Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Everything happens for a reason. Really.

It's not a secret that I've been job hunting for the past 6 months and while I found a temporary position at a community college an hour away, I was thrilled to have a job that I could actually make a living doing. And it was my first full time position to boot. But this meant that I had to make some big changes at my part time retail position.

Since accepting my temp position, I obviously had to cut back on my retail position. Management didn't seem to like this as I gave them a weeks notice due to the circumstances regarding the temp job, which, when going to fill in for a woman who's a few days out from her due date, I couldn't control the start date. Regardless of whether they liked the short notice or not, they were able to adjust my schedule. I gave them my new availability and informed them that it would run until early May (I also wrote this on the sheet to make it documented), which limited me to working just Saturdays due to my hours at my temp job didn't allow me any ability to work there during the week, and I needed one day off a week to get my errands and such done that I couldn't do during the week. They didn't seem keen on this, but nonetheless, accepted and moved forward with it.

As my time at my temp position winds down (Monday's my last day), I hit the job search again and hard. I decided that I can't afford to be picky with where I want to work and needed to make as much as I could before baby arrives in September. I applied to almost a dozen places and had 3 interviews: one almost 6 weeks ago (A), one two weeks ago (B), and the third a week and a half ago (C). I just heard back from A yesterday that I didn't get the job, I had a second interview with B last Monday, and I haven't heard from C since my initial interview. B asked me to come in last Friday and offered me a position to become a full time trainer, which I happily accepted. Their reason: they could really see that I was very passionate about health and fitness, something they look for in their candidates. I was beyond thrilled.

I go in tomorrow after I'm done at my temp job to complete all the paperwork and make it official. I still haven't told them I'm pregnant and I'm not sure if they've figured it out as I clearly look it at this point, but knowing that they hired me, pregnant or not, is a really good feeling. As hard as it's been for me to find a job, I believe that getting this position was meant to happen now, and not when I applied to this company back in the fall. As frustrating and worried as I've been since January, I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my chest, at least for now. It's been a busy year for me and will continue to be busy, and even more so when our newest addition arrives in September. Things are starting to look up, and I cleared another hurdle, though I know it won't be the last.

I've always believed that everything happens for a reason, even if we don't understand the reason at the time. What's meant to be will happen when it's supposed to, and the wait will be worth the journey you took to get there.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Prenatal Fitness: What I've Learned, Part 2

In case you missed part 1 of what I've learned for prenatal fitness, here's the link: Prenatal Fitness, Part 1

You'd be surprised how hard it was to find a picture of a pregnant woman with proper form!

Continuing from part 1, part 2 is going to be talking about the trials and errors of what movements/exercises have been working or not working for me, and how I've been feeling so far during my pregnancy. I'll also include some science (it can't be avoided) and hopefully learn something new (or have refreshed your memory). 

As of today, I'm just over 21 weeks and I'm noticing some changes from how I've been the past couple months. As my baby's growing and developing at a rapid rate, my body is still hard at work to grow my child. It's normal for my balance and posture to start to weaken due to the changes in my center of gravity and that my baby is growing larger, resulting in more weight on my front, for my food cravings to change, and to change my exercise routines to fit what I can do without being uncomfortable. What I mean by this is having to modify positions to be more comfortable for my body or change something entirely because it's become too difficult to keep up, but still be able to get an effective workout in. 

I'm going to break my experiences into sections: cardio, strength, and flexibility. Again, this is what I have been experiencing over the past bunch of weeks and is based on no one else's input. Fitness can be a lot of trial and error to figure out what works for someone, and what works for me may not work for someone else, or if it does, modification may be needed to fit what that person can or can't do. But the beauty of it is that no matter where your fitness level is, everything can be modified to fit you and your abilities. Getting outside of your comfort zone can be a good thing and who knows, you may end up loving to hate burpees, but do them anyway because of the many benefits doing them can offer. I love to hate burpees and yes, I still do them, but modified how I do them to fit what I can do without injuring myself.

