Back to the old me

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Swinging into summer with this crew.

As spring stretches into summer, and the longer days and warmer air beckon runners and outdoor enthusiasts alike, I have just wrapped up my second round of fitness camp at Third Degree Training Saint John. It feels bittersweet.

I’ll miss the accountability, the camaraderie and the excellent sweat sessions. I’ll miss having a guided workout four times a week, no two workouts the same, and I’ll miss having the chance to bring my little ones along to the Baby & Me classes — although, now that Callum is crawling it could have made for extra-challenging workouts!

Although I know I could have done better, especially during the past month, I also know I had a few first-world curveballs thrown in my direction, so it’s best to chalk it up to “life with kids” and move on.

After my stellar results last round, I think I actually gained a pound or two and an inch or two in the past month. However, my little family of five went on TWO week-long vacations during this time. (Neither of which were very relaxing with three under three in tow, but I still feel fortunate to have gotten away for a bit). And of course sandwiched between trips, we were all slammed with head colds, which meant little sleep and little volition to workout.

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An evening run on PEI’s north shore. Such serenity. beauty, and a good way to run off ice cream.

We actually called off our recent PEI trip early by one day, just because we were all tired and missing home, but that meant I was able to swing by Third Degree for the very last class of Week 8. This was good because I had intended on trying to make it to a class at the franchise’s Stratford, PEI location, however family life did not permit it. (And believe me, I tried!)

Overall, my nutrition was good for the first four weeks of this boot camp. I continued to follow the plan laid out for me (an active breastfeeding mother of twins), and stayed on course fairly well. During both trips away, I definitely indulged now and then, while continuing to ensure I ate plenty of protein and veggies. The rest of the time I found I would start off the day fine, then make excuses for why I could have a treat here and there… and before I knew it, I was treating myself every day! Bad, April (slaps own wrist). This has always been my Achilles heel.

I know I feel better and have better energy when I eat well, and this is especially true now that I have sub-optimal sleep. I am now back to eating clean, well a good three days of it, and hoping I can stay on the healthy train.

Following one round of fitness camp near-perfectly followed by another one that was less-than-ideal underscores a couple of important points:

  • Accountability under the Actual Nutrition program works! For the first 8 weeks, I emailed Kevin, who owns the Saint John facility, my food diary every single day. Just knowing he would be seeing what I ate automatically kept me on track.
  • Sometimes life does not allow you to make eating and working out a top priority. And that’s OK. What matters is that after the “event,” you can get back on track.

The high-intensity workouts at Third Degree – including movements such as burpees, squats, planks and dozens of variations interspersed with cardio – are so much fun and so effective. I love getting my heart-rate up but what I’ve really noticed is that my soreness after a workout is not as intense, and I feel stronger. Even after my slacker weeks. I’m definitely fit enough to crank out a 5K, which actually surprised me because I haven’t run much since having the twins.

In these respects, I have achieved my goal when I set out on this journey.

I wanted to become stronger, fitter and energized. Check! Losing weight, yeah that would be nice, but not a prerequisite to anything. Still I am down to my “normal” weight and fitting in my pre-baby jeans, so that’s awesome.

The best side effect of being in shape is how you feel. Feeling good, as a busy mother of three, including 9-month-old twins, is essential, not only for the sake of happiness, but for survival! Happy mom = happy kids = happy household.

I gave Catt a sweaty embrace as I left that Friday evening, endorphins rushing. I’m so grateful for this experience, I told her, and I only hope that I can inspire other mothers of young children to get out there and do something for themselves.

It doesn’t have to be the program at Third Degree, it may be as simple as doing lunges during a stroller walk, or turning walks into slow runs, or doing a few planks and push-ups beside your baby on the living room floor.

When I think back to how I felt when I embarked on this program four months ago, I can see that my mental wellness has shifted in a positive direction. Back then, I felt sluggish, overwhelmed and frumpy. Oh, and starving. I felt kind of lost in motherhood. And while it can take a few months for any mother to get her bearings after giving birth, the solution was simple: combining a wholesome diet with regular exercise. Now, thanks to the good people at Third Degree, I’ve been able to shift my habits back to a healthy lifestyle.

As I work towards my next goal of running my first postpartum 10K in August, I know I will be tackling it with a stronger body, with confidence and, because I’m so grateful to be back to the old me, with joy.

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Fitness for feminists

I was busy preparing lunch for my twin babies and I when I flicked on the radio, as I normally do during meal times. CBC Radio’s Maritime Noon was accepting calls about a topic close to my heart: women’s fitness at mid-life, and how we often struggle to balance the need to prioritize our health while feeling pressure to achieve the “perfect” body.

I have never grabbed the phone to dial faster in my life. I feel so passionate about this, because as a mom of three young boys, I have learned that the moment I tossed ideals around the number on the scale, clothes sizes and feeling the need to look a certain way out the window, and learned to enjoy fitness and enjoy healthy eating, everything started to fall into place.

