I feel like my workouts have always been evolving throughout my life, which makes sense because what worked when you were 16, is definitely not going to work when you are 30 and so on. But, I am not sure everyone really thinks about this. Truthfully, it didn’t really click for me, until recently.
You all know I was forced to switch things up while I was pregnant due to some lower back problems. Sadly, that didn’t change postpartum, which resulted in me needing to find some alternative ways to working out. Near the end of my pregnancy, I really wasn’t able to do much besides walking, so it wasn’t until recently that I began to really try to navigate new forms of exercise.
Something I recently started to understand as a result of my back, was the way a workout made me feel afterwards and for the next couple of days afterwards. For example, was I sore, if so where, was I having more back pain, did I feel exhausted after completing it, how is my stress level now?
What started out as a simple body check in, began to develop into more of a physical, mental, and emotional check in. I didn’t have the energy to do anything that sucked more energy (given my lack of sleep) and I didn’t want to do anything that exasperated my lower back problems either, so it was a lot of self-evaluation. In addition, I began to learn more about cortisol levels and their relationship to working out. Simply put, if you are already in a high stress situation (ie your job, something happening in your life, relationship issues, etc), performing a lot of high intensity exercise can cause more cortisol to be released in your body. This in turn, causes the opposite effect that fitness should have on your body in that instead of releasing more endorphins and the happy benefits fitness provides, you actually experience more stress on the body. This might feel like instead of being energized after a workout, you are even more exhausted, or perhaps you are working out a ton, eating a relatively good diet, but you are not losing weight. Another result, can be adrenal fatigue…all because it is too much on your body.
Knowing this, and knowing I was going through a lot, I have created a workout routine I absolutely love and that has really helped me within this phase of my life.
Here are my go-tos:
+ The Method Pilates : I like this because it works my entire body and also focuses a lot on my pelvic floor. I think any pilates will do, but working with a pilates bar at home provides the similar effect of working out on a pilates reformer. I also think that this has been therapeutic for me and is also creating long lean muscles, which I love. As a side note, the creator of The Method, Ingrid, is where I have learned a lot about cortisol and exercise.
+ Peloton: I know this is not something everyone can access, but this has been great for those days I am needed a really good sweat session or a pick me up. I love so many of the instructors and they never fail to put me in a really good mood.
+ Walking: Walking is SO underrated. It is low impact, gets you outside to breathe fresh air and get vitamin D, it’s mood boosting, and it can be done anywhere. I use my dog as my excuse and I can say I have never regretted going on a walk. Grab a partner and you can catch up while keeping your cortisol low and gently moving your body
+ Lifting weights/dynamic movements: I love a targeted day and I love feeling strong, so after doing about 7 months of low impact and low stress workouts, I began reintroducing HIIT workouts back into my fitness routine. In the past I have used the Sweat app and I really enjoyed it. I liked how the workouts are only 30 minutes, focus on different muscle groups dependent upon the day, and I noticed great results from it. So, this is what I decided to start back up on in order to get my heart rate back up and begin more of the jumping and dynamic movements for my back. The important thing here was to make sure that after I finished one of these workouts, I checked in with my body. How was I feeling? Was that draining or energizing? I also like to avoid HIIT after and long stressful days because I know that it will just add to my stress for the day (a better choice might be a long walk or pilates for those days).
Here is what this week looks like for me:
Monday: Sweat app ( I typically work this day, so if it has been too long of a day I may opt to make this my rest day or do something a little bit more low impact)
Wednesday: Sweat app
Thursday: Run or hike with Bo
Friday: Sweat app
Sunday: Run or hike with Bo
I may not hit all of these days and I can always move things around, but so far it has been the perfect combination of low impact, cardio, and rest. I am always listening to my body and my mental health. If I am extremely tired one day, then maybe ill just go for a short walk with Bo to boost my mood (10-15 min) or do 15 min of pilates. It really just depends on how my mind and body are feeling.
I still have a lot to learn about the hormonal effects of exercise, but I am slowly gaining so much knowledge and understanding. It has been critical helping to love my postpartum body, while also providing me with some love for fitness again.
I think the most important thing you can do is listen to your body after a workout. Ask yourself how you feel, are you getting the results you are looking for, knowing you are doing the right things? If your answer is bad or no, then it may be time to re-evaluate your fitness routine. Remember, what worked before, might not work now. Your body is different, and that is okay. You just need to listen and find what works moving forward.