…And I needed all three of them.
I started going on a podcast binge while doing
housework and cooking. One of my favorites is “The Tim Ferriss Show”. Tim interviews all kinds of different people, including the aforementioned three.
But first, here’s how my weight gain problem started.
I lost baby weight really easily with my boys. My husband and I were hiking and walking several miles every day. We carried them on our backs and it was great. But by the time I got my pregnant with baby number 3, our oldest (who has a walking disability) was too big to be carried and our second didn’t want to walk or be carried. (He wanted to sit and play in the dirt.) I wasn’t getting out much and I put on a lot more weight. When I finally got out of my maternity clothes I had to buy size 10 jeans. Ouch.
We kept experimenting with ways to get everybody exercising and it took a while. We were getting into a good vibe with a stroller that fit our oldest and a bike for our second. (The baby is still too little for a backpack or jogging stroller.) Then one of our dogs died. Then our other dog lost the use of her hind legs. And then everybody but me got sick.
Now those of you who know me know that I tend to feel overwhelmed easily. And this was no exception. How do I make time to exercise when I have a disabled child, a preschooler, an infant, a disabled dog, while getting my masters degree, dual certifications and building a business? And even if I do start exercising, how will I keep progressing? You have to keep adding sets and reps to stay fit and pretty soon I’m going to be torn between exercising and taking care of everyone… and on and on in a very unhealthy dialogue.
Now around this time I started reading Tim Ferriss’ book Tools of the Titans which is a summary of the extremely useful information he gathered in his podcast interviews. I also decided to go back and listen to many of the interviews or try out some that I had skipped over. And that was when I started finding the answers to my baby weight problem.
It started with Matt Mullenweg, the creator of WordPress. He said the key to staying in shape for him was that he just had to make sure that he did at least one push-up every night before bed. More was definitely better, but if all he did was that, it kept him going and not feeling like a failure. So I started with five crunches.
And then I heard about General McChrystal’s workout routine. (In case you didn’t know, General Stanley McChrystal led Joint Special Operations Command in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2003-2008.) He’s 62 years old and his daily workout consists of the following:
Set of push-ups to max reps 100 sit-ups, 3-minute plank, 2 to 3 minutes of yoga, set of push-ups to max reps 50 to 100 crunch-like crossover (legs up), 2.5-minute plank, 2 to 3 minutes of yoga, set of push-ups to max reps, 50 to 100 crossover sit-ups (the first two variations combined), 2-minute plank, 2 to 3 minutes of yoga, set of push-ups to max reps 60 flutter kicks, followed by static hold; 1.5-minute plank, set of crunches; 1-minute plank; 2 to 3 minutes of yoga.
Then he goes to the gym.
But here’s the thing: he said he does it all in about 30-35 minutes every morning. (His gym is only a few minutes drive from his house.) And he kept all this up even while he was running JSOC. So I figured if a 62 year old guy with a very busy schedule can do that, I can throw in a little more.
And I did. I’m now doing 60 jumping jacks, 15 burpees, 30 full crunches, 30 pulses in crunch position and then hold for a count of 30, and 15 body weight squats. And 1-3 real pushups. (I have a goal to do 10 real push-ups and I’m getting there. Slowly.) And I found that it takes me about 7 minutes to do all that. 7 minutes!!!
Well, now that I had a routine and wasn’t stressing about it, the key was to keep with it. Enter former Navy SEAL team leader Jocko Willink. His philosophy is “discipline equals freedom” and his mantra is “be tougher”, by which he means that we should just keep making the decision to make the changes that we want in our lives. The weights won’t lift themselves. “Be tougher”, “Discipline equals freedom” and “The weights won’t lift themselves” have gotten me out of bed on many mornings when I was feeling tired or depressed. (It has also helped me stay consistent with homeschooling my oldest and doing his physical therapy exercises.)
Jocko’s habit of waking up at 4:45 am every morning got me to start getting up earlier too. (I used to wake up at 4:30 am for my custodial job in college, but it’s been a while since I have been up that early.) Even though he is no longer out facing terrorists, he says he still feels like waking up that early gives him a victory to start the day. I’m not facing terrorists either, though arguably parenting three young children is its own form of counter-insurgency and getting up ahead of them gives me an edge on the day. (An early morning even worked to get stranded Americans out of Iran during the hostage crisis. Seriously, waking up before your opposition has its merits!)
I’m happy to say that I am back down to a size six now and I’m getting into the best shape of my life. It’s a good feeling to be able to say that I’m 32, have had three children and I am in better shape now than I was in my teens and twenties.=) And I don’t feel as stressed about having to radically “up my game”. There’s the one push-up rule: at least you did something. I’m doing slow increases on my sets and reps.
A couple of helpful tips I have discovered:
- If my kids wake up before I’m done with my exercise routine, I’ve found that I can often get everything in by doing bite-size chunks. I can do crunches while my oldest is siting on the potty, burpees when I have a free minute, etc.
- You can do lunges and squats with a baby in a carrier! (Hello, weighted squats and lunges!) These are great exercises for the legs and my boys see me doing them all the time, frequently with their baby sister attached to me. She usually enjoys the ride or falls asleep. I just keep an arm on her to make sure she doesn’t shift while I’m doing them and pay attention to form.