Cardiovascular is referring to the heart and blood vessels, so when discussing cardiovascular endurance, cardio for short, it means working on your body's ability to continue exertion while getting energy from your body's aerobic system. In non-science speak, it's the ability to deliver oxygen to your muscles while they're working, by strengthening your heart and lungs to make them more efficient. 
There's quite a number of exercises that fall in the category of cardio: walking, jogging, swimming, biking, using an elliptical, Zumba, dancing, burpees, jumping jacks....you get the idea. Prior to finding out I was pregnant, I was running, biking, walking, and participating in TRX and CrossFit classes, and was doing at least one if not more of these a day. While TRX and CrossFit fall under strength as well, there is a cardio component to them. They were 20-45 minutes in length and considered high intensity training (HIT). Beginners did come to those classes and everyone is instructed to go at their own pace and listen to their body, and were given guidance and encouragement throughout the class (I would know, I was one of those instructors for those classes). The best reward: the more I worked at it, the easier those activities became, the stronger I became, and I had more energy and felt great. Although it's becoming more difficult to breathe due to baby growing in my abdominal cavity, I'm signed up for a 5K (3.11 miles) on May 2nd and while I've had to put running on hold, I am active at least 5-6 days a week. I still walk at least a mile 3-4 times a week (and I sometimes have to schedule it in, especially if the weather's bad), will go for 40-60 minute walks with my dog on the nicer days, and will ride a stationary bike while reading a book.

Strength refers to your muscles and how strong they are. Muscular endurance refers to the ability to sustain an activity for a long period of time (think light to moderate weight, higher reps) while muscular strength refers to the ability to produce maximal force for a short period of time (think heavy weight, few reps) in terms of lifting, or as a runner, a marathoner (endurance) versus a sprinter (strength). I don't necessarily lift for power anymore, but every now and then I do go until I hit momentary muscle failure (the ability to continue the movement with correct form until I can't do any more reps). But the second my form falls apart, I stop. I probably do this every few months with certain exercises, not not everything.
As I said in my cardio bit, my strength training regiment is probably 90% body weight exercises, mostly with my TRX Suspension Trainer. I still work in some of the CrossFit moves I used to do, but not to the same intensity because it's not necessarily healthy to exhaust myself completely while pregnant (and most doctors would highly recommend not working out to that point either). I still use kettlebells, medicine balls, and dumbbells as well, as I am now at the point where laying on my back isn't an option and still need to maintain strength in my lower back. Now, for beginners who haven't been consistently working out, I would highly recommend working with a trainer who specifically knows the do's and don'ts for pregnant women or starting with some pregnancy DVD's since they are specifically made for the mom-to-be.

Although most pregnant women can do a majority of exercises and movements that a non-pregnant woman can, there are a few contraindications that will need to be addressed depending on where the woman is in their pregnancy. For example, laying on your back or your stomach will probably be okay to do during your first trimester (up to 13 weeks) as long as it's not causing discomfort to the mother. In the second trimester (13 to 26 weeks), laying on the stomach is not going to be possible, but being in a prone position on hands and knees is an alternative. Laying on your back is still doable till about 18-20 weeks unless the mother is feeling uncomfortable prior to this stage of her pregnancy, at which point moving to an inclined surface would be best. This is because there are two major blood vessels that are on the back wall of the abdominal cavity (inferior vena cava and aorta) that move blood to and from your heart that when compressed by baby can disrupt or restrict blood flow. During the third trimester (27 to 40 weeks), more modifications will be needed, but I still have a while to go before I can give my experiences on this stage. Does this mean that all strength training has to stop? No, it doesn't, but it does mean that you need to make adjustments to your program to fit your abilities. 

Flexibility (limberness) is referring to the range of motion in a joint or multiple joints, and the length of muscles in your body that allow you to bend and move. Yoga is great for increasing this as well as strength (trust me, I was pretty sore when I started with yoga years ago), and while pregnant, prenatal yoga is an option, either by joining a local studio that offers them or DVD or videos that you've found online or on tv.

