Abs of steel to baby bump, and back: Jenna Wolfe on her body after baby
I've always been on the move. From my childhood spent swimming and climbing trees to my current work as a personal trainer, I've never had a break in my fitness routine. Well... except for those nine months of pregnancy.
I was a three-sport athlete in high school (volleyball, basketball, softball), I played volleyball in college and I started working out with weights after graduating. Over the years, I spent more time learning how our bodies work, how they change and why they need certain types of fuel. I got certified as a personal trainer a few years ago and have been training clients in New York ever since.
Then I got pregnant with Harper. I had a rough nine months with that little angel. The first month was bliss. I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. I was working out, feeling good, getting strong. Then came month two… slightly less blissful. And then month three and four… it wasn’t pretty. I went from working out hard six days a week, sometimes twice a day, to nothing. It was just so hard with the morning sickness and the heartburn and back pain. As for my diet, I went from supremely clean eating to mac n’ cheese and cold cereal, the only two foods I craved.
The hard part wasn’t the morning sickness, or the swelling, or the weight gain. The hard part for me was not being able to work out. At the time, I felt like if I couldn’t do my old workouts, there was no reason to go to the gym. It took me a month or two of adjusting to pregnant life before I realized I could still work out as long as I changed my approach. I had to (cough, cough, mumble ) slow down.
I had no choice. I couldn’t do box jumps or mountain climbers or burpies or pull ups or abdominal work. I couldn’t do the fun stuff. So I did the only thing I could: I got on the treadmill and I walked. I’d walk between 3 and 5 miles a day. I made my calls, I returned my emails, I watched every episode of "Veep," all while I was walking. On the days I felt a little stronger, I lifted very light weights and kept my heart rate down to a respectable number. It wasn’t easy, but I did I it. I even managed to get to the gym the day Harper was born.
After I gave birth, I thought I’d be able to rush back to the gym within a week or two. Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!
I gained 27 lbs. It took me nine months to gain that weight. I certainly wasn’t going to lose it overnight. (Remember that when trying to drop a few pounds, whether it’s baby weight or not… it takes most of us years to put weight on, it’ll certainly take more than a week to come off, so be patient!) But for the first time in my life, I wasn’t just working out to maintain, I was working out to lose weight and rebuild my muscle. It’s a completely different approach.
I knew that if I was going to get back into shape, I had to respect the process. That meant no silly diets, no crazy food restrictions, no drastic calorie counting… and most importantly, no pressure. I started keeping a food diary, writing down everything that I ate and drank and sending it to a few friends every night for accountability. It was eye-opening for me to see how often I just threw something in my mouth without thinking about it. Mindless eating will blow up any good food plan. As soon as I curbed that and focused on good food choices, I started dropping weight. (I breast-fed for four months, which also helped.)
Slowly, I increased my workload in the gym and within a month I started seeing results. I was back to my pre-baby weight in eight weeks and by the six-month mark, I was under my pre-baby weight and as strong as I was before.
It took me having a baby to understand how hard it is to get BACK in shape. It’s so much easier to STAY in shape, which is what I had been doing my whole life. I now have much more patience with my clients who are struggling to stay on the healthy course. I’ll be the first to tell you it’s not easy. The baby weight certainly didn’t come flying off. My muscles definitely didn’t come popping back up again. These last six months included many 5 a.m. workouts before the baby woke up, many late night workouts after the baby went down and many little calorie-burning activities throughout the day.
It’s been quite a journey. But as I always tell my clients: If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.