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Fitness with a baby: MoMenTum

24 May

I’m joining in with the lovely MoMenTum girls in an effort to shift my baby weight. My quest isn’t so much about shifting the weight – though I’m still a disappointing 13 Ibs heavier than I once was – but more about getting back some kind of fitness. I’ve stepped into the MoMenTum gang on a hard week as there is no theme, so I thought I’d write about my struggles getting momentum and motivation back after the birth of lil’ Toby.

Throughout my pregnancy I found exercise harder and harder – which I guess is normal. By the end, I’d given up and having gone through the arduous task of pushing another human being out of you, I couldn’t be bothered to even contemplate exercise. I was once a huge endorphin junky, but that addiction had been kicked and replaced with chocolate and an overwhelming desire to sit on the sofa when Toby was running me ragged.

I was told that breastfeeding would see me fight off the extra pounds gained during pregnancy. I think that might be an exageration… the weight did not fall off. If anything, I gained as I had the excuse of sustaining another life through my produce. A few months after Toby’s birth I plodded round Blenheim Triathlon. It was an embarrassing pace and I probably should have pulled out as I had done NO training. The horrific pain I went through left me with a fear of exercise. Over the summer I can list the runs and cycles I did and avoided swimming due to my horrid shape. I consistently used Toby as my excuse to avoid the sweat and tears of exercise – things I once so loved.

This year, I decided was going to be the year I get fit again. Things are on track. I’ve been doing a handful of runs each week (though missed one this morning due to work) and have upped the activity on the bike with a couple of spinning sessions a week and a long bike each weekend. The bike is by far my favourite and I managed a 60 mile sportive (road bike race – race being used lightly here) two weekend’s ago and a hilly 53 miles during The King of the Downs sportive. It’s amazing how quickly you can get back into things. The first ride was hard. It really hurt and I was ridiculously slow, but while last weekend’s 53 miler started out slow and hard, by the end I was on fire and I suddenly remembered what it was like to push myself as hard as possible. I’m not sure how long the last 15 miles took my friend and I, but we paced it and I LOVED it.

So that’s the story of my battle so far. Exercise has never been a big problem to me and I think I’ve found my refound my mojo. It’s an amazing feeling and definitely worth remembering that there is hope after pregnancy and early motherhood. You just need give yourself a chance. Eating is a whole other story. Perhaps next time I’ll share my disgusting eating habits….


Running buggy: Am I bugging you?

23 May

Toby sleeping soundly on a run. Wish I could get in sometimes.

My partner – Tom – is quite into his gadgets and when I fell pregnant, not only did he tell me that ‘having a baby was going to be like having the best gadget ever… ‘ (read that as you like), he also took the view that buggies were gadgets and began his diligent search for the best buggy. My only request was that I could run with it – I sound utterly horrid and selfish now, don’t I?! (Those of you that read this blog regularly might be starting to pick up the vibe that my pregnancy was in fact a massive shock to me. It took me pretty much the whole nine months to get used to the idea.)

Anyway, Tom had reviewed every buggy going before the bump had even started to show and he decided the Chariot Cougar was our best option. I had managed to get away with not even the flicker of a thought or the turn of a baby related magazine page and thank goodness; shopping for buggies was not my idea of fun.

I LOVE OUR BUGGY. Toby loves our buggy, Tom loves our buggy. The reaction outside of this house is slightly more mixed. After pushing it to the top of the Eiffel Tower, my sister and I had a big falling out over the buggy. You see, it’s ENORMOUS. Designed for running, cycling, strolling and even skiing (yes you can buy ski attachments) it is robust, comfortable and gigantic.

It’s like a motorcycle side-cart and it’s been great for pulling on the back of the bikes and running with. It’s even pretty handy when trying to get off the train; the big wheels can’t get stuck between the train and platform. However – if you’re talking about taking the bus, or a trip to the shops, or even a trip up the Eiffel Tower – this is not the buggy. Bus drivers take immediate offense. I’ve been told to get off the bus before and there was plenty of room.

It’s not only bus drivers that sneer at me as I approach. Normal people on the street look at me with a twinkle of outrage in their eyes. Walking this gargantuan buggy around the streets of London – and being on the receiving end of such hate – must be what the drivers of Land Rovers in London  must feel.

