Who am I….as a runner?

“So, tell me, who are you as a runner?”

Runner, coach, and author of Run Tall, Run Easy, Gerard D. Pearlberg asked me this question while we were chatting over some java last week. I stumbled for an answer as Georgie was squirming on my lap, eager to explore. I gave him an answer that I was unsatisfied with, so I committed to writing an in-depth answer as a blog post. When I couldn’t decide how to begin, I scrolled through my pictures for inspiration. What you see below is an organic stream of consciousness that flowed from my memories onto the keyboard, without edit. It’s certainly NOT my best writing- it’s quite atrocious, actually- but it IS an accurate portrayal of who I am as a runner. Enjoy!

 

I’m the kind of runner who loves to talk about running, who enjoys subtly dressing up for certain races. I love to talk about running shoes. I love to buy running shoes. I love returning running shoes when they don’t work for me. I’m the kind of runner who likes to talk about races. I like that I’ve checked off a few bucket list races. I don’t love that my bucket list keeps growing. I’m the kind of runner who will PROBABLY never qualify for Boston. I’m the kind of runner who decides on a Tuesday night after PLYOGA that she’s game to run a half marathon the following weekend. I’m the kind of runner who used to log enough miles to be able to do that without a problem! I’m the kind of runner reads Runner’s World cover to cover the day it comes. I’m the kind of runner who needs a bagel and coffee (or beer) after a long run. I’m the kind of runner who needs to poop before she runs. I’m the kind of runner who runs throughout most of her pregnancy and starts again only a few weeks after giving birth. I’m the kind of runner who will stop to take pictures of cool stuff along the way. I like running through the woods, up hills, and around cities. I like to look at my surroundings when I run. I like running in my neighborhood where I will see a dozen people I know pass by logging their own miles. I like running in places I know I won’t see a soul. I like to run fast. I like to run slowly. Apparently, I like to run through the mud. And away from zombies. And while pulling trucks behind me. I like to run for good causes. I like to run with a team. I like to run to remember people, to remember fallen heroes. I like running to inspire others to keep- or start- moving. I like to run with friends. I like to run with kids. I like to run with my husband (despite him not always wanting to run with me). I like to run in the cold. I like to run in the heat. I don’t mind running in the rain, but I do NOT like running in the wind. I like traveling to run and running where I travel. I LOVE running in Disney World. I like running on holidays. I like running in the morning and at night. I like running races and crossing the same finish line as elite athletes, like Meb and Shalane and 94-year-olds, like Harriette Thompson (RIP) alike. I like running before weddings and parades. I like gathering people to run before parades. I like running to breweries. I like running places I’ve never run before. I like running with people who can tell a good story. I like running with music, though I like running without music more. I really, REALLY like coaching running of any kind, whether it’s the 20M dash of beach flags, navigating a graveyard on a middle school cross country course, training a group of kids for a local 5K, or helping a friend redeem herself and finish a marathon without #cryinginaportapottie. I love to coach running…and I think I’m pretty good at it.

 

I’m sure when he first asked the question, GP was looking for something more along the lines of “I’m a 1:52 half marathoner and I can rock out a 24 minute 5K right now if you want me to,” but, especially after having a baby and having my schedule knocked upside-down, I find numbers to be deceiving. My “training” is no longer consistent …and maybe I never really trained to reach my full potential as a runner to begin with. My high school track coaches love telling the story of the <insert expletive> Memorial Race circa 1997, when I finished a middle distance race able to laugh and yell at them for torturing me. I bring this up, because never, in my life, have I completed a race with an empty tank (unless you count that time I emptied the contents of my stomach inches shy of the finish line at the Belmar 5 a few years back). In other words, I have never run as fast as I could. Therefore, I don’t actually know how fast I CAN run. When I revealed this truth to GP, he suggested perhaps I have a fear of success- that being successful would be too much pressure to keep achieving. Maybe he’s right. But that only depends on how you measure success…

