Coming Back After Baby
Congratulations, on your new baby and your incredibly healthy and FIT pregnancy! You did it! You ate well – slept as much as possible – took your vitamins – and worked out! For 9 months you stayed patient, gave yourself grace, took it easy.
Now it’s GO time.
GO back in the gym.
GO get your body back.
GO lose the fat and add the muscles.
GO do all the things you love and make you feel great…..
What? …. no one told you about the postpartum stage?
That this stage is actually harder (at least it is for me) than the pregnancy? Me neither, Mama! I was not prepared for my 4th trimester body after Jacob, my first born. Even after Lilian, my second, the knowledge and experience hasn’t eased the mental and physical challenge of the “comeback”.
The truth is no matter if you were a CrossFit Games Athlete or Recreational CrossFitter, if your “Fran” time was 3:10 or 10:03, if you had abs poking through a week after your baby or never ever dreamed of a six-pack….No matter what your before baby body, skill or fitness level was – the struggle is the same!
KNOWING IS NOT 1/2 THE BATTLE:
After Jacob was born 3 years ago, I came back to the gym and expected to bounce right back. I mean, my kangaroo pouch will disappear in a couple months, right? I worked out during my pregnancy, so I am sure that by the time my baby is 4 months old, my lifts, gymnastics, and lungs will be right back to Games status. My attitude was, “I am ready Let’s Go!”
But first let’s rest and recovery from UMMMMM – giving birth to a human being! The first few weeks of downtime were great and then I started to get the itch – I wanted to go WORKOUT – I can finally push hard without being any concern to the baby – I wanted the endorphins! When Lili arrived, I expected this process and actually did enjoy the rest and recovery more but the itch still came on quickly.
Let’s just skip the weeks where there is only a newborn “schedule” – no one can really help because your baby just wants YOU – and just doing laundry or cooking dinner seems like a huge on taking…..let’s fast forward to when I did have some time committed to working out and some of the fog has lifted!
This time around I entered the gym prepared to be content with less intense, slower workouts. I knew that some things would seem “almost the same” and others would seem “totally foreign”. I also knew that I would look like I just had a baby for a longer period of time than I wished. But knowing these things didn’t make it easier.
THERE’S NO CRYIING IN CROSSFIT:
After Lili, I signed up to participate in the Open. It was about 3 weeks after I was cleared for “all exercise” and my plan was to work strength and rebuilding 2-3 days and have use the Open workout as my 1 GO workout each week. I work well with plans – I had a plan – I had a goal and a group of people to help me enjoy the journey. I planned to do the workouts each week with the competitor group. I hired a sitter and committed to being at all the team workouts to help me feel like “me” again.
Well the “me” that showed up, was the “just had a baby” me and not the “going to Regionals in 2 weeks” me and that proved more disheartening and difficult than motivating. Even with my plan and my community of support, I often left the gym in tears. Not because I wasn’t happy with my performance that day but; Because I was full of crazy hormones.
Because I had to turn the switch from sensitive nursing mom to competitive attack athlete.
Because I have high expectations and lack patience.
Because I don’t want to comeback too quickly and get hurt OR too slowly and be “fat” forever.
Because on some level questioned if I even cared about being in shape anymore – now I have other things to do.
Because I didn’t feel like “me” even though I was doing what I thought made me me (yep, identity crisis).
Because I was jealous of seeing other people be fit, kill it, PR.
**Disclaimer: Remember these are crazy postpartum thoughts – I realize somewhat ridiculous!**
In a place that I usually feel my best, I felt like a fish out of water, like a baby giraffe barely able to walk. This happened after Jacob too – I knew it’s a temporary season but WOW the excuses, doubt, difficulty, and yes, guilt were all there again.
For me, fitness is a GET to not a HAVE to! It is my social outlet, my sanity, my therapy, my connection with my husband, my FUN. I love a progress – I love seeing what I am capable of – I love competition – and now I love sharing fitness with my kids and being fit and healthy so I can be active and around as long as possible!
The journey IS the reward, but the journey often feels straight uphill those first few months after having a baby.
WHAT’S IT TO YA?
For all of you going through, having gone through, or about to go through a postpartum comeback, take solace in knowing the struggle is real – but so is the reward! Here are some things I hope will help you along the way:
Great Expectations: Setting realistic expectations is a major key to feeling the success of your fitness comeback. Know how often you will be able to work out – Know what your immediate goal is i.e.: just sweat vs. work skills. Re-evaluate and adjust your expectations often during this time!
