookies!  Oatmeal has been shown helpful in lowering LDL levels.

Indulge in some dark chocolate!  Dark chocolate has been shown to boost HDL levels.

Or combine oatmeal and dark chocolate with this recipe for maximum benefit.

And if you get nostalgic for the 90′s do your body a favor and bust a move to this song rather than reverting back to your fat-free ways.

 

Humble Pie: The New Superfood

About a month ago my husband and I attended the wedding of a a couple of friends.  It was a beautiful summer day at a ranchImage high up in the mountains of Colorado.  We had started out in Denver and had been enjoying exploring the city, tasting healthy food, running, hiking, practicing yoga, and (pregnant, sober) bar-hopping.  Being over a month into my second trimester I was especially enjoying a resurgence of energy and feeling pretty much like myself again aside from my Buddha-esque profile.  As we drove two hours into the mountains to the wedding destination I was looking forward to celebrating the marriage of my husband’s best friend and being a part of the classy New York Time’s covered event.  After a lovely ceremony the time came for cocktail hour.  We chatted with friends as my husband sipped his bourbon and I my water.  As I boasted relayed to another guest how wonderful I’d been feeling despite being pregnant my eyes started to gray out and moments later I crashed to the ground, narrowly avoiding the metal heat lamp behind me.  I came to surrounded by three nurses, my very concerned husband, and about 98 other wedding guests.  Needless to say I was mortified and more than a little freaked out.  As I hid in my hotel room I was comforted by the movement I felt in my belly, especially since my husband was able to feel it for the first time.  It was good to have some reassurance that things were ok in there despite recent events.

One thing I’ve learned about health and fitness in general is that although it does wonders for your confidence, it’s best to check your ego at the door.  Though I never pegged myself as a “fainter” I for sure would thought if such a thing were to happen I’d be squatting with a heavy barbell on my back, not standing with a glass of water in my hand.  Go figure.  As much as I hate to admit it, humbling experiences are not only beneficial but crucial to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  The following are some positives to remember when you experience one on your fitness path:

-They remind us to be mindful of our body: encountering an accident or injury often shifts focus internally, forcing us to become more aware of our deeper physical state.  It’s easy in fitness to get caught up in external goals (lifting heavier, running faster, still being able to kick ass with a baby in your belly) but not always as easy to recognize what’s driving us internally to accomplish these things.  No one ever embarks on a fitness plan in an attempt to feel worse but if we are not in tune with what’s going on internally that might be the end result.  Look at an injury or accident as a wake up call, a chance to refine your skills and accomplish your goals in a healthier and more productive way.

-They reignite our desire to keep continue with our goals: the upside of being an underdog once in a while is the desire to come back even stronger, and who doesn’t love a good comeback story?

-They make us better teachers: the tough thing about never encountering a setback is that you don’t know how to help others to overcome them.  Humbling experiences make us more compassionate and helpful human beings.

-They make us more resilient: The more times you fall down the better you become at getting back up.  Sooner or later falling down doesn’t phase you any more because you realize it is just part of the process.

-They make for good stories: If nothing else you can use your humbling experience to entertain friends at a dinner party or as material for a blog post…..

Enjoy the days when a great workout makes you feel on top of the world but when something happens that stops you in your tracks remember: A.) Failing is good for your health and B.) Humble pie is part of a healthy diet.

The Glass Woman

I found out I was pregnant for the first time right before New Year’s.  On New Year’s Day  my husband and I went to the book store and bought What to Expect While Your Expecting and a few other literary gems.  I spent the day pouring over these books and after a few hours was amazed at how many things could go wrong.  Consequently, I wondered if the best course of action might be to stay on that couch surrounded by pillows for the next 9 months to keep anything from jeopardizing the pregnancy.  Since my job requires constant motion this was a precarious situation.  I grew nervous about my own exercise routine as well as the classes I needed to teach that week.  Would I cook the embryo by raising my body temperature or shake it loose by standing on my head?  Did my run that morning already dislodge it?  A need for control and the fear of doing something wrong was overriding my professional knowledge, common sense, and intuition.  It took losing the first pregnancy after being extremely careful to realize that no matter what actions I take there are many forces beyond my control.  It is unlikely to lose a pregnancy by moving the wrong way.  Flash forward 6 months later to 23 weeks into my second pregnancy and I am pretty much keeping to my normal routine with a few modifications.  This time around I let listening to my body and good common sense guide me and (knock on wood) both the baby and I are healthy and right on track.  Here is what I’ve learned first hand about exercise and pregnancy so far:

1.) Do it!: Even on the days I felt pretty gross during the first trimester a little movement went a long way.  It was one of the few things that made me feel human again (that and TONS of sleep).