Bodyweight Workout for Runners…or anyone looking for a simple workout

A recent issue of Runner’s World* has a great spread on lifting and glute work. Most runners looking to improve race times or stay injury-free don’t need more mileage- they need more strength training. A strong core, glutes that fire properly and strong-but-nimble hip flexors will definitely make for a better athlete…but what if you don’t have time (or money) for a trip to the gym and don’t have any fancy equipment at home? Good news! You’ve got yourself and you come with your own weight! While weights, resistance bands, and other equipment are an important part of an effective fitness regime, your own bodyweight can provide you with a sufficient workout to activate muscles and build strength in specific areas. Here is a quick workout you can do anywhere, anytime, with no-stuff-necessary:

Warm-up: (5-10 minutes) Walk, jog (in place or around the block), jumping jacks, etc. to get your heart rate up and muscles warm.

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Work Out: Complete 3 sets of 12-15 repetitions of each exercise (on each side!!!) with rest in between as you need it. Use a stop watch for the planks and bridge at the end.

Short Version:

  1. Squats
  2. Single-leg Deadlifts
  3. Lunges
  4. Bird-Dog Crunches
  5. Fire Hydrants
  6. Full plank
  7. Side Planks
  8. Glute Bridge

Detailed Version:

  1. Squats
    • Sit the booty back and down, keep the chest lifted, core engaged, don’t let your knees sneak out over those toes!
    • Bonus points for doing lateral (side-to-side) walking squats and/or jump squats in the last set.
  2. Single-leg deadlift
    • Balance all of your weight over one, straight leg while hinging at the hips, reaching towards the ground as the other leg up swings up and back, toes and hips pointed towards the floor…Keep your back flat (do not hunch over) and go nice and slowly, engaging the glutes as your come back to stand.
  3. Lunges
    • Step forward, keep shoulders over hips, and drop until both legs are at 90 degrees. Think about staying tall and dipping down, rather than leaning forward. A small hinge at the hips is okay, but there shouldn’t be any stress on the knee in this move- it’s all about the quads! Explode off of that front foot to come back to stand. I like to alternate legs each time.
    • If you’ve got any kind of knee issue, try stepping BACK into your lunge instead of going forward.
  4. Bird-dog crunches
    • Start in table-top (on your hands and knees); head and neck stay neutral. Engage the entire core and lift your left arm straight out in front of you while kicking your right leg out behind you. Crunch your knee and elbow inward towards each other under your belly. Extend both limbs back out to starting position.
    • Want more booty work? Add a donkey kick at the top of your extension, getting that heel up as high as you can.
  5. Fire hydrants
    • Stay in table-top; head and neck remain neutral. Engage the entire core and lift one knee out to the side, keeping your leg bent at 90 degrees and foot flexed (think dog-peeing-on-hydrant). Bring the knee and leg up to hip height before slowly lowering back down.
    • Bonus points for keeping the knee up and kicking foot out to side, straightening the leg a few times at the end! You may hate me while your tush and hips burn through this move, but you’ll thank me for it later. Promise.
  6. Full (or forearm) Plank
    • Start with your belly on the ground, hands directly under your shoulders. Push up, keeping your shoulders directly over your wrists and gaze out in front of your finger tips (resist the urge to look down or at your abs!). Keep EVERYTHING from your shoulders to your quads engaged. Hold it here!
    • Start with 30-45 seconds x3, work your way up to 90 seconds.
    • Bonus points for adding a few push-ups or plank jacks to the last set.
  7. Side Planks
    • Start in full plank position, shoulders directly over wrists (if you’re on your forearm, shoulder over elbow, arm at 90 degrees). Shift your weight onto one hand and rotate so you are facing the wall. Free hand can hangout on your hip or extend upwards with palm facing out, shoulder retracted down the back. Keep your obliques engaged, hips extended and body in one straight line. Hold…
    • Start with 30-45 seconds x3 each side, work your way up to 90 seconds.
    • Add a hip drop or elbow-to-knee crunches for additional oblique work!
  8. Glute Bridge
    • Start on your back, knees bent, soles of your feet to the floor. Engage your glutes and lift your hips up high. Be sure to squeeze the transverse abdominis (deep, inner core muscle) and keep your neck neutral by untucking the chin.
    • Start with 30-45 seconds x3, work your way up to 90 seconds.
    • Add pulses or march (send one foot at a time towards the ceiling) for the last set to burn out the glutes and core.

