I largely credit being able to weather three closely spaced twin pregnancies without complications to my workout routines. I had a high baseline of fitness and strength before my first pregnancy. Between pregnancies I design my activity to get ready for the next pregnancy. I set goals for body weight (easiest metric to approximate my desired body composition), biomechanics, and pounds for each lift that I strive for before going back to the doctor for another embryo transfer.
Then versus now
In my pre-kids life I guess I was almost a gym rat. Jeff and I would work out for a couple of hours 5-6 days per week in addition to three two-hour jujutsu practices per week. Our main gym was the university campus gym. Since we both worked on campus, it was relatively convenient and we could go straight from a workout to jujutsu.
Needless to say that changed after the first set of twins. Campus gyms don’t have childcare, for instance. I can’t tote two babies (or more) around the gym as I work out.
It took us almost nine months after Rory and Ginny were born to join the YMCA, which has childcare *and* a gym. Jeff apparently knew that from taking his older kids there, but somehow it took us nine months to justify another gym membership on top of the overpriced campus memberships that we needed for jujutsu.
Guess what? At the Y, I can drop the kids off and go work out! Otherwise I’d have to squeeze in my workout during daycare hours. We’ve been members since then and I’ve used the childcare a lot during pregnancy just to get a break for my tired, achy body. It’s the first thing I recommend to moms who need a break or are having trouble finding time to work out. If you’re concerned about your kids getting sick in child watch, yes that happens. But is it better for them to have a stressed out, less healthy mom or to get an occasional virus that probably builds their immune system anyhow? (Barring immune compromised children, of course.)
At our new house we also assembled a gym in the basement, complete with kettle bells, squat rack, wrestling mat, and adjustable dumbbells. We’re kind of serious about this working out thing, though you may not know it by looking at us right now. The last several years have been rough. I had three closely spaced twin pregnancies. Jeff had a rotater cuff (shoulder) reconstructed, a knee replaced, and the other knee scoped.
We both feel the lack of activity and we’ve become less active since moving out of town. We used to walk or bike to work, daycare, restaurants, and parks. Now we live on a chunk of land in the country on a state highway. No more walking off of our property. I thought rural living would make us more active since we have more outdoor space and a bunch of land to take care of. I guess it’s easy to let things like that go when they’re no longer compulsory even if we have plenty of opportunity. It’s one of the few things that makes me sad about moving to the country, although I hope we can figure out a way to walk to the nearby Ice Age Trail when the weather warms up. It’d be nice to be able to take a walk with the kids (or even without them) without having to load up the van.
Sometimes I’m sad that I know I won’t get back to my pre-kid fitness level until I’m done having kids, especially since that is likely more than five years away. I really like being strong. It’s not about aesthetics or pounds on the bar. Those are side effects of the capabilities functional strength gives me. At my fittest I was a fair match for college guys in jujutsu who weighed close to 200 pounds and/or were lifelong athletes. It’s going to be a while until my core is back to that level, if it ever is.
I also worry that by the time I’m done having kids I’ll be too old to even approach my pre-kid level of fitness. Hmmm, 40 years old versus 29 years old. I suppose I should grant myself some grace after 11 years of aging and birthing up to 14 children.
Getting older and changing my lifestyle to accommodate family is hard. Sometimes I feel like I barely recognize myself compared to five years ago. Parenthood is truly a sacrifice. But from the ruins left of my old life I think can build something new and better. Imagine the barn wood that is in vogue now. Take those weathered planks, sand them down a bit, and turn them into a beautiful wood floor with clear polyurethane. All the scars are still there, but it is strong and beautiful. Just like a mother to her children, the foundation makes everything else possible.
Getting our groove back
I may feel tired and run down sometimes, but I almost always feel better and more myself if I get in some gym time. (The notable exception is first and late third trimesters of pregnancy.) As the mom and half of the foundation for our family (Jeff being the other half), I also feel like I am responsible for maintaining the foundation, i.e. myself. If I am strong and healthy mentally and physically, my family can be too.
Just after the one-year mark we’ve finally gotten back into a routine that involves both of us getting gym time. What are we doing? Jeff takes all six kids to the YMCA Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings so he can work out and swim while I stay home to do some chores kid free and get a work out in the basement. Then he works into the evening Tuesday and Thursday while I usually have some hired help with the kids since I’m recovering from my own workout. I think this may be a sustainable schedule. Sick kids would complicate it, of course, but sick kids throw off any schedule.
At about 3 months postpartum from a VBAC, my workout looks like this:
Warm up: 10 minutes on a spin bike, foam rolling, warm up basic movements
Day 1: Romanian deadlifts, dumbbell chest press, split squats, standing single-dumbbell row
Day 2: Front squats, bench row, single leg Romanian deadlift, single dumbbell chest press
Circuit: usually a swing tabata (tabata is 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off, repeat 8 times)
Some days I’ll do it as a beginning strength training workout–3-4 sets of 10 reps. Other days, like yesterday, I get annoyed at my general inactivity and only three workouts per week. Then I up it to 8 sets of 10 reps without dropping the poundage. If I’m short on time, I’ll turn it into a circuit. It’s not really the best goal-oriented way to do things, but it I have to be flexible to fit a workout into my day at all.
My goals for the next six months are:
1. to get back to pre-pregnancy weight, which was about 143 pounds (I’m 5’5″). I started at 156 on February 1 and weighed in at 154 on February 10.
2. to get my body moving the way it should. Pregnancy screws up biomechanics pretty badly between moving muscles around and sticking a giant weight on the front.
3. to get back to what I deem a reasonable level of strength as measured by the pounds on a bar for each lift, assuming 3-5 reps for 3 sets. That looks something like 195 lbs deadlift, 115 lbs front squat, 45 lbs bench row, 40 lbs chest press (per hand).