LISTEN to the show at 38:20. 

The radio show was hosting Samantha Brennan and Tracy Isaacs, authors of “Fit at Mid-Life: a Feminist Fitness Journey.” The women also blog at Fit is a Feminist Issue. In the book and on the blog, Sam and Tracy – academic deans at two Ontario universities – share their journey to reach peak fitness by the age of 50, all while challenging modern fitness culture from a feminist perspective.

I was fortunate enough to share my own personal experience with making fitness an important part of my life as a 35-year-old mom (does that make me middle-aged?!). I wanted to let listeners know that although my life is busy with three young boys, I have managed to return to a healthy lifestyle thanks to the workouts and nutritional guidance from 3rd Degree Training in Saint John.

The host asked if my goals have changed over the years, and since having children. Absolutely, I said. My first goal is so simple: to feel good. Secondly, I want to be in good enough shape to run half-marathons again, and hopefully another (injury-free) marathon one day. If my jeans fit better and I lose a few pounds and inches, I truly regard this as a bonus.

Tending to the needs of young children can be extremely tiring and at times exasperating. Carving out time in a busy week to exercise pays me dividends in so many ways. I have crept out of the fog of the newborn days and I now feel stronger, more energized and my mood is lifted up so I can better take on the daily challenges of motherhood and life in general.

As a woman, and a mother, I have a deep respect for my body and that fact that I have been able to carry and give birth to three beautiful boys. It’s easier to treat my body, which is both beautiful and imperfect, as a temple, when you think of it from that point of view.

Of course it helps that I honestly enjoy working out. I love it. If you can find something you love to do while getting active, it makes all the difference. Throw out the scale and focus on what makes you feel good, and the rest will come.

I have also noticed that once I started back down the healthy path and saw some results – whether it was attempting a full push-up or feeling less-winded after a sprint – it encouraged me to continue eating healthy, whole foods and continue challenging myself during workouts. I have also set myself some running goals for the summer.

It was so fun to share my thoughts on Maritime Noon (even though Callum was making his voice heard!) and lucky me – my name was drawn to win the book! I look forward to reading more about Sam and Tracy’s journey.

How to change your life in 8 weeks

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Five months after giving birth to my twin boys, crawling out of the fog of survival mode, I was ready to get back to an active lifestyle. Caring for and nursing newborn twins and my three-year-old had left me perpetually tired, hungry and sluggish. Aside from occasional winter walks, I was not getting much exercise. And I was treating myself to plenty of take-out coffee, baked goods and fast food as a way to reward myself for getting through the long days.

As a runner and a fairly healthy person, I knew I needed to kick these habits – which had almost become crutches – before they became routine for me as a busy mom of three.

I partnered with 3rd Degree Training Saint John, with the goal of getting in 3-4 high-intensity interval training workouts per week, and to share my story to help others see what it is like for someone like me to take on their program. I followed a customized Actual Nutrition plan for an active, breastfeeding mom (so much food!). My goals were simple: to get “in shape” again and feel good about myself. I was honestly not sure if four workouts and eating clean would be enough to see a significant change in my body. And to be honest, I was OK with that because I didn’t have a ton of weight to lose and I knew once I returned to running, eventually, that weight would melt away.

By week four I was already seeing significant changes, not only in how my clothes fit but, more significantly, in how I felt.

I had so much more energy, I felt mentally clear and my mood was lifted. I felt like a better mom, a better spouse and closer to the old “me.”

The combination of cleaning up my diet, simply by eating whole, real food and eliminating junk (which I didn’t eat loads of, but I certainly indulged at least once a day), and blasting my body with quick, effective workouts, was a magic combination.

It was so perfect to end my first round of bootcamp as I celebrated 35 trips around the sun. In eight weeks, I lost eight pounds and nearly eight inches. I love the program so much I decided to keep going for another round, with the goal of improving form and continuing to get stronger while I ease back into running.

Every day is not a cakewalk – sometimes I find it challenging to focus on making healthy meals for myself as well as my family (moms are used to being last priority, eating the leftover Timbits and crusts of peanut butter sandwiches!). I often scarf down cold food while babies are screaming. And even though the 10:30 Baby and Me class (Mon/Wed/Fri) is the perfect way to get in a workout with kids in tow, it’s certainly tough to get two babies out the door, while balancing whatever my older son is up to that day as well. Sometimes I ask my mother-in-law to come by while I squeeze in an evening workout, or sometimes I set my alarm for 5 a.m., feed my babies and pray they go back to sleep so I can hit up the 6 a.m. class.

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My boys: Callum, Leo and Silas.

But the perseverance and consistency pay off in spades. It is so motivating to see results and see other members change, too. We are all just regular people trying to fit a healthier lifestyle into our already busy, challenging lives.

