The Transition from Athlete to Mom | Carissa Johnson
It's hard to believe that last year at this time I was in the best shape of my life and had just competed in my 4th WBFF Pro show. This year my life completely changed for the better as I was blessed with a beautiful baby girl who is already 7 weeks old. While extremely excited about my mini miracle, I was honestly nervous about pregnancy and bouncing back from the huge body change. I know many people disagree with my stance, and have openly shamed me for being so honest; but when you go from a physique based sport and your body gains 20+ pounds in 9 months, it's a bit of a shock to the system. Pregnancy is a different kind of beautiful, and I did try my best to embrace it, but I am so thankful to now be able to hold my absolutely precious baby girl in my arms.
Transitioning from an intense weight and cardio training program pre-pregnancy to a less intense, more cardio based training during pregnancy felt odd, but was the best option for me to have a safe but "fit" pregnancy. I gained a healthy 20 pounds and managed to stay decently in shape, although I did lose some muscle in the process. Working out while pregnant helped relieve stress while helping decrease some pregnancy pains and prep me for labor. It also has helped significantly with bouncing back to my pre-baby body.
Labor went smooth, although I did endure a grade 2 tear, which increased my recovery time a bit. Women are advised to take it easy for at least 4 weeks, and many are advised to wait 6 weeks for full recovery (including myself). Taking it easy, while necessary, was not easy. It was the first time in I can't recall how long that I went a few weeks with no exercise. While challenging, I did love how I had more time to bond with my little angel. I'm thankful to say breast-feeding alone brought me back down to pre-retirement pregnancy weight in just one week, with no workouts. This was honestly, mind blowing to me. Breast-feeding burns so many extra calories I've actually dipped down below pre-baby weight and have had to increase my caloric intake. Taking HMB and BetaTOR pre-baby helped me maintain my muscle, but since supplements are generally not recommended while pregnant or breast-feeding I've lost some of my pre-pregnancy gains. For my beautiful baby, it's worth it but I can't recommend HMB, BetaTOR and PEAK ATP highly enough for those who aren't pregnant or breast-feeding.
While it took everything in me to not workout prior to my 4-week post partum mark, I finally made it. I decided to incorporate a bit of exercise at that point with a good deal of caution. I truly eased into it since I knew I wasn't fully healed at that point. I started off a few days with seated light upper body weights; focusing on my weakest area, my shoulders. A few days later, I decided to try cardio with caution. Instead of my usual Stairmaster workout, I used the elliptical to reduce impact and get a steady sweat on with light intensity. I kept this little mix up for the next few weeks. A few times I tried to increase my workload with some movements I hadn't done in awhile only to discover I needed to give my body a little more time to heal.
Thankfully I noticed some significant healing with my body during the next 2 weeks and by the time I had my 6-week post partum appointment, I was cleared to workout. This was just a few days ago, but I was so excited I jumped right back into everything. That same day I worked out abs for the first time since discovering I was pregnant. The next day I incorporated intense Stairmaster cardio as well as some GHD sit ups and back extensions. While some say to ease back into it, this is a pretty hard concept for me to listen to, so I'll admit I'm currently experiencing some ab DOMS, but for me it's worth it after all this time of avoiding abdominal exercise. The following day I jumped back into a strength routine, beginning the Smolov squat program to increase my strength.
I love the challenges ahead of me and look forward to getting into even better shape. My uterus is still shrinking, so I have a pouch where I didn't have one before, but I've made significant progress already and I look forward to seeing what I can do in the coming months. My DOMS experience did remind me to take the intensity and volume down a bit, but I'll be honest, I love the pain. No pain, no gain. ;)
Carissa Johnson, WBFF Pro/Fitness Model