Workout Wednesday: Yoga and Kettlebells.

My fit pregnancy came to an end on Valentine’s Day, and I’m making the transition now to fit momma. Not yet though, I’m enjoying lots of baby snuggles and some time off from my day job right now. But I’ll get there…

If you’ve been following my journey, and reading my posts, you know that I got a lot of negativity about keeping my healthy and fit lifestyle on track during my pregnancy. Fortunately, I found and connected with an amazing group of women (some of them pregnant themselves) on Instagram, that most likely, unknowingly to them, gave me amazing support on my journey. Some of the women I connected with through ambassadorships with Sweat Pink and Strong Figure. Others I found because of their mutual love of picking up heavy things and putting them down.

Because of them, sticking with it was easier.

In the weeks before having my little hairy bundle of joy, I started cutting back on strength training and focused a lot more on yoga. I’m a horrible yogi, even after 13 years of it almost, but I do my best.

The Take The Leap Challenge I took part in was great. I became more focused on my yoga, and because I did, even with that giant belly of mine, I started becoming a better yogi. And I was getting myself stretched out and loose, just when I needed it the most. Towards the end of my pregnancy, I started feeling super tight, and that belly made moving in certain directions very awkward.wpid-photogrid_1424717872724.jpg

The challenge, in which I had to take pictures of poses each day, also opened my eyes to my own image. Seeing the photos of me in the various poses I would post, shed a completely different light on how I was viewing my body during pregnancy. I never had a negative self image during the nearly 38-weeks I was pregnant, but I never truly realized how beautiful pregnancy was, on me. Maybe it was the lighting in my dining room, or maybe it was the camera on my phone…

The days approaching “The Big Day”, I also took on another challenge. This one started because one day, during a work-from-home day, I was frustrated with technology, which was failing me in a bad way that day. Instead of taking a baseball bat to everything, I grabbed some kettlebells and did some swings, and some goblet squats. By the end of the day, I had done 300 of each.

A few weeks before, I had read something a friend posted on Facebook about the 1000 kettlebell swing challenge. The idea bloomed that day out of determination. I wanted to do 1000 of each, the swing and the squat, in five days. 1500 if I was feeling super ambitious, felt well enough, and was able. I let my friend know what I was doing, she jumped on it, and it became something we were doing together and wrangling our friends and clients to do as well.

By Thursday of that week, I’d had my tally at 1100. And I stopped there. That evening is when the ball was set into motion, Baby Rebel was getting ready to come. Thus, that’s why I call the challenge my Water Breaker.

My belly is shrinking, my incision is better to the point where it’s like it’s not even there anymore… I feel great. But at the same time, I know that now is my time to leave the weights on the floor, let that yoga mat stay rolled up in the corner and just enjoy my time with my family right now.

A Baby Story

What a few weeks this month of February has been. It was, to start, just another month, the countdown to baby was on… Then chaos set in.

On the 12th, because of baby size and health factors of mine, a c-section was officially decided on. The date was set for the following Tuesday. Just a few short days away. Notice, yes, but short notice. After my appointment, I let my bosses know that the following day would be my last before starting maternity leave.

By the end of the day Thursday, things started happening. My husband and I began to make jokes about the baby coming before he could be unwillingly evicted.

Friday morning brought on a false alarm. I had thought that my water had broken, but a check by one of my doctors gave me the comfort that no, that had not happened, and I was not dilated yet. Back to work I went. But something wasn’t feeling quite right. My lower back was suddenly throbbing in a way it never did, even during a flare. Added to that, my lower abdomen was cramping up. After finishing work, I came home and set to the weekend-before-baby-comes deep clean. The kitchen and living room were done by the evening hours, so the head start I’d wanted was off to a good start.

By Saturday morning, I started trying to wrap my head around the fact it was highly possible that baby was coming sooner, rather than later. My back was in horrid pain, and the cramps were elevated. To top it off, a blizzard was moving in. My child was determined to come his own way, and not anyone else’s – and in a snowstorm.

