Thursday, 11 September 2014

on strength.

My Body Balance attire - bare feet & running leggings

I have become conscious of strength and weakness in a whole new way since growing, birthing and raising a baby. Just as is the case with parenting, every woman's body seems to be different when it comes to the post partum recovery process, and for me, it has felt like a slow journey getting back any of the physical strength that I had before pregnancy. Last Monday, I managed to achieve a bind in my body balance class, which felt like a wonderful physical milestone. In that moment of achieving a yoga pose which required strength, flexibility and balance, I felt strong again, like my body was remembering what it could once do, but with a new strength which I had to work for weeks and months to achieve.

During pregnancy, I was keen to do a reasonable amount of exercise, knowing that it would help with labour and getting back to good health after giving birth. I ran and went to weekly Zumba classes until I was 28 weeks pregnant, then when these forms of exercise were no longer suitable, I started swimming a few times a week, which I did until I was 39 weeks pregnant. I had been going to weekly classes from a year before I was pregnant, in quiet preparation for getting my body ready and strong for pregnancy and childbirth. And yet, in spite all I did to stay strong, it has taken me nine months to feel like I have regained any kind of the strength that I had before pregnancy. 

When Ruby was five months old, I started attending exercise classes at our local gym. Initially, this was slightly challenging to fit in at times when my husband was around to look after Ruby, and one of the only classes that I was able to do was Body Balance, at 6.45am on a Thursday morning. My first thought was, 'there is no way I am getting up earlier than necessary - I need all the sleep I can get!' But then Ruby started waking consistently for 2 months at 5am, so by the time 6.45am rolled around, I was well and truly awake and ready for the day. It's funny how, when change is forced upon you, you sometimes discover that you are capable of more than you realised. 

So I started rolling out of bed just a little bit earlier than felt comfortable, and made my way to Body Balance. At the start, there were mornings when it was so tempting to ignore my alarm, and stay in bed, but then I thought of how lovely it would be to have a little time to myself at the start of the day, and that prospect was enough to get me out of bed. And I have never regretted that early start. About a month into starting weekly Body Balance classes, I realised there had been a shift in my thinking. That initial convincing and cajoling I had to do to get myself exercising was no longer happening. I actually started looking forward to the class.

On Thursday mornings as I bend and stretch, balance and wobble, I am reminded in a very tangible way of where strengths and weaknesses are present in my body. Rather than resenting the weakness, I am learning to celebrate the new strength that I am developing. I am learning to be patient with the body that I have, and delighting in discovering an exercise class which is equal parts hard work and relaxing. 

Every time I find myself feeling ever so slightly disparaging of the way that my body still carries this extra layer of weight that I did not once have, and that my stomach muscles  still haven't pulled back to where they should be, I try and remember, I have birthed a baby. An actual human being has grown inside of me, and that is incredible. When I find myself comparing the slowness of my recovery to the speed of others, I remind myself that comparison is the thief of joy, and I don't want to miss out on the joy of celebrating the life that I have birthed, and the strength I am slowly rediscovering.

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