Stretch: It’s important to keep your muscles happy by releasing tension that builds up during a workout. Self myofascial release (i.e. foam rolling) and gentle stretching, such as with the moves listed below can expedite the healing process and limit muscle soreness. Hold each of these for 10-15 seconds (on each side). Breathe deeply, moving into and out of positions on the exhale.

  1. Reclining pigeon or standing figure 4 (gluteus maximus/minimus- your bum and outer hip)
  2. Hip flexor stretch (hip flexors- front of groin area)
  3. Runner’s stretch (hamstrings- back of leg)
  4. Quad stretch (quadriceps- front of leg)
  5. Side-body reach (obliques- side of abdomen)

Don’t forget to have a snack with some protein within 30 minutes of completing this workout and drink lots of water throughout your day. Happy lifting!!!

 

 

*This issue’s also got an article of NJ’s own Montclair Bread Company owner and running club, Fueled by Donuts founder, Rachel Crampsey. Go grab a copy if you don’t have one yet!

 

 

Baby, it’s cold outside!

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I posted the above picture before my run along the Atlantic the other day. It got a bit of attention, as the Northeast is in the middle of a SERIOUS cold spell. On this particular morning, my Weatherbug app told me it was 13 degrees, and “felt like” zero. But the sun was shining! Also, a) I’m about to start training for a half marathon with Team in Training (to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society- more on that later) and needed to add some base miles and b)my friend, Anne, had already posted that she was crazy enough to brave the cold. If she could do it, so could I. Some people told me I was nuts. Others asked what it was like and what I wore b/c they wanted to go out, too. That’s the spirit! My general advice is always to dress as if it’s 15-20 degrees warmer than it actually is, because you will generate a  good amount of body heat as you move. Also, dress in layers that are easy to remove and carry (or stash somewhere safe for you to grab later). I am actually notorious for over-dressing when the temp is between 40-60 degrees, so having an appropriate base layer on is super-important in my book. I’ve always got to remove something! But we’re talking COLD here. That same tendency is what keeps me comfortable in temps fit for eskimos. These are my favorite pieces to wear when running in the bitter cold:

  • The REAL Base Layer:
    • Thick and supportive sports bra. Do I need to explain this one?
    • Full undies to keep your bum warm. Who cares about lines when you’re freezing your tuchus off!?!?
    • Smartwool socks high enough to cover ankles (bonus points when you find them at Marshalls for a lower-than-normal price)
    • Long, thin tech tank, tucked into leggings
  • Base Layer: Some kind of meant-for-the-cold long sleeve top that is thick enough to be warm, with a high neck, and is thin enough to be flexible. Bonus points if it has thumbholes. My favorites are the UnderArmour ColdGear Cozy Neck (I have 3), Oiselle Wazzie Wool (the high neck is no longer available, but other models are- I could live in this top), and Athleta Remarkawool (which keeps me warm and looks cute, but the neck is a bit tight for my liking and its slightly itchy).
  • Bottoms: My go-to are UA ColdGear leggings….but I must warn you- their newer models pale in comparison to older ones. Athleta and Nike have what I hear is awesome cold-gear, too, if you’re willing to dip into your pockets. Look for something that is a thick material with a thin fleece-like lining to trap in warmth while letting you “breathe” and wick away sweat. For the dudes, Jeff (hubs) prefers UA and Nike.
  • If it’s 35 or above, I may stop here or add a light windbreaker (winds along the ocean can be gnarly) or a vest (fave: Oiselle Katron Vest).
  • If it’s below 35, I will add a thin fleece (Champion 1/4 zip, Polartec, etc.) and if it’s REALLY cold (like it’s been this week), add that jacket or vest on top of the fleece.
  • Accessories:
    • Gloves: I wear gloves if it’s 50 or below (sometimes I’ll go as high as 60 if it’s fall and the temp dropped quickly). My hands are often cold, but I usually ditch them after the first mile. We use cheap “magic” gloves, like ones you can get at for a few dollars at any drug store. It’s my go to for early races so I can cast them aside and not worry about my wallet taking a hit. They’re comfortable, warm, and let my skin breathe. I also have a good pair Brooks that have a thin water-resistant mitten top that folds over, but will only wear those in the rain, if I know I’m not going to take them off or if I have pockets with zippers (there was a missing glove incident once that involved an unintentional extra 2 miles).
    • Gaiter/ Neck Buff: Never leave home without it! When I do, I curse myself for it. I have a bunch- some were gifts, some were cheap ones from Target, but my favorite is a stretchy cotton one from Lululemon (as seen in the pic above). It was on sale for $20 and is in excellent shape after almost 5 years. It’s long enough to pull over my face in the wind, and thin enough that I can wrap it around my wrist if I am warm and need to take it off.
    • Headband/ Ear Warmers (b/c I’m uncomfortable running in hats w/ this thick-ass mop of hair): Also another must!!! This one is Oiselle, and is usually awesome, BUT in 10 degrees, I stepped outside today to find it’s just not warm enough. I have a fleece one from TNT that is a little loose, and 2 Nike’s that are a bit tight and also not quite warm enough on their own in this Arctic nonsense. So after experimenting, today I went with the Oiselle headband PLUS my everyday headband, knit by one of my BFFs and sent to me from NC. She has her own ETSY shop- check her out at GiaRoseArt!!! She made a mini one for Georgie, too! Anyway, the pair of them were a perfect match. My ears were kept nice and toasty.
    • Snow? Ice? Trails? If you simply MUST go out, add some YakTrax to your shoes. It’ll prevent falls by adding friction and they make you feel bad-ass. Think of them as snow tires for your feet.
    • Nighttime? Make yourself visible. Anything that glows in the dark, reflects, or shines light is a go. We like to wear reflective stuff (headband, jacket stripes, etc.) and old-school slap bracelets w/ led lights in them.

When in doubt, use a generic what-to-wear calculator, like the one the folks at Runner’s World developed: https://www.runnersworld.com/what-to-wear

Also, if you go out solo in harsh conditions, make sure someone always knows where you are, what direction you’re going in, and how long you expect to take. Wear a Road ID or something that identifies you in some way. If you’ve got a favorite article of clothing for cold-weather running, or questions for me, hit up the comment section below!

Top 10 Must-Have Items for Active Parents

I live on the Jersey Shore, where we have endless miles of beaches, boardwalks, and promenades, and are only a few miles from a handful of wooded trails. We also travel a lot, incorporating running and lots of walking into said travels. If you are an active family building a registry and are looking for ways to include baby in your ‘funtivities’ or need a gift for expecting parents, this list is for you. Here is my top 10 list of really good gear for active parents*:

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1. A good baby carrier:

I LOVE. LOVE. LOVE my Boba 4G Carrier. We use it EVERY day. I started when Georgie was only a few days old and now, over a year later, it’s still every bit as awesome. Although she’s been showing signs that she’s ready for it, I have yet to try it as a back-carrier (but I’ll get back to you once I get around to that). I get a LOT of comments from people with older kids and those who have other brands about how comfortable we look and how convenient the straps, clips, and pockets are. I can probably write an entire post one this one item alone (maybe you’ll see that pop up on here one day)! To check out the benefits of babywearing click here. I can attest to the “comfort and convenience” tenfold.

2. Jogging stroller:

We have a gently loved BOB Revolution jogger that was handed down from friends. Unfortunately, they don’t make adapters for our car seat, so we didn’t start running with it until Georgie was 6 months old. We were doing short, slow runs and lots of walking with our Uppababy, which is totally awesome, too, but holy moly was the BOB a game changer. So smooth, it was like the fog had lifted and suddenly I was a runner again. There are lots of brands out there if you can’t swing the price tag (or don’t have totally awesome friends to loan you one for a while). According to this review: http://bestreviews.com/best-jogging-strollers , BabyTrend is the best bang for your buck.

