5 Ways to Avoid the Holiday Eating Frenzy

Let’s be honest – we’ve made it to the final stretch of 2020, but we’re all on fumes at this point.

Worn down by a non-stop news cycle and the never-ending pandemic, not to mention all the other “2020 things” (election, natural disasters, murder hornets and homeschooling, to name a few), most of us are probably considering just burying our faces in a pint of Eggnog ice cream and calling it a year, right?

But here’s where I tell you there’s a better way – a way to enjoy the holidays without the pressure of resolutions to undo all the damage come January. And best of all, it doesn’t have to suck the life out of your holiday season.

It’s all about making a few little shifts to set yourself up for success when navigating holiday eating landmines. Here are five ways to get started:

1. Think small. Small = sustainable. Abstaining completely from your favorite holiday treats isn’t realistic. Instead, aim for eating (and taking the time to savor) one serving of the things you really love. 

2. Just keep swimming. End up going overboard? First, don’t beat yourself up: There’s no failure, only feedback. Second, assess the situation: Is there something that triggered you – i.e. stress, loneliness? And third, make a list of alternate ideas for addressing it next time. For example, instead of turning to food for comfort when you’re missing family, try Face Timing them or writing a letter.

3. Prioritize protein. It’s the macronutrient responsible for muscle repair and recovery, plus it’ll keep you more satiated (read: less susceptible to filling up on those hyper-palatable treats that are devoid of healthy nutrients). So rather than starving yourself all day before a big dinner, a better strategy would be to fill up on protein and veggies at breakfast so you don’t go berserk later.

4. Aim for progress, not perfection. Don’t let perfect get in the way of good enough. It usually leads to the all-or-nothing cycle of “starting again on Monday,” which never works. Be realistic. Choose fewer processed foods. Grab a handful of veggies when you think about it. Swap a diet pop in for a regular pop. And, for goodness sake, drink a few more glasses of water.

5.  Take the focus off food. Sure, food is front and center during the holidays, but it doesn’t mean we can let the other puzzle pieces slide. Getting enough sleep helps ward off cravings and regulate hormones, moving your body gets endorphins flowing, and taking time for recovery and mindfulness will help tie it all together.

Need some extra accountability? Join us December 1-21 for 21 days of movement and healthy habits with our Healthy Holidays Challenge 2020!

Details are below; signups are underway, and we’ve got prizes for participation, so get ready to end the year on a high note.

Integrate Fitness + Nutrition’s Healthy Holidays Challenge 2020

December 1-21

$21 for 21 days of workouts + healthy habits

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER!

Already dreading the scale come January? It doesn’t have to be that way; we’ve got your back this year!

Join us for a 21-day challenge, and partake in your favorite holiday indulgences without wreaking havoc on your health and fitness goals.

You will receive:

  • Daily 15-minute bodyweight workout
  • Daily 5-minute nutrition action
  • Ideas for enjoying the season while staying on track
  • Private group for support and accountability
  • Incentive prizes to stoke a little friendly competition!

Make time to take care of yourself this season. Our Healthy Holiday Challenge will:

  • Keep you active and focused on healthy habits
  • Help with stress relief
  • Provide you with accountability and extra motivation
  • Give you a head start on your New Year’s goals

Don’t deprive yourself; let us help you shift your focus without the pressure of resolutions!

And here’s how we’re sweetening the deal… Earn participation points each day, and WIN awesome prizes!

  • Workout + Nutrition action completed = 2 points
  • Social media post (tag us & use hashtag #IFNhealthyholiday2020) = 3 points
  • Recruit a friend to join = 5 points

Tracking is the responsibility of each participant & works on the honor system. Let us know your final score at the end of the challenge = the three people with highest points win!

CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP!

Need even more support and accountability? I offer 1:1 nutrition coaching as a certified Pn1 sports nutrition coach. Shoot me a note (jennifer (at) pulsecreativepdx (dot) com) if you’re interested, and let’s chat!

5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Starting a Post-COVID-19 Fitness Program

As the globe creaks back to life, the fitness industry is following suit. Gyms are re-opening, group classes are resuming…and we’re gradually reemerging into a much different world – one where we evaluate everything in terms of risks and cost/benefit.

There may be a light at the end of the tunnel, but we’re certainly not out of the woods yet.

This can be tsough when it comes to fitness, because goals, consistency and dependable routine are the stepping stones to success.

But instead of throwing in the towel on 2020, why not re-calibrate your fitness strategy with a new set of goals? Here are a few questions to use as a jumping-off point:

  1. Where am I now? Take an honest assessment of where your fitness stands. Did you spend quarantine in maintenance mode? Did your body and mind need an extended break to cope? Did you find solace in setting and pursuing challenging goals? There’s no one correct reaction to a global pandemic, mind you.
  2. Where do I want to be? In an ideal world, what did you have planned for this time, and for the near future? Is it realistic to still get there from where you currently stand, or are you better served setting an interim goal to help get yourself up to speed safely? Or has your goal now changed completely?
  3. Who am I now? There’s no denying that this time has changed us. Have you transitioned to Zoom classes, or abandoned the group fitness scene altogether? (It’s ok to break up with the gym. Really. And this is coming from my friend Al, a seasoned fitness trainer). Has your motivation waned, or were you inspired and invigorated to pursue something new?
  4. Where do I see myself in the future? Identity and fitness are often intertwined, and this time for pause and reflection has allowed many of us to reevaluate whether our goals align with our true desires. Were you “not a runner” who has now developed a jogging habit? Are you a “marathoner” who has had to abandon your typical fall race? What are you identifying with nowadays?
  5. How will I get there? Getting successfully from Point A to Point B always requires a plan. Your original route may have fallen by the wayside, so what are the steps needed to get you to you new goal? How will you go about taking each step? Who can help? What stands in your way, and how can you overcome any obstacles? Why are you motivated, and how can you maintain that momentum?

