Lifting weights (and getting my cardio in simultaneously, of course) allowed me to battle fatigue, manage stress, and also prevent excessive weight gain during my first pregnancy (and eventually my second pregnancy as well)…and I could still eat my mini mint chocolate chip Oreo Blizzards without feeling guilty! However, the most important benefit I gained from strength training (up until the day I went into labor- no joke- I was literally walking into the gym when my husband convinced me that we should probably head to the hospital) was the ability to power through the birthing process. Building muscle and maintaining core strength while pregnant prepared my body for the “labor of labor,” so to speak. Within 15 minutes of being told to “push,” my healthy and beautiful daughter, McKenzie Rose, was already in my arms (in our birthing classes, we were told that a typical first pregnancy requires anywhere from 1-3 hours of pushing!) With no complications during the labor or birth, McKenzie and I were both given clean bills of health, and returned home the very next day.
While I had been mentally preparing myself throughout my pregnancy for how my body was going to look and feel post-baby, I never thought that I would walk out of the hospital almost as big as I was when I went in! After gaining 35lbs (which is in the healthy “normal” range), I figured I might have had about ten pounds to work off once all was said and done… The reality was quite different, though because I still looked at least six months pregnant, and left the hospital only about 15lbs lighter than I had been with a full term baby in my belly!
After five weeks of enjoying new mommyhood, I decided that it was about time to get off my butt, and get back in the gym. Luckily breastfeeding had helped me lose about five more pounds, but I still had about 15 left to go. While I was excited to get back to my pre-baby weight, I had quite a full plate already, as I was finishing up my bachelor’s degree, writing an undergraduate honors thesis, and battling the challenges of newborn life (which basically meant that I wasn’t sleeping at all!) My fitness community helped me overcome the obstacle of new mommy time management by allowing me to bring McKenzie along to my workouts, and most of the time she just slept right on through them!
Within 12 weeks, I was back to my pre-baby weight of 140lbs, but I didn’t want to stop there. My trainer of two years and wonderful friend Jennifer (of TAISO Fitness and Nutrition) had been thinking of taking her fitness journey to the next level as well, so we soon began preparing for a low-level bodybuilding (bikini) competition. Since I was still breastfeeding, diet manipulation could only go so far, so I had to pump up my workout regimen by adding some high intensity interval training and steady-state cardio, but mainly stuck with full body heavy lifting circuits.
I felt like I barely had time to blink, and another 12 weeks had passed. By the end of July, I had already graduated from UWT Summa Cum Laude with Global Honors, raised a happy and healthy six month old, and walked on stage in front of hundreds of strangers in a teeny weeny bikini! And it felt good. I felt good.
Back in February of 2011 I was 153lbs, 36% body fat and 30% muscle. By the time I entered the WA NPC Bikini Competition in July, I was 128lbs, 23% body fat and 33% muscle (what this equates to, ladies, is going from a size 9-10 to a size 3-4). Not only did I meet my original goal of getting my pre-baby body back, but I exceeded that goal beyond the realm of what I thought possible. Most importantly, I had laid the foundation of an active and healthy lifestyle that my husband and I continue to build upon, that will become a model for our children in the years to come. My intimate gym community (comprised of both trainers and members) helped provide me with not only the tools I needed in order to arrive at this current juncture in my fitness journey, but also the social and emotional support that was critical to my own personal success. Being surrounded by a network of friends whose goals and lifestyles were similar to my own not only made me feel accountable to something bigger than myself, but gave me the strength to battle through my failures, and the reassurance that I could fulfill my own potential.
My hope is that I can continue forging the path to community health and wellness by providing inspiration, education, and friendship to other women like myself, so that they can also achieve RESULTS that they may have never thought possible.