Actual Nutrition is not billed as a diet, it’s almost the opposite. By setting out a guideline of what are commonly known as macro-nutrients – carbs, fats and protein – the program provides ultimate flexibility and never leaves you feeling hungry or lagging energy. That means no calorie counting and no feeling of deprivation. Instead I look forward to every meal and snack and enjoy the taste of real food again.

After eight weeks, I have put myself back onto a healthy path. When I have treat days (Easter and my birthday), I immediately feel the effects… tired, headachy, and moody. I always thought I was the kind of person who could never eliminate sugar or treats because I love them too much. I thought I could always just run off the calories. But now I know I can save these things for every once in a while, knowing they don’t do my body or my mood any favours anyway.

I am so grateful to 3rd Degree for the opportunity to try their program. Witnessing the impact it has on its members has been truly inspirational. It’s more than about seeing results in your before and after pics, it’s about changing your habits, clearing your mind and treating your body with the respect it deserves.

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Halfway through boot camp: my progress report

I can’t believe how quickly the past four weeks have flown by! It has been so nice to make working out a part of my life again. Some days it is my only chance to do something on my own or get out of the house! And I have been amazed how seamlessly I have been able to transition to “clean” eating. Accountability and having a plan are truly half the battle.

Here is how things are going:

The Workouts:

  • I have managed to get to 3rd Degree Training four times a week for the past four weeks. Usually I attend the 10:30 a.m. Baby & Me class (with or without kids) on Mon, Wed and Fri but also try for 6 a.m. or noon on Thursdays and 8:30 a.m. on Saturdays. It’s really handy to have an array of class times to chose from.
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Callum and Leo and their gym buddy, Avery.
  • It’s honestly so convenient to my home on the west side, at less than a five-minute drive, so I really have no excuse. OK, I do have a few, but getting to the gym and back home within an hour is totally doable.
  • From the moment I step into the studio at 3rd Degree, I feel inspired to work hard and get a good sweat on. The music is pumping and as other friendly faces appear (people of all skill levels and backgrounds) it’s easy to see they are all dedicated to making changes in their lives. The feeling is contagious and inspiring.
  • Workouts usually start with light cardio, followed by a few different sets of exercises, anything from burpees to squats and ab exercises. We do numerous variations and all using our own body weight, so it never gets boring.
  • I can feel myself getting stronger every day. I often wake up with that dull burning sensation in my muscles, and I go to bed ready to fall into a deep sleep (until a baby or little boy wakes, anyway). But I never get the exhaustion you feel after a long run.

Nutrition

  • This is where the biggest life changes have happened for me. Thanks to my nutrition plan from Kevin, I have managed to completely cut sugar and treats from my diet, and I am not even that upset about it. I’m not going to lie, there are days when I am dog-tired, overwhelmed, you name it, and could reallllly go for a McFlurry. Or, there have been days when I have been tempted to eat a cookie as I bake them for my son (OK, I definitely licked the spoon). But here is the secret: I am never starving hungry! And there is always the next meal/snack to look forward to, and they are always tasty. I don’t feel deprived, and I am eating so.much.food. This is no diet, this is about eating satiating, real, nutritious food.
  • Eggs are a huge part of my days now, starting with the mornings when I usually eat three, getting my 1.5 servings of protein in. I also keep a few hard-boiled eggs on hand for lunches and my evening snack. Never have I eaten so many eggs! I just bought the 30-pack from Costco and I will probably get through it in a week.
  • I have really upped the ante on vegetables. My favourite way to eat them is just raw. I used to think veggies were kind of boring but as my tastebuds have adjusted, I look forward to my big salads and crunchy snacks with hummus or tzatziki. I used to eat a lot more fruit, but now I am really filling up on veggies.

Early results

  • I have more stable energy throughout the day and I’m generally in a better mood.
  • I feel myself getting stronger and back into shape.
  • I have lost three inches around my ribs, waist and hips. My clothes fit much better.
  • I am honestly surprised how quickly this is happening. My goal in joining was just to feel better and get stronger. I always assumed it would take many months to lose some pounds and inches, and that it would require many long runs (that has always been what works for me!)
  • Here’s the before and after!

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Thanks so much to 3rd Degree Training for the opportunity to partner with them and share my story. Keep following along to see how the next four weeks go! You can also follow my posts and stories on Instagram.

Organized chaos: how the gym makes me feel more human

From the moment I peel open my eyes in the morning until those sweet first seconds of uninterrupted sleep at night, I am running on all cylinders. I am like a mommy octopus, feeding babies with two tentacles, wiping butts with the other, cleaning up, grocery shopping, you name it.

And hey, I may have six-month-old twins and a three-year-old but I am not so different from many busy mothers out there, and I know it. In fact in the past few months I have gained even more mad respect for all the stay-at-home moms I know who toil through these emotional and tedious and beautiful days for years on end.