As you can see, there are no right or wrong answers here.

But going through the process will help you design a goal that will stretch, thrill and inspire you. And when you’re working toward something with that kind of meaning, there’s no limit to what you can achieve.

Six Simple Ways to Incorporate (More) Movement in Your Life

Exercise is more important than ever right now. Not only does it boost the immune system, prevent weight gain (hello, Quarantine15) and improve sleep, but it also (and perhaps most importantly) reduces stress and anxiety and supports mental health.

But what if you’re stuck in rut or not feeling particularly motivated at the moment?

First, I don’t blame you. Now is the time to give ourselves grace – not extra pressure. And second, that said, it’s still important to move your body as regularly as possible with the current constraints.

So here’s the plan: Al Painter, 19-year strength training veteran and owner of Integrate Performance Fitness, and I teamed up for six quick tips (three physical & three mental) to help you get back in the game.

Three Ways to Put the ‘Physical’ Back in Fitness (c/o Al):

  1. Twenty is plenty. Ready for the fitness revelation of the ages? You DON’T need a 60-minute ass-whooping of biblical proportions with each workout. Keep it short and sweet; 20 minutes is more than enough to make a change.
  2. Use compound movements. Pick 2-3 exercises that will use every muscle in your body – preferably from the push, pull and squat departments. For instance, body-weight squats are a great option because there are so many varieties. You could even go with something as simple as a crawling. Throw in some lunging left and right, and you’ve just put together a full-body workout in a very short amount of time.
  3. K.I.S.S. The rule of thumb here is that basics work best. Don’t try and to combine your favorite CardiogaPlyolatesKickBoxSculpt-X classes in your workouts. Trying to get better at everything in the same workout leaves you better at nothing over all.

Put it in action:

Here’s how Al describes one of his favorite “Twenty is Plenty” circuits with an exercise band:

  1. Squatting with an alternate arm pull because this gets my glutes, obliques and every muscle of my pull chain.
  2. Stepping and pressing with an alternate arm pattern because it looks like running, walking and skipping and lets me hit damn near every muscle in my body at once in an incredibly functional way.
  3. Anti-Rotation Lunges because this hits all of the muscles that stop rotation that will reduce your chances of having lower back issues. Plus this is a left and right side exercise so you can get an additional bang for your buck with more movement.
  4. I like to set a clock for :30 of moving and :30 of rest and a total set number of 20. This gives me just under 20:00 (19:33 to be exact if you’re keeping score at home) of movement.

Three Ways to Up Your Mental Game (c/o yours truly):

  1. Give yourself a goal. Set your sights on something S.M.A.R.T. – that is, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely. Once you know where you want to go, it’s easier to make a plan for how to get there. And being able to break that plan into small, incremental steps will help you focus your efforts and stay motivated.
  2. Try it for 21 days. Whether or not you subscribe to the fact that it takes 21 days to develop a habit (one study says it’s more like 66, on average), three weeks is a great starting point when making a new behavior part of your life.
  3. Peer pressure FTW! Groups are great for accountability and morale, so find a like-minded community to help you go the distance. If that’s no an option, try recruiting friends and family to help keep you honest; their support – and cheerleading – can go a long way when it comes to achieving your goal.

Put it in action:

Here’s an exercise I like to use when setting up a S.M.A.R.T. goal; just start small and go from there:

  1. Specific – What do you want to achieve exactly? The more detailed, the better. If you commit to more speedwork in your running, saying “I’m going to join X group on Monday nights for their coached track workouts each week” is much better than “I want to work on my speed.”
  2. Measurable – Define criteria for measurement (if your goal is weight loss, say a pound per week), which allows you to check your progress regularly and make adjustments as needed. Smaller increments are more manageable, meaning you have a better chance of staying on track.
  3. Achievable – The best goals stretch you outside of your comfort zone but aren’t so unattainable that they become demoralizing. On the other hand, go too easy, and you may never find out what you’re truly capable of. Find the middle ground, and go for it.
  4. Relevant – Pick what’s personally meaningful, not necessarily what’s most popular, and you’ll be willing to work towards it. Don’t set your sights on a marathon if you can’t stand running long distances; instead, find something that suits you and your investment will be that much higher.
  5. Timely – Give yourself a deadline. When your goal is time-bound, you’ll stay motivated, focused and on schedule. Ahead of schedule? Great! Pat yourself on the back, then adjust your goal and keep moving toward that next milestone.

If you’re interested in testing out these tips for yourself, Al and I have a proposal for you: We’re launching a Core Commitment Challenge starting June 15 and would love for you to join us.

It’s 21 days of just 20 minutes of movement per day. Short, sweet, simple. Designed for people who are crunched for time but want to add some movement to their life.

