Moms, Let’s Help Ourselves

We often forget that moms are individuals with a past and identity before having children. That moment when she finds out she’s pregnant, the focus immediately shifts from “me” to “we”, and that feeling only intensifies the older the child becomes. Therefore, in order to truly give something back to the moms in our lives, one must simply let her figure out how best she can renew herself. Everyone is different, the needs of one mom vary from one to another. One mom might need a night out with girlfriends, another a long hot bath and a good novel. The cure for what ails is bio-individual, but the need is undeniably there.

When I first became a mother, I was overwhelmed by the realization of that responsibility. Breastfeeding, tummy time, around the clock feedings and diaper changes all contributed to a culture shock I had mentally prepared for but not emotionally connected to yet. I felt extremely tired and the weight of responsibility was leveling. I had always been strong, but this new life as a mom required a higher, more intense level of resiliency I hadn’t acquired yet. I had to adapt, and I wasn’t sure how to do it. I was a fighting a losing battle against the tide, and I felt myself being pulled under.

It wasn’t until I had healed enough from giving birth and could workout, that I saw my first respite from the pull of the metaphorical undertow. The road became a lifeline to my former self to pull out of the constant drudgery of mundane daily tasks that motherhood requires. In the 30-60 minutes I was out on the pavement I felt lighter and lighter. Each step was a reclamation of my former self, and I breathed in the freedom I felt had escaped me. When I returned home, tired and exhilarated at the same time, I was at peace with my life again, and happy to dive into diaper changes, cuddling and even teething meltdowns.

Running and eventually yoga, weight lifting, and meditation, were the outlets I needed to be whole again–another mother may have a completely different set of requirements. I use myself as an example because it’s what I know for sure. What I also know without doubt is that as women, we are intrinsically selfless creatures. Sometimes we give so much of ourselves that the cup becomes empty, and that is where it becomes a matter of health.

Health is more than what is on our plates. It’s found in our relationships, our career, our connection with a higher power, and of course nutrition and exercise. It takes going inward to find out how we as mothers are doing in each of these categories, and then making the appropriate changes to make ourselves healthy and happy.

It may sound extreme at first for her to take 30-60 minutes for herself every single day, but if you think of the mother as the center of the home, it makes perfect sense to nurture her. The health and happiness of a home is almost always directly related to the sense of wellbeing of the mother. But no one can help a mother, she has to do the work and find what she needs to help herself. So mothers, do the internal work, and families support her. The result is a scenario where everyone wins, and the potential of every family member can be fully realized

Want To Make Your Workouts More Efficient?

 

 

If your goal is efficiency, then adding weights to your routine is paramount. Using body resistance is fine, but the results you want will take longer to appear. I work fulltime so my lunchtime workouts have to be fast, but I don’t want to waste my time either.

In order to get the most out of my short break I forgo the treadmill and hit the weights. I train opposing muscle groups, also known as agonist-antagonist  training, which means if I work on hamstrings, I also do quads. Balance is key in all things, and that certainly applies to weight training.

I train opposing muscle groups every other day, but I focus on my core every single day. Your core is crucial for assisting in all other exercises, not to mention everyday activities. Using a 15-20 lbs dumbbell or kettlebell will skyrocket your core strength, and you will immediately notice how much better you feel sitting at your desk, bending over to pick something up, or even walking down the street. So make sure you’re adding weights into your workouts–even 5 lbs will make a difference, and enjoy the changes to come.

 

The Power of Pull-Ups

The pull-up is an important addition to any exercise regime, so why aren’t more women (and men) doing it? The pull-up has long been propagated as a male dominated exercise and that women simply don’t have the strength to accomplish even a single one. In fact, the Marine Corps still does not require female recruits to do pull-ups, opting instead for a timed flex arm hang. As you can probably infer already, I do not agree with this thinking.

The benefits of doing pull-ups far outweigh any preconceived notions of female physical prowess and stamina. Pull-ups efficiently strengthen multiple muscle groups comprising the back, shoulders, chest and arms. They also increase grip strength which is helpful for a variety of uses-in my case holding onto a wild two year old and approximately twenty-five grocery laden bags.

Understandably, as a system of levers, people with higher fat percentages and longer limbs have a harder time than smaller, more compact individuals, but that should not negate the engagement of the practice entirely. This is a case wherein the benefits outweigh the costs.

I first started doing pull-ups about two months ago, and I could do one-it wasn’t pretty. Undeterred, however, I came back to the bar everyday, and slowly my strength increased. I start by doing overhand pull-ups first and then switch immediately to underhand. I use a bench to position myself, then come to a complete dead hang. Next I bring my attention to my back muscles, not my arms, and pull myself up. I treat pull-ups like any other exercise, typically doing three sets of overhand and underhand, separated by short active recovery breaks. As seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gsO9ApY63-E&feature=share

I am always amazed at how fast I progress when it comes to weight training. In this case I started with only being able to do one pull-up, and now within a session I can easily do thirty. So do not be afraid to start doing pull-ups everyday, you will feel stronger in a surprisingly short amount of time, and all other areas of your strength training will benefit as well.

