Postpartum: When Your Identity is Intertwined with Athletics
To everyone who read my birth story, I’m sorry. Not only did I glaze right over the transition from competition-fitness goals to birth-fitness goals, but I made it sound like this mental/emotional transition was seamless. The truth of the matter is that it wasn’t, isn’t, and will remain an opportunity for thoughtful practice in the future.
At the heart of this issue is the fact that my identity is intertwined with my athletic abilities. Towards the end of the second trimester, I started having an identity crisis—my abs faded, my lifts didn’t feel strong, my bodyweight movements felt heavy, and my overall motivation to get in the gym was inconsistent. WHO WAS THIS GIRL? My sweet, logical husband gave me the I’m-only-going-to-say-this-nicely-once-talk about “my body’s goals are centered around the baby now” and “pregnancy is only temporary” and “a healthy baby is our goal too!” Got it. My frontal lobe is all over that shit. BUT WHY did I keep reverting back to these negative, self-deprecating thoughts?
I decided to give myself a small vacation from this dark place and set my finish line at 6 months post-partum. No self-judgment until Vivian’s ½ birthday. By then I would surely have everything back—abs, lifts, skills, energy—surely. And by then, I would realize how silly all that self-judgment was it would cure me from future instances.
Six months post-partum came and so did the dark place. I hadn’t reached my goal. In the right light and sufficiently dehydrated, my abs were kinda-sorta there. Workouts felt okay—not amazing, my energy was fleeting, and I was still a pound over pre-pregnancy weight. All the self-judgment I had bottled up for the past 9 months erupted in a storm of negativity. I was supposed to “be back” by now!
Relief came after a conversation with an amazing mentor. We leaned into these negative thoughts to identify their positive intention: progression. No matter what my body looked like or what it was able to do 6 months post-partum, I wouldn’t have been satisfied because I long for continuous improvement. Mentally, I had set myself up for failure with not only an artificial timeline but also an imaginary ideal. I can accept my desire for progress, recognize that intention in the negative thoughts, and send them merrily on their way.
Second, we discussed practicing gratitude for the body. After giving birth, I was gushing with awe and appreciation for my body. It just nourished a ripe, little egg into a person. Incredible. And it doesn’t stop there! My body continues to support my baby through this Diesel-grade breastmilk. To say my body (and myself by extension) isn’t good enough is a bold-face lie.
I look at my 7 month old baby girl and her glorious chub. I don’t love her less or value her less because she doesn’t have a 200lb Clean and Jerk. I love her infinitely because of her beautiful soul. If I can extend that sort of love to her, I can surely extend that same love to myself—regardless of my athletic abilities.
Complete the following:
Back Squat (from rack)
Double Kettle Bell Thruster
Then, 800m run.
Notes & Modifications
Rookies: Keep the back squat light so that you can focus on the correct biomechanics of a squat. Same with the double kettle bell thrusters. This is a full body movement. so pick a weight that you can comfortably put over head in the finished position of the thruster. Strict pull-ups can be done with lots and lots of bands or even substitute ring rows.
Prospects: Perhaps today you are feeling good. Pick a weight for the back squats in which you can do five in a row with no problem. Same goes for the kettle bell thruster. You should be able to do five in a row with a comfortable and safe overhead position. Pull-ups can be scaled with bands or ring rows. Remember, they are strict.
All-Stars: Just to reiterate this is the category for those that have trained regularly (minimum of 4x a week) prior to pregnancy. You may want to try to go a little heavier on the back squats (60-70% of 1RM). The thrusters can be done using a weight that you feel comfortable going overhead. Pull-ups can be done with bands; just no kipping today.
ALL: After you’ve completed all reps (5-4-3-2-1), you will then run the 800m. This can be substituted for a 1k row or a 200m Farmers Carry. This work may take anywhere from 10-25 minutes. REST REST REST between reps. You are in charge of your rest. This is your workout so keep that in mind. And, remember make sure you have been cleared to workout and you’ve read our DISCLAIMER.