Register here (use code 21DAYS to get the challenge for just $14 if you register by 6/11/20). It’s open to everyone, and we can’t wait to get moving with you!

Core Strength: A Runners’ Secret Weapon

savingPNG (1)

If you’re a runner, there’s a good chance you’re working toward some kind of goal that requires you to run A) farther, B) faster, C) without getting hurt, or D) some combination of at least two of the three.

You’ve researched training plans, logged miles and worked through minor aches and pains only to find that your results don’t feel proportional to the amount of effort you’re investing. Sound familiar?

We know that strong core is important – but most of us aren’t sure what exactly that means, which exercises to do or how often to do them.

We’re here to help!

Join me and my friend, Al Painter of Integrate Performance Fitness, on June 4 for a special workshop just for runners – if you’re reading this, that means YOU, but register now to save your spot because we’ve only got 30 seats available.

What: Live Zoom workshop + workout

When: Thurs, June 4, 6-7pm PDT

How: Click here to register

Cost: FREE!

Details:
Ditch the crunches, and get off the floor to work your core!

The core is a runner’s secret weapon for speed and efficiency, but for most runners it’s one of our weakest links.

Think of it this way – you can only put out the amount of power your joint stability allows; picture trying to shoot a cannon out of canoe.

Led by fitness industry veterans (Al Painter, training endurance athletes for 19 years & Jennifer Hellickson, 25 years’ experience running, competing & coaching), this live workshop + workout will focus on fundamentals of core strength – specifically for runners.

Wear comfy clothes and come ready to move. Bonus: You’ll leave with a free two-week core strength and running conditioning program to help you get started!

Click here to register & reserve your spot. Limited to the first 30 attendees.

Runners: The Mistake You’re Making That Could Cost You Future PRs – Part II

4849F3D2-4456-46A3-BBA4-A9C2CE3B7234

If you’ve landed here from the Integrate Performance Fitness blog, welcome to Part II of our trilogy! If you’re wondering, “Where’s Part I?” click the link above to get up to speed.  

In Part I of this series, my trusted trainer friend Al Painter, a strength coach specializing in endurance athletes, and me (longtime runner, certified run coach) talked about a mistake many runners are making right now: Chasing PRs.

As he noted, what we’re really searching for is a sense of normalcy.

We like the motivation and purpose that comes with racing. We find control amid the chaos when we check off the boxes on our training plan. We feel productive when we’re able to nail speed workouts and see progress being made.

But with so many things up in the air – races cancelled or on hold, living our lives in an indefinite holding pattern – we agreed that now’s not a time to ramp up; it’s a time to reset your body and re-evaluate your goals.

Then when it’s go-time again, you’ll actually be a step ahead.

In fact, here are the five things runners should be focusing on right now (adapted from elite performance coach Mike Robertson):

  1. Family & Relationships. We’ve got the gift of extra time with loved ones; how are you making the most of it?
  2. Nutrition & Meal Prep. We also have a unique opportunity: unprecedented control over our fueling with fewer distractions; take advantage!
  3. Recovery & Sleep. If bedtime is creeping later each night, we’ve got choices to make; create and prioritize good sleep habits.
  4. Mindset & Meditation. Runners, this is where we shine! We already know we can do hard things, and normal won’t be back for a while, so flex mental muscles to stay positive and use running as both a moving meditation and stress-reliever.
  5. Mobility & Movement. Formerly known as “cross-training,” this is what we now want to make routine in order to take our running to the next level.

So when it comes to running, what exactly do we do?

Running coach Mario Fraioli put it well when he said, “step back and reexamine your relationship with training and racing, find new and different meaning in this pursuit of running, and start dreaming up personal projects or creative goals that excite you and can be pursued within the current constraints of this strange situation.”

Keep it simple, and just move. But listen to your body, and be willing to adapt, depending on the day.

I hesitate to post a specific running workout here because we’re all at different places at the moment – physically, mentally, emotionally – so instead I’ll issue a challenge: This week, commit to at least three days of “running-inspired”movement.

It could be as simple as setting your watch with a 15-minute timer then walking or running for that amount of time before turning around and re-tracing your steps (an out-and-back outside, or even laps around your apartment).

It could be finding a hill nearby (or set of stairs in your home), setting a timer for 20 minutes and working out current frustrations on the incline – run up quickly, staying tall with a slight forward lean at the hips. Walk down the other side or do a slow lap (around the hill or your house) to recover. Repeat until the time is up.

Or if you’re feeling up to it, take yourself on a long run. My new Sunday morning routine is to go out and get lost – in the miles, in my head, in the music – to build endurance and get my mind right for the week ahead.

As for the other days of the week – and the strength training and mobility I’ve been touting as the magic that will help us all run stronger, longer and without injury?

Well, for that I’ll send you back over to Al, who’s written up a runner-specific strength workout that he’ll cover in Part III of this series. Head on over here to check it out when it posts in a few days!

 

Why KISS Should Be Your New Fitness Mantra

pexels-photo-221210

Well, hello! It’s been a while, but it’s great to be back. Time away to reflect (and raise two tiny humans) has given me a renewed mission: to inform and inspire, along with igniting a passion for the process of getting fit. It’s not about letting go of your dreams, aspirations and ultimate goals; it’s about gaining the perspective to maintain a healthy balance while pursuing them. Curious about this new outlook? Read on…

They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, and that’s where we’re at with the fitness industry these days.