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3. Baby bunting:

Author of A Coast to Coast Walk, Alfred Waintwright said, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.” In NJ, we have weeks when temps reach 60 degrees one day and can drop to below freezing the next. Therefore, in order to continue to do the things I enjoy most in life, we adapt through our wardrobes, including the little peanut’s. Babies don’t need to be bundled beyond recognition, though. Experts, like those at the St. Louis Children’s Hospital, say to dress babies as you would yourselves in the same conditions plus one additional layer. A general rule of thumb to remember is “cool feet, warm belly.” Our layer of choice for long walks with the dog, winter bike rides or when going for a run in the cold is the Columbia Tiny Bear fleece bunting (which came from Amazon). It got so much use last year that I bought one for this winter, too. She’s already gotten her money’s worth out of it (see picture in previous post). You can get any kind of bunting at most outdoor retailers such as L.L. Bean and the North Face. Gap and Costco have some more affordable options, as well.

4. Sunblock (for you and baby):

While it is important to get a good dose of vitamin D every day, a few uncovered minutes in the sun is more than sufficient. Anything beyond that requires coverage. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, “there is strong evidence that sun exposure and sunburns during childhood multiply the risk of one day developing skin cancer, including melanoma.” Therefore, it’s imperative to protect baby from the sun. You can do this with clothing and accessories (see below), but you’ll also need a good, safe sunscreen to apply to baby’s skin (don’t forget the tops of ears and feet!). Check out your favorite brand on www.ewg.org/skindeep to see an analysis of the ingredients. We use Babo Botanicals (b/c we need more things that that start w/ B’s in our lives) but there are plenty of brands readily available that are low on the toxicity scale. If you hike wooded trails, add bug spray to your search and opt for one made from essential oils.

5. Long Sleeve Rashguard:

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Any time baby is in the sun for an extended time, he or she should be covered as much as comfortably possible. Wearing lightweight and lightly colored rashgards is an easy way to allow baby to enjoy fun in the sun and water while staying smart about their skin. My favorite brands are Rufflebutts for girls (as seen in picture), Primary and i play inc. for both boys and girls.

 

6. Swim diapers:

You’ll need them for swim lessons and- unless you want an explosion of ooey, gooey gel- any time baby is submerged in anything other than a bathtub. Most brands make disposable swim diapers, which we do use, but a 2nd layer of insurance never hurt anyone. We layer on reusables from Alva Baby, which I like b/c they have SUCH CUTE patterns and are adjustable. (Target also has some that are around $10). We often used them on the beach, in the pool, and during Mommy & Me Stand Up Paddle sessions, paired with a solid-color rashguard in place of a swimsuit. Interested in putting baby on a board?! Shoot me a message via the contact page or visit http://www.endlesssupcompany.com.

7. Sunglasses:

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Protecting your eyes is important when you spend as much time outdoors as we do. I’ve been wearing Smith Optics for 20 years and they do the job fine. I buy a pair at our local surf shop once every few years (although I did also have to grab a pair from Curl in Disney Springs a few years ago b/c I left my sunglasses at home!). Georgie has an awesome polarized, flexible, lifetime-warrantied pair that we purchased at the Endless SUP Company around the corner. If you’re local to me, grab yourself a pair at 809 Main St. in Belmar! They’re awesome.

8. Bike seat:

We get around town on our bikes often. I would not have survived summer w/ a baby if it weren’t for a child bike seat. We use the Limo from CoPilot. It’s easy to use, stable, safe, and looked kind of cool (gray with just a splash of bright blue and neon green, which happen to match my beach cruiser). It also transfers easily from one bike to another in roughly 30 seconds, provided you’ve already got racks on both bikes. I don’t like the idea of front-mounted seats for the same reason you never put a baby in the front seat of a car- objects in motion remain in motion (thank you, Mr. Newton). Weekends are crazy around here in the summer, so the thought of dragging a trailer on the ground behind me also feels a bit scary, but if you’re looking to ride on paths or trails without cars, go for it. My husband, Georgie, and I are all extremely happy w/ our rear-mounted CoPilot.