Around 1:30 that afternoon, I had the dawning realization after running errands and hitting the lab to have my type and blood count screen for my surgery done, these cramps were contractions. And they were 20-minutes apart.

I called my mother to let her know it was a big possibility that she’d be a grandmother again before that day was over. I shot off a text to my older sister telling her that this baby was determined enough, it was looking like he just might be a Valentine’s Day baby.

The doctor said at 5 p.m. that night, once the contractions were 3-4 minutes apart and lasted 90 seconds, to head into the hospital. Despite knowing my chart said c-section even if baby did decide to come earlier, and that by 6 that night, my contractions were literally one on top of the other, I rode it out a little longer. Let my husband shower and shave. Had him do the vacuuming upstairs I hadn’t been able to tackle yet that day. Maybe baby was getting his crazy stubborn streak from mommy too…

I set to work going through our refrigerator, grabbing all of the recently purchased produce and putting everything in food saver bags so that nothing would spoil. I didn’t know how long we would be gone for and we had just done grocery shopping the evening before. By 7:30, my dog was dropped off at my older sister’s house and we were at the hospital. My water had broken on the way over, so regardless of the c-section, I was still to be put on antibiotics because I had tested for Group B Strep. And just before 9 p.m. that night, I knew I was going to be getting, along with my husband, the best Valentine’s Day gift ever.

Being numb from just above the belly, down, is a feeling I do not care to ever experience again. That warming feeling shot down my left side first, then my right. I could no longer feel the contractions – or my baby moving around inside (which did, honestly make me panic a little at first). The last feeling I had amongst the tingle as everything went numb, was the awkward position they put my legs in for the surgery. So naturally, that’s how, even when they were straightened after everything was over, they felt they still were.

Now, the only surgery I have ever had was tubes in my ears as a baby. This would be my first surgery and it was a major one at that. Despite being one heck of a strong woman, I do pass out and I do occasionally puke. I warned the anesthesiologist of this, so that he and the surrounding nurses would be prepared. It wasn’t really the feeling faint that I experienced, shockingly enough, it was the nausea (which I was assured was totally normal, and given something to help ease it some). Focusing on not throwing up actually made it easier to distract from the fact I was about to be cut open.

I feel fortunate that, not only was I able to have my husband there with me, but my mother was able to suit up and come in as well. My husband, who is pretty tall, was able to see over the curtain and watched the entire procedure. Partly fascinated by it and the amazing job the doctor did. Partly concerned. Just days before when the c-section had been scheduled, he had told me that all he wanted for Valentine’s Day was for both the baby and I to be okay. And that over everything, he was scared something would happen to me.

My mother made a comment about hair, and two seconds later, I heard my baby cry. After years of trying, years of battling infertility, years of feeling like I’d never get a chance to be a mom… I had a baby. A baby with a full head of hair, long fingers, and as I’d already figured out – long skinny feet.wpid-img_20150223_205143.jpg

At 9:36 on the night of Valentine’s Day, my 8-pound, 1-ounce, 20-inch long baby boy came into the world.

After the pediatrician checked him, and declared him to be a very healthy baby, he was given to me to hold. The first thing I did was smell him. Something my mother had told me to do earlier in the week. It’s a smell that I can still, a little over a week later, smell. My baby boy was beautiful, and I can say that the love I felt rush through me and fill my heart the second I touched him, is like none that I have ever experienced before. He had my whole heart wrapped around just one tiny finger.

I’m not the only one either. My husband, who is perhaps one of the most manliest of men (my dad probably being the most manly man that I know), has turned into a puddle over this tiny little guy. He can’t get enough of him, and I can’t get enough watching them. Watching him with our son just makes my heart explode more.

So here we are, on his official due date, only a little bit of the way through this new adventure. It has been amazing, and I know it will continue to be that way.

Living, learning, growing.

In life, I have set out to always do my thing. I can’t really say blaze my own path, because, well, let’s face it, there’s always a lot of other people trying to blaze that path or who are already walking it.

