MENTAL MONDAYS: WINTERVENTION

Okay, so to look out the window it doesn't look particularly different than it has all winter long, but it is officially spring as of last week. This change in the calendar alone has lightened my moods. Lifted my spirits! Given me hope! (Even if we had to shovel loads of snow this past weekend). I've said before how much I typically love winter. But this winter - what was with this winter? I don't know if it was the very wintery winter weather we've had, and the countless days stuck inside due to a -20 reading on the thermostat, but I struggled this winter. I struggled to get to the pool for my morning swims - I just wanted to sssssleep. I struggled to get other physical activity in. I struggled to eat well. I struggled with feeling moody and tired. I struggled to just feel myself some days.

I am SO thankful for my good health, and that of my family. But when you just feel out of sorts, you don't feel yourself, it gets to you. It weighs on you. Is it the lack of sunshine? Is it out-of-whack hormones from breastfeeding and starting to wean? Is it the lack of physical activity? The not-so-great eating habits? The lack of socializing? Maybe it is all of these things. Or none at all.

I am also so thankful that B has been by my side all winter long. Although I do think much of my mood has been related to the baby-hormones and breastfeeding, I can't imagine what winter would have been like without his constant snuggles, slobbery kisses and giggles. He has been my little ray of sunshine on those dark, cold winter days. Sounds so cheesy, but it is so true. Just seeing his chubby little face is enough to lift my spirits.

Even though we are still a ways away from flip flops and tank tops, just knowing that this winter weather is so close to being over is enough. It's time to crawl from our dens, open the windows, get dirty in the garden, wash the winter muck away, and play outside every day.

Okay, so maybe not today (it is -15 out there), but soon! In the mean time, I will keep (foolishly) dreaming about these things.

Here's my spring bucket list:

  1. Plan a weekend get-away with my man.
  2. Get a pedi (or two or three).
  3. Get a hair cut.
  4. Do hot yoga once a week.
  5. Swim three times a week.
  6. Get back to running (+ signup for a fall race).
  7. Sell my road bike.
  8. Buy a "mom" bike equipped with kiddy seat.
  9. Buy a power saw (I've always secretly wanted one of these - it's time. Any suggestions?).
  10. Build a raised veggie garden (buy saw first) + plant veggies.
  11. Don't kill veggies.

C'mon spring. Do your thing.

MUMMA RANTS: POLAR VOTICES AND SICKNESS

Be warned, I am home from work sick and cranky. And ranting. I usually love winter. I am a winter baby. I've always loved the snow, the slopes, the skating, even shovelling.

But I've had enough.

It's the end of February and I lonnnng for a sign of spring. Any sign. Like weather in single digits. Melting snow dripping from the roofs. The smell of thawing dog poop (this one always screams SPRING!). Do you hear me weather creators? I am sick of your polar vortex. I am sick of revolving illnesses, of snowsuits and heavy winter coats. I am sick of figuring out how to get into the car that is covered in ice and snow with a toddler that weighs 100 lbs with all of his winter gear on. I am sick of walking down slippery sidewalks like a geisha, looking at nothing but where my feet can safely fall next. I am sick trying to battle snowbanks with the stroller. I am just sick of this winter.

This was November 27th. And today (three months later) it looks pretty much the same. Snowy and -23C with the windchill. They just reopened the Rideau Canal for more skating fun. Yay.

We are a four season climate. That means that each season should technically be allowed to last for three months.

That's it! Your time is up winter! Be gone.

I want this.

Time to Get (Back to) Real

Confession. My weekly exercise is pitifully minimal these days. Over the last four months, a good week has been two hour long swims. But my measly average is probably closer to one hour of exercise in a week. And that. Is. It.

Not enough for a young lady such as myself. This doesn't even come close to the WHO's recommendation of a minimum of 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic activity. And really, that's just to keep the blood flowing. For health benefits, the recommendation is no less then 300 minutes of moderate cardio per week PLUS 2 strength training sessions.

But regardless of recommendations, I know my body needs more. My sanity needs more. The last few months I've been feeling kinda Blah - with a capital b. I think it has been a combination of not eating well enough, shifting hormones as B started nursing less, and the dark winter days, but I know that my lack of exercise has also played a role.

