Monday, 26 June 2017

Fitness Lessons I've Learned From My Kids

I always knew parenthood would be transformative. Everyone tells you that much. I figured I would learn important lessons about love, and patience, and sacrifice, and maybe pick up some survival tactics too ;-) But what I didn't expect to learn about from my kids was fitness! See, children are natural-born athletes - it's completely instinctive, and they haven't yet had the years of social conditioning, illness and injury that adults have to create faulty movement patterns. A child at play is a beautiful thing to behold! Observing them can give us all great insight into the potential of the human body, and how it should be moving in its optimal form. 

Here are just some of the fitness lessons I've learned from my children:

Why walk when you can run? Running feels awesome. Movement feels awesome. Kids don't wait for "running time" to come around - they do it whenever they damn well please (sometimes to the chagrin of the parents) because they just feel like it. We adults are all about that one-hour daily exercise timeslot... I say: if you have the energy and you have the opportunity, just go ahead and release!!!

Variety is the spice of life. Have you ever watched kids play at the playground? Running, jumping, bending, swinging, hanging, pulling, climbing, kicking, crouching, balancing, rolling, spinning, inversions.... they are the ultimate athletes because they do everything! When's the last time you did even half those things?

Strengthen your neck! The very first thing every baby needs to do is learn to support their head. It's fundamental to every movement they learn thereafter. With "text neck" becoming a bigger and bigger issue amongst adults and teens, I think now more than ever we need to go back to basics and strengthen our necks. You can do this by laying facedown with your hands clasped behind your head. Try to lift your head while providing counter-pressure with your hands. Hold for 5 seconds, and release. Repeat 10 times. Don't forget to stretch the front of your neck afterward.

Hang out in Squat. Kids will just get down into a low squat and stay there. They play there. They read there. They rest there. Staying in a low squat like that builds hip mobility, counters the negative physical effects of extended chair sitting, encourages spinal alignment, and relaxes your pelvic floor. Especially if you're a Mom, this one is a must-do.

Be Fearless. Three times now I have had the privilege of observing a baby learning how to crawl then walk. It's both a lightning fast and painstakingly slow process. But from the moment a child decides he or she wants to walk, they go to work. They try it. They fall. They try again. They try and try and fall and fall. They do this dozens of times a day, accumulating to hundreds of attempts over the course of some months, until finally..... STEPS! The pride on their faces is bliss. But the effort and dedication they put forth in the process is truly humbling. Children are fearless. They see what they want and go after it. Relentless pursuit, with little or no regard to what we as adults call "failure". They have every confidence in themselves, as they should. If we as adults attacked every goal with that same fearlessness, imagine what we could accomplish.


Monday, 2 January 2017

I'm Not Back to my Pre-Baby Weight, and That's Awesome!

Today, at 10 weeks postpartum, I have only lost half of the weight I gained during pregnancy. And I. Am. Thrilled! Are you surprised? Surprised to hear that number? Surprised that the person who stayed so active during pregnancy hasn't lost it all already? Don't be! Here's why:

When I was pregnant with our son (baby #1), I was psyched that I had only gained 17lbs; I figured the less I gained, the less I had to lose postpartum, so I was very careful about what and how much I ate during pregnancy. I was also very modest in my workouts, since that was what all the "experts" recommended.  A week after giving birth I weighed 4 lbs less than my pre-baby starting weight, and I was so excited! But the problem was, I now looked VERY different. What gives? I wondered. Well, what I had not accounted for - and what we tend to not address when discussing pregnancy weight gain - was a loss of muscle mass, and a resulting shift in body composition. Although I didn't take any measurements before or after, I would wager that I gained about 2% body fat and lost approximately 6lbs of muscle over the course of my pregnancy.

Let's math that out:
Starting: 131 lbs at 18% body fat = 107.4 lbs lean mass
1 week Postpartum: 127 lbs at 20% body fat = 101.6 lbs lean mass

Pre-baby #1, 131 lbs
1 week postpartum baby #1, 127 lbs

Now maybe that's not a big deal to the average person - in today's society we're so caught up with the scale numbers that body composition has little relevance. Just look at shows like The Biggest Loser! But as a competitive natural figure athlete who had worked very hard for every ounce of that muscle, those 6 lbs were precious! And it would take me months, if not years, to regain it.