Everyone hears or has heard that stretching post workout is good for you. 10 to 15 minutes to stretch out after your workout helps increase the blood flow to the muscles you just worked, which can help reduce how sore you are when DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) sets in. While it's probably best to stretch after your body's warmed up and loose, there are people out there who insist on stretching while "cold", or before you've warmed up. There's mixed opinions on this, but I look at it and explain the concept to my clients this way: think of your muscles as an elastic band. Now, if the elastic band was put in the freezer for a few hours and taken out when you're ready to use it, chances are that it will break at a certain point. If the elastic band was left in the sun for a few hours and removed when you are ready to use it, chances are it will stretch a lot further before it breaks when compared to the frozen elastic band.

Why is stretching and flexibility important? The obvious answer being that having a better range of motion may improve your performance as well as decrease your risk of injury. A lack of flexibility can lead to a lack of mobility, which can affect our posture and decrease our effectiveness with performing certain movements, and maintaining good posture throughout pregnancy is important for many reasons including reduced lower back pain.

Here's what I've learned about myself by stretching regularly. My regular amount of stretching is done about 2-3 times a week for major parts of my body, and other areas of my body, such as my hips, hip flexors, and calves, almost every day. Prior to becoming pregnant, I usually stretched after a long run and after my strength workouts. During my first trimester, I didn't stretch a whole lot as I spent a good part of those 13 weeks sleeping more than usual, force myself to take my dog for a 20 minute walk, and virtually had no energy to hit the gym. As a result, my flexibility suffered quite a bit.

Around the 13 week mark, my energy started to come back and I was able to add 1-2 days of working out into my week, and boy was I ever sore the day after. I started to notice that my hips and hip flexors were more sore than usual, my chest and back felt much tighter, and my lower back pain was starting to creep up the pain scale again. It took some effort on my part, but after a few weeks of adding in 5-10 minutes of stretching after my walks, I started feeling better. My range of motion was coming back and I couldn't have been happier! The pains that I was feeling were going away and I was able to increase my range of motion during my strength days.

On the days that I spend a lot of time sitting, I swapped out my chair for a stability ball, which has been great. Being that it's unstable, it forces me to use my core muscles to work so that I don't fall off the ball, and I can challenge myself further by crossing one leg over the other (making sure to alternate which leg's on top) and balance on one foot instead of two. It was a bit difficult at first, but now I can rock it like a pro. What I love most is that sitting on the ball allows me to roll around while sitting on it, which helps open up my hips and shift my pelvis around, reducing any lower back pain (big time win for me). Plus, bouncing is just straight up fun.

Being 21 weeks into my pregnancy is giving me more challenges to deal with: difficulty sitting up without having to rollover or push myself upright, tying my shoes and putting socks on is getting harder, and most importantly, my balance is starting to fall apart faster. I'll give myself more modifications and possibly change up my routines some more, but I will not sit back and let myself go. I can't afford to and I've still got quite a ways to go before I get to meet our newest addition. Moving forward!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Prenatal Fitness: What I've learned, part 1

Biggest issue that I've learned from pregnant women with regards to fitness and working out during their pregnancy: no two women will get the same answer with regards to fitness.

For many women, if they were working out prior to becoming pregnant, they were most likely told that they can continue what they were doing, but to listen to their body if they became tired sooner or to back off if a movement was bothering them. 

For those who may have been living a sedentary life prior to their pregnancy, they were most likely told one of two things: yes, you should become active and work into it slowly (this is true for anyone, pregnant or not), or no, trying to get fit now will be bad for you and baby. This last statement is something that has always boggled my mind because when is movement EVER bad for you? Did we revert to the 1960's when it was believed that running too much was bad for the reproductive system of women? Are there certain things a complete beginner shouldn't do when starting a new fitness routine? Absolutely. Does that mean that they should do nothing? Not by a long shot. 