This time last year and into the spring, I was doing a heck of a lot more than I am now.  I was committed to my three swim sessions and a postnatal fitness class once or twice a week.  I even got in a run every now and then. And in the lovelier, warmer weather, I walked daily with B. Everywhere. I'd walk while he napped in the buggy. I'd walk to visit my parents. I'd walk to and from exercise class. I walked and walked. And walked some more.

To be fair to myself, life was a little different back then. B was smaller, more portable, less mobile and could sleep anywhere - like through an entire exercise class. And I wasn't working like I am now. So there are some big changes that I'd say have legitimately conflicted with my exercise regime, but this is not an excuse for the measly two hours (max) that I am getting in these days.

It's time to get real.

I mentioned here that I set goals every year around my birthday (nerdy, I know). Well, that may be happening this week, so I sat down to set my fitness goals on the weekend. Because my schedule will change over the next year, along with the weather and the availability to get outside more, I set my fitness goals for the rest of the winter - from now until the end of March, so two months. At that point, I'll reassess.

Here are my weekly fitness goals for the next two months:

Goal #1: Swim Frequency: 3x I love my swimming sessions, and most mornings that I skip are for totally lame reasons, so no more. I am committing to going to all three. I just have to remind myself of how great I feel for the rest of the day after those swims. And it should get easier and easier to make it to the pool in the morning, since the sun is coming up at a more reasonable hour these days.

Goal#2: Strength training (core and hip focused) Frequency: 2x, 25 minutes each I'll use BodBot for this. Sure I can come up with my own exercises, but it's nice to have "someone" telling you what to do. I've set BodBot to focus on my core and gluteus (aka bum - where did this go postpartum?!), and to give me exercises that don't involve any equipment other then my exercise ball. I should be able to do these in the evenings, nap times or while B plays on his own - which might lead me too find new exercises that you can do with your baby's toys. Grin.

Goal #3: Yoga Frequency: 1x I've done yoga over the years on and off. I go through phases. The last time I did it regularly was when I was pregnant and I was doing it at home following a prenatal DVD. I miss hot, sweaty yoga though. It's time to get back to it. I'm committing to once a week, but I've bought a pass with 20 classes to use as I wish. I'm super excited for this one, which is a great feeling. I don't know why I've waited this long to get back to it. In fact, I couldn't wait any longer and went to a Hot Flow class on the weekend. Loved it. Om yah.

How are you managing to fit in some exercise? Share and lets do this together!

Mumma's Top 15 First Year Gear Picks

Last week B turned ONE. Ask a new mumma how she feels when her babe turns O-N-E and she will likely stare off into space, mouth gapped, unsure of how to describe the thousands of emotions that go along with that first year. What a year. What a year of learning. I have learnt more in this past year than any other. From birth and breastfeeding, to basic baby care and baby gear. From solids and sleep training (or attempts at this), to bodily changes and hormone fluctuations (mine of course, not Bs). Today, we're keeping things light though, and talking baby gear for the first year.

Oh, the gear! I have spent more hours researching baby gear over the last year than I care to think of. Pretty sure it's compulsive at this point. I don't buy unless it is has a solid backing in reviews (or if I get overwhelmed at a massive second hand baby gear sale and buy under pressure - avoid these at all cost!). And since I hyperventilate at too much stuff, trying to keep things minimal and organized around our house fuels my research compulsion - to only buy what is really needed (or makes life with a baby a little easier) and is THE BEST. I should note, that my best also includes price. Money don't grow on tress around here, so staying within our budget is also factored into my gear purchasing. And of course, what we love and use daily, is not necessarily what you and your family will love or use at all. So do your homework. But here are my top 15, loved and made-life easier, gear picks for our first year with B:

first year favourites
first year favourites

1. Aden and Anais Muslin Swaddles  If these are good enough for the royal baby George, they must be good stuff. I have a few other muslin blankets, but these just feel better. They actually get softer and softer as they age. And the prints! Oh, the prints. My favourite are the classic stars. We swaddled B in these for the first few weeks, and continued to use them all over the place. We also have a dream blanket (so dreamy soft!), and the security blankets, which brilliantly come in a 2-pack so there is always one available when one is being laundered. If only they made bedsheets for grown-up beds.