Set goal –> Achieve goal –> Set bigger/longer/faster goal –> Get injured –> Recover –> Set even bigger/longer/faster goal –> Achieve goal (maybe) –> Get injured again –> ???

Sensing a pattern here?

Now, I’m not knocking goal-setting. It’s great to test yourself every now and then, both in relation to your former self and to others. But solely focusing on the achievement of a goal (or string of goals) isn’t just short-term when it comes to fitness; it’s short-sighted.

I’m guilty of this myself. After my son was born, I couldn’t wait to start training again; I had BIG GOALS for a half marathon PR. I thought I was being responsible, doing preventative PT, easing back into running and even going as far as to hire a coach to help rein in my training mileage.

But now I realize that a need to prove myself combined with a narrow focus was ultimately my undoing; I was still missing key strength components to help my new (postpartum) body navigate training.

The PR came, but at a cost: a stress fracture that left me wondering what it was worth.

It turns out there’s a fine line between relentless and reckless. And you don’t often know you’ve crossed it until it’s too late.

Over the past 20 years (I started my writing career at Windy City Sports magazine in Chicago during the early 2000’s), I’ve seen the industry evolve in a way that’s become a lot about ego: followers, PRs, races, workouts in “beast mode.”

The common thread? Bigger, better, stronger, harder, longer, faster, more, more, MORE!

We push-push-push to validate ourselves, thinking that we’ll finally feel the sense of worth that comes with PRs, qualifications, nailing skills or hitting certain levels.

But, the truth is, we still won’t feel good about ourselves, and the finish line just keeps running away.

I’ve talked about this extensively with Al Painter (a friend, colleague, 19-year fitness industry vet and former mountain bike racer), and we commiserated over the shared experience of chasing the elusive “win.”

“When I raced my mountain bike, getting faster was never fast enough. Every ride had to be a training challenge,” Painter told me.

“Winning races weren’t really victories because the second I crossed the finish line, I realized I had to start training for the next event, keeping me from feeling good about the one I just finished.”

We agreed that it’s high time to stop putting pressure on ourselves for PRs, and us competitive-non-elite-athletes are in desperate need of a mental shift.

Whether it takes getting sidelined by a major injury or being quarantined at home due to a global pandemic, we should be utilizing this time not to bemoan missed races, but to re-think our current routines and get back to valuing – and celebrating – the basics.

But don’t basics = boring?

Nope. That’s just your ego talking.

Think of fitness like a pyramid. At the bottom are things like adequate sleep, good nutrition, postural alignment, structural imbalances, etc. When we master these things and are doing them consistently, only then should we gradually layer on other training components.

The top of the pyramid is reserved for elite athletes; not only are they invested in conditioning their bodies for super specific niches, but they also benefit financially from doing so.

“If your livelihood depends on a certain level of fitness to get paid to perform a demanding physical task, you’re playing by an entirely different set of rules,” Painter said in a recent Red Delta Project podcast interview.

For the rest of us, we need to have an honest conversation with ourselves about training our bodies for the life we are living. Or, as Painter says (and I’ve since adopted as my mantra), “You’re not getting paid to play; you’re paying to play.”

I used to measure my fitness in running PRs, but now I define it more broadly: Running’s always been my therapy, so can I keep doing it and stay pain-free, with the occasional race thrown in? Can I lift my toddlers without tweaking my back? Can I go into each day feeling my best, so I can show up for myself and my family?

My challenge to you (and myself) is to take a simpler, kinder approach to your fitness. KISS, if you will. And here’s how we can start:

  1. Define why, then what. There’s no better time to do some soul-searching. What’s are your motivating forces, and how can you translate them into improving your health in ways that make you feel genuinely good about yourself?
  2. Develop body-listening skills. Pain isn’t something to be ignored, pushed through or “dealt with;” it’s your body trying to communicate something. Instead of trying various ways to shut it up, have the courage to converse.
  3. Identify blind spots. Your least favorites are usually the things you need to focus on most: core work, strength training, mobility, posture, etc. Turning weaknesses into strengths is the game-changer. What are you currently resisting?
  4. Learn what advice to take. And, more importantly, learn who to ignore. There’s a big difference between “expert” and “influencer,” so do your research.
  5. Reframe fitness success. Mastering one skill is impressive to people who are also concentrating on that one skill – i.e. running. But, again, unless you’re operating at the elite level, it’s not real life. Are you able to touch your toes, do yard work, take a dance class or throw a ball with your kids?

Think holistically, and the way you define yourself, your fitness, your successes and your failures fundamentally shifts.

Don’t stop dreaming; there’s a time and a place for goals. But just don’t base your self-worth on the achievement of them because it’s a slippery slope.

Channel your excitement into what it takes to get from here to there, and then that PR will simply be icing on the cake.

 

 

Duct, Duct, Loose: Clearing a Clogged Milk Duct

breast_abscess_750

If you want to watch a mom involuntarily wince, just say the phrase “clogged milk duct.”

Not only are they feels-like-you-got-punched-in-the-boob painful (quite possibly the female equivalent to a guy getting kicked in the junk?!), they’re also troublesome because they can lead to the dreaded mastitis.