This morning, I went to music class with Toby. I had planned to run home after so I attached the big wheel at the front. This makes the buggy even bigger and one mum at the class, in a very rude tone, said ‘what a ridiculously big buggy’. She wasn’t saying it to me, but she definitely wanted me to hear. Now, I can cope with the bus drivers, but I cannot tolerate the judgement of other mums. As a mum you quickly come to realise that every other mother has opinions. Some are kind and keep them to themselves, others are not so timid and it can leave you feeling a bit fed-up. Why would another mum – who understands the pressures of parenting – want to make a sister feel rubbish?

On the flipside, Toby’s buggy gets a lot of good attention too. Mainly when we’re outside of London or come across runners and cyclists. It’s been a fantastic conversation starter and regardless of all the haters, the lovers make up for it. I wouldn’t choose differently. Toby is always so happy being pushed, run and cycled in it and uptight Londoners need to get over themselves sometimes.

How, when and where I found out I was pregnant

20 May

Celebrating Mums is doing a linky-up to share stories about the ‘reality of motherhood’. This is the first (I think) and its looks at how mums found out they were ‘up the duff’.

My story is simple. I wasn’t trying, nor was I even considering trying. I was on the pill and putting in at least 12 hours of running, swimming and cycling a week for a half ironman (mid-distance Triathlon). I was putting so much strain on my body I should have been pretty much incapable of conceiving, even without the pill.

The weekend before I realised, I completed the Tour of Wessex sportive (a very long and hilly road bike race). On the last day, I threw up on my handlebars. I put this down to either overdoing it, or consuming one to many energy gels. That evening, my body felt very odd. I put this down to the cycling. The thought that I was pregnant hadn’t even entered my mind.

The next few days were pretty normal. I went to work, but felt knackered and wanted to ingest copious amounts of full-fat coke. Very odd for me as I generally hate coke, but I put both the fatigue and the craving down to the miles I’d spent in the saddle and carried on as normal.

On the Thursday of that week, I headed to the changing rooms at work to kit myself up for a run home. When I stood up I caught sight of myself in the mirror and overnight I’d turned into Katie Price – without going under the knife. My flat chest has been on the receiving end of jokes from my friends. One birthday I was even made a breast cake to make up for my lack thereof. At that moment there was a very loud pop and the idea I may be pregnant entered my head.

Panic and fear started pulsing through my body. Regardless, I pushed the thought to the back of my mind and began my run home. Of course, trying to forget something like this is impossible and with every strike of my foot on the pavement, my heart beat faster – and not because of the running. My body turned to wibbly jelly and I could think of nothing else than how awful it would be if I really was.

En route, I picked up a pregnancy test. When I got home, I ran up to my bathroom and did the deed. 1 second, 2 second, 3 second…. The wait took an eternity, but when it was over, I faced the biggest fear of my life – a positive result. Deep breaths, it was one test. I had two more and this one has got to be wrong. I went to the kitchen and began knocking back the pints (of water) like a woman possessed. Thank goodness my housemates weren’t around.

Second test – positive, must be wrong. Third test – positive. I must have brought a dud pack. I threw my trainers back on and ran down to the shop and brought two more packs. Back home, more water and four more tests. I spent a small fortune on pregnancy tests that day and the result remained defiant. I was pregnant.

I sat on my bed and began to process the news. Thoughts of all the training I’d been doing ran through my head. It would be wasted. What about work – how would I tell my manager? I couldn’t possibly tell my dad I was pregnant – I was too young (I wasn’t, I was 29). How could I tell Tom?

None of my feelings were positive, but after a week, Tom and I had both decided we’d probably end up moving in together and having kids anyway, so why not now. Over the previous months, we’d become very close and had begun planning some time out from work for some travelling. I’d been spending more and more time at his house and, while moving in together was incredibly daunting, it only meant a few more nights a week there.

Since the week I found out, I’ve not looked back. Having Toby was the best thing I’ve ever done. Motherhood is hard work, but the rewards, love and happiness it brings to your life are endless.

Getting fit after pregnancy – no more excuses

16 May

Final running race at six months pregnant

When I fell pregnant with Toby, I was super-keen on triathlon and in training for a Half Ironman. My weeks consisted of working, eating, sleeping, cycling, running and swimming and that was all there was to my life for a bit. I’d eat like a pig that had been starved for a year and it didn’t make a blind bit of difference to my weight.

Now, it must be said, this routine was at my most extreme and was in preparation for a half ironman. On the final few weekends before I found out I was pregnant, I completed the Tour of Wessex cycle, had a rather traumatic King of the Downs cycle experience and took part in the Duncton cycle ride. After throwing up on my handle bars, I realised that either I was overdoing it, or something wasn’t quite right. I was pregnant.

