Author: Alison Clarke
I’ve been an avid fitness follower for many years now, however I only fine-tuned and focussed properly on the results I wanted in the last 10 years or so. When I started my fitness journey I was in my mid- twenties and driven by my desire to shift the spare tyre that had appeared around my mid-section over the last couple of years. I naively thought that despite what I ate I could crunch and leg lift my way to a tight toned tummy. If only it was that easy, eh? My trigger to discover more about why I wasn’t getting the results I desired came when I saw a picture of Cameron Diaz, on the beach, surf board under her arm, with a body to die for. Instant girl crush ensued, and as she was/ is only a few years older than me, I felt that obtaining at least something close what she had was somewhat attainable. My hunger for information around nutrition and fitness was ignited and with that I decided to study Health, Fitness and Nutrition for which I got a Diploma a couple of years ago.
I looked closely at my diet which consisted mostly of processed foods that were high in sugar and salt. A light bulb moment followed, when I realised that my diet and my ‘incurable’ IBS were closely linked and the stomach cramps, bloating and other embarrassing symptoms that were a frequent part of my daily life was basically my body’s way of telling me that it couldn’t cope with what it was being fed and to please stop. I had ignored its pleas to stop for many years, ignorant to the fact that the power was within me to fix myself, but that is a topic for another post.
Over the next 6 – 12 months I dropped 2 dress sizes, getting down to the much longed for elusive size 10. I credit this purely to my switching to non-processed, natural foods while continuing my workouts, though by now I had learned that more strength building exercises and less steady state cardio was the key to fat loss. I liked the strong, lean body that slowly revealed itself to me. I made peace with my muscular thighs who for years I had berated and tortured on the treadmill in my attempts to slim them down. The difference now though was they were muscular not flabby, and I love the power and strength they contain. My booty went from flat and ‘low slung’ as a former male boss told me once, to lifted and well kind of cute. I know, it’s appalling that he felt he could say that to me, and in my innocence, I let him away with it, wouldn’t happen now, that’s for sure.
I was nearly 39 when my hubby-to-be and I decided to try for baby. I was worried my age might go against me and that despite my fitness, my biological clock would have the upper hand. It did take a bit longer than we expected, nearly two years in fact, however we got there, and we are going to meet our little girl in June.
In the 3 – 4 months prior to seeing that life-changing positive result, I was probably at the fittest I had been in a long time. I had taken some time off work as I felt the stress I was under while there was impeding our mission. I was working out at home, using only my TRX straps, my kettlebells and my skipping rope to get in a high-intensity 30 min workout 4 or 5 days a week and last but by no means least, I was chilled out…. Two weeks into my stress leave, I discovered I was expecting and not only that, I had dropped the 5lbs I had been trying to shift for ages… Isn’t it terrible what stress can do to a body and mind?
I was now faced with a dilemma, should I / could I keep working out the way I had been, or stop and wait till I was past 12 weeks. Being now 40 years of age and pregnant with my first put me automatically in a ‘high risk’ category. As women growing up all we hear, well for me anyway, was that getting pregnant after 30 is a risk never mind 40! My mum had been telling me for years to get a move on and if I didn’t hurry up and start a family I was putting too much at stake. Talk about pressure! Well there is such a thing as waiting for the right man, right time and right state of mind before these decisions can be made and that is what I did and I’m so glad I did.
I know some women continue working out right through the early stages of their pregnancy, and that is great, but they’re also probably at least 10 years younger than me and are not considered ‘high-risk’. I had to make a decision that was right for me and our much longed for baby, so I decided to stop working out and wait it out. At least I still had my walk to and from work which was an hour a day, so it wasn’t like I ground to a complete halt. I’ll admit I struggled with not working out, I felt lazy and restless and honestly had to battle with the pros and cons near daily. Though in reality, the tiredness that hit me in those early weeks was totally unexpected. It took all my energy to drag myself the 10-minute walk from the tram station home so realistically getting in a workout too was just out of the question.
By the time I reached my 7th / 8th week, despite fully expecting it, I never got the dreaded morning sickness. Week 9 and 10 passed and still no sign of it. I knew not everyone got it, but I didn’t think I would be lucky enough to be one of those women. My mum told me she got it at week 12 on each of her pregnancies (I have 3 brothers). I remember thinking “oh my god, imagine, just when you think you’ve escaped it hits you, how awful!) Week 12 passed and nothing. I was amazed, no sickness, no nausea, no food aversions, and no cravings apart from the self-indulgent desire for more carbs, and the occasional Ben and Jerry’s when going to the movies.
On my first hospital visit at 14 weeks, I was told that due to my age, I was considered high risk for Gestational Diabetes and I would be checked for this later in the pregnancy. I remember being absolutely shocked at this? Diabetes? Me, no way, surely not. After this and at every checkout my sample showed to be normal, glucose levels were good as were my protein levels.
I resumed home workouts at 20 weeks (new job took over and left me drained hence the delay in getting back to it). I work out now at a much lower intensity than pre-pregnancy and keep everything low impact and mostly body weight. I figured my growing belly was enough added weight to deal with at this point. My only focus has been on maintaining strength, particularly in my glutes, thighs and lower back. I had missed working out in those early months, I missed the feeling it gave me, the feeling of strong and able and of doing my body good. I work out about 3 times a week now, in my living room while watching tv. Nothing beats the comfort of working out in the comfort of your own home. Sometimes I’m still in my pjs, sometimes I change into my gym gear, but the pleasure of being able to stroll into my own bathroom to get showered and ready for the day is great.
The only pain I have is Pelvic Girdle Pain which shows itself in my hips, and this only happens if I have been lying on one side for too long in bed, and my lower back complains a bit when I’ve been on my feet too much, but this is all I have had to deal with.
I have been very lucky that despite my age and apparent “risk factor”, that I have had a complication-free pregnancy, I do believe that being both nutritionally aware, as in making good food choices most of the time and moving your body regularly, to be fundamental in having an enjoyable healthy pregnancy. Movement is important for a body but doing what you enjoy will of course make it easier to stick to and keep everything working the way it supposed to.
You can read more from Alison on her blog www.passionforfit.com