I’ve had my fair share of troubleshooting clogs while feeding two babies, so I wanted to share a few tips from along the way in case you find yourself in a similar situation:

Breastfeed. Your baby is very efficient at draining milk from your breast. If latching is too painful, begin nursing from the opposite side to encourage let-down, and then switch sides.

Pump. The same goes for pumping; the object is to get that duct open and keep the milk flowing, so pump, pump, pump it up.

Positioning. Use gravity with a “dangle feed” to help get things moving. And try a similar position while pumping, as well.

Moist heat. The idea here is to reduce inflammation and pain, plus stimulate circulation. Take a hot shower or sit with a hot compress (don’t have one? simply wet a baby diaper & zap it in the microwave for 30 seconds) prior to feeding/pumping.

Vibration. My PT recommended this for helping to loosen things up and stimulate milk flow. And electric toothbrush works perfectly when used in small, circular motions!

Massage. Apply some lotion and massage out any lumps and bumps with your fingers, working from the back of the breast toward the nipple.

Sunflower Lecithin. Lecithin is reported to decrease the viscosity (stickiness) of the milk, thus helping it flow more freely. The recommended dosage for  helping to clear a clogged duct is 3600-4800 mg lecithin per day, or 1 capsule (1200 milligram) 3-4 times per day. You can decrease the dosage as symptoms decrease/disappear.

Anti-Inflammatories. I’ve had good success with using ibuprofen to treat pain and inflammation, helping to open up and clear out those angry ducts.

Compressions and/or Hand Expression. While pumping, work on any areas that are hard or tender in an attempt to un-stick the milk. For particularly troubling spots, you can also hand express after feeding/pumping, which often helps get things moving (and can even increase supply!).

Loose Clothing. Wearing a tight or poorly-fitting bra, constrictive clothing or anything that smushes your breasts can impede milk flow and contribute to a clogged duct. Loosen up!

Sleep Position. Continuous pressure on your breasts while lying on your stomach or even in some side positions can also hinder milk flow, so switch it up frequently (or bust out that pregnancy pillow again).

Ultrasound. When all else fails, find a local physical therapist who specializes in women’s health. Whenever I had a pesky duct that just wouldn’t loosen up on its own, a session or two with my PT worked wonders.

Mamas, any other tricks for finding relief with clogged milk ducts? Please share!

Disclaimer: I’m not a medical professional; this advice is purely shared based on personal experience. Please see your doctor to get clearance before trying anything new! 

 

Willa’s Birth Story

WillaRose

On Friday, April 13, at 8:30 a.m. our family officially became a foursome with the birth of little Willa Rose. I haven’t had much time to devote to the blog (because newborn + two-year-old), but I did want to document her birth story while it’s fairly fresh in my mind (much like her brother’s here), mostly in case she wants to look back on it later.

But first – while we’re on the topic of birth – I wanted to take the opportunity to talk for a second about birth plans.

Can we all just agree that these add a lot of unwarranted pressure on moms? I’m not sure exactly when birth planning became a thing (aside from, “Let’s make a baby!” and “Let’s keep it alive outside of Mom’s belly”), but somehow we’ve come to a place where there’s now a big emphasis on them. So much so that there are all these new pressures, expectations and emotions surrounding the whole birthing “experience.”

Maybe it’s a fear thing; we want to have some semblance of control in a situation that cannot really be planned? Maybe it’s a societal (read: social media) thing; we want to wear some kind of warrior-woman-Earth-goddess status as a badge of honor? Or maybe it’s a gender thing; like all we needed was yet another way for women to feel like they had to measure up?

Whatever the reason, it’s time celebrate and appreciate birth in ALL its forms. Go, us, for growing and bringing a new life into the world!

I bring this up because I, too, got sucked into the hype the first time around – but found that during my second pregnancy (with more perspective or…less patience?) it became annoying more than anything.

I originally hoped to go the unmedicated, vaginal route with Wyatt…but as the saying goes, “man plans, and God laughs.”

As a breech baby, he dictated the plan in the end. And when it was Willa’s turn, my body ended up ultimately calling the shots, as you’ll see below.

So despite my best intentions, both births were out of my control. I fought against the first one and felt feelings of guilt, loss and even frustration afterward. But the second time around I ultimately found peace and rolled with the punches.

I’d even go as far as to say that this most recent experience was amazing – and cathartic. So, lesson learned, and I hope other mamas and mamas-to-be can benefit from reading this!

Now, let’s get to the good stuff – the story of Willa:

Just as with Wyatt, we decided early on not to find out the sex of the baby until delivery day. It was such a memorable experience last time that we wanted the same anticipation and excitement around the arrival of baby number two.

With the exception of added fatigue (hello, toddler), my second pregnancy was, thankfully, fairly uneventful and very similar to my first. Willa’s time in utero was remarkably low-key, marked by swift kicks to my right ribs and nightly hiccups.

Most notable was that she seemed to be following in the footsteps of her big brother by hanging out in a breech position. Up until week 33 or 34 I had resigned myself to the fact that we were headed for another scheduled c-section (I had been hoping for a VBAC but knew it wasn’t a guarantee).

Unlike her brother, however, a third trimester growth scan revealed that baby had flipped into the head-down position. This was also about the time she also started pressing on my sciatic nerve. Any exercise – or even walking, for that matter – came to a grinding halt, which was interesting because right up until that point running actually felt great!