I have just wanted to stay true to myself. If I don’t like it, I don’t. You can criticize me all you want, try to pressure me into changing my mind, but you will fail. And on the other page, if I like it, I like it. You can laugh, poke fun, criticize (it’s funny how you can be criticized at both ends, isn’t it?), and I’m not going to change my mind.

I’ve never cared if I stood out from the crowd that I’m in. I’ve never cared if I was different from them. Blending or fitting in has never been something that has been a priority of mine. I’ve always felt in doing so, I’d be losing who I was. I’d be giving up my identity. And that has NEVER been okay. It’s something I fully plan on instilling in my child. Never give up your identity, who you are at your core, to fit in.

I am unique to a point. But there are others out there like me. I know, because I have met them. And I continue to meet more of them in my journey (social media can be a great connection tool).

However, the majority that surround me, are the opposite. Some, still love me for all that I am. Some still appreciate me and stand by me. Most are sugar when I’m there, but salt when I’m not.

You know the saying that momma tells you: If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all? My child is going to be taught the golden: If you’re going to talk smack, be insulting, rude, crude, or say anything negative at all (that you do not intend to say to the person face who it’s about), don’t do it with people around who will take what you said back to said person.

My entire life, I’ve have friends and semi-friends disclose information that others have said about me. I’m too loud. I’m too boisterous. I don’t fit in. I don’t party enough. I don’t drink. I’m too responsible, don’t invite me anywhere. I work out too much. I’m trying to prove something. I’m trying to be someone I’m not. The list goes on. I’ve heard it all. So much that nothing shocks me anymore.

And my adult life, has been far from different.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had a few people text, message me, call me… about things members of a few groups I’m involved with, have said about me. Everything from horrible things about my pregnancy, to nipping at me in the face about my fitness/healthy living lifestyle.

Back when I was younger, I would have gone on the defensive. I would have tried to defend myself, gone to these people and tried to set them straight. Make them see me for who I was, and tell them they were misunderstanding me. But, over the past decade, I stopped doing that. They see what they see, and I’ve done all I can to show them who I am, and if they still can’t see that, if they still misunderstand — that’s on THEM, not me. I have done nothing wrong, other than stay true to myself and be who I am, who I want to be and who I always will be.

When it all comes down to that finish line, I want to be able to look back and feel happy that I did what I could to always improve myself, to be happy, to be comfortable in my skin, to love the road that I traveled despite any downs, dips and turns. So far, I’m doing pretty damn good at it. Contentment is a wonderful thing. Life is beautiful when it’s a part of it.

Never look back and wish you could change something. Once in awhile I find myself wishing I could have gone back to my younger years with the outlook I have today on the negativity that has been thrown around mostly behind my back, but I know that it would be a bad idea, because I had to experience it the way I did, handle it the way I did, in order to learn and grow.

And by learning and growing, I am steady. I am happy. I am in love.

By learning and growing (and all those shoulder exercises, shrugs, etc because I just want to be Queen Fitness or a fitness queen and that’s all I want in life), I have found the road that has led me to an open heart, a place of peace, a place where I can be who and what I am without a care in the world.

If you’re not growing and learning, you’ll never move forward. And that’s absolutely no way to live. Stuck in the mud.

Manic Monday?

Apparently, to think that I’d get a little time to myself to just chill out, de-stress and get ready for the arrival of Baby Rebel… was like asking for that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Or for Dunkin Donuts to start delivering.

At 37-weeks, things are still just as full steam ahead as they’ve always been. I’m still out straight, running around and tending to 50-million different things at once. The only problem is: I’m still prepping for baby arrival.

Which is why I spent an entire weekend prepping and putting together 16 freezer meals so I can continue to eat healthy for that first stretch after he arrives. Another entire weekend was spent finally getting my husband to do what I’ve been asking him to do for two years now – clean out the sunroom so we have more storage (it was all his junk and 99% of it should have never been brought back in after the remodel, but a different story for another blog…). Now that that has all been done, I get to breathe a little and rest. Right?

Wrong.