I started my pregnancy with the attitude that I could still exercise to the extreme, that I wouldn’t put on weight and that I could maintain my fitness. As the weeks and months passed, I realised my view was hugely unrealistic. I was in bed by 7.30pm some nights, could barely move by the end and as for getting up early for a spinning class – FORGET IT. Needless to say, the weight closed in on me and my fitness left.

All my crazy exercising ended just under two years ago and since then I find myself making excuses for not getting back into it. The problem is, I’m starting from scratch. During my pregnancy my stomach muscles split, which left me with a stark warning from the physio to let things heal before I start running again. I tried to get back into it after a while, but (and I can’t believe I am going to say this) I ended up wetting myself – I’m certainly not the first and I won’t be the last, but that just puts a girl off. The breastfeeding, especially at night, left me exhausted and finding the motivation to get up and get back into a fitness routine was beyond impossible.

Last summer, when Toby was around 4 months, I got on my bike each week and did a few rides. We spent the summer in our VW Campervan driving around France and I got the chance to do some amazing cycling. I climbed 2/3 of Mont Ventoux, but had to turn around to get back for Toby’s breastfeed… well, that was my excuse. This is the first time I am admitting to this; the real reason I turned around was because it was just too painful. I was a lot heavier than before and I simply couldn’t get to the top. I was weak! I did, however, make it at a snail’s pace up Alp D’Huez. At the top, I remembered why I loved cycling. BUT ON EACH OCCASION I FELT HORRID. I just didn’t have the fitness to enjoy it and with a baby you can make excuses.

Last week the excuses ended. Toby is now 15 months, my body has recovered from labour and he’s sleeping okay (ish). I’m now working from home and there is time. No more crap excuses. I have a buggy I can both run and cycle with and I live next door to Richmond Park.

I’ve thrown myself in at the deep end with the cycling. Yesterday – with a little help from my friends – I cycled 60 miles in the Duncton sportive. I was slow and it hurt, but it’s meant to hurt and I’ll get faster. Next week I’m signed up to the King of the Downs bike ride, which should be interesting. It’ll be slow and it’ll hurt and there will be times I will doubt my post-pregnancy self. The week after we’re heading to the Tour of Wessex for a 76 mile ride. I have legitimate doubts about finishing this one, but nothing ventured, nothing gained and I can’t keep hiding behind a wall of nappies. Wish me luck.

How motherhood changes you: ch-ch-ch-ch Changes

3 May

Two week’s ago I submitted my first photo for the Gallery on ‘Sticky Fingers’. The image represented ‘My blog’ and more importantly my journey into the unknown realms of motherhood. I then read  ‘We used to be cool…honest’ on ‘Mummy, daddy and me makes three’s’ blog and since this I’ve been thinking about all the changes you go through during pregnancy and early motherhood.
Before Toby arrived in my life, my priorities were very different: adventure, running, swimming, cycling, working and seeing friends. When I fell pregnant, these priorities stayed in place for the first trimester and well into the second. By the third, I had almost completely given my former self up. Throughout the pregnancy, I could feel the traits that made me who I am slipping away. I’m not just talking about getting fat (though I did that very successfully), but my mental attitude shifted. Things that had once seemed so important were inconsequential. Missing a run really wasn’t the end of the world, cycling slowly was pleasurable and friends and family – though they had always been – became strikingly the most important thing in the world.
Once I had got through the pregnancy, I had high hopes for getting myself back to normal asap. No baby was going to interfere with work or play. I could be ‘me’ and a mum, but ‘me’ had changed. I can’t describe all the changes, but I have far more compassion and patience than I ever could have imagined. I cry at everything. Seeing little babies starving on charity adverts gets me every time and I want to get up and do something about it, NOW. I didn’t celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden, I found myself confused at how people could be dancing in the streets over the death of another human being. (Please note: I do think bin Laden was a despicable, hateful man, but death is sad). Running, cycling and swimming come so far down my list of priorities now, I find them difficult to fit in – though a routine is starting to re-emerge. I would sacrifice everything for Toby.

I can’t say my former self would have been so self-sacrificing, so emotional over scenes of suffering children or so disgusted by our response in the West to an evil man’s death. Motherhood has added another dimension to me and weathered a few of the others.
I can’t be sure what kind of person this motherhood malarkey will shape me into, but I do know that there are many more changes to come.