With a few weeks left, I was thrilled to make a game plan for a VBAC attempt. I say “attempt” because they call it a “trial of labor” in the hospital consent form. Regardless, it was exciting because I was really hoping to avoid another c-section – mainly because A) I didn’t like feeling so drugged up after the first one, and B) I was worried about a more complex recovery with a toddler at home (you’re not supposed to lift anything heavier than baby for the first few weeks).

But as soon as I re-packed my hospital bags and wrapped my head around a new kind of birth, my body decided to throw us for a loop in the form of rapidly rising blood pressure – aka gestational hypertension – around week 37.

So fast forward to week 38. and my c-section-turned-VBAC “birth plan” changed once again. After testing for pre-eclampsia (negative) and spending in Labor & Delivery being monitored (her heartbeat dipped on the doppler during a routine visit, but it turned out she was fine), I was given a deadline by my OB: baby needed to come in the next week.

Now all that was left to do was make a game plan for getting her out safely.

Option one was to induce, but since I had a previous c-section we were limited in the range of drugs we could use (basically just Pitocin to stimulate contractions). But since I wasn’t dilated yet and we couldn’t use any medicine to soften my cervix, my OB calculated pretty low odds of success. Option two was to schedule a repeat c-section.

When I pressed (pleaded!) for a third option – buying more time for baby to come on his/her own – my OB cautioned strongly against it.

After plenty of tears (hello, hormones!) and time spent processing the situation, I decided that the best decision for me and baby would be to opt for a repeat c-section.

It wasn’t an easy decision by any means, and I won’t lie and say I wasn’t disappointed after getting my hopes up for a VBAC…but in the end, it just made sense to prioritize both my and my baby’s immediate health over being able to say I attempted a vaginal delivery.

Once that was settled, I felt as if a huge weight was lifted. We could start planning for the big day (Friday the 13th was wide open in the surgery schedule – go figure!). So once again I re-packed that hospital bag and hoped for the best.

Surgery was scheduled for 7:30 am, so Ben and I arrived at the hospital by 5:30 am to get prepped. Driving in the car that morning, we were still going through baby names; the girl name we were pretty much settled on, but we were still going back and forth between several for boys.

Walking into Labor & Delivery, the nurses greeted us with a warm, “Hey, you’re here to have a baby!” which felt as surreal as the first time we were there…since I wasn’t actually in labor. But once I was in our hospital room with my gown on, things got real – really quickly.

My IV was probably the most painful part of this whole process! It took my poor nurse four or five attempts, apparently because the high blood pressure was making my veins “squiggly.” Each time she inserted the needle and catheter, I felt a strong nerve-y ache (and the resulting bruises took as long to heal as my incision).

Once that was done, the anesthesiologist stopped in to talk about the epidural (side note: I had a spinal the first time, but apparently there’s a shortage of that medicine and/or they’re switching to epidurals for c-sections anyway…at least at my hospital). I was nervous because this was all new to me, but he walked through the process and answered my questions patiently.

Getting the actual epidural was interesting – I don’t know how you ladies do it while in labor! They raised the bed up high and had Ben sit in front of me and hold my arms as I hunched over a pillow and held still. Neither the numbing needle nor the catheter were painful, but I felt a weird twinge in one hip at a point – nothing unbearable, though.

It was neat being able to compare my previous spinal to the epidural, too. The spinal was one quick shot and took effect almost immediately (feels like your legs are warm and falling asleep), while the epidural was a much longer process – both in how long it took to set up and take effect. They did a test to see if it was working before wheeling me into the operating room – and then it was go time!

I’m not sure if it was a difference in drugs or just knowing what to expect (I was nervous both times; it IS major surgery, after all), but I felt much more coherent in the OR this time around.

The anesthesiologist cranked up my epidural, the nurses did their final prep and my doctor got to work almost immediately behind the drape. Ben got to come into the room a few minutes later and sit by my head.

With Wyatt, I remember more tugging and my body being rocked back and forth, but absolutely no pain; with Willa there was a lot less movement, but greater pressure as they pushed her out – maybe because the babies were in different positions?

There was also a point where I could start feeling sensations of some of the tools in my abdomen. I had a moment of panic, alerting the anesthesiologist, and he adjusted my medication quickly.

We also opted again for the clear drape during surgery. I’d definitely recommend this if you’re having a c-section! Don’t worry – you won’t see any actual surgery, but they’ll drop it when the baby comes out so you’ll get to see him or her immediately through a clear plastic window, which is wonderful.

In a matter of minutes, Willa was on her way out; my doctor held her up to the drape for Ben to call out the sex. A short pause later he said, “It’s a little…girl? IT’S A GIRL!”

After wiping her down, checking her vitals and swaddling her, we got to get in a few minutes of cuddle time as I was being put back together and sewn up. Those first few moments with a new baby never cease to leave me in awe of the miracle of life.

Once my doctor was done, we rolled over to recovery for about an hour and a half for monitoring. The best part of this was uninterrupted skin-to-skin; those fresh-out-of-the-womb snuggles are second to none – the drugs didn’t knock me on my butt this time, thank goodness, but I was definitely riding a ‘mom high!’