Every single person moves, how much they move depends on them, but everyone moves. Walking, bending, and squatting for example, are movements that are done almost every day for most people. Excluding my workouts, I walk around my apartment, climb stairs multiple times a day, step in and out of the bathtub for a shower, bend over to tie my shoes, squat to get a pot or pan out of the cabinet, along with much more. That's just a typical day for me at home, and I do more than that at my job.

By no means am I telling anyone to not speak to their doctor and their OBGYN. You may have certain conditions that may restrict certain activities or limit how much of others you can do. If you have doubts about something, ask. I was once told that the only stupid question out there is the one you don't ask. As a personal trainer, I want you to ask questions. I want you to feel confident with what you're doing and if I don't have an answer, I'll do my research. Yes, I will ask about your health history, what you've done in the past with regards to fitness, what you're currently doing, your diet, if you have any health concerns or restrictions, and if necessary, reach out to your doctor for specifics. Your safety is my #1 concern and I will tell you that. Will I get annoying for correcting your form for the umpteenth time? Probably. Am I trying to limit your chance of getting injured? You bet. 

Back to the topic at hand: what I've learned about prenatal fitness. Number 1 thing I've learned: regardless of your stage of pregnancy, get off your butt and move! Go for a walk, swim, bike, try a prenatal yoga class, but do something. Are you a beginner? Start with walking for 10 minutes a day and work to improve your cardiovascular endurance. Your heart will get stronger, you'll be able to walk for longer the more you work at it, and you'll have more energy. Are you a veteran? Great job and keep up the hard work! Regardless of your level of fitness, one thing is standard across the board for all women during their pregnancy: listen to what your body is telling you. Are you feeling fatigued? Having a hard time breathing? Do you feel absolutely wiped out? Either back off and take a rest or call it a day. Your body is growing another human being, and that takes a lot of energy by itself. If you feel like you need a nap, go take a nap. I slept a significant amount more during my first trimester than I thought possible. I barely had the energy to take my dog for a mile walk, let alone think about going for a run. Did I get my energy back? Yes. Was it hard getting back into the swing of things? Very. Did I quit? Nope, and I don't plan to. 

The second thing I've learned when researching prenatal fitness and what's offered for pregnant women is that the only thing I've seen as far programs/classes go is that prenatal yoga is basically it. While I've seen Stroller-cise and many other programs for postnatal women, there's virtually nothing for the currently pregnant woman. 

Now I know that no two women are the same in pregnancy and no fitness program/class can be a one size fits all, but why aren't there more prenatal fitness classes out there? I have nothing against prenatal yoga by any means, but for me, yoga just really isn't my thing. Have I done yoga in the past? Yes. Have I been to yoga classes before? Yes, but I've also tried step, Zumba, cycling/spinning, TRX, CrossFit, and others so I'm not opposed to trying anything. As a trainer, it's important for me to try a variety of classes and try out various instructors because at some point, a client will ask what I think of So-and-So's class or of _______ class, and I should be able to give them my opinion, pros and cons, and why they should try or not try it. 

Do I think there should be a Mommy Bootcamp type of class or some other fitness class for soon-to-be moms? Yes! Should it be designed to fit all stages of pregnancy? Absolutely! Is this something that I want to start at my facility if it doesn't exist? You bet! Why would I want to start something like this? Why not would be my initial answer, but because it's a great way for soon-to-be moms to meet and bond over stories and experiences, make new friends, and get fit in the process! The benefits of being fit during a pregnancy can far outweigh the risks of being sedentary: labor could be smoother, recovery could be faster, your body could bounce back sooner. 