So close to due date, winter has finally decided to arrive in New England. Since that storm that hit us the first week of November, we have had a fairly easy winter. Some spits of snow, a run of cold weather, fluxing temps… Then Snowmageddon arrived and set it all off. Snow doesn’t shut the state down, or keep me housebound by any means, but it does complicate things to an extent. Which, at this stage of pregnancy, is just annoying.

However, aside from all of that, I’m still going strong (and I have taken the time to pamper myself a little by getting my hair “spruced” up for impending mommyhood). My workouts are still good and leave me feeling good. Baby is still dropping more and more, and growing. My only relief from the discomfort and pain has been the steady workouts and yoga. I have found myself over the past few weeks doing more yoga than strength training. Stretching those sore, tender spots.

Which is probably good, because I got tagged to join in on a yoga challenge for this month from fellow Sweat Pinker, at She-Mom Fit. The challenge runs from Feb. 2 through March 8, and I plan to do my best to stick with it as long as I can. To get the challenge going, I was asked to fill out a yoga mad-lib (I used to LOVE those back in the day!).

When I think about yoga, the first thought that comes to mind is control. Yoga relaxes (verb) me and makes me feel peaceful.wpid-photogrid_1422914160677.jpg

That’s why I am SO excited to participate in prAna’s Take The Leap 30 days of Yoga Challenge with Sweat Pink. I plan to stretch my way to a more flexible and balanced 2015!

For me, the biggest challenge when it comes to yoga is my lack of flexibility. Taking the Leap with prAna and Sweat Pink is a great way for me to de-stress each day and prepare my body and mind for the birth of my baby.

My favorite place to yoga is my dining (noun) because it is so convenient. Here’s a photo of me in my very best Prenatal chair pose.

(Here’s some info on the challenge:

Join prAna’s & Sweat Pink’s #TakeTheLeap 30 Days of Yoga Challenge and be eligible for a chance to win $500 worth of new prAna gear from their latest collection as well as gift an additional $500 worth of prAna gear to the person of their choice… because isn’t giving as important as receiving? They just launched their new Spring Collection so you best get on it!

Join the Take the Leap with prAna and Sweat Pink Facebook group / event which we’ll use for updates, sharing,and inspiration: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1525412337742204/ and event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/423377431152799

And join the challenge on Instagram, Twitter, and your blog using the hashtags #TakeTheLeap #prana #sweatpink. And don’t forget to tag @prana @FitApproach! )

Workout Wednesday: Still going & post baby goals.

It’s happened. Baby Rebel has decided to start dropping, and tugging my belly down along with him, so I had to do it. I had to buy a maternity band. It helps. Some. It doesn’t provide full relief, especially on my round ligaments, but it is better than nothing.

The count down is on, he’s coming and coming soon.

So I’m done working out, right? Wrong.

My dog had an injury at the start of the year, and now that he’s done with the meds and on the mend, we have to do some rehab walking to build up the muscle in his hind end and back legs. Granted, it’s not far, but it’s probably the first time we hit the road to walk in quite awhile (my extreme fatigue issues with my legs have kept us from our regular walks). After getting the new band, I wanted to test it out on a walk. So we walked.

Then I came home and did a light weight and band workout on legs. I hit shoulders yesterday, and did a little yoga after a walk the day before. The working out, even if it’s only for 20-minutes, has been immensely helpful in dealing with the changes in my body, any pain, and of course, my spinal disease (I’ve been fortunate enough to have had less than a handful of flares during almost 9 months of pregnancy).

While I was working out tonight, I got thinking about my post-baby goals. For most of my pregnancy, it has been to, of course, get back to where I was at strength wise, and continue chipping away at and chiseling my physique. Get that bulky, muscled athlete look back. That still holds, but something else has surfaced in my goals. Be a better yogi.

I love yoga and have been doing it for just about a decade now. It has helped with my back, keep me somewhat flexible (I’ve concluded I’ll never gain full flexibility), keep me stretched and just in general it’s made my body happy. BUT, that’s just your basic yoga. When it comes to those challenging moves where almost your complete body becomes levitated off of the ground? Nope. I’ve never been able to accomplish that. Seriously.