When babies #2 and #3 rolled around I decided to do things differently; I ate responsibly, but I did not monitor calories so closely, and I lifted as heavy as I felt comfortable with on any given day (which was usually pretty heavy even by my non-pregnant standards). With this last pregnancy I ended up gaining 22 lbs and 7% body fat. I weigh more today at 10 weeks postpartum than I did four years ago at 1 week PP, even despite a lower starting weight. Yet, I look BETTER! So what gives? Muscle mass, that's what. 

Let's math it out again:
Starting: 119 lbs at 10% body fat = 107.1 lbs lean mass
10 weeks Postpartum: 129 lbs at 16.5% body fat = 107.8 lbs lean mass

Pre-baby #3, 119 lbs

10 weeks postpartum baby #3, 129 lbs
10 weeks pp baby #2, approx 124 lbs

I lost not one ounce of muscle. Heck, I may have even gained a little!

As for the remaining weight (10 lbs of fat): In the past it has taken very strict eating and training to get as lean as I was - something that I've had no interest in doing these past 11 weeks. My body is reflecting that looseness, and that's a good thing! I'm glad I'm not inexplicably shedding pounds, because then I would be losing muscle. And in the world of athletics, especially bodybuilding, muscle is king.

Pregnancy weight gain should never be reduced to simple, one-dimensional scale numbers - there is so much more going on inside than is reflected outside. For an athlete especially, it's important to keep your scope broad and consider how pregnancy is affecting your overall fitness, rather than look at the process through the deceptively narrow lens of weight gain.

Stay strong, Mamas!

1 week postpartum with all 3 kids: 127 lbs, 127 lbs, 129 lbs

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Naya's Birth Story

On October 20th 2016 we welcomed our third child, Naya Jenine Franklin. This is her birth story:

My whole pregnancy Naya had been measuring very small (like, 6 weeks behind, small). Having previously had two other small babies my midwife and I knew that she was likely fine, just constitutionally tiny. But as my due date approached doc became increasingly nervous, and we decided to try a membrane sweep at 39 weeks to see if we could gently encourage baby Panda (get it? Mixed baby? 😛) to come out. Membrane sweeps don’t always work as a means of inducing labour but I knew that there was a chance it would, so the night before my appointment I made sure to fit in one last good workout, had a glass of wine, and got a good night’s sleep.

Anticipating the possibility of labour, I checked my older two into daycare the morning of my appointment (cleaning up spilled Cheerios mid-contraction would NOT be my idea of a fun labour). My appointment was at 10:40am. My midwife performed the membrane sweep, did a vaginal exam (already 3cm dilated!!) and measured my fundal height. I had not gotten any bigger over the last few weeks so she decided to send me for a last-minute ultrasound to make extra extra sure baby was ok in there. My husband and I grabbed a coffee and made our way over to the X-ray department (which is around the corner from the OB clinic. Yay, Naval Hospital!) While we were waiting I started feeling some very mild contractions – it was working! We got our ultrasound then made our way to the L&D deck to get some fetal monitoring. Our midwife met us as the monitoring finished, and told us that although baby measured in the 17th percentile for weight, her head and abdomen both seemed to be measuring below the 5th. She told us that at this point she would be much more comfortable if baby came out so he/she (we were waiting to find out the gender) could start breastfeeding and putting on some weight. It wasn’t so urgent that it required a Cesarean, but it did mean induction.

So hubby went and picked up the kids while I went home and gathered my thoughts. Everyone reconvened at home, had a snack, packed some last-minute things, and we were off again. We dropped the kids off at my friend’s house for a sleepover then went straight to the hospital. We arrived at 3:30 and got settled before meeting our OB.

Unfortunately my midwife wasn’t on-call that night (bummer!) but we did have another wonderful OB check me in and devise a plan with me. I had been having mild contractions all day at this point, so instead of going straight to a medical induction with Pitocin she said she’d perform another membrane sweep and see if that helped speed things along. It did! Within 30 minutes I was getting regular contractions that were increasing in intensity; I was in active labour.  Aside: my doctors encouraged me to eat before I came in and allowed me to snack until 9:30. I know many doctors don’t allow, or at least strongly discourage or even guilt-trip women from eating while in labour, but I have to say - as someone who has done it both ways - having that food in my belly made a HUGE difference in my state of mind and of course my energy, which you need lots of for labour. I would absolutely encourage any woman to speak to her OB/Midwife about eating during labour, and fight for it. Do know that there will likely come a point where the contractions are so intense that if you eat you will throw it up (that happened to me with my first). But in early labour especially it is a sanity-saver. 