2.  Timi and Leslie Hannah Diaper Bag With my husband in mind, we I initially started with a man-friendly diaper bag (how considerate of me), but since I was the one on parental leave, it was me toting it around every day. And when we were all together, I got the bag, while my husband carried B. So when the inner fabric ripped away from the shell, I took it as a sign and found a prettier sack. And one that didn't scream DIAPER BAG. There are lots of pockets in the Hannah, stroller straps, a change pad (although I use our Skip Hop Pronto! instead), and an insulated bottle bag. I love it.

3. Medela In Style Pump Hate to love this one - it's been months, but I still feel like a cow every time I hook up to this thing. Pumping is my nemesis, but I wouldn't be able to escape for some much needed me time (or go to work) if it wasn't for my pump. I was generously given this pump second-hand from my sister-in-law, so this was one gear item that I didn't do any research on. After replacing the filters and hose, and giving it a good clean, it was good to go. I've never tried anything else, so I can't compare, but it has worked great for me. Despite my angst.

4. Pippalily Toy Strap A toy strap is crucial unless you don't mind buying multiple Sophies and sippies. I like Pippalily for their fun fabrics, and velcro on either end for easy on/off and sizing.

5.  Ingenuity Sleep Easy Play yard Oh the research I did on "play yards". We wanted a bassinet for the the first few months of room sharing with B, and we knew we'd need a portable bed for cottages and grandparent's houses down the road. After a ton of hunting, I decided on this one. The selling point, in addition to good reviews, was the washability of it. The whole fabric part just zips off and can be thrown in the wash. Ask me if I've ever had to wash it? No, but it is a nice feature that will likely come in handy as it ages.

6. Skip Hop Pronto! changing pad Having wipes and diapers all in one handy changing pad is essential for changes on the go. You do not want to be lugging a baby plus a full diaper bag, that you'll have to dig through to find wipes, into a washroom for a changing. You can easily lay out the Pronto!, and fold it back up again, with one hand. This thing has been invaluable in restaurants, cottages, grandparents houses, airplanes, hotels, car trunks, parks, etc.

7. MEC Ride Warm Stroller Bag  Our winters can be bloody cold (as we are experiencing this winter). We love this stroller bunting. It totally looks like a sleeping bag (and is actually sold in MEC's sleeping bag dept if you're looking for it), but it has slits in the back for a stroller harness. It is down filled and huge - lasting us two winters so far. Last winter when B was tiny, I would just tuck the end where his legs didn't reach under to keep the size of it smaller and warmer for him. This year, it fits great, and there is still room to grow.

8. Nose Frida Snot Sucker & Boogie Wipes. I've lost count of how many colds B has had this past year. This little sucker is crucial to helping him breath better. He tolerates it pretty well too considering. The wipes also make snot wiping easy (no head thrashing!) since they are soft and moist and smell nice.

9. Summer Infant SwaddleMe We swaddled B for almost 4 months. We tried many different swaddlers, and these were our favourites. They were the fastest and easiest to wrap, and the velcro kept things tight, keeping little hoodinis in.

10. Nellie's Laundry Soda & Buncha Farmers Stain Remover Both of these were recommended to us by the cloth diapering people. I initially thought I'd only use Nellie's for B's clothes and diapers, but the stuff is so amazing that it is all we use now. I will never go back to liquid detergent.

11. iPhone  Phone, camera, video, baby monitor, white noise machine, diaper/sleep/nursing tracker, baby guider, friend connector, 2AM baby question answerer, nursing entertainer, linktotheoutsideworldsanitysaver.

12. My Brest Friend Nursing pillows are one thing I didn't shop around for. I'd seen this one in use though and loved it's ergonomic shape and little back pillow, and strap-on ability. I only wish that it came in a higher pillow height to accommodate tall mummas.

13. Coconut Oil  This was initially recommended to us as a bum cream by the cloth diapering gurus, but I have also used it on my nipples (to prevent chapping), as a moisturizer for dry skin, as make-up remover, and of course, to cook with. I am addicted to this stuff.

