"Bounce Back"? Bounce Forward.

This whole journey of becoming a mom has revealed (on top of everything else) my personal anxieties around my body. I thought I was too grounded to be someone that jumped the gun postpartum and started working out too hard too soon. Well, turns out, I’m not that grounded at all.

Since the beginning of my pregnancy people have been saying to me “you’re so fit, you’re totally going to bounce right back”. It felt good to have the confidence of the people! I felt mostly confident myself, but I did also have some concerns. The reality is that sometimes the “bounce back” is not a reality for everyone in the way that they hope for even if they are fit and healthy going into their pregnancy. I had major postpartum body goals thanks to some of my amazing mama/trainer friends and of course the countless celebrity bounce back paparazzi beach photos (let’s not pretend we aren’t influenced by those). I thought these “goals” were perfectly normal until now.

 

I dropped about 15 pounds and went from looking 9 months pregnant to about 51/2 months pregnant pretty quickly in the first few weeks after delivery. But then that was it, the last 5 months aka 20 pounds have yet to say goodbye. So first of all, let’s note that this is normal. Everyone’s body is different, everyone’s recovery is different. Also, everyone’s expectations are different and sometimes they are harmful instead of helpful. For a while I was being “patient” and letting myself heal and focusing on the important things like nourishing baby Z and recovering. I mean let’s be honest, it really hadn’t been that long after all, being patient shouldn’t be that hard, right?!  At 4 weeks post delivery, all of my so called patience evaporated and I had a full flung anxiety attack.

Before I started doing burpees every minute on the minute from breakfast till dinner, I reached out to some of my friends for advice. Luckily I have some brilliant-mama-fit friends who talked me off the ledge and told me to take hard chill on trying to speed up the process. Every single one of them waited the at least the full recommended 6 weeks if not longer before getting back into real workouts. I mean think about it, intuitively we know it would be crazy to start working out intensely after a major surgery or injury without fully recovering first. Completely crazy. With everything we go through from pregnancy to delivery, why would pregnancy be any different.

It was a revealing moment for me, because underneath it all, I was questioning whether I would be able to love my body at every stage of healing and beyond. What if my body didn’t “bounce back” like I expected, also like everyone else expected? What if there were no more 6-pack nike shoots in my future? Then what? Was I going to spend the rest of my life avoiding mirrors and withholding love and acceptance from myself?

I think we learn to comparison and self-critique from a very young age. We learn it from our peers, the media and important men and women in our lives. It is crazy when we think of all the forces that work to get us to question our worthiness, especially based on superficial traits It’s a cycle. One that I want to break for myself, for my daughter, for all the women in my life.

The best advice I got from two of my friends when I was panicking, was to take this time to reconnect to my body. Both of them recommended breathe work, walks with my new little one and of course kegels. I was extremely grateful they shared their wisdom. Allowing myself the space to actually feel and respond to my body has been an bonus I didn’t expect. I’ve added the breathe work into my day whenever I remember (walking down the street, grocery shopping, drinking tea). Sometimes I wonder if I’ve ever truly been connected to my core at all before this!

Having a baby is an incredible gift. It is undeniable. I spend every day in awe holding this little being. I find it interesting observing all the emotions I have around this amazing change. I feel lucky and overwhelmed with gratitude and I also feel resistance to change in some areas of my life all at the same time. The truth is having a baby means your body has changed. Like the rest of your life, it won’t be the same. You have brought life into this world, how could anything stay the same after that and why would we want it to. So instead of trying to bounce back, it’s time to move forward. And I don’t mean we should accept a less than badass version of ourselves, I just mean the way we treat ourselves, heal ourselves, train ourselves should level up like everything else. That takes honesty and patience and diligence.