I labored naturally from 4:30pm – 9:30pm. It was hard, but not unmanageable. Grey's was on, so that kept me distracted. There was a point, I hope I'll never forget, where I was alone in my room and felt the baby kicking, and I knew at that moment that that was probably the last time I would ever feel a little one moving inside me. I broke down in tears and absorbed every single sensation, then said a special Thank You to God for giving me these four beautiful pregnancy experiences. John came in and I cried on his shoulder. He of all people knows how much I love being pregnant, but cheered me up a little by reminding me that holding our baby soon would be such a wonderful feeling. The next doctor (shift change) checked me at 9pm and I had only dilated an extra 2cm, so he felt at that point that it would be best to start Pitocin. An hour after they started the Pitocin I cried “uncle” and opted for an epidural! Lol Pitocin is no joke. People have said to me “you’re so tough - you probably have a really high pain tolerance”. WRONG! The discomfort I inflict on myself while training (which can be stopped at any time I choose) is VASTLY different from the involuntary, relentless pain you endure during labour. I would never ever subject myself to that on a daily basis.

Another Aside: I have had an epidural for every one of my deliveries. For my first, I had been in labour for 36 hours (at least 20 of those were active) when I was finally admitted to the hospital and given an epidural. Best relief of my LIFE! It was so wonderful that I barely hesitated to do it again with my second. But because I had been medically induced with her and then wasn’t allowed to eat (see note above), the combination of Pitocin, hunger/fatigue intense contractions and epidural turned into a terrible experience and I swore I’d never do both again! Fast forward to my third delivery and everything – from the process of being induced, to my mental state going into the day, to the intake process at the hospital – was SO much better! My husband reassured me that this time would likely be much better than last, given that my body and mind were both feeling so much stronger. And he was right! The pain never fully disappeared, but this time I didn’t really want it to. On a scale of 1-10, my pain was still at about a 5 or 6, and that was fine by me 😊

By the time everything got set up I only ended up having the epidural in for about an hour before I started pushing. My doctor came in to check me around 11:30 and, holy geez, I was 10cm! The baby was right there! He told me to hang tight – NO PUSHING! – while he went and got his things. While we waited the nurses told me they could actually see the baby crowning, and asked if I’d like a mirror to check it out. I’ve never wanted to scar myself with that visual, but for some reason this time I was curious. Maybe because this was our last baby, and I knew this would be my last chance to ever see it. So I looked and….wow… and yep, I could see baby’s head in my hoo-ha. Black hair and all. It almost looked foreign - like an object that’s not meant to be there. But babies really are meant to be there! What a weird, cool moment.

The moment I first laid eyes on her

The doctor came back in and the rest was a whirlwind; while he set up, the nurses got all my limbs in place and within a couple minutes it was time to push. “PUSH! 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10!” Quick breath, and resume pushing. “Ok, ok! Just a little push this time. Easy, easy…. Baby’s out!” You read that right people, two pushes and that was it! The next thing I heard was my husband announce “It’s a girl!” which was not at all a surprise, because we had both had a feeling all along that baby was a she. “We called it!” I said. And then this tiny crying goopy black-haired angel was placed on my chest. They let me hold her for probably 20 minutes before taking her to check her. A little small (5lbs 11oz) but perfectly healthy. We took pictures, we called our parents, and I delivered my placenta. No tearing or stitches (ah, the benefits of delivering a small baby). The epidural wore off nicely and I was up and lumbering around a couple hours later. I started nursing as soon as they finished measuring her  while John went out and got me a celebratory burger and fries (I highly recommend a huge delicious meal post-delivery - no meal will ever taste so good and lord knows you’ve earned it.) Naya slept well most of the night but I was too excited to sleep. The next day went well, and the only issue I had with the whole recovery was a lack of bowel movement for 4 days. Not comfortable, but it ain’t too bad!

Loving siblings meet 

 Our little Naya. The final member of our family, whom we had been waiting our whole lives to meet. I knew I wanted her since before I even met my husband, and it felt so good to finally be holding my third baby. Still does 💖 She was by far and away my best birth experience. Although I had hoped to just go into labour naturally and not be induced at all, I think all things considered it could not have gone any better because, as a friend pointed out, no labour ever goes exactly the way we “plan”. And I think any mother would agree: we will gladly go through ANYTHING, just as long as our precious babies are ok. We are so thrilled to finally have you with us, beautiful baby Naya!  

Sadly, due to two separate cell phone incidents we have very few photos of Naya in her first few weeks of life 😞. Moral of the story: back-up your photos OFTEN!