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9. Helmet:

Because we were only using it for one summer on such a tiny head that would soon grow, we opted for an affordable (i.e. less expensive, but still safe!) Lazer Baby on Board Helmet. When she’s a little older (and I am back to a regular paycheck!), maybe we’ll grab a nicer Giro or a Nutcase that will last a few years. Remember that helmets don’t cover baby’s face like a good hat does, so be sure to apply sunblock!

10. Fun w/ Fido:

Got a dog? A hands-free leash will make your life as a parent of 2- and 4-legged creatures whole lot easier. I don’t think I could live without one now that there’s a baby here. It allows the pup to get her exercise and feel like she’s part of the pack without it being a chore to fit in at odd hours. Of course, I could use the regular leash, but having both hands free to push a stroller, point things out when Georgie is in the Boba, or carry packages to return at the post office is really convenient. We’ve had our leash for years- we used to run w/ the dog often- and I have no recollection of where it came from, but you can find them at your local pet store or on Amazon.

If you’ve got comments on great brands you love for outdoor fun with babies, shoot us a message! I’d love to hear your thoughts on balance bikes, skooters, and toddler sneakers.

*Disclaimer- I am not compensated in any way by ANY of these companies for my thoughts and reviews (though I wish some of them WOULD pay me b/c I promote the heck out of them). I’ve just spent countless hours researching and don’t like to keep quiet when I find something worth sharing.

Sunday Runday: The Church of the Sunday Long Run

It’s Sunday. Have you logged your miles yet?!?

Screenshot_20171126-124201Georgie and I running today along the marina

Your 2017 NYC Marathon Champion, Shalane Flanagan sometimes mentions attending the Church of the Sunday Long Run. Other pro runners, like Nick Symmonds, and myriads of Average Joes and Jills post pictures of themselves running miles in meditation, honoring the same practice (b/c if you don’t post about it, it never happened, right?!). Blogs have been written on the topic with taglines such as “conversational etiquette” during said exercise, t-shirts have references to it splayed across their fronts. The “Church” has its own hashtag on social media, its own Facebook page, its own Twitter account (go ahead, check it- I’ll be waiting right here). It’s on the internet- that means it’s real (right?!?!). Please don’t mistake this for heresy. Real Church is still a thing- and an important one to many of us. It’s just that runners can easily compare the experience of a good long run with attending a worship service, regardless of what day it actually falls on (I typically run long on Saturdays, for instance, and try to get to church on Sundays). Running gear company, Tracksmith, has the following to say about the Church of the Sunday Long Run:

“The Sunday long run is often conflated with spirituality. It’s an easy comparison: like church, the long run is a Sunday ritual. And like any religion, it encourages us to reflect on our shortcomings and appreciate what we have. The fact that it’s the one run of the week where we push for distance, not speed, only encourages that – done correctly, it’s an introspective, centering experience. We don’t all share the same religion, but as runners, we’re all parishioners at the Church of the Long Run.” (http://churchofthelongrun.tracksmith.com/)

Whichever faith you practice, it feels good to know there are other people- near and far- believing in the same ideas and values you do. As humans, we have a basic, instinctual need for belonging to a group and practicing religion can offer us that security. The running community- whether in your own neighborhood or worldwide- offers the same sense of “family” and the Church of the Sunday Long Run is one way of showing solidarity and feeling connected. Despite the intensity of your training plan, the length of your goal race, your years of experience, level of achievement, age, gender, or your ACTUAL religion, the weekend ritual of slowing down for a nice, long run and having a chance to think, reflect, and appreciate brings us all together. So whether you’re a seasoned vet or lacing up for the very first time today, welcome. As we enter this Christmas season, may the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be at your back, and may all your miles be merry from here on out. Amen.

Poncho Baby!!! And 5 Fitness Tips for New Moms

Georgie is allergic to polyester. It’s an annoying allergy. SO MUCH STUFF has polyester in it. SO MUCH STUFF gives her rash. A sometimes really ugly rash, making her look slightly neglected, dirty, and/or sick (I promise you, she’s none of those things).