I’m at week 9, which is really barely any time at all when you think about the lifetime we spend in these bodies of ours. I’m still the same distance from my original fighting weight and shape. But my mindset and my values are shaping up. No, I have not yet resolved my issues around my own body love and self image, but I have committed to nurturing myself and to the process of becoming. I offer this post because so many of us struggle with these issues at different point in our lives. Please know you have an friend wherever you are in your journey. I will be writing about my journey along the way, so please reach out, tune in … let’s journey together.

 

 

A Precious Gold Nugget

My precious little nugget, Zadie was born one month and one day ago. It has been the most incredible whirlwind and I don't know where to start telling the story ...

I spent my entire pregnancy trying to prepare for motherhood. Trying to prepare for that moment that happened on March 13th when she finally came into this world and took in her first dramatic breathe. It was nine months of journaling, questioning, meditating, crying, praying, laughing, reading, listening, singing, dreaming, wondering, connecting, all of this was an effort to prepare myself for the gravity of being responsible for another human life. 

Even though I as struggling with nausea throughout my pregnancy, I tried to stay as active as I could. I would take classes several times a week at my partners gym. The balanced approach of focusing on strength, stability and some flexibility was perfect. He gave me modifications through each trimester which helped me feel empowered to change things up when they didn't feel great. On the hardest days I would do mini spin sessions or go for walks.  

The mental battles were even harder than the physical ones for me. In my third trimester I went to see a psychiatrist, in a sense to ask her if my overwhelming emotions were harming my unborn child. The conclusion of course was that my mood swings and stress levels were normal considering the circumstances (both the pregnancy and the many big life changes I was adjusting to all at once). I was "coping well" she said at the end of our session. Whether my emotional state was normal during my pregnancy is a question I will probably continue to revisit for years to come. I certainly hope not. I suppose one thing I discovered from that visit is that it is not uncommon for women to have low lows and major mood swings during their pregnancy. The deeper realization for me was that I didn't want to live a life just coping. 

Fast forward to now and I have the most beautiful, sweet, magical, fussy baby on the planet. The one thing that I have felt from the very beginning of my pregnancy was the intensity of my state of mind, my state of being been essential to another humans ability to adjust and thrive in this world. This is a responsibility that is far deeper than eating the right things, avoiding the wrong things, doing the right workouts, buying the right diapers, researching the best hypo allergenic detergent and cleaners, reading all the right blogs and the latest baby research. It's the work, the gritty internal work, that must be done continuously with diligence in order to grow, to thrive and live a fully. 

A couple days after her birth, the euphoria started to wear off, my hormones started crashing and my anxiety started coming back. What if she's unsettled because I'm unsettled? What if I didn't do enough during my pregnancy to give her a calm, well adjusted start to life on this earth? What if despite my efforts I'm not capable of settling the deep seated (perhaps generational and/or genetically programed) anxiety. These are the moments when you start forgiving your own parents for the ways you think they failed you in life, because suddenly you realize that they, like you, are simply human. 

So here we are, one month and one day into motherhood. Zadie has spent 31 days on this confusing planet of ours. What I know for sure is that there is no beginning or end to the love that I feel for her. It is a feeling that is impossible to explain and the reason that no matter what there is a drive to move forward, to do better and to be better. 

When the Struggle is Real

There have been a lot of changes happening in my life over the past 6 months. I got married, got pregnant, became a stepmom, moved to a new country and essentially gave up my career in New York all in one month. So, you can imagine it has been a whirlwind.

The physical and emotional highs and lows that have come with this journey have been tougher than I imagined. For one, I have had morning sickness (which is actually a 24/7 affliction) from the beginning and it is showing no signs of stopping. Then you add in the fatigue and all sorts of physical changes and ailments (I won’t disturb you with) on top of that, working out has been one of the last things that I want to do most days.

All these major changes have triggered emotional and mental battles on top of the physical ones. There are many days where I feel super low and isolated. Sometimes I feel heavy from my mind to the tips of my toes. These are the days where the smallest things, like going for a walk, feels like a major accomplishment.