Me who has a leg press of over 600-pounds. Me who hit deadlifts over 300-pounds. The same girl who could back squat her weight, plus some extra plates. Or the same girl who hit a bench press of 10-pounds shy of her 128-pounds.

Super strong me has never been able to do those beautiful flows that move the body around and lift it into the air.

My balance has always been kind of crappy, and while yoga helped me gain some balance, I just never had enough to make those fluid moves. And that’s where my goal now lies. Building my balance, building my strength in the right ways and places to do those moves.

I can blame this new-found, driving desire on the amazing yogis I have found on Instagram. And the stunning Laura Sykora (if you’re not following her on IG, find her and do so, you won’t be let down!).

This, this right here, I will get here. I can do it. wpid-img_20150121_175503.jpg

Winter Scales. Stretch Marks. Happy Skin.

I live in the frigid white north (AKA, Maine). A mile from the water, so we get all of those “warm” and “lovely” sea breezes. So winter time is particularly joyful. I know, you’re all reading this “from away” saying: But it’s so pretty!

Sure it is. But it gets really old after awhile. It does make you tougher. Weathers you. And after so many of them in a row, you become immune to it and think nothing of it.

However, it never stops messing with your skin. EVER.

If you don’t use or like lotions, potions, etc… You might as well face it, you’re going to be a scaly reptile for six or seven months out of the year. You have to put something on your skin. Especially if you want to age somewhat normally. Otherwise, you’re going to age pretty damn quickly. Or look like you have.

Who wants an 80 year old’s face when they’re 30? Certainly not me.

I’ve always been adamant in my skin care routine. Lather up with a good body butter right after my showers (best time to moisturize actually, you’re skin is more receptive of it). Then I slather on lotion a few times throughout the day.

Keeping your skin moisturized keeps it happy and healthy. Wrinkles come later because your skin can retain its elasticity better. And stretch marks, while there is no actually, sincerely proven way of preventing them, keeping your skin hydrated will help. Either fend them off for a bit, or at least they won’t be as bad as they could potentially could be.

Anyone can get them, but some people are in fact, more susceptible to getting them. A variety of factors play into whether you’ll get them or not. Genetics, age (surprisingly younger people are more susceptible than older), etc.

So far during my pregnancy, I’ve been lucky enough to have only gotten about a handful of them. Of course, I’ve gotten them in the oddest places on my belly. Not on the bottom, around the navel, on the sides, or on the top like most pregnant women who get them see. But hey, I figured, at my size pre-pregnancy, I wouldn’t get through “un-scathed”.

My goal from day one was: I know I’m going to get them, I just don’t want to FEEL myself getting them.

Feel? You can feel stretch marks?

When I started really packing on muscle size, and growing from pancake booty to cute, perky booty, I experienced my first adult stretch marks. Three dash marks on each side. That’s right. Three on the side of my right butt cheek and three on the side of my left.

Let me tell you this: I could feel it happening over time. It’s like a slow elastic break. It was rather disturbing to be honest.

Given these new stretch marks I’d gain during pregnancy were going to be on my belly? No. Way. wpid-img_20150113_144547.jpg

My skin care routine changed. The soaps I used in the shower all were moisturizing in property in one way or another. Post shower, I use BioOil (or in my cheapskate case, Skin Renew, the Rite Aid version – it’s like $20 cheaper and the same exact thing), and Aquaphor on my belly, sides, back and thighs. All places that I’m going to grow the most during this baby making process.

The rest of my body gets treated to the usual Skin Milk lotion that is seriously probably the only thing out there that keeps my skin hydrated this time of year.

In the mornings, before I dress (I shower in the evenings), I slather on another round of just the BioOil on my “trunk area” and lotion regularly the rest of me and I continuously lotion throughout the day as I need to.

My skin looks and feels great, despite the stretch marks I have gotten. I didn’t feel them, and they certainly don’t look as angry as my booty ones did when I got them (they’ve since faded to be the typical shade-lighter-than-skin-tone). So all in all, it seems to working wonders.