2.) First trimester=green light for activity: You can’t “shake the baby loose” “squish it” or in other words harm the baby with a reasonable amount exercise.  Most pregnant women aren’t up to killing it at the gym during this time but if you feel well enough to keep moving through your normal routine don’t feel like you have to downshift right away.  Rest when you need it , check in with your body more frequently, but don’t stop completely unless it’s a medical recommendation.

3.) Your body will tell you when it’s time to modify: I’ve learned this one the hard way a few times and lived to tell the story.  Your body will tell you when something doesn’t feel right.  There may come a point when you physically cannot lie face down on your stomach or exercising on your back starts making you feel faint.  You will eventually need to change the way you move to accommodate your changing body.  Your body will let you know when that time comes.

4.) Train in the second trimester for the third: Though you may not be training for the Olympics you are indeed training for one of the greatest endurance events of all time: giving birth!  Look at the second trimester as a chance to get prepared for it.  Strengthening your entire body while you have the energy and ability during the second trimester will only help when things get tougher in the third.

If you need further motivation check out this article.  You may want to print it out the next time you are working out and some ill-informed individual asks if you “really should be doing that”.   Yes, you really should.

My Toughest Client

From the time I moved out on my own I’ve wanted to adopt a dog.  Living a fairly IMAG0840transient life in New York and then Chicago made accomplishing this difficult.  After marrying my husband we agreed we were settled down enough to add another member to the family so a month after the wedding we began looking for a dog.  After several outings we found a boxer-shepherd mix pit bull at the pound and named her Dee.  As a puppy Dee was super high energy and a bit nuts so we subscribed to the dog whisperer philosophy of wearing her out until she was too tired to be anything but calm and well-behaved.  When she became a pro at leash walking I decided it was time to start taking her with me on runs.  As a high energy girl I figured this would be right up her alley, as it turns out I was very wrong.  2 minutes in Dee was trailing behind, 3 minutes in she had pulled over to someone’s yard and was lying on her side.  There is no physical explanation for Dee’s lack of enthusiasm for running.  She is 50 lbs of pure muscle and could win a figure competition by a landslide if there were such a thing for dogs.  For a while I gave up and let her sleep in while I ran my morning loop solo, picking her up upon my return to go for a walk.  After a while I got tired of wasting time I decided to think like a trainer.  What would I do to help a client work up to a steady-state run?  Thus began Dee’s physical training.  Though I initially wanted to jump right in to running, I took a step backward and started with run/walking since Dee is more of a sprinter than a marathoner.  I also played upon her motivation, taking our run first thing in the morning after realizing that Dee was more apt to push through a workout when breakfast was waiting for her afterwards.  Since getting Dee out in the morning involves picking her up off the couch, standing her on her four legs, and then nudging her out the door I initially felt guilty force-marching through this process.  However, upon our return she comes in tail wagging, relaxed, happy,  and clearly proud of what she’s accomplished.  I realized just like any reluctant client Dee might hem and haw initially but overall what we were doing was right for her overall well-being.  We’ve been at this for a while now and though I still have to peel her up off the couch every morning the whole process is becoming easier for both of us.  We’ve even gotten my husband to join us on the weekends (though the process for getting him up is very similar to what I go through with Dee…).  The moral of the story?  We all need some encouragement and if you can relate to Dee go ahead and find yourself a workout buddy.  This person should:

A.) Have the patience to take time to get you were you need to be

B.) Know how to effectively motivate you to get the job done

c.) Have the strength to “peel you off the couch” knowing that you’ll be grateful they did it afterward

Word on the street is there are some dogs who actually wake their owners up to go outside…I’ll believe it when I see it.

Rebirth of a Blog

It’s been almost 9 months since my last blog post.  I could have had a baby in that time, instead I’ve been knocked up twice.  The bad news is the first one didn’t work out.  The good news is the second one did.  As I write this I am almost at the half way point and feeling like a human again, a human with a bigger belly and an unusual penchant for papaya but a human nonetheless.  I have been spending way to much time googling all things pregnancy and while reading about the myriad of problems I could potentially face hasn’t been all that helpful I’ve found that reading pregnancy stories written by other women has.  I am especially interested in the seemingly elusive but hopefully attainable “fit pregnancy”.  What exactly does it look like or feel like? What can I do to keep me and my baby happy and healthy?

