Lumbering Along: A Postpartum Fitness Report

Saturday I ran three miles for the first time since the twins were born. The first time since early in my first trimester, actually. (I was still running when I got pregnant and only quit because I had both a small subchorionic hematoma and a huge post-ovulation ovarian cyst, so the doctors advised me not to exercise.) It felt both more difficult than I imagined and more satisfying to be back running what used to be an easy base/maintenance run for me.

When I started getting active again after the twins, I focused on some transverse abdominal work to help rehab my core (thanks to the always helpful advice of my friend Kathleen of Oh Baby!, who is a fitness expert — check out their videos if you want some great prenatal & postpartum fitness tips). Then I started walking. After a while, I threw in a block or so of running here and there, and damn, y’all, it felt SO WEIRD. My core still felt really weak, like there were no muscles there at all. My hip flexors felt weak and sore and otherwise just not right, to the extent that it felt difficult to lift my legs up. I felt like I was just flopping around out there. I also was so intensely focused on engaging my pelvic floor and transverse abs that I had to concentrate really, really hard. It felt a million miles away from the effortless, easy running I (felt I) had earned after years of work. Bodies, man.

Since those first awkward, floppy blocks, I slowly built back my time and distance. I started the Couch-to-5K running program as a way of giving myself some easy interval work. This program is a proven success as far as I’m concerned — it’s how I got running again in my early 30s after a long hiatus from health and fitness. I figured it surely could help now. The first four weeks of the program were great, but once I got to the point of doing run intervals of 3-5 minutes, I figured I was ready to take the reins myself. I started running straight 5:1 intervals around my very, very hilly neighborhood loop, which turned out to be a little over 2 miles total. Once I felt comfortable with that, I went to 10:1 intervals and then started dropping the one-minute walks as I felt ready. That got me up to 2 miles of straight running. Then I started adding distance: 2.5 miles, then 3. And here we are!

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On days when I don’t run, I might do a long stroller walk with the babies. Pushing a double stroller for 3 miles in my hilly neighborhood is a much tougher workout than you’d imagine — and it’s a good way to coax them into the afternoon nap they usually like to resist.

I’ve also been doing some barre3 online workouts, which I just love. So far I’ve only been doing the 30-minute videos, but I hope to work up to 40 or even 60 soon enough. These are great for me to do at home when the babies are napping (whenever I am so lucky!) and sometimes I can even manage it if they’re happily sitting in the swing & bouncy seat. I love that barre3 also has tons of 10 minute videos to work into my day if I can only get a little bit of time. It’s easy to just roll out the yoga mat and go — I don’t even need to change clothes, as leggings and a nursing tank are perfect for this workout. Bonus: two of the women in the postpartum “bounce back” workout are moms of twins — one woman’s twins were only 3 months old at the time of filming. If she can do it, so can I.

Afternoon Calisthenics
What’s this? An off-topic photo of the twins I am including purely on the basis of showing you them doing their daily workout? Guilty.

So fitness is going well — difficult but rewarding. It always feels great to get out there and get moving. Weight loss, however, is not happening. In fact, I have gained back 10 of the pounds I initially had lost, so that feels shitty. I’m now 35lbs above my pre-pregnancy weight, exactly where I was at my 5-weeks-postpartum checkup. Apparently this is a normal thing, though. The body wants to save energy for making milk, hormones are out of whack, what have you.

Nursing and pumping make me extremely hungry — there’s never a time during the day that I don’t feel hungry, even during night-time feedings. It’s torture. So I’m eating a lot, whenever I can. My meals are generally pretty healthy, and I do try to include healthy snacks, but I also still have this unshakeable sweet tooth leftover from pregnancy. I just want to stuff myself with sweets 24/7. Doughnuts, cookies, pie, candy, cake — you name it; I’m eating it. I have eaten two mini Twix bars while typing this paragraph. I’ll probably eat 6-8 more today. I bought a 2-pound bag of Swedish Fish on Friday and it’s half gone. It’s ugly.

I think part of it is the craving from pregnancy that turned into a habit and now I’m addicted to sugar. I think another part of it is that eating sweets during the day, especially when I’m home alone with the twins and busting my ass to get through the day, feels like a way of treating my self. TREAT YO SELF, I say, reaching for the fifth cookie of the day, you survived another rough nap time/synchronized crying meltdown/messy diaper/projectile spit-up. I also don’t often get the time for a lot of self care or, hell, even basic needs. I don’t get to shower every day, for example. I often forget to brush my teeth. I don’t get time for leisurely trips to the bathroom to take care of, ahem, business. But it only takes two seconds to stuff my face with sugar, so I guess I’m doing THAT instead. Yikes.

So anyway. I don’t plan to try cutting calories deliberately until E&L are at least 6 months old. I assume that cutting calories will cause at least some dip in my milk supply, and I’d like to keep providing as much milk as I can for the first 6 months. After that, I’ll reevaluate. Right now, I am planning on trying to tackle the sweets issue. Once these bags of candy are gone, I’ll refrain from buying more. I’ll try to stick to food with “good” calories as opposed to “empty” ones (with the exception of wine/beer because like hell I am giving up my nightly glass right now). I’ll still eat as much as I want, but just not as much candy as I want. The Twix might be gone by tomorrow. I still have a pound of Swedish Fish left, though, so that should last me until at least…Wednesday. After that time, be prepared to hear my bitter, candy-free wail ringing through the air. You heard it here first.

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