When most people look back to pics of themselves in their 20’s they look wistfully at their former fitter, thinner, younger selves. I, on the other hand, look back and think WHAT THE FUCK WAS HAPPENING THERE??!! I had gained a bunch weight but somehow was oblivious to it because I didn’t grow up with a bitch of a mom and my friends at the time were either too afraid to tell me or were busy drinking beer and getting fat with me.
As I’ve mentioned before, starting nursing school was the catalyst for finding health and balance. Both my husband and myself lost 20 plus pounds each and stopped smoking and drinking and I had a new found appreciation for exercise, something that was much easier now that my lungs were cigarette free. We remained healthy and active for several years but in 2011 we decided to quit our perfectly good jobs, sell our home, and leave our friends and family for a new adventure and new home in sunny San Diego. I was born and raised in Alaska and was, I think, pretty content being there, although I’ve always had a travel bug, I never really envisioned living elsewhere permanently. My husband on the other hand had been there with me for over a decade and his wanderlust spirit was beginning to reach its breaking point. After tossing around ideas like working abroad in Australia, or getting a hospital job in the UK, or even moving to Finland where his extended family remains, we decided a short sabbatical would be enough to reboot us and a move to a sunny place was just what we needed.
So we drove down the Al-Can in my Corolla with our aging Husky mutt in the back seat along with all the belongings we would need on our extended homeless stint. We arrived in Portland, Oregon to collect our new home, a 1991 Ford Econoline camper van, which was waiting for us at my dad’s house. We swapped out the Corolla for the van and began on a multi-state tour that lasted just over 3 months. We visited 26 states (skipping all the boring middle bits) and despite our best intentions of doing Crossfit style workouts every day at campgrounds, when we arrived in California I was 13 pounds heavier and my husband had gained 19. Turns out our Alaskan blood couldn’t handle the heat and humidity of outdoor workouts and beer around the campfire at night sounded like a better plan than fighting mosquitoes and sweating hard. It was a wonderful trip, one that gave us a bout of depression when it ended. Time to get back to real life and find a REAL home and … jobs, ugh. Van life was great… I would do it again in a heartbeat but we now have two little people in tow and the long car rides with them would be enough to send anyone to straight to the psych ward.
It took almost a full year, now that we were in our 30s, to lose what we now refer to as “the van weight”. Which was good because not a minute after I got back to my pre-van weight I discovered I was pregnant with my first baby. I gained 30 pounds exactly and lost something like 12 of that within the first few days. Getting back into shape after her birth was pretty easy, I had been active the entire pregnancy, to induce labor I hiked the morning of, and did a prenatal yoga class the evening of her birth. Breastfeeding was also like taking a fat burner. The pounds came off no problem and I was soon back to pre-van weight. A little more than a year later we got pregnant with our second baby. Again, I ate healthily and remained active, I actually was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes with both pregnancies (thanks a lot mom- I mean genetics) so in order to avoid insulin shots, I was very strict with my diet and checked my sugars frequently. Despite my health, my baby boy arrived 5 weeks early, after I had gained only 20 pounds. He was 6 pounds even at birth and my doc thinks he could’ve easily gained another pound per week in that final stretch making him a real porker and crushing my dreams of natural vaginal birth. He was sunny side up as well, meaning his spine was against mine, not impossible to have naturally, but certainly not fun for either of us. I thought second babies were just supposed to just fall right out of your reamed vagina, but boy that was hard ass work. Anyway, got him out and he spent a good week in the NICU learning how to breast feed and not be jaundiced. After I got him home, I expected the breast feeding to zap up those few lingering pounds, but I was 36 years old and those were the hardest few pounds to lose. It took a good several months, almost a year actually, to get back AGAIN to pre-van weight, but definitely a different body composition.
It was November, just a year and a half after my baby’s 1st birthday that I competed in my first obstacle course race. You don’t need to be thin to run these races, but you do need to be strong. My husband, being the supportive Engineer he is, built me a pull- up bar and inclined monkey bars in our garage which I practiced during trips doing the laundry.
I am sure it’s been said by plenty of trainers and athletes before, but if you want to change your body you should start lifting weights. I see the same chicks on the elliptical machines and walking on treadmills for HOURS at the Y and nothing ever changes. If you want to change your body composition you need to build muscle, and do the cardio for your heart health and endurance. It’s all important, but chicks that afraid to lift are seriously missing out. I’m not about to be that asshole who wears one of those shirts that says “Real Girls Lift Weights”, but seriously, it’s kind of legit.
I only just today, 5 weeks out, started incorporating cardio back in to this physique changing regime. I have another race in just 7 days and need to be able to keep up with my team and I think the cardio I did could potentially help my behind. I set the treadmill to 30-degree incline and walked (without holding on) at 2.5 mile an hour pace. Basically a really steep hike, just for 10 minutes. I’ll build on that and eventually max out at 30 minutes. I had been avoiding cardio until now because I was attempting to bulk up, my muscles needed to be larger to be able to fit in with the bikini competitors and I didn’t want to risk my body burning its own muscle.
30 minutes is my MAX. I mean unless I start seeing amaaaaaazing results, I’m sorry but cardio is so fucking boring, I can only run or walk uphill watching re-runs of Real Housewives of NYC for so long.