My getting-into-shape postpartum journey has two parts and some ups and downs in between.
The first part
First off, my body recovered pretty quickly after having the baby. About 6-8 weeks later, I felt great. I felt like my body was starting to look like its old self, with a flatter tummy. Breastfeeding was really working wonders, from a weight loss perspective. Then, at around 2.5-3 months, my appetite kicked up big time throughout all of Luca’s growth spurts and breastfeeding. I started to use that as an excuse to eat more than necessary, and I started gaining some pounds back. I wasn’t exercising constituently, either, because, well, newborn life.
I was okay with that, because I was being gentle to myself during this uncertain, new time. I liked not feeling pressured to workout everyday, and I liked knowing that this baby is more important than superficial things like fitting into my old jeans. The last thing on my mind each day was my weight, it was the precious little baby in my arms. However, it was approaching the holidays, when I was due to be in Florida and then after that, I had so many events (work and personal) that required me to be in Florida (my sister’s bachelorette party, her wedding, another friend’s wedding, an HSN appearance, etc), that I started to feel the pressure and needed to “whip back into shape” for it all.
Thus, I got back down to my pre-baby weight about 4.5 months after giving birth. You can read that journey here. Unfortunately, I didn’t do it the right way – I rushed right back into it. I was doing 5-6 Orange Theory Fitness workouts a week, and I stopped the excessive snacking and sugar, but still ate slightly more to accommodate my milk supply. The exercise part was not sustainable. And let me just say a note about HIIT workout classes like OTF – I have a lot of issues with them, which is why you don’t see me going to those types of workout classes (unless it’s for a special event) now.
The measure of a good HIIT session seems to be all about how utterly demolished you feel after a class. Like, your body is just shaking. That’s not necessary (at all) to get in shape. And in fact, most people rush through these classes without knowing the proper fundamentals (and there aren’t enough instructors to help you during the class) and end up hurting themselves or pushing their limits. Not all workouts are “one size fits all,” and these types of classes have that mentality.
Anyway, HIIT shouldn’t be done more than 3 times per week, because it really stresses your body out. People suffer from things like increased appetite, adrenal fatigue, cortisol spikes (which causes you to gain weight or makes it harder to lose those last 5 pounds), and unnecessary stress on your nervous systems, muscles, and joints.
What I learned from this experience is that I learned to listen to my body. To accept that some days, I will need to skip a workout. Some days, I will need to focus more on nutrition than exercise. I’ll need to get enough sleep in order to do a tougher workout, and I’ll never workout because I feel a sense of guilt. And, most importantly, I don’t feel the need to do hour-long HIIT workouts multiple days a week. To me, a day of nourishing my body and mind and maybe taking a 30 minute walk with Luca is considered a heart-healthy day of “exercise.” Movement is good, you don’t need to wreck your body to look or feel good – it can actually do the opposite.
The second part
So after all of my events were over in Florida (basically, the first weekend in March), I came back to New Jersey, our nanny started, and I found myself working full-time again. I couldn’t strike a lifestyle balance of working out and working. I felt “guilty” working out while the nanny was there. Almost like, I felt this sense of privilege that made me feel guilty.
So, I didn’t work out much. Maybe 1-2 times per week. And my diet wasn’t great, but I was at or around my pre-baby weight (just with no muscle.) I was stressing out so much about being a great mother, wife, and business owner, that the stress got ahold of me, and I woke up one morning with Bell’s Palsy (more on that here.) That’s when I realized a) I need to be way easier on myself and b) taking care of yourself is as important as taking care of your baby. I always try to think of the rule on airplanes – put your oxygen mask on before assisting others, because if you’re passed out, you can’t help anyone.
Also, a few friends helped me with that by explaining that I’ve built this life and worked so hard to get to a place where I can afford a nanny and have a flexible work schedule, that I have a right to enjoy it. Plus, working out is a part of what I do – inspire people to live healthier.
Once I came to this realization, I knew I needed something. I needed a program to stick to. Something that I could commit to, that was gradual, that wasn’t like an intense, back-breaking workout, that I could grow with and get stronger. I wasn’t looking to lose weight, I was looking to tone up. I wanted to feel strong, energized, and be able to feel as strong as I knew I was mentally (I mean, heck, I birthed a baby and I run my own company!)
That’s when I remembered about BBG (Bikini Body Guide), a workout program designed by Kayla Itsines. Now, this isn’t an advertisement for BBG, so if you want to know all of the specifics of the program, you can Google it. But, for a brief overview:
- It’s a 12 week program
- It’s three 28-minute workouts per week – they are HIIT workouts (Monday, Wednesday, Friday)
- On Tuesday and Thursday you do a 35-45 minute LISS workout (low intensity steady state)
- Depending on the week, you do a 35-45 minute LISS workout on Saturday, too for a total of 5-6 workout days, per week
- It uses minimal gym equipment – a bench, weights, medicine ball, BOSU, etc. You can also replace these with things in your home or at the park.
I bought the printable PDF, because I found the App hard to navigate, and I’m old school – I like bringing a printable to the gym.
