Swimming, Kickboxing, and Interval Training – Staying Fit and Sane

Before I even get started here, let me preface this discussion by saying that my main reason and motivation for working out is that I notice an improvement in my mood when I do it.  I obviously notice the improvement in my body too, but the mood is a big deal for me. Working out really does keep me sane and mentally healthy even more than it does physically.  So, when I talk about fitness, I really think it’s as important for your mind as it is for your body.  Let me also throw out a couple of disclaimers about being a mom:

1:  Don’t be too hard on yourself.  We all have days/weeks/months! where we just don’t have the energy to get to the gym or even pop in a workout DVD for 20 minutes.  Sometimes the kids are sick or they’re just not sleeping well, and when you don’t sleep either, everything is out of whack!  We all know that stress only makes things worse for our bodies, so go easy on yourself.  Only you know what works with your lifestyle at the moment.  So do little things – If you really can’t get into a workout regimen at the moment, don’t sweat it.  Chase those kids around, take them on a walk, let them climb all over you on the carpet while you attempt a few leg lifts and crunches.  Make sure you leave the diapers and wipes upstairs so you need to jog up and down the steps a few times a day.  The point is, try to keep yourself active as best you can.

2:  Snacking is inevitable.  Sometimes snacks are the only thing that gets me through the day.  So, I buy the healthy organic snacks at the grocery store so when I’m munching on chips at least they’re organic veggie chips, or if I’m downing chocolate chips right out of the bag, at least I buy the organic-dairy free-soy free-gluten free-nut free chocolate chips.   You’d be amazed at the selection of organic, good for you, icecream also! Then, the guilt is less ( it really is!)  And if you’re really getting control of your snacking, try healthy proteins & fats like nuts or salted avocados (yum!) and fruit/veggies with Greek yogurt dip instead of your usual go-to carbs.  I’m also a huge fan of protein shakes – quick, easy, and tasty!!!

Okay, so onward to my Workout Routine that keeps me fit!  After having baby #3, I set out to get back into my usual workout routine at my local gym about 3 months post-partem.  I’m a swimmer, and swimming is what got me through 3 pregnancies, and 3 baby weight loss goals.  I know that not everyone considers themselves to be a good swimmer and I get that.  But, if you can swim, I think it’s truly the best overall workout for your body in a relatively safe (injury-wise) environment.  I am constantly seeing runners injuring their knees or hips or ankles, but not so much with swimming.  If doing a full stroke intimidates you, seriously try using a kickboard.  I think people scoff at kickboards but if used properly and if you’re committed to really kicking for even just 20 minutes, the leg/glut/core workout you get is pretty intense!

I don’t swim competitively, I really cannot do flip-turns without getting water up my nose, and I just flat-out won’t try to swim the butterfly stroke.   I just know that I would look stupid at best and drown trying at worst.  For the most part, I have used swimming as a low impact aerobic and anaerobic workout because it’s something I personally enjoy.  Swimming gives me alone time, quiet time, and re-energizes me.  Some people do Yoga, I swim.  Back before kids, I swam 45 minutes, 5 days a week with a combination of breaststroke, freestyle, and kick board.  After my 1st baby was born and I went back to work full time, I really could only do a 20 minute swim 5 days a week.  After baby #3, I’m down to about 60 minutes of swimming per week, combined with other workouts that I’ve tried this year just to give myself an extra kick in the butt.

I try to go to my gym about 4 days a week.  Notice the word “try.”  This week I made it there 3 times.  Some weeks I go 5 days and other weeks I don’t go at all.  It depends on my life schedule and how my 3 kiddos are doing.  After having my 3rd baby I found that my usual swim workout wasn’t helping me to lose the baby weight as quickly.  I’m currently 10 months post-partem with still about 5-10 pounds to lose to get to my pre-baby weight.

So, I mixed things up by adding in 2 classes meant to shock my body into losing more weight and getting stronger.  While my weight loss has definitely slowed down, it’s amazing the muscle and strength I’ve gained while adding in these 2 other workouts.  One of the workouts is a 75 minute (say what!?) Cardio Kickboxing Class at my gym.  My hesitancy with this kind of workout was: 1) 75 minutes, are you kidding me? and 2) I feel pretty silly and uncoordinated whenever I try to follow an instructor.  But for whatever reason, punching and kicking really seemed to work for me.  Not only do I get to let out some aggression and frustration, but we use a weighted body bar and gloves to mimic the movements of striking an opponent ( notice I said mimic – we really only strike the air).  The great thing about taking a class with an instructor is that you don’t have to think at all – you just play monkey-see-monkey-do and he/she keeps the music upbeat, the movements follow the beat of the music, and the activity is non-stop so you don’t get bored.  Everyone still goes at their own pace and you just stop if you’re winded or need a water break or a towel break to wipe that beautiful glow from your forehead.  This class went from being something I was worried and nervous about to something I really look forward to every week.  Sometimes you need to be pushed, and classes with instructors are a great motivator.

The 2nd class I take is called HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training).  Like Cardio Kickboxing, I looked at the description to this class and was seriously intimidated.  “High Intensity”?  I’m used to low-impact swimming.  “Interval Training”?  What does that even mean?  As far as I can tell it essentially means a combination of movements like jumping jacks, planks, push-ups, burpees, kicks, punches, speed-skaters, and high knees, along with use of resistance bands, small free-weights, and medicine balls.  Yep, it’s no joke.  This class is 60 minutes at my gym and is also non-stop with great high energy music.  The wonderful thing is that the moves are not complicated, and the instructor offers alternative movements for some activities that require jumping.  I’m not a real fan of jumping after having 3 kids, but I can still do it so I do it in moderation.  Like anything, I go at my own pace, take as many water breaks as I need, and I see my body and my mind improve with each class I get to.  This week I skipped it because it just wasn’t a good day and I hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before, but I know I’ll be back next week.

So, those are the workouts I typically do to stay sane every week.  All this being said, I know from personal experience that a gym membership is not always an option budget-wise, or if it is, the childcare you need isn’t.  I am fortunate that my gym offers childcare right there for up to 2 hours a day, which is the only reason I’m able to do any of those workouts at all.  If a membership is in your budget, check into gyms with childcare options – they certainly take the stress out of the decision to go somewhere to workout.

If you are unable to get to a gym and your kids are fans of video games, I will say that the Wii U video game system has an excellent selection of workouts and even a digital personal trainer.  It allows you to track your body mass index (BMI) and help you set weight loss goals.   If the Wii U is not what you’re looking for, purchasing simple DVDs ( I like Jillian Michaels) or looking on Netflix or Amazon Instant Video for workouts are great options.  And naturally, there is always your local park for a bike ride, a run, or a walk.  Staying active in any way is the way to keep up your spirits and keep your body healthy.

Start small and build your way up to the workout you want.  If you set your goals too high from the get-go, you may become quickly frustrated.  I was in my comfort zone with swimming, but after my 3rd baby, I really took it easy at first and did very comfortable swims.  Once I got into more rigorous workouts and built my endurance, I added in the Kickboxing class.  Then I added weighted gloves to the kickboxing class, and then I added in the HIIT class.  It’s a slow and steady process and I am a believer of pushing yourself to your own limits, not someone else’s limits.

So go out there (or stay in) and start pushing yourself.  You can do it, it will make you feel happier, and it will make your feel healthier.

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