Exercise:  What Works for Me When Working Out

*Keep in mind that I am NOT a doctor or health care professional.  If you have health concerns, please find a caring, compassionate, competent medical professional!!  Especially in cases of starting a work out program or diet, and ESPECIALLY when doing either while pregnant!!

What a huge, and relative, subject. 

If you're already in shape, these might give you a new way to work it out.  If you're aiming towards that, good for you :) 

I find that I feel best when I stay active in general:  things like not sitting a lot during the day, parking as far away from a destination as possible, and then layering in various indoor and outdoor exercises.

Keep in mind that "You can't out-exercise a bad diet," (Mark Hyman).

Picture a long, thin balloon--like the ones they make balloon animals out of.  If you squeeze one end, the other blows up.  If you squeeze the middle, the ends blow up.  This is how I view the relationship between diet and supplements, exercise, sleep, spiritual and emotional health.  The goal is to strengthen the balloon, not blow up or squeeze any one spot.  Everything in moderation!

I find it way easier to ramp up my workouts if I have a specific timeline goal...such as a trip to Hawaii, or (more fitting right now) the impending birth of my third baby followed within a few weeks by my husband's deployment homecoming followed within three months by a trip to Hawaii ;)

God help me.  But, if you know me, you know I love challenges.  Well, I've hit the motherlode.  I'm sincerely hoping the "challenge" thing will be out of my system after this...okay maybe just ONE tough mudder race!

My FAVORITE ways to work out--chosen because of results and pure enjoyment:

  • Trail running.  There is something about beasting it up a gorgeous trail and being immediately rewarded with a fantastic view.  Plus, my rule of thumb (whether in nature or on the dread-mill) is always to push my hardest when going uphill, and take the short, flat or downhills at a slower pace.
  • Anything in the ocean:  swimming, surfing, kayaking, etc.  Sun, sand, salt water, and sweating??  SIGN ME UP BECAUSE I'M DOWN.  Also, I suck at surfing, but still love it!
  • Simple, at home weights and calisthenics.  I've had a simple workout routine that I "designed" back in high school when winters were too cold to workout outside and I was too broke to afford a gym membership.  I've tweaked it over the years, but it's largely the same.  It involves all major body parts, and I change the intensity up on various days (focus on arms one day, legs the next, core, etc...then make it more challenging with heavier weights or more of a cardio thing with less weight but more reps).  It works for me. 
  • I'm a huge martial arts fan, love it as a workout and a safety thing.  Haven't participated in since college, but had to add it in here.
  • Cycling.  Haven't ridden more than around the block since having kids, but the very SECOND I can absorb the cost of a Madsen bike, IT WILL BE MINE and that problem will disappear.

I don't now, nor have I ever considered things like squatting to pick up legos or chasing children a workout.  I totally understand if you do, and I don't mean disrespect.  Believe me, after picking up my sons' legos while pregnant, I can definitely feel the burn!  But for me, working out is also about having the mental space dedicated to doing something specific, for the sole purpose of benefiting my body.  I think the intention behind it is important, but I'll take the thigh burn lego squat too :) 

A Note on Pregnancy/Postpartum Workouts:

Pure exhaustion and the fact that I was struggling to make it through my at-home routine was one of the first indications that I was pregnant this time around.  So I lowered my standards to allow for my body to use the energy it needed for baby-growing rather than working out.  I'm well into my second trimester now, so I'm starting to go back to the routine I used when I got pregnant--with the blessings of my midwives. 

I'm sure most people know, but pretty quickly after becoming pregnant, hormone levels change in your body and can cause all sorts of issues when working out.  In particular, relaxin causes muscles and ligaments to loosen, and if you're not careful, you can cause serious damage to yourself with the simplest of miscalculations. 

For example:  When I was about 7.5 months along with my first pregnancy, I had to fly across the US to get a new license (long story).  I've always been strong, and I'm tall, so tossing my own luggage up into the overhead bin is not something I thought about.  No worries.

After landing though, I stood to retrieve it, and noticed that someone had shoved my bag a bit behind my seat.  Really, no big deal.  Except when I reached up to grab it, I had to torque my body back a bit, and basically ended up dislodging the cartilage at the joint where your pelvic bones meet.  HOLY COW, OUCH.

I went to a chiropractor ASAP, and was told that, until I delivered and the relaxin level calmed down, I wouldn't be able to get it totally back in place.  So ALL of my prenatal workouts came to a screeching halt, and I'm fairly sure that my lack of stamina was part of what added to my over 33 (miserable) hours in active labor when the time came.

Lesson learned.  To this day, if I put too much pressure on my hip flexors, I can throw that joint out a bit.  SO not worth it.  I didn't even think about it, my suitcase wasn't heavy, and it didn't occur to me to just ask for help (which is another issue entirely). 

Also, it will take a while for your body to calm down after birthing a baby.  Relaxin hangs out for a while, and you need to be careful to stabilize both your pelvic floor and core until the muscles, tendons, etc., go back to or find their new normal.  Diastasis recti (stomach muscle separation) and various prolapses (when organs such as the uterus, bladder, and/or rectum aren't supported and sort of "fall" into space where they don't belong) can be very common issues that can require some therapy to regain control.

We've all seen pictures of the crossfitter who worked out, birthed her baby, and worked out.  The rule of thumb is that if you're doing it when you get pregnant and you can continue, do so.  You're your own best judge.  But starting new exercise programs or diets are best left until at least 6 weeks after birth, and after clearance from a medical professional.

I am working on filming my at home exercises for anyone to see.  I love watching workout videos, because I glean so much information from it, so I figured why not share mine in case it helps someone else, right?  I'm kinda past the point where I care if people make fun of me.  It's not for them ;)

I think following your own intuition is by far the best way to maximize the effectiveness of your workouts (and diet, supplements,...life).  I'm by no means a perfectionist (I would snap a pic of my dresser right now to prove it but I think my three year old is playing pacman on my phone). 

I tend to go in waves with things (including working on this site).  I might jog every other night for three weeks, then not again for three months.  I used to beat myself up for it, until I realized that it might be like that because that's what my body (and mind) needed for those three weeks.  And again, beating yourself up physically (like forcing workouts) or mentally doesn't serve you at all.  Remember, everything in moderation!!

There is a lovely theory set out by the lovely Leonie Dawson called "riding ze wild donkey".  It relates ideas (and for me, my need to DO SOMETHING) to a wild donkey showing up at your doorstep, begging to be ridden, and your job is to pull up your big girl panties and jump on, ride it out, then release it back into the wild.  It's very evocative, but fits a lot of how I end up doing things, including working out.  It's also a ton of fun--even just to talk about.

Want to make sure you have the energy for your workouts?  Here's my diet, supplementation info!

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