5 Ways to Achieve Your Body Goals 

How does the old saying go? If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. That is precisely the case when it comes to finding and maintaining the motivation to workout and hit those bikini body goals. 

Life today is increasingly more fast-paced and for most people, making themselves a priority just doesn’t happen. I, like so many others, have struggled to find the time and mental fortitude to get my sneakers on and work my body the way I know it intrinsically wants. Over time I have homed in on five key strategies to ensuring that I will in fact follow through with the workout, and maintain that discipline for life. 

1. Have An End Goal In Mind

Is there a certain amount of weight you want to lose or gain? Do you want a better butt or six-pack abs? What does your goal look like? Before you begin you must have a vision of where you want to go. This can always change of course, and should, as you move along your journey. But you must start somewhere with clear and specific intentions. 

2. Create a General Schedule for the Week

It always helps to know what’s on the docket for any particular day so that you’re mentally engaged before you even begin. It doesn’t have to be incredibly detailed, but planning out your workout helps focus you on what needs to be done and removes any resistance or complacency. 

My schedule consists of three days of weight training (M,W,F) and two days of cardio (Tu., Th.). On the days I weight train, I change up the types of lifts I do, however I always include squats and some form of calistetics using my body weight as resistance (push-ups, lunges with dumbells, abs, donkey kicks etc). 

3. Track Your Diet

And this does not mean go on a diet–forget about calories. In fact if you are working out, you probably need to take in more calories than you are used to, however you must focus on the nutrient level and quality of the food you consume. Use an app like “My Fitness Pal” to input your weight, height, gender, age, and goals, and it will create a customized caloric and macronutrient guide for you. And don’t be put off by the word macros, its just a breakdown of the protein, carbs and fat in your diet. 

Diet is 80% of weight loss and affects your emotional and mental state, so this particular strategy should not be overlooked. We really are what we eat. 

4. Visualize the Endorphin Rush

On days where I am particularly reticent to workout, I close my eyes and imagine how amazing I feel at the end of my workout. Just by doing that I get a little boost, and it’s enough to get me up and moving. Our bodies want to move, they were designed to travel long distances and do incredibly hard labor in order to survive. Obviously today’s technological advancements eliminate that original paradigm, but that doesn’t mean we have to accept it. 

Just because you work an office job, doesn’t mean you have to have an office job body. So if you are feeling tired or sluggish, and going to the gym is the last thing you want to do that day, just center yourself and imagine how much better you’ll feel if you choose to sweat and push yourself. I guarantee you won’t regret it. 

5. Find Your Tribe

This last strategy is the final piece to finding and ensuring lasting success. As humans we are hard-wired to connect with others, it’s in our DNA. This applies in all ways, but especially in achieving workout goals and maintaining consistency. Anyone can workout for a few weeks, gyms are flooded January 1, but the tide soon fades because people feel that they are doing it all alone. If you don’t have a neighbor, family member or friend nearby, there are so many support avenues online. You found me after all! 

Reach out, connect over similar stories and motivations, and watch how soon you hold yourself and others accountable–it’s the best addiction there is. 

Life is messy and unpredictable, but if you make yourself a priority and develop these strategies, you are more likely to succeed in reaching your goals. 

Do Weights Not Cardio 

My story is not unique, I am like most people in that I want to look fit and feel amazing in my own skin. We all want that right? The goal is pretty much the same, the challenge arises in how to get there, and in the most efficient way possible.  

After years of exclusively doing cardio to achieve my goals, I have come to the realization that much of that was time wasted. Gone are the days of long runs in punishing weather to attain that feeling of accomplishment for the day. Now I have completely changed gears and the results have already been amazing. A change from cardio-centric workouts to weight lifting using a Smith Machine and dumbells has  drastically changed the shape and strength of my body. I use a great app, 5×5 StrongLifts to guide me on proper form, what I should be doing and how much I should be lifting. 

Research shows that you still achieve all the benefits from an elevated heart rate by lifting weights as you would from cardio, in addition to powerful fat burning properties that last up to a day after lifting! And more muscle means a higher metabolism and a more efficient fat burning machine. 

If the scientific evidence isn’t enough to convince you to change up your gym routine, then let your body sway you. When I was running, I was slim to be sure, but I had no shape and I wasn’t truly physically strong. I suppose it was when I had children, that I realized how much I needed to strengthen every part of my body. My arms, core (which protects the back) and legs all needed reinforcement in order to keep up with highly active kids. I owed it to them and to myself to rise to the task and be the best I could be. And being happy with what you see in the mirror, especially after having kids, is a huge confidence booster. How you feel about your appearance affects how you interact with your family, coworkers, local barista and the rest of the world. And if you emit positivity and joy because you truly feel good, who knows what new things you’ll attract into your life. 

So do not be afraid to let go of old workout habits, because the benefits of weightlifting can be life changing and not exclusive to just your appearance.