I can't say that I've experienced any of this from personal experience as this will be my first child, but I've heard stories and spoken to people I know who were both fit going into delivery and who had been sedentary going into delivery, and the length of recovery was much longer for those who were sedentary or who had complications. Personally, I want as much as my labor and delivery to be as smooth as possible and if that means working out and strength training on a regular basis, then I will do what it takes to try to make the process smoother (notice I didn't say easier. There's nothing easy about labor and delivery, or so I've been told). 

Nothing can make your day like a little pregnancy humor!

Thanks for reading part 1! Part 2 will be coming soon!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

My worries in a rant. Sorry

As my time at my temp position winds down (I have 4.5 weeks left), I've been doing a lot of thinking, and not a lot of positives have been coming to me sadly.

To my closest friends, I truly am a worrier: worried about eating right, worried about staying in shape (which is proving to be quite difficult for me apparently), worried about finances, worried about our housing situation, and the list could go on and on. With a little one on the way and due to arrive in September (or whenever they decide to grace my husband and I with their presence), the negative just seem to be pouring out of me, no matter how hard I try to stay optimistic. My out-of-control hormones probably aren't helping me any, but I can't seem to control how I feel.

Surprisingly, I'm not all that worried about the nursery, at least for the moment. When we do get the furniture, hand-me-downs from family members, we will be throwing out the mattress that's currently in our second bedroom. We've had it for almost 7 years and it really just has reached the end of it's life. All of my hubby's "man cave" items will be staying on the wall, mainly because we don't have space to store them or relocate them to another part of our apartment. I plan on reorganizing the closet in that room because whoever lived there previous to us did the absolute worst job in adding extra shelves, and they're not level and they're driving me nuts. Dad, you taught me well in doing handy work in the house properly. I've even been "contracted" my by sister-in-law to hang things in her apartment because I'm just that awesome at it. I also know that our family won't be staying in our current place come October so I'm just not going to bother with decorating the nursery. I just don't see a point when our babe will be 6 weeks at the oldest when we move.

What worries me the most is my job status. Yes, I have a part time position at a major retail store, but that's not where I want to stay. I find myself becoming more and more unhappy with upper level management: the schedule is only displayed for a week at a time, and the following week's schedule isn't posted till 2-3 days before it starts. Meaning that you can't plan ahead. My previous store always posted the schedule for 2-3 weeks ahead, they have been known to change my schedule without my permission and fail to call me to make sure I can work the changes (in my defense, I work 1 day a week and don't stop in except to work), schedule me on days that I'm unavailable (for which I gave them an availability form with specific dates on when it would end, but that apparently means nothing to them), and give me a really hard time for only being available one day a week. I don't want to stay there, especially since the cost of living is nearly twice as much as where I previously lived and my wages don't reflect the cost to live where I am, despite asking for a raise as I've worked for the company for over 18 months (which didn't happen), but I can't afford to leave either. The only good thing for me staying there is that I get FMLA, but only the part where my job is guaranteed after 12 weeks of leave. As far as other prospects, the likelihood of me being hired 18 weeks pregnant is slim. Yes, it's against the law to discriminate, but companies can come up with other reasons why they wouldn't hire me and at least in New Jersey, that employer has to give a reason why they aren't hiring you. That's the law here. I didn't know that a few months ago when I wasn't given a reason for why I wasn't hired at a fitness facility.

I'm also worried about when I go on maternity leave. Will I be able to handle being on my own with a 15 month old pup? Can we afford me not to work for 12 weeks? I know the answer is yes and we'll make it work, but it still worries me nonetheless. And I'm terrified of completely losing it. I have this crazy idea in my head that when I've reached my limit, I'm going to pack the kid up, drive to my husband's job, and leave them with him. I know I can't do that, but I feel like I will have many days like that where I just can't handle everything. I have a very hard time dealing with things that are out of my control and a small human being is going to be a struggle for me. I'm sure I'll figure it out, but that's what I'm currently feeling.

I wish I could write something happier, but happy is not what I'm feeling. I'm hormonal, stressed, and really wanting a beer. I will get through this, but right now, this moment, I don't feel like I will.