14. Primo Euro Bath This was not our first tub. We started with a folding one for easy storage, but B quickly outgrew it. Being a big baby, I am always looking for "tall" baby gear. The Primo is the biggest tub I could find on the market, and I love how it can accommodate an infant in the lying position, or a sitting baby. B is an off the charts tall baby, but we just stopped using it last week.

15. Ergo Baby Carrier  Considering how important it is to find a good carrier that fits well, and the huge variety to choose from, it is a bit of a surprise that I also didn't really research this one. We were given a Bjorn (never used), and the infant insert for the Ergo. I'd heard great things about the Ergo, so I bought one when they came on sale without much thought. Both my husband and I have used it for walks, travel and for the few months when B wouldn't nap anywhere else late in the afternoon. It is comfortable and fits all of us well.

What were your first year favourites? Anything that made life with a newborn just a little bit easier?

A Custom Exercise Program: BodBot

I often hear from patients and friends that they are lost when it comes to exercise. What exercises are best? And what about the reps, sets, load, and frequency? They just need a program they say. Someone to tell them what to do. The gym would be the logical place to seek help, but honestly, what mumma has time to go to the gym? The commute, the changing, the shower…it all adds up, and because of this you feel like you need to commit to a solid hour workout, or it really isn't worth the whole process. Option #2, is to work out at home. But this brings us back to our initial problem: what to do? At the gym there are classes, machines and personal trainers to guide you. Even the most exercise challenged mumma can find her way through some machines and get a little sweat on. But, again, what mumma has time for the gym?

Considering almost 70% of gym memberships go unused, it's no wonder people seek alternatives (or do nothing at all - not recommended). There is an overwhelming number of online, or DVD, bootcamp style training programs out there that will tell you what to do for 20 minutes every day. Unfortunately, these high intensity, generic programs SO often leave people injured.

BodBot

I heard about BodBot a year or so ago, and fell in l-o-v-e with it quickly. Or maybe it was the Lara Croft'esque chick that had me sold (BodBot will "transform you into a cybernetic crime-fighting juggernaut", if you wish).

BodBot is a fully customizable, personal training application (available on the web, and for iPhone and android - so you can always bring it with you to the gym if you do make it). It tailors your program based on the information you provide it - your goals, schedule, current fitness levels, etc. And the neat thing about BodBot is that your exercises change depending on how you are doing. Work hard, and it will adapt your program to meet your new fitness abilities. Miss workouts or have a hard time meeting the current fitness levels and it will scale back to ensure you are working out safely and efficiently. Pretty cool.

BodBot is the brain child of Edward Laux and Sergio Prado, who together with a pretty impressive team of other brainiacs have developed BodBot into a glorious thing. It is currently in Beta (which means there is even more great stuff to come), but all of the necessary bells and whistles are there, without being overwhelming. The basic BodBot is FREE (I know!), but I strongly suggest paying the $10 for the Plus version which allows you to customize your program even more. And if you love BodBot as much as I do, you can help them out by pledging to support them here, so they can continue to make this thing even better.

You should know that BodBot is just something I discovered and love. They have no idea I am loving it here and letting you know about it. Just sharing what I love and think might be helpful!

Here are some of the features that make BodBot so great...

Start by choosing your goal(s) - some are pretty, well unique! You can also let BodBot know what muscles you really want to focus on. I picked Core (you should too), glutes (are other mummas also wondering what happened to their bum/booty/buttock/butt/buns/tush after having a baby?!), and rotator cuff (to keep my shoulders healthy for swimming).

It gets better. You can also let BodBot know your postural issues. This is music to my physical therapists ears! Let BodBot know that you have knock-knees or a tilted pelvis or feet problems, and it will gear your exercises to helping with these issues.

BodBot

I posted a few weeks ago about breastfeeding back aches and gave you some exercises to try, well you can also let BodBot know that your shoulders are hunched and it will give you some corrective stretches and mobility exercises (who needs me?).

BodBot

Once you have informed BodBot of all your woes, and given it your current fitness abilities (i.e. can you plank from your toes or knees?), you can let it know what days of the week you want to workout and for how long. You will also let it know what equipment you have - this might be none at all if you are planning on working out of your house.

