Tuesday, July 19, 2016

How do you stay fit?


One major challenge since returning to the States has been not getting completely fat. I realize that may sound insensitive and ignorant, but trust me, it is not. The sedentary, car-based American lifestyle, replete with processed sugary- and junk-foods, is the perfect recipe for obesity. It took a while to notice just how rapid and devastating the effects were because, obviously, I was pregnant when I arrived. Once I had given birth, all of the natural postpartum phases followed. For a while I still looked pregnant. I continued to wear my maternity jeans for a few months. I had a little Buddha belly that was more like a front muffin top. But, I believed I was on my way. Slowly, but surely, I would go back to normal. 

Then, about nine months into the process, the losing trend seemed to reverse! We have never had a scale in our house, so I can't say for sure, but my clothing was not fitting the way it should. Everything was tighter and more uncomfortable. It was undeniable that I was gaining weight! I was horrified. 

I was also insanely stressed and busy and overwhelmed, so a year went by and I just sort of hovered at this place where, at every doctor's appointment or check-up, I was 10 or so pounds heavier than when I had gotten pregnant with Theo, and 15 pounds heavier than I had been before Coco. When we decided to have Theo, I was still nursing Coco, so I just assumed the extra five pounds were related to nursing. Fine. But the other 10? They were wholly unaccounted for!

The first time I lived in Switzerland, in Neuch√Ętel in the Suisse Romande, or French-speaking side, I gained 15 pounds and needed a super quick way to lose the weight fast when I got back to the US. That year in Phoenix, Bikram Yoga became my favorite thing. I started practicing Bikram a few times per week and within two or three months, the weight was gone! I continued practicing for another six months and by the time our wedding rolled around, I was slim and toned and looked and felt great. 

So back at the end of January, determined to dive into my resolution before the month was over, I went back to Bikram for the first time in over five years. It's no exaggeration that I fully expected to die in that first class. But, as luck would have it, I accidentally went to a Baptiste class, which is much cooler, and it felt great. That gave me all the false confidence I needed to agree to a work-for-trade position at the front desk, fully locking myself into dedicated practice for the long haul.

My first actual Bikram class, I had to leave the room. I barely hobbled to the door and lowered myself to the floor just outside the door. Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out. I sat there for nearly 15 minutes before I could get up and refill my water bottle and head to the showers. 

After two months, I hadn't lost any weight and my practice was spotty at best. I felt really disheartened. I was dealing with a pretty severe diastasis recti and feeling more weak and out of shape than I have ever felt in my entire life. How I lamented the loss of daily exercise I hadn't even noticed I was getting in Zurich. Without a car, I was walking miles every day just as a matter of course. Here, I see moms out running or walking through the residential neighborhoods in workout clothes. They're setting aside time to actually go nowhere. It seems so inutile; as much as I love walking, I just can't bring myself to do it. I desperately miss the fast-paced, destination-driven city walking. 

I seemed to be going nowhere with my yoga practice, but with the work-for-trade position, I kept going. The thing I love about Bikram is that every class is different. It's extraordinarily physical with the heat and the humidity and the postures. But, the more challenging aspect by far is the emotional one. Nothing can hide or escape in there. Sadness, anger, regret, it all gets churned up and unpacked and pushed to the surface. It's not unusual to experience dizziness or nausea in that room. Nor is it unusual to feel panic, dread or profound sadness - or the opposite. I've both cried and found myself bubbling over with mirth in Bikram classes. 

I tried not to get to discouraged and to remember the mantras my teachers over the years had given me: Alignment before depth. Stay with your breath. Breathe into the discomfort. The signs of progress were miniature. I noticed I could lift my legs a few centimeters higher in Locust. My breath was more steady and I didn't have to take as many breaks in Savasana. And then, a couple weeks ago, something clicked. I was able to get into Camel for the first time since returning to yoga. Then I got into Bow. I didn't just feel alive at the end of class, I felt good. I could feel my spine and legs getting stronger. I had more energy. My clothes were looser and more comfortable. 

Six months. It took six months to get back to a normal practice and to the very beginnings of seeing results. I can't believe how quickly my muscles, posture and tone had gone out the window. But this much is certain, I'll never let that happen again. It's not easy, especially when the wider culture and day-to-day lifestyle don't support it. How do you stay fit? Or is it an area in your life that needs more attention? 