Overnight Success: You’ve probably heard about the “overnight” music sensation – who really put in 10 years of behind the scenes work before they made it big?! Fitness and weight loss, especially after a baby, is very much the same. Results come in waves. Put in the work, even if it’s little bits, even if you don’t “see” the progress – Wait for it – I guarantee you will wake up one morning stronger and leaner “overnight.” Stay the course and ride the wave!
Enjoy the Process: Remember why you want to work out in the first place. Fall in love with fitness again. Take time to do what you love – I love to swim and run outdoors, I had to forgo some CrossFit goals to just do what I love and keep my progress going! Do it with (and for) your kids.
Celebrate – Celebrate – Celebrate! Celebrate that you squeezed in a workout at all! Celebrate that you can do 10 pushups now instead of 2! Celebrate the small stuff along the road to your destination.
Some women make the process look and seem easy, don’t be fooled. Here is some advice from a few of the Fit Mom’s I looked to for inspiration during my comeback.
Lindsey Smith: 5x CrossFit Games Athlete and mother of two
“One of the most liberating things I experienced post pregnancy and as I transitioned from games athlete to post pregnancy “fit mom” was the reminder that I can truly get a great workout in a 20-40 minute window per day. When I was first exposed to CrossFit that was very attractive to me, but over the years I got lost in longer and longer training sessions. Quite frankly my schedule no longer allows for that, but I have been amazed at how my body has responded to CrossFit in its simplest form. Even with my limited training schedule, I have been amazed at how my performance continues to improve and some days I even surprise myself by surpassing a benchmark of my highly competitive days. More so than chasing fitness markers I have learned to just enjoy working out again. I do not super impose pressure on myself and some days I just tackle whatever feels right, some times with intensity and some times without. With that mentality, I’ve found that training has become the most rejuvenating experience of my day.”
Heather Keenan Bergeron: 5x CrossFit Games Athlete and mother of four
1. Since it took you about 9 months to grow your baby, give yourself about 9 months to get back to where you left off. You may not need that long, but that’s when you should start feeling like “the party’s over”.
2. It’s hard getting back, harder than I thought it would be. But, whenever I started feeling sorry for myself, I just thought back to when I was pregnant and wished I could train hard again. Then, it was more “I GET to push hard now” instead of “WHY is this so hard now?”
3. Finally, when you’re at a loss, remember how one of best things you can teach your children is the importance of hard work and dedication.
Sage (Bergener) Mertz: 2x CrossFit Games Athlete, mother of one, and due with #2 this summer
“In the weeks leading up to our due date, it’s normal to have everything all planned out as to how we’re going to get our bangin’ mom-bods back in prime condition. We’ve worked out consistently our whole pregnancy, so the 4-6 week postpartum, “time off” period shouldn’t do us much harm, right?!
That is.. until we put our uncalloused, probably poop-covered hands back on a barbell and s&*t hits the fan…literally… the barbell feels so heavy, you might actually s*&t yourself.
All I can say is: BE EASY ON YOURSELF. Your journey is just that… YOUR journey. The quickest way to failure is to compare your progress with the progress of someone else. Take the time to build up your base by focusing on flawless mechanics and perfectly controlled movement. That way your body can slowly get stronger without getting damaged in the process.
Take the time (in your semi comatose state) to rediscover your love for fitness and appreciate the way that it can help heal us emotionally (especially in our EXTREMELY fragile, postpartum emotionally unstable state).
And last, take the time to understand and respect just how drastically your life has changed! Balancing all of life’s demands with a newborn in tow is not an easy task. Sometimes, our fitness has to be placed on the back-burner. AND THAT’S OK!!
Each day is a new day to practice what we want our “new fitness life” to look like. Whether that includes doing Murph or Fran or Frurph everyday, or simply just going for a 3 minute walk with your baby is completely up to you and what you feel YOU, and you alone, can handle each day.”
Carey Kepler: 5x CrossFit Games Athlete and mother of 2
“Be patient. Everyday is an effort to become the new you. You have never recovered from having a child or a second child – this is a first. It’s the journey not the destination. – not saying you won’t love the end result but you know it is the daily efforts, the roses and thorns along the way that make it awesome at the end!”