I started with the determination that I would try to be as consistent as possible for the first half of the program (6 weeks), so I could see results as quickly as possible and stay motivated to complete the next 6 weeks. Sure enough, after the first week, I felt the results – I couldn’t BELIEVE it. It was shocking!
After the first month, I couldn’t believe the lift in my now-firmer butt and my flatter tummy. The second half of the program gets MUCH tougher than the first, and I found myself not being as consistent with the workouts as the previous 6 weeks. I’d skip a workout, but always make it up. But sometimes, I just needed a day to rest mid-week. By the time I completed the program, it took me an extra 2 weeks to complete (so, 14 weeks.) I never missed a HIIT workout, but missed some LISS ones, due to rest days.
The program is tough, but doable. What I love most about it, is that even on the hardest days, you’re going at your own pace. The program is designed to be accomplished better and better as you grow stronger and stronger. There are modification opportunities, and I took them most times (I prefer to do pushups on my knees, always and towards the end, I HAD to do the commandos on my knees as well — who can do 36 commandos in a row?)
The leg and arm days were absolutely the toughest – I was so surprised by how much I sweat on arm day. But, I was more surprised by how strong I became in my upper body, a place I’ve always struggled to define and tone.
What I love about BBG the most
That the workouts are only 28 minutes, three times a way and LISS isn’t overwhelming cardio. It’s doable. It’s sustainable. It’s something you can do, no matter your fitness level (they even have ‘pre-training’ for those who have never done these types of workouts before.)
The other thing I love most about BBG is that you don’t have to do any work but show up to your workout. What I mean is this – all of your workouts are planned out for 12 weeks. And honestly, when I’m working out on my own accord, I NEVER devote a full workout to abs OR arms. I love that there are some days that are just Arms and some are just Abs … and of course, some are just Legs (which are the toughest workouts!) However, each workout incorporates ALL your muscles (for example, on Abs day, there are burpees, which workout your entire body!) It’s just very organized and simple to follow. And you’re guaranteed a great workout everytime.
In the beginning, the muscle groups are combined – Arms & Abs day, for example. Towards the end of the program, it’s single muscle groups (because you can handle it!) In the beginning, a lot of exercises are repeated, but after the 2nd week, it all changes. And Kayla keeps switching it up on you, to keep you interested. And that’s what I love – every day, it’s a different workout.
What I did for LISS
Like I said, there are three HIIT workouts a week. These are the workouts designed by her. The other days, you do LISS workouts (low intensity steady state), which she examples as light jog/walk, stationary biking, etc. Basically, anything that is not a HIIT workout. For me, I have a Peloton bike in my apartment, so I knew that was what I wanted to do. But of course, those workouts are usually on the HIIT spectrum, so what I did was I just went at my own pace on the bike and didn’t push myself. If there was an interval, I just stayed steady. If there was an intense increase in resistance, I kept my resistance the same or added just 1-2 numbers. I worked up a sweat, but I wasn’t dripping or out of breath at the end, like I typically am in a Peloton ride.
There were some days when I couldn’t make my bike, so I would go on a nice long walk. But 9/10, it was Peloton for my LISS.
My before and after
Towards the middle-end of the program, I stopped taking before and after pictures. I didn’t need them. The way I look in front of the mirror wasn’t my goal, so why was I taking photos? My goals from the beginning were to just tone up. I wanted muscle definition and I was/am happy with my weight. I’ve never had the goal of being so thin or so low fat that I look shredded. I like being curvy – I have hips, I have a little padding around my tummy, I have breasts, my arms aren’t twigs. I like that look. I have no desire to be a stick figure. I don’t think that’s sexy, at least as far as my definition of sexy goes.
I didn’t expect myself to look drastically different at the end of the program, because I didn’t change my diet at all. I’m still breastfeeding and my body keeps fat around my hips and that probably won’t stop until I stop nursing. I love that extra pudge. All I care about is muscle tone, and I couldn’t be happier. My legs don’t jiggle when I walk, I don’t have terrible bat wings when I wave, and when I flex, I see a bigger muscle than I’ve ever seen. My butt is higher than it’s ever been, even before the baby!
Most importantly, I feel great. I feel energized, and I am filled with a sense of pride from finishing the program.
So, what’s next?
I am taking a few weeks off of BBG to just do my own thing. For now, I’m really enjoying getting back on the Peloton bike and following the rides and getting that HIIT workout in. I’m going to Iceland this weekend (to celebrate Lu’s 40th birthday earlier this week!) and obviously won’t be working out, so I plan on starting back up next Monday with a plan.
My plan is this – to give myself a few weeks to do my own thing, and if I can’t keep consistent, I’ll get back into BBG. I really loved the workouts, but they were definitely tough, and I just want a little bit of a break from the dedication.
What does do my own thing mean? I plan on doing Peloton 3 days a week and 30-minute lifting workouts 3 days a week. I’m going to probably use 1 of those 3 lifting workouts to do an old BBG Abs workout, because I just can’t bring myself to do abs unless I have a guide to follow, haha.
So, we’ll see how that leaves me – if I’m craving more structure, I’ll get back on BBG and probably do BBG 2.0! But for now, I want a little more flexibility.