I am hoping to find some answers and maybe help some other haplessly googling pregnant ladies find some too.

I’ll go into more depth in my latter posts (which hopefully won’t take another 9 months to write) but for now a word on the first trimester:

The first trimester sucks, especially when you have two in a row.  Things that helped without fail for me:

Exercise: Since my job requires me to teach fitness classes and demonstrate exercises the majority of the day I found this one out by default.   When I would sit down after teaching a class I would feel as if I could never get up again, when I had to get up for my next personal training client I felt better.  When I would get home after work and fall onto the couch I would feel like I could never get up again.  When I finally got up and went for a walk I felt better.

Exercise seemed to help ease the nausea and give me more energy.  I usually start my day with exercise as I find it prepares me for the day ahead and have found this especially true during pregnancy.  I practice yoga and walk or run every day and let my schedule and body dictate aside from that.  As I have become more confident in this pregnancy I’ve been able to bring my cardio and strength training back to almost pre-pregnancy levels.  My mantra has been if it feels good keep doing it, a happy mama makes a happy baby.  (This only holds true for exercise, although I wish it worked with other things, like wine tasting…..)

Sleep: Work hard, sleep hard has been my pregnancy motto.  During the first trimester I remained very active but fell asleep during Jeopardy most nights (and sometimes during Wheel of Fortune).  One blessing of the first trimester is that falling asleep comes easy.  I felt less symptomatic on the days I slept more.

Eat: Eating was definitely tougher during the first trimester.  I had strong aversions to most of what my diet had previously consisted of.  I had the stereotypical  cravings for bland food and comforting carbs.  One day after work I went to Whole Foods to pick up the healthiest version of whatever sounded good at the time.  I came home with sprouted grain bagels, whole grain cereal, nut butter, and lots of fresh fruit.  Whole wheat pasta with butter and cheese was another favorite.  Basically I ate like a picky 4-year-old for a while.  I had a theory that having a baby in your body makes you revert back to your childhood tastes, thankfully the second trimester has proved this to be false.

If you are pregnant you can take this with a grain of salt.  Every pregnancy is different and what works for one person may not work so well for another. Maybe this post will inspire you to try going for a walk next time you are in the throes of pregnancy induced nausea.  Maybe you will end up feeling better.  Maybe you will end up puking in the bushes, if so, listen to your body and get back to the couch, ain’t nobody got time for that.

Are You Afraid of the Gym?

Halloween is a day synonymous with fear.  It’s the one day a year when instead of putting aside our fears we are expected to revel in them.  Going to a haunted house might make you shudder a bit but how about stepping into the gym?  Do the musclebound men grunting their way to perfection make you queasy?  Do the mats that may or may not have ever been sanitized gross you out more than the gratuitous violence in a low-budget horror film?  Are you worried about looking more idiotic than the guy at your Halloween office party dressed as Little Bo Peep?  If any of these things ring true to you, adhere to the following tips to make your trip to the gym a little less spooky:

1.) No one’s looking at you, kid:  When feeling self conscious during your workout try to remember that most of the other gym-goers are in the same boat.  People are likely more interested in getting through their workout quickly, efficiently, and sans any embarrassing fumbles than in how many pounds you are loading on to the squat rack.  Though it sometimes may feel that way, working out is not a competition and those who think that it is are usually too busy ogling themselves in the  mirror to notice your conservative weight choice on the lat pull down.

2.) Be a big fish in a small pond: Though there are plenty of beautiful, well run “big box” gyms if you are new to exercise, smaller is usually better.  Smaller, boutique style gyms where everybody knows your name will be easier to navigate and are usually equipped with at least a few professionals who are there to do just that.  Rather than being lost in a crowd wondering what that trapezoidal contraption in the corner is supposed to do for your body you will easily be able to find someone to explain it to you.  No matter what your ego says, a little hand holding never hurt anyone and is especially important to prevent injury if you are new to the gym.

3.) Be the change you want to see in the gym: Concerned about the cleanliness of gym equipment?  Try wiping down machines before and after you use them.  Laying a towel down on the bench or mat prior to use is also helpful in creating a barrier between you and germs.  Also remember you do get what you pay for when it comes to working out.  Fancy-schmancy gyms usually have more money in the budget to higher cleaning staff and trainers who are paid well tend to care more about the state of the gym they work for than those who are not.  If you do go the budget-friendly route just make sure you are religious about your sanitizing.  Set a good example and others might just follow your lead.

I hope this makes your gym experience a little less frightening,

Happy Halloween!