Once we were back in our room, Ben and I spent the next few days getting to know Willa, re-learning how to care for a newborn (thank you, L&D nurses!) and introducing her to family (big brother, most importantly!).

Recovery from surgery went so smoothly that they gave us the option of being discharged a day early, although we opted to stay in for an extra night to make sure I was back on my feet (plus Willa was fighting through some jaundice). But before we knew it, we were packing up to head home to begin our life as a family of four.

Since then, it’s been an adventure, but Mama is slowly but surely learning the ropes handling two while Dad’s at work!

It’s easier with your second in that you know generally what to expect – and that babies are more resilient than we give them credit for. But it’s also tougher in that there are few breaks between toggling back and forth between a newborn and toddler – basically two “babies.”

The only way I can describe the first month home with two kids two-and-under is pure chaos. But we survived, thanks to family for pinch-hitting with babysitting and friends who brought meals, and each week it gets a little bit less intimidating being at home and outnumbered.

Fortunately, Willa’s a very mellow baby, too – we have been blessed with a good eater and sleeper this time around – so she’s very forgiving when Wyatt needs some special attention from Mama.

And while it’s tough to carve out much time for myself, I’ve been focused less on how quickly I can return to working out and more on how to do so safely. Which means that nearly three months out I have yet to do much beyond walking, but I’ve been doing plenty of rehab work with my PT, as well as other post-natal health and fitness experts.

If you’re a new mom (or any mom, for that matter), I can’t stress enough the importance of re-building a strong foundation before you jump back into training. More on that soon because this topic deserves its own post, but if you have any questions in the meantime please feel free to reach out and I can answer based on my personal experience or direct you to someone who can help!

Because there’s one truth that’s constant regardless of how many kids you do (or don’t) have: if you don’t take good care of yourself, how are you going to help care for anyone else?!

Baby Registry Regrets: Getting the Scoop from Seasoned Mamas

467ebe370b8e8f923a43fb8952dfae37w-c0xd-w685_h860_q80

Pekic/iStock

I still remember how overwhelming it felt registering for baby number one. When you don’t know what you don’t know…it can feel almost paralyzing trying to make decisions.

Like…how do I choose from literally three gazillion types of baby bottles? What’s up with all the different breast pumps, let alone all their accessories? And are the more expensive car seats and strollers actually better – i.e. will they keep my baby safer?!

Ultimately, I avoided big box stores like the plague and went straight to a local boutique here in Portland that helped me streamline “needs” from “wants” and cut out most “totally unnecessary crap” (i.e. a wipe warmer – don’t waste your time or money).

That strategy helped, yes, but now that we’re prepping for numero dos (and especially since s/he is coming a mere two years later), there are still some things I wish I would’ve known – like to buy a stroller and a monitor with the capability of converting for two.

Hindsight may be 20/20, and it’s true that each family and baby is different (so there will always be some tweaking)…but I thought it’d be fun to ask some seasoned mom friends (with two to four kiddos each!) for their regrets, wish lists and best advice when it comes to gearing up for that little person who’s about to enter your life…

First up, moms share their “woulda-shoulda-couldas” learned along the way. 

REGISTRY REGRETS

Feeding Time

“I would have held off on buying baby bottles and borrowed some to try. We ended up going through six types of bottles before we found one baby would take. Now I have a lot of extra bottles.”

Bottles! Each baby is different. You may need one bottle of a few kinds to try out before something really kicks in.”

“I wouldn’t bother with a bottle warmer. It’s better they don’t get used to warm milk so they are more likely to take milk cooler when you’re on the go.”

“Most of my registry “regrets” come from preparing for things that ultimately didn’t happen. I prepared for vaginal births and breastfeeding…I had two c-sections and boobs that didn’t work. I had ALL the breastfeeding/pumping supplies and didn’t need anything. ”

Breastfeeding stuff. I think that is good to have nourishing cream, pads, etc…but it ultimately it’s hard to buy all the stuff only to realize you can’t.”

“The one thing I regret not registering for was baby formula. I was not able to produce milk, and we had to go to formula sooner than planned. We did not know how expensive formula was before we had to get it. If people put it on their registries and end up getting some and not using it, they can always donate it!”

Catching Some ZZZ’s

“I wouldn’t have invested in a convertible crib. With two kids two years apart, we didn’t want to buy two cribs. So instead of being able to use the toddler bed, we ended up just moving our two-year-old into her big girl bed by the time baby came.”

“I wish I would have registered for the Baby Bijorn Travel Crib – two kids in, and I still wish I would gotten that!”

“We ended up needing a camera I can access from my phone. I love that I can see her at work, plus if the monitor is in the other room, I can just check my phone.”

“A camera monitor! With multiple cameras! I thought I would always be by his side.”

Keeping Warm & Cozy

Clothes. That’s the fun thing for people to go off-registry for, but it’s impossible to know what will fit when (my four kids ranged in weight at birth from 6#8oz to 9#11oz and grow at remarkably different paces).”

“Fancy swaddles. I didn’t realize I had a child that would only be lightly swaddled for two weeks before moving to a sleep sack.”

“Please NO more blankets. I have about three favorites and two huge bins full of them!”

On the Move

“I wish I would have bought a stroller that converted to a double from the beginning. We knew we wanted at least two, but it never dawned on me to have a stroller that accommodated both of them.”