I’ve been asked a lot by expecting moms, moms trying to conceive and moms who have already had their bundle, what exactly I’ve been doing. I tell them that it’s not a magical cure when I give them my routine over the past eight months, I let them know right away it’s not the cure all, but I can tell them that their skin will most certainly love them for it.

Love your skin and it will love you right back. Treat it good, and it will be good to you.

I am fearful.

I feel that this posting needs to start off with a few things before we get into the “dirt” of it…

First, I’m not religious. By any means. For the longest time, just to get my paternal grandfather riled up, I’d say I was “anti organized religion”. Eventually, I just became a “non practicing Catholic”. Which was most true, since I, as a baby, wearing one of those god awful white dress things, had a Catholic priest dump water on my head, in a Catholic church — making me in the ultimate end, Catholic. But, I never went to church (except that one time when I was five, or that other time I went to a wedding and probably sprouted horns because I was sitting there sans the skivvies), and I never did that confirmation/Catechism/whatever the heck it’s called like everyone else on my mom’s side of the family did.

Second, I’m not political party aligned. I’m not right or left. Conservative or liberal. I’m that pain in the ass that sits right in the middle. Annoying the crap out of those officially affiliated with a specific party. I can see both sides, and whether or not I agree, well, that depends where my opinion lies.

Okay… and here we go…

I fear for my child. I fear for his future. His beliefs. I am fearful.

Why?

We like to tout that society has come so far in being open and accepting. That one religion isn’t crucified because of the actions of only a small number in that religion. Or that an entire race won’t suffer the same fate.

Racism is dead. Freedom of religion is alive. Everyone has the right to express their opinion via the long standing Freedom of Speech.

I could go on. But I’ll stop right there. I’d just be wasting my breath. Because it’s all wrong.

I always valued the fact that I am hungry for knowledge. I love to learn. I love to expand my horizons. I feel that despite being very well rounded in all things, I can always be more. It’s something in myself that I have always wanted to instill upon any children I may have. I want them to know. I want them to learn.

I also want them to be like me. Along with educated, I want them to be unjudging. Open minded. Compassionate. Accepting… and more.

All things that people claim to be today, and most, sadly, are not. I know a woman who is a lesbian, but is anti-homosexual. How that is even remotely possible? I don’t know. She doesn’t believe in equal rights or marriage for anyone in the LGTB community. Anyone.

A friend who is deeply religious has set out on a warpath to exterminate (his words, not mine), the entire Islamic religion based on what only some in that religion have done. Whatever happened to love thy neighbor? Or to just love, period? How can he crucify the whole for what part have done? Maybe it’s because I’m not religious that I do not understand.

A former college classmate, who claimed to be the least racist person she ever knew, yet called every white person she knew a “honkey”, made reference to her black friends as “her niggaz”, and even called her own race, spics and wetbacks.

The times I’ve heard men criticize the men of the middle east for their treatment of women, then turn around and treat the women around them as beneath them.

The women who are abused, who, until realizing that it’s not right or okay (which is a different story in itself), plead the case of their boyfriend/fiance/husband saying “But he’s a good (insert religion here) man”, as if it justifies what it being done to her.

The times I, myself, have been told in political discussions that my words or opinions do not matter because I’m not a Republican or Democrat. I’m just an Independent. I’m an atrocity to this country.

Or the times that I have been told in religious discussions (much like one unfolding on my social media feed currently about the “need to exterminate” Islamic people), that I just need to leave the conversation. I’m not a religious or God fearing person. I have no say.

It doesn’t take away my education. It doesn’t take away that I have read the “books” of many, many religions (I say books because we could be here all day if I got down to specifics for each religion I have educated myself on). It doesn’t take away from the fact that I pay attention to politics, I know what is going on, I know what it means for me as a citizen of this country.

I have fought hard to stay true to myself and who I am despite witness this going on around me. At 31 years old, I can still say that I have not given an inch of who I am.

I want desperately for my unborn son to be able to stand tall and be true to himself. I fear the pressure that society puts on people who don’t “mold” to one or the other. I fear society itself and how it can quiet him potentially. How it can possibly stifle him.

I am fearful.