(Bikram infographic via)

15 comments:

  1. I also have diastasis recti and recently began the MuTu program to help heal it. My youngest is almost three years old (I have three kids) and I've been wanting to do this for a long time. I am now 5.5 weeks into the program and can feel my core getting stronger, along with the rest of my body. The program is 12 weeks long and definitely a commitment but I really want to focus on my core first and then add more from there. I also started running in January and completed the Couch25K program. When I started, I could barely run for a minute and now I regularly run for 2-3+ miles and feel really good. I love the time outside (I exclusively run on trails since pavement is hard on my joints) and it is fairly easy to fit in around family life. I've also done various types of yoga over the years, but never Bikram! You definitely have me intrigued. :)

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    1. I love this! I'm going to look up that program right away. I saw a PT for a while, but they honestly don't seem to understand or know much about how to get it back together. My approach has been not to do anything that makes my tummy "pop" so that meant a lot of nothing in yoga for a while! But I was holding my core steady and that was all I could handle. I am SO inspired by your running. That's been a long term goal. You have me convinced to give it another go. Thank you! xo

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  2. Man, I was my best shape and fitness in between kids when we lived (guess where) in Basel. I attribute it to all the built in walking as well as the lack of take out and sugar additives in all foods. I was running as well but I would love to compare pedometers in both countries.

    It seems like in the US I have to make myself more rules because food is so readily available, cheap and convenient whereas in Switzerland eating out was very expensive and take out choices were pretty limited. Especially since it would involve a thirty minute public transportation event instead of a quick pop in with the car.

    I'm kind of nervous and hoping its not an age or slowing metabolism thing. How could three years make that big of a difference?! So lately, I am running again and trying to live as we did before in regards to food. But its harder. And something that helped as well is not really knowing all the brands of junk you love in another country. So I basically stuck with universal foods needing no labels which in the end is healthier.

    Ugh.

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    1. SO true! All excellent points. J agrees!

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  3. 'setting aside time to go nowhere' - so true, this is how I feel about formal exercise! I wish I could get into a routine but the only thing that ever really sticks is when its built into my lifestyle (usually means cycling or walking to work or having a space that requires outdoor work like gardening). Luckily, we just moved from an apartment to a house and I have a whole backyard to keep me occupied! I did yoga for awhile too though and really liked it and want to get back into it now that I'm 4 months postpartum. ~K

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    1. You've got lots of time! Enjoy those baby days. And enjoy the yard, too! Gardening is a great stress reliever as well. :)

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  4. Hi Lindsey, I've been enjoying your blog for a few months now, I am a romande who lived for ten years in Zurich and didn't like it! We then moved to Oxford, UK and had three wonderful years, got married and had a baby. So interesting to read about your love for Switzerland, I guess I feel the same but for the UK. Anyway, just wanted to say, it is either "Romandie" or "Suisse Romande". Take care!

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  5. I have noticed this every time we visit Canada again and go to the grocery store. There is just so much more junk food and even supposedly healthy stuff has sugar. I focus on all of us eating whole foods. I had to eat dairy, egg, and soy free for a year and a half because my second baby was sensitive (luckily outgrowing it now) and reading labels on everything was so eye-opening. While I am happily back to being able to eat anything, I am still being more mindful.

    One of our biggest must-haves for when we move back from Amsterdam is a neighbourhood with high walk-ability. In Amsterdam we walk or bike almost everywhere (and occasionally tram but then even that involves walking). The idea of being a car all he time is depressing.

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    1. I should mention that while I love incidental exercise I also love to walk "nowhere", just to go for a walk. It is good to calm the mind. Running has a similar allure I think.

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    2. Yes, not all "nowhere" walks are bad! Exercise is just such a time sucker.

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  6. I have 15 month old twins, and I was a fairly avid runner before I got pregnant. I was quickly (like, by month 3) unable to walk well once I got pregnant, and I ended up on modified bed rest. Now, I'm below my pre-pregnancy weight, but it's mostly because I don't have time to eat...seriously. The task of getting back in to shape is completely depressing! I can't even run a mile without walking, and to know what I used to do, well, it depresses me. I'm glad that you were able to find something that works for you....I need to work more on doing the same!

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    1. Oh man, twins! Go easy on yourself, mama. I know it's frustrating to feel weak and like you have no muscles at all, but it will come back. Maybe do Couch to 5k to get back into it? That program could not be more gradual and attainable. Just the time is the thing...30 minutes three times per week. You can do it! xoxoxox

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  7. Oh, man. This topic. After my first, nursing melted the fat away. Now with my second, I just can't. I also have DR and have on and off been doing the Tupler Technique. I really need to stick to it. Once I have healed the DR, then I hope to start doing some kind of hip hop dance class. Running has been on my mind too because you can do it for free whenever and wherever you want, but I HATE running. I make up too many excuses like it's bad for one's knees. Is that true? I don't know, but I need to do something about this whole not fitting into my clothes business!

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    1. I know what you mean about running. And I think you're right that it's bad for your knees. But the flexibility and low cost! Ugh. I had the same when nursing Coco and now with Theo, I swear the hormones are playing a role, but it still makes me sad to think of weaning him all the same. Sigh. Good luck! I hope you get into hip hop or running soon. xx

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