Being in the fitness industry sometimes I feel disconnected from my peers, who according to social media always jump out of bed psyched for the day and their next workout. I have not felt like that in months. I often wonder when I will feel like that again. But what I am learning from this moment is how important it is to reconnect with your true motivators and how important it is to have support.

I am super lucky because my partner is completely into health and fitness. He has helped me through the passed few months in ways he doesn’t even know, by encouraging me to stay active and eat healthy, but also not judging me on the days when my workouts are literally only 15 minutes spinning on the bike then 45 minutes of child pose (to quell the nausea). Find a friend or a partner who will support you by both their example and their words.

At the end of the day, regardless of our support systems, it’s up to us to make decisions that will support our own health and wellness. On the hard days, you have to know why you are getting out of bed and putting on your gyms shoes otherwise you won’t do it. As a fitness model in New York, there have been many years where my driving force was aesthetic goals. Right now, I want to have a healthy pregnancy, a healthy baby and I want to boost my mood and energy levels. These things get me moving over bikini body inspiration hands down these days, because they are connected to my values and deeper goals of who I want to be today and tomorrow.

Whether you are having a tough pregnancy, a tough year or just a rough week, and taking care of your health feels like a true struggle, know you are not alone. Think about the role fitness can play in your life now and in creating the life you want. What are your deeper goals that you can go to when the going gets tough. Write them down, post them on your mirror, tell your room mate, partner, best friend, accountability partner and keep striving to live a healthier life.

 

 

 

The Start of Something New

For at least a year I have been thinking a lot about what is missing in the fitness community. I don’t have a definitive answer to that still. But what I do come back to over and over is the question of what is health? What does true, vibrant health look like on a day to day basis?

The World Health Organization’s definition is as follows:

Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

This definition resonates with me deeply. It is something I want to explore personally as well as a trinity I want to tease out with my clients, friends, family and anyone who is ready to start having a broader conversation about how to approach a holistic health in their lives.

Thus, I’m starting this blog at a time where this balance has become particularly important and particularly challenging for me personally. When I look around me and I see what is happening in the world - intimately and in the world at large, I know I am not the only one struggling with this quest.

I hope that ongoing dialogue, epiphanies, solutions, community will come out of opening up a space for exploring topics around physical, mental and social well-being. The name Chisel Club was born out of this idea that we get to “chisel” our own lives; not just our physical presence but our mental and emotional well being as well. In order to do that we need tools, we need support, sometimes we need a blueprint for inspiration. I hope you will join me in this conversation, sharing your own insights, inspiration,  questions and challenges along the way.

 

 

6 Moves to Allieviate Knee Pain

Whether a runner, speed walker, snowboarder, spinning junkie, or a high intenstiy addict, you will likely deal with joint pain at some point in your life. Knee discomfort can be debilitating and disruptive.  Despite your favorite workouts or hobbies, your knees are crucial. They directly effect your ability to move and perform in everyday life.

So let’s talk about how to alleviate pain and protect your knees.

It’s important to remember, the body is an integrated unit. We have connective tissue linking our muscles together.  Oftentimes, a problem at the knee may actually be a symptom of a larger issue. The pain’s origin could very well be at the hip, the ankle, or even somewhere else. Therefore, when you think about alleviating pain, you must consider “stretching” all the tissue around the knee.

Several muscles overlap at the knee joint potentially contributing to pain.  In your calf, the gastrocnemius and soleus, in your thigh, your hamstrings.  Furthermore, your quadriceps also crossover the knee. These muscles work tin tandem flexing, extending, and stabilizing the knee. Since most likely you don’t know the exact source of dysfunction, work on “stretching” or mobilizing each of these areas in your body. Below are six techniques aimed at targeting imperative muscle groups and helping you live a knee-pain-free life.

Wall Calf Stretch

Calf muscles often are neglected in our stretching efforts. For those who run, do high impact workouts, or spend a lot of time on their feet this muscles is often overlooked.  They can get extremely tight from impact and need to stretching to relieve pain that sometimes refers up the knee.