I am also blessed to have loads of help, with part-time childcare for Silas, and my husband’s shifts allowing him to be home during the day.

But for me, one of the hardest things about maternity leave is when the fatigue and the feeling of being needed 24/7 wears you down so that you stop caring. You stop caring about what you look like, what you are putting in your mouth, and how much you are exercising. Two babies crying frantically can raise anyone’s blood pressure. Add a “Mooooommmm! I need you!” and burning supper, and you suddenly find yourself mindlessly pounding Skittles or Decadent cookies and pouring yet another coffee.

Getting myself on a workout routine and eating better has absolutely changed how I respect and care for my body and my health. It has been about so much more than losing pounds or inches, it has been about taking control over one aspect of my life when most others are truly dictated by my children and their ever-evolving needs.

Over the past three weeks, I have cut all the garbage and “treats” I had started to lean on way too much to get through the day (and night). Filling up on veggies, protein, complex carbs and healthy fats has provided me with stable energy throughout the day, and I rarely feel ravenous!

Taking part in HIIT workouts at 3rd Degree Training gets me out of the house and into an energy-filled environment where it’s impossible not to leave in a better mood. By attending just four classes a week since late February, I am already starting to feel stronger. I’m excited to see how much progress I make by the end of this eight-week bootcamp.

My goal is not to be skinny; it’s to be a happy, healthy mom better able to take the ups and downs of parenting three young children. I love myself more when I feel healthy and strong. These days with my three little ones are fleeting and I don’t want to waste them in a fog, if I can help it.

Defeating mom guilt: exercising with kids

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Leo & Callum

Mom guilt: it’s one of the issues I often grapple with when I’m training for a race or trying to make fitness a priority in my life.

Now with twin babies, almost six months old, and a 3.5-year-old, there is scarcely a moment when I am not in demand. Even if I have someone else to care for my children when I leave the house to get in some exercise, I always feel rushed to get back home, or I worry about the babies crying, needing me… or I feel bad for not spending more time with Silas, my oldest.

Enter Baby & Me at 3rd Degree Training Saint John. Offered three mornings a week, I no longer have an excuse to miss my workouts. Not only can I bring the babies along to watch me flail around on the mats, but Silas can come too!

This past week, which was March Break in New Brunswick, I was able to bring Silas along for two of the three classes since he didn’t have preschool. He was in heaven.

He made friends with another boy and tossed around a football, rolled, laughed, ran and screamed in delight while the rest of us planked, burpeed, squatted and super-manned. The class flew by, and by the end, Silas, wearing a Superman cape, was just as breathless and red-faced as I.

“Do think I did a good job during my workout?” I asked him afterward.

“Not really,” Silas said, adding he thought our “Superman” moves should have involved more running, flying and rolling. That made me laugh.

After a quick pit stop at Sobeys, we returned home to find the twins still napping (of course they do when I’m not home) and Silas, typically a ball of energy, was ready for a nap too. I’d call that a win.

This is my ‘before’

The past few months, I have barely had enough time to look in the mirror, let alone think about my own health and fitness. And to be honest, I haven’t even cared that much. I haven’t run a single step since the twins were born five months ago. I take my babies out for walks, and we joined a mother/baby yoga class, but I certainly haven’t been in any rush to lose weight.

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Photo by Amy Stewart Photography

After giving birth the first time, I was anxious to get back in shape and find my running legs again. This time, I decided to give myself some grace. I am so grateful for my body and what it went through to bring my baby boys into the world. I don’t feel pressured to look perfect or thin, and I know I will return to running eventually.  I also need to make sure I have enough calories to nurse the twins.

It’s clear by the scale that I have been eating more than enough to feed those babies, and then some. I have rekindled my love affair with baked goods. Oh how I love the combination of butter, sugar and flour. Coffee with rich cream. Heavy home-cooked meals, pies, cake and brownies. And yes, fast food: pizza, McDonald’s, ice cream, you name it. There is something so comforting about eating fattening food when you’re tired and stressed. But this kind of eating isn’t helping anybody.

Now that the babies are five months old, I am declaring my free ride “over.”

It’s time to truly do my body a favour and eat better, get some exercise and get back some of that precious me time in the process.

My friends at 3rd Degree Training Saint John have offered me the opportunity to partner with them to try an eight-week fitness camp along with their Actual Nutrition program. I agreed, and I’m all in. That means before and after photos, measurements and aiming for at least four high intensity interval training sessions a week.

My main goal here is to get back to healthy, not necessarily lose weight. It’s about feeling good again, without the sugar, salt and fat. It’s about being a good role model for my family and preparing my body to run marathons again — without injury.

So here we go, I’m nervous to share this, but this is my “before” in all my postpartum glory. Help keep me accountable and follow along. Classes start Monday. Eek!