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Do you have any idea how hard it is to find something like a simple little square of fabric (aka a”lovey”) made of 100% cotton…that doesn’t rattle? In my house, we tend to be so low maintenance that it’s high maintenance. I was SO STOKED when I stumbled upon Poncho Baby. Hailing from the west coast, Poncho Baby was the answer to some of my material frustrations. Georgie loooooves their little green lovey, made from 100% organic (bonus!) cotton. They’ve also got nursing covers, blankets, onesies, and more. Be sure to follow them on Instagram and grab some of their organic cotton baby gear for your favorite moms, babies, and moms-to-be! And more importantly, check out this article I wrote for their blog:

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https://ponchobaby.com/

5 Fitness Rules for New Moms

Congratulations! You’ve just incubated and evacuated an actual human being from your very own lady parts. As you well know, growing and squeezing a bowling-ball-sized object out of a dime-sized hole takes a major toll on one’s body. The good news, however, is that the postpartum body is really quite trainable and can return not only to its previous state, but a stronger, more stable one- IF you train it properly. Professional runners, Kara Goucher, Stephanie Bruce, and Alysia Montano all returned strong to qualify for the US Olympic trials in their respective distances after having babies (I’m waiting on you, Adi Nelson!!!). If you’re reading this, you’re PROBABLY not a professional athlete (though if you are, I’d love a shout out!), but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn lessons from them. Take a look at these guidelines that will help you lose weight and rebuild the necessary muscle tone, functional strength, and mobility to carry out the new demands of “momlife”:

1. Restore That Core!!!

This is, perhaps, the MOST important thing you can do to achieve your fitness goals safely and effectively. Pregnancy and childbirth stretch and weaken the muscles and connective tissue of much of the core, including the deep core and pelvic floor muscles (such as the transverse abdominis). Most women also have some degree of diastasis recti- the separation between your rectus abdominals that leaves a gap, making your belly “pooch” out after birth. A weak inner core is also why you might pee every time you sneeze, jump, or laugh (SO annoying, amiright?!) and Kegels are just not enough. Your first inclination might be to jump back into popular “ab exercises” like sit-ups/crunches, planks, and leg lifts, but you’d likely be doing more harm than good. Instead, focus on your breathing, engaging the appropriate muscles, and using small movements to progressively re-train your deep core and pelvic floor. Rebuilding these muscles will ensure proper function and the stability necessary to carry out more intense movements later on. Exercises done while laying down, like “drawing in,” pelvic tilts, bent knee marches, and glute bridges are sure to help.

2. WALK.

Anywhere and everywhere. Walking will increase blood flow, which is important to the healing process while the movement boosts your endorphins (happy hormones), making you feel good. Fresh air doesn’t hurt, either! We are fortunate enough to live in a place where I can do most of my errands on foot and our primary mode of transportation has 2 wheels. So we walk (and bike). A lot. In all kinds of weather. If you have a safe place to walk near you (i.e. sidewalks, a path, a promenade, a boardwalk, etc.) and proper attire, then get your tushies out the door and walk. It provides time to bond with your little one, teaching him or her about your surroundings, and is good for your heart, soul, and leg muscles. You’ll kick-start your metabolism, making it easier to lose weight, while showing baby that healthy activity is valuable and important to you (bonus points if you have a dog and bring Fido with you!). Don’t live in a place conducive to a walk? Look for opportunities to do so in other ways. Park far away from the entrance to the grocery store, head to the mall and walk the corridors, grab your carrier and drive to a safe wooded trail at a state, county, or local park to walk with a friend. Just move as much as possible, as often as you can. With all the time we spend sitting (resting/healing, feeding, cuddling, etc.), your body will thank you for any kind of activity. The more you try to make it a habit, the easier it becomes to get out the door.

3. Drink a LOT of water.

Seriously. Giving birth depletes us of a LOT of liquid that if not replaced, can leave you feeling dehydrated for days (weeks? Months?!). This is especially important if you are nursing. While drinking more water probably won’t have any affect on your milk supply, it’s essential to keeping YOU feeling good. Your brain, muscles, skin, and other organs all need water to perform at their best and now they have to compete with a suckling infant for access. Recovery (from birth and a hard workout) is much easier when your body is well hydrated. You don’t need to overdo it, either. Adding just a few extra 8-ounce servings of H2O to your regular routine can do the trick (drink more if you’re not typically a conscious water-drinker).