Find a wall or small block to prop your toe up. Stand in a split stance, prop the toes of your front foot up. Keep your heels grounded and your leg as straight as possible. Lean towards your front leg holding the stretch at it’s deepest point.  Contract for five seconds then release each time working to deepen the stretch.  Aim for 10 - 15 repetitions or more if you are still experiencing tightness.

Calf Smash with lacrosse ball

Sit on the ground. Take a lacrosse ball and place it below the knee.  Pull your foot closer to you butt so that the ball is sandwiched between your calf and hamstring. Once you create a compression force by pulling your shin towards you, move you foot in all directions to help create space in the knee joint. Dr. Kelly Starrett calls this the “gap and smash”, it allows you to work out tension in both the calf and hamstring and create space in the knee joint. Do both the inside and outside of the calf in order to stretch both parts of the gastrocnemius.

The front and sides of your calves need attention too.  If these muscles are tight they could be creating pressure on your knee joint as well. For this stretch you can either sit on the ground crossed legged (think a double king pigeon position) or sit in a chair with one foot planted flat on the ground and cross the other ankle  over knee. Take a lacrosse ball and wedge it firmly between your calf and shin bone, apply downward pressure. While pressing the ball into your calf do circles in both directions with your foot and ankle.

Continue both of these stretches until you feel the tightness in these areas being relieved.

Half kneel Hip and Quad Stretch
This is one of my favorites.  It feels amazing and it does double duty for your hip and quad muscles.  Kneel on one knee with your other foot planted flat on the ground. Make close to 90 degree angles with both of your legs.  Lean forward towards your front leg, stretch the front of your hip down.  Next, grab the ankle of your down leg and pull it towards your butt, giving you a deep hamstring and hip stretch down the front leg to the knee. Move in and out of this stretch for 10 - 15 repetitions or more depending on your level of tightness.

Quad foam roller stretch

Stretching your quads is important as they get adaptively short from all the sitting most of us do everyday and are often under constant tension. To get this large muscle group back to functioning at its best, try using a foam roller.

Lay face down with one leg on the foam roller. You want the majority of your bodyweight on the leg you are working. Roll slowly and against the grain of the tissue. Instead of just rolling up and down, roll your leg from outside to inside putting pressure and focus on tight spots.  Continue rolling until it is no longer painful. This can take upwards of 10 minutes depending on your level of tightness, so set ample time aside.


Wall Hamstring Stretch
Your hamstring muscles also effect the knee and can be the source of discomfort or pain.  Lay on your back with one leg flat on the ground. Take the other leg and prop it up on the wall or table.  This stretch should radiate down the back of your leg starting from your knee. In this position once you find the deepest point of your stretch you can contract and relax the muscle of the leg that is propped up. Contract for five seconds and then relax. Repeat. This should allow you to deepen the stretch. If you have greater flexibility you can hold the ankle of your up leg and pull it towards you. Aim for 10 - 15 repetitions to start and continue if you are still tight.

Hamstring Smash with foam roller or lacrosse ball

For your hamstrings, sit on the ground and place the roller under one of your thighs. Cross the other leg on top to add more pressure, then roll cross fiber like you did with your quads. When you find places that are particularly tight or sore, focus in on that area with extra pressure. There are three muscles that make up the hamstring, so rolling across the leg allows you to hit all of them. For a more intense approach sit on a hard chair and use a lacrosse ball and smash across fiber. Again you want to work on this area until it is no longer painful. This will be different for every person, but set aside 10 minutes or more for each leg if possible.  

Each of us has imbalances and discrepancies in our movement patterns that can lead to tightness, dysfunction and pain in different parts of our bodies. Figure out ways to work stretching and mobilizing into your daily routine. This way you aren’t just reacting when you have pain. By actively taking care of your body, you can work to prevent pain from occurring in the first place.