Finding Strength Training After Second Pregnancy Blues

 

When I got pregnant with my first daughter, I was in great shape. I was careful about what I ate and exercised regularly during the pregnancy, so I only gained 30 pounds.

 

I was delighted to lose 12 pounds right off the bat after my daughter was born. I could fit back in some of my pre-pregnancy pants around 4 months later. When she was 8 months old, I came down with a horrible, five day stomach bug, which knocked off another four pounds. That summer, I was feeling pretty good about how I looked.

 

And then I got pregnant again before my first daughter turned a year old. I started my second pregnancy 10 pounds above my first. I packed on weight much faster this time. I was horribly sick and all I could keep down was carbs, which did not help with my weight gain.

 

I went into my second daughter’s birth up 20 pounds from what I weighed the day my first daughter was born.

 

Again, some of the weight came off, about 30 pounds this time, but then it just stopped.

 

For over a year, I woke up every morning at 6 am to plod away for an hour on the elliptical before my kids got up. I knew I should be using workout DVDs and incorporating weights to mix things up, but I just could not drag myself away from binging Netflix while I worked out.

 

When I got the pictures back from my younger daughter’s first birthday photo shoot, I was horrified to see how I looked. My face was puffy, my arms flabby and even the flowy shirt I picked out could not disguise the fat around my stomach.

 

I always was pretty photogenic (if I do say so myself) so seeing myself look this way was a real wake up call.

 

I began to feel very depressed about how I looked anytime someone took a picture of me. I was bummed about how my clothes fit. I was hiding behind extra flowy shirts, which really only made me look bigger. I chopped off my hair, which did not help slim down my face as I had hoped it would.

 

Finally, my husband and I decided to join a gym. Suddenly, I was able to take a wide variety of fun, high energy classes to help burn calories. I jumped back into spin and Zumba, but what I really needed was help with toning my body.

 

I took advantage of the free personal training session my membership came with and told my trainer what my exercise goals were. I explained that I wanted to lose weight but also tone my muscles. I also told him that I was not great about strength training. He laughed. He said a lot of women avoid strength training and he did not really understand why.

 

I get it, though. Sometimes I feel intimidated by the weights area, especially when there are a ton of beefy guys around, grunting loudly. I feel that cardio is a better workout since it makes me sweaty and gets my heart rate up.

 

There are a lot of reasons women avoid strength training. They want to lose weight, not bulk up and gain it from muscle.

 

There is a belief that cardio takes less time and burns more calories than strength training. Women often fear injuries that could occur from lifting heavy weights.

 

However, there has been a ton of research done disproving all these beliefs. Fitness Magazine recently published an article highlighting 9 reasons why women should strength train. According to the magazine, strength training burns just fat (whereas cardio burns fat and muscle), helping people lose more weight overall.

 

Strength training has a longer impact as well. The article quotes Holly Perkins, CSCS, who says that “the more muscle you have, the more energy your body expends.” Lifting weights helps people develop more confidence at their physical abilities and also improves flexibility. Another long term impact is that strength training makes bones stronger, helping to avoid some of the issues that can come with old age, like osteoporosis. Your joints and heart will also thank you!

 

While your weight might not change – or could even go up – if you do a lot of lifting, people typically lose inches as they shed fat.

 

Interestingly, according to TNation, women do not need to rest as long between sets as men do (which explains why I get through my workout so much faster than the men around me seem to). The article goes on to mention that women do not get as sore as men do and can recover faster, so they actually end up being able to train harder than men do.

 

So should women drop cardio all together? The answer is definitely not. Remember, muscles need time to recover. Also, you have to keep your body guessing. Mix up your routine. Get off the elliptical and incorporate other types of exercise into your regime. Consult a trainer if you are not sure where to start.

 

The trainer I worked with kept my goals in mind when he designed a routine for me. He created 5 circuits that work out my whole body. While the workout is primarily based on strength training, with both machines and free weights, he also incorporated bursts of cardio to get my heart rate up. So for instance, he has me use weights for bicep curls, shoulder raises and triceps, but at the end of each set, I do mountain climbers for 30 seconds for a cardio burst.

 

I do this routine once or twice a week. I also aim to take a Body Pump class one day a week, along with either a day of just arms before spin class or a circuit training class called Sculpt and Shred. On top of the exercise, I am also monitoring my calories through the app, MyFitnessPal.

 

I can already see the difference. I am down 10 pounds, which has increased my confidence, but I also feel much stronger. I can see definition in my arms. My clothes are fitting better. My face is slimming out. I no longer stress about how my arms are going to look in sleeveless shirts.

And best of all, I have taken several pictures lately and have been very happy with how I look!

 

Dorothy

Dorothy Sasso has written for “Soap Opera Digest”, FitPregnancy.com and TalkingFertility.com. These days, most of her writing can be found in the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, where she writes weekly book reviews and events previews. After leaving a teaching career to raise her two daughters, she has loved returning to her roots as a writer. She lives outside of Philadelphia with her husband, daughters and two cats.