4. Start slowly.

The shortest gestation period of any mammal belongs to a species of opossum and is less than 2 weeks. By contrast, an elephant’s gestation period is 95 weeks. Well….thank goodness we are not elephants. And 2 weeks sounds cool until I think about the fact that I didn’t know I was pregnant until roughly week 6, so I guess I’m also glad I’m not a rodent-like marsupial (opossums are GROSS). That being said, as a human, you just spent approximately 40 weeks- FORTY WEEKS (!!!!)- gaining weight, turning your flesh and blood and everything you ate into a baby. Then you delivered it and had to heal from that delivery while taking care of said baby. Your body probably does not look nor behave the same way it did before conception. AND THAT’S OKAY (I repeat…40 weeks)! My best advice here is to get back into the groove slowly. Your full recovery and your baby are more important right now than how you look. How quickly you return to your exercise-of-choice will depend on your fitness level pre-baby. Most physicians recommend waiting until 6-week check-up to resume or begin any kind of fitness regimen. Any sooner and you run the risk of injury or delaying your body’s ability to heal. Walking and a few minutes of core exercises each day until you’ve regained a little strength and stability are sufficient at first. Don’t overdo it and be sure to progress at a safe rate. I refer you back to rule #1 with retraining your core properly before you move on to anything more intense. When you are ready, add a few reps of new, simple exercises, like squats, deadlifts or bicep curls. You can quicken the pace while lengthening the distance you walk as you feel things returning to normal. Some gentle/restorative yoga is a good idea around this time, too. If you do things right up to this point, you’ll be able to kick it up a notch with some running or other cardio and more intense upper body and core training with little to no problem (aside from, ya know, time and energy). If you suspect any issues, such as a pelvic floor injury or high degree of diastasis recti, speak to your healthcare provider asap.

5. Get baby involved.

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So about that time and energy thing…I can’t be the only mom who struggles with finding time to get a good workout in. What I find is that it’s not really finding the time itself, but prioritizing effectively. Based on the schedules in my house, I am very limited in my opportunities to work out solo. However, if I’m willing to change my expectations of the workout, I can get baby involved. Squats, lunges, shoulder presses, planks (when you’re strong and ready for them!), and some stretches are moves that can be done while holding or engaging a baby. Hello resistance training! It’s convenient that they grow and gain weight as you get stronger and want to progress (or are you getting stronger BECAUSE they’re gaining

weight?!). If you’ve got a set of TRX or similar bodyweight straps safely anchored in your home, strap baby into your preferred carrier (the Boba 4G is my fave!!!) and bring him or her along for the ride. If you need external motivation, almost every city and suburban area has some sort of Mommy & Me or stroller fitness classes. They are usually not free, but they get you out of the house to interact with adult humans, provide socialization for baby, and get you your workout. So how much is your sanity worth? A simple

 Google or hashtag search on social media (i.e. fit4mom or stroller fitness and your city or town) will set you in the right direction on finding a local group. If you live in an area too far from one, start your own! Grab a group of like-minded friends and find a place to put the work in. Your future self, your baby, and probably your significant other will thank you for it.

Patience and consistency are key when upping your fitness game after having a baby. Start small and remember to think about function and stability before any intense training. With some careful planning, you can and will restore your strength and, in turn, your body confidence. Maybe you, too, can qualify for the Olympics Trials. Hey…an old girl can dream, can’t she?

Erica Coviello is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer, an ACSM Certified Group Fitness Instructor, a Road Runners Club of America Certified Running Coach, and is currently on maternity leave from teaching middle school science in NJ. Check out @runnercov on Instagram.

Sweat&Milk: Fit Mom One-on-One

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Are you an active mom who is also nursing (or planning to be in the future)?!? Then you HAVE to check out Sweat & Milk and their awesome nursing sports bras. You can also check out their interview with me and other #fitmoms here:

Sweat & Milk: Fit Mom One-On-One

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