You can also let BodBot know if there are any exercises you do not want to do, or areas that you want to work more gently. Sit ups should be on your do not do list!

BodBot

Your program will be tailored to all of the info your provide. Each exercise has a picture and a video of the exercise right there for you. It will also tell you the number of reps and sets to do, and give you a brief description of the exercise and what muscles you should be working.

BodBot

What I love about BodBot exercises is that they are generally very functional. They tend to steer away from isolation exercises (i.e. bicep curls) and focus more on compound exercises (working more than one muscle group), like a pushup. Not only is this typically better training, but it also cuts down your training time since you're working more muscle groups with each exercise.

You can also track your nutrition, connect with friends to stay motivated, and see how your fitness is progressing with graphs and charts.

BodBot isn't a personal trainer. You won't have someone watching you do your exercises (although this may be available in the future according to BodBot), which may be really necessary for some people, but it is the best training app I've discovered. The convenience of having a program with me wherever I am is awesome - at home, on holidays, at the gym (if I ever make it someday), it's always in my pocket.

Happy work outs!

NEW YEAR GOAL SETTING

Hello there, 2014.

After all the feasting we've done over the holidays, I always look forward to getting back to healthier eating once Jan 1 rolls around. That and getting back to our daily routines, including regular exercise. Other then lifting drink and fork to mouth, a few walks and one ski day, I did diddly squat worth of activity over the last two weeks. My body is revolting.

I'm not one to set resolutions this time of year (I do, however, resolve to decrease my sugar intake by 90% from holiday levels). Years ago, I was working for a popular yoga wear retailer that required their employees to do homework tasks, beyond selling the overpriced merchandise. Okay, so the free yoga was nice, but we were also expected to set and share personal goals. I'd never worked retail before, but I thought this was a little odd. It was just retail after all. Most of us were there to make some cash and score their sweet employee discount on the gear. But if reading their books, listening to hours of Brian Tracy, and setting goals meant I'd have a job, get free yoga and a great discount, I would join their cult.

The books were interesting. The free yoga was great. But the goal setting is what stuck with me. Oddly enough.

Every year around my birthday, I still write and tweak my goals. I think it's kinda weird that a part-time retail job taught me to set goals properly.

I write 1, 3, 5, 7 and 10 year goals for career/financial, personal and health. They are short and specific, and all laid out on a one page table. Not all of the boxes are filled out. Some boxes have more then one goal. The one and three year goals are usually more specific (i.e. swim 3X/week, core work 3X/week). Whereas the long term goals may be a little more vague (i.e. own a lakefront cottage). Or dreams.

It's been neat to see them evolve over the years. To see how priorities change. Most are achieved, but some are not, and that's okay.

If you are goal setting this time of year, don't forget that special little goal setting acronym, S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-targeted). Remember that? Write them down. Stick them on the fridge or on your phone. Share them with someone special who will support you and your goals.

I have one month before I review my goals. So today, I just send a little wish to the wind for 2014: for health and happiness for me, my husband and B, and for my family and friends. And especially for the new mummas and mummas-to-be out there.

Welcome, 2014.

HOW TO FIX BREASTFEEDING BACK(ACHE)

HOW TO FIX BREASTFEEDING BACK(ACHE)

We all do it. Until our spines start crying out louder than the baby. I like to call that achy, tight, tired, slunched-up, mid-back soreness related to crappy nursing posture Breastfeeding Back (BB). You may not find this term in any medical text books, but any mumma who has breastfed her babes knows that this exists. It's for real. 

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ONE YEAR AGO

So hard to believe that this was one year ago today.

One word comes to mind when I think of this time, peaceful. I was finished at work, officially on mat leave. Christmas and family time were right around the corner. Winter was settling in. Days were relaxed. It was the quiet before the storm, so to speak. Before my life would change forever. The anticipation of "when will it happen" was in ever breath. But I felt ready. Ready as I could be. It was a good quiet. It was blissful.

A year later, I feel a different kind of bliss. Knowing that a little person (my little person!) is sleeping blissfully in the other room as I write this. That he is healthy. And that he is loved by so many.

And bliss in that he has given me a two hour nap to re-energize for the rest of our day.

S