“I didn’t even know that they made convertible strollers… that would have been good to know!”

“I don’t suggest a double Bob. They’re huge, and running with two in tow is actually a challenge.”

“I would get a different car seat – one with more easily adjustable straps!”

“I wish I hadn’t registered for a pee pad for/under the car seat. When I had the baby car seat safety class in the hospital they scared me into not wanting to use them.”

Next up, moms weigh in on what they found to be the most lifesaving products when it comes to keeping baby happy. 

NEWER MUST-HAVES

Items Getting Rave Reviews 

“I would definitely get a Dock-a-tot! I co-slept way more then I expected (aka I said I would NEVER do it…ummm yeah that lasted like two hours).”

“I literally put my son in a short basket in the middle of the bed. It had a tight sheet on it and was like $10 on Amazon.”

Dock-a-tot! I am obsessed with ours and tell all of my friends about to be moms to invest in one.”

“I wouldn’t have been able to live without our Nest camera for a monitor – easy to access from my phone from anywhere, and we pack it with us whenever we sleep somewhere overnight.”

“Definitely a Rock-n-Play…we have two one upstairs and one down. And a white noise machine…for keeping #1 asleep at night when #2 is fussy!”

And finally, moms get real with what helps the most when it comes to transitioning into parenthood.

FROM THE MOUTHS OF MAMAS

Most-Appreciated Items

“Consider neutral colors of items like seats, sleep sacks, Boppys, etc. that work for both girls and boys.”

“My recommendation would be to lock in as many hand-me-downs from co-workers/family/friends BEFORE setting up a registry to know what things might be available.”

“While all the frou frou stuff is undoubtedly appreciated, money is the best gift ever. I ended up not needing most, if not a lot, of what I received as gifts…and the toys we got were destroyed within the week if not ever played with again out of boredom.”

Target and Amazon gift cards were the most appreciated gifts because I was able to chose things myself when I needed them.”

Gift cards to restaurants were great because I couldn’t cook since I had a c-section. It was hard to move, and my recovery was long!”

Starbucks gift cards were awesome since I needed help staying awake to take care of big brother while the little one slept.”

Gift certificates to Buy Buy Baby or your favorite local baby store go a long way.”

“It would have been nice to have more bed sheets because my kids always threw up or soiled our sheets while we were co-sleeping. I never had enough!”

“The best registry gifts are when several people go in on an expensive item, like a dream stroller (note: those HUGE strollers are great in the city…suburbia so heavy to get in the car), a nice car seat or a nice high chair.”

“It’s worth it to acknowledge that the first few months are full of emergency Amazon orders so gift cards are a great idea!”

“I am almost certain that I’ve made a purchase from Amazon every day since my daughter was born. So, gift cards!”

“A baby nanny. I see celebrities have them, but give the baby nannys to us common folk!”

“You don’t need as much STUFF as you think you do. Get gift cards and diapers, the rest will work itself out!”

First-time mamas and repeat mamas-to-be, hopefully you’ve been able to glean some good information from the wisdom of these seasoned pros! 

Do you have any registry regrets that didn’t make the list? What about newer products you can’t live without? Or advice for mamas who are navigating their registries for the first time?

 

 

Recipe: Power Smoothie…for Pregnancy & Beyond

IMG_0776.jpg

Whether you’re an athlete or pregnant woman (or both…or neither!), iron is essential to optimal health. In fact, it’s a critical component in helping our bodies make oxygen-carrying red blood cells.

Yet, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), iron deficiency is one of the most common nutritional deficiency in the U.S., with almost 10 percent of women being considered iron deficient.

But did you know that eating foods high in Vitamin C can help you absorb more iron? That’s why this recipe is a great option for anyone who is looking for a nutrient-dense snack to fuel their day.

Plus, just a handful of ingredients provides the following:

  • Peaches = Vitamins A and C, calcium, potassium & magnesium
  • Spinach = iron, Vitamins A, C and K, folate, manganese & potassium
  • Dates = good source of energy, natural sugar & fiber
  • Chia seeds = fiber, protein & Omega-3’s
  • Hemp seeds = protein, fatty acids (Omega 3, 6, 9 & GLA), & all essential amino acids
  • Greek yogurt = protein, calcium & probiotics
  • OJ = Vitamin C & folate
  • Almond milk = protein, fiber & Vitamin E

So, without further ado, I present to you the…

Power Smoothie…for Pregnancy & Beyond!

Ingredients:

  • 1c frozen peach slices
  • 2c loosely packed fresh spinach
  • 1 Tbsp Bard Valley Natural Delights Medjool date paste (directions here)
  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 Tbsp hemp seed hearts
  • 1/2c Greek yogurt
  • 1c orange juice
  • 1/2c unsweetened almond milk

Directions:

  1. Measure all ingredients into blender.
  2. Cover, blend & enjoy!

Note: If this isn’t up your alley, ingredient-wise, but you still want to whip up your own custom smoothie that’s a perfect fit for your fitness goals, my friends over at Natural Delights made a nifty smoothie builder that allows you to create your own concoction – complete with all the nutritional info.

Happy blending and healthy living, friends!

This post is sponsored by Bard Valley Natural Delights Medjool Dates, but the recipe and opinions expressed therein are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands that partner with KineticFix.com!