The Bikini Athlete: A journey through motherhood

The Bikini Athlete: A journey through motherhood, getting her body back and feeling good about it

Today, I’m honoured to introduce a very good friend of mine; Kris J. Kris is a personal trainer, model and business owner (http://www.brasiliantan.is) from Iceland. Kris has also competed for over 5 years as an IFBB bikini athlete.

Last year, Kris gave birth to her gorgeous son Oliver Breki. I’m sure for many women who care about their health and physical appearance, having children can produce a whole range of emotions. For those whose physical appearance is their actual livelihood, the stresses and strains of staying in good shape (that are there constantly anyway) are only heightened. In this regard, Kris has been on a very special journey, and the story of where this has led her, is very inspirational.

Let me introduce Kris J;

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I wrote down a few thoughts that I have gathered regarding the challenges of motherhood and staying in shape.

My baby boy, Oliver Breki, has turned one year old. It is amazing how much my life has changed since he entered this world. No words can explain what it feels like to me to be a mother. The level of love I feel for this little boy is stronger than anything that I have felt before and the fact that this is someone who relies on me 24/7 surely changes my outlook on life. These last 20 or so months have certainly been an emotional roller coaster for me but I would not change a single thing even if I had the chance to do so.

For the last 8 years training and maintaining my physique and fitness has been an obsession of mine. I mean that in a positive way. I have put myself through a lot, made sacrifices and have constantly challenged myself as competitor, model and trainer. Some serious discipline is needed in dieting, training and everything else within this lifestyle and as a result I have become accustomed to thinking first and foremost about myself and what suits me. My fiance is a professional athlete as well and sees things the same way. That is probably one of the cornerstones of how well we fit for each other.

Nothing could prepare me for the challenges of being a mother. First the prenatal period and then the period after I gave birth. It took me quite some time to realise the changes that were ahead and that I had to put most of my plans on hold indefinitely. My mirror image soon became something different to what I was used to and that really took its toll at first. I developed a pre eclampsia and a lot of other stuff came up that made this a difficult period of time. A lot of questions popped up in my mind. Was I ever going to be able to engage in the fitness lifestyle again? Was I ever going to recapture the shape and physique that I had worked so hard to retain? I kept telling myself that in 3-6 months after giving birth i’d be back in top shape and everything would be back to what I used to consider “normal”.

After the birth of Oliver Breki the reality hit me. I was a mother and I was responsible for the well being of a toddler. I sincerely hope that no one chooses to misunderstand what I’m writing. I have truthfully loved every second of this process and would not want to change a thing but during this process a lot of thoughts flew through my mind. I was so tired. My skin was so loose. My mirror image was not what I had been used to. I did not fit into my clothes and the road back in to shape just seemed so terrifyingly long. Then the months passed one by one without me finding the energy or motivation to get back on track. I did go to the gym every now and then and I did try to eat clean food some of the time but what I wanted most of all was just to relax at home. To enjoy being at home with my baby boy and my fiance. Just be focused getting the grips of being a mother while my body recovered from giving birth. I’d have chocolate or ice cream when I felt like it and I really tried not to be too hard on myself. This was the hardest battle of them all. To convince myself that I needed to loosen up and that I needed stop beating myself up for not being back on track. It takes 40 weeks for the body to get ready to give birth. There is nothing unusual about giving the body 40 weeks to recover after birth and I finally decided to give in to that.

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Then one day I was ready. I just felt that I could increase the pressure on myself. My body was ready for the action and my son was also bigger and easier to handle so I could have a bit more space to focus on myself. This is the point I could create a routine where I could see to all his needs as well as eating clean food, training hard and doing the things that make me happy and healthy. The results followed. I love training and I love healthy food but I am not a naturally fit type of person. It takes hard work for me to stay in shape but I like the challenge. I’m not sure if I will ever again compete in Fitness competitions but I surely aim to stay in top shape and be ready for any new challenges or opportunities that come my way.

I wrote down these thoughts most of all to remind myself of this process and how motherhood has given me a new perspective. I hope there are some girls out there that can relate to or find strength in what I’m trying to say. You need to give yourself time to adjust to the life of being a mother and no one should feel shame or sadness during this process. Just enjoy this new role and give yourself some credit. You’re entering something completely new and you’re recovering at the same time. One day you will have the energy and motivation to focus on yourself. Your body decides when it is ready and you will feel it clearly when time comes.

It’s been 12 months since Oliver Breki was born and when I look in the mirror I am completely at peace with the person who is staring back at me. I learned during this process to embrace the changes and to be grateful for the experience. Most of all I am thankful for my little family and I look to the future with optimism and excitement.

If you have any questions for Kris, please send them in and we’ll do a Q & A. Kris regularly posts updates of her training and what she’s up to online. If you’d like to contact Kris or keep up with what she’s doing, here’s how: https://www.facebook.com/KRISJFITNESS/

https://www.instagram.com/krisj_fitness/

http://www.brasiliantan.is/

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Parent Fit – Part Three

Is it possible to stay healthy when your world is turned upside down?

When children arrive, all your health goals go out of the window right…? This week: How to get rid of those aches, pains and get your body back

In this series we’ve been looking into ideas that actually support a healthy lifestyle when children arrive (or any other life situation that turns your world upside down).

IMPORTANT NOTICE: You may find this hard to believe, but I’m not actually a midwife J . Please do not take these ideas as prescriptions, see your health professional before you do anything.

This week I want to talk about strength

Working on strength is often misunderstood. Many think it means getting massive muscles and looking like Arnold Shwarzenegger. This misunderstanding often puts people off what is one of the most important aspects of health.

Why is strength so important?

In essence, strength allows you to lift, move, and carry yourself and external objects without hurting yourself. It can prevent injuries; it can also help you recover from them. It is so important that scientists actually use strength as one of the main indicators of longevity (how long you’re going to live). The great thing is you don’t always need expensive equipment to improve your strength.

What will help new parents?

What the female body goes through to deliver a child is unbelievable. It is literally trauma to the body. Tissues can be torn, stretched, pulled, all kinds of things! The big exercises like squats, deadlifts, pull ups etc. are extremely effective at strengthening the body, and I would advise those once you feel ready (always clear it with your health professional first, but you’ll start to know when you feel ready).

In the initial stages however, there are a few exercises that will strengthen up key areas of your body, helping reduce pain, make daily tasks easier and reduce the chance of injury in the future. And men, don’t think this will only benefit the girls. What use are you to the cause if you’re a physical wreck!

1) Prone Cobra

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Ever felt your back start to ache or your shoulders have caved in after holding your child for a while? This exercise is a lovely stretch for your chest, shoulders and develops strength and endurance in your back.

* Squeeze bum muscles together and raise shoulders off the ground by squeezing your shoulder blades together, keeping the chin tucked in

* Hold this position for 10 seconds, relax by lying face down. Rest for 10seconds then repeat 5 more times (or until you cannot keep correct technique)

2) Hip raises

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This movement strengthens the crucial posterior chain muscles (back of legs, buttocks & back) that support your body. Start by squeezing your buttocks, flatten your lower back into the floor and raise your hips as high as you can. Slowly lower to the floor, aiming to complete 10reps. Rest and try 2 more sets.

3) All 4’s superman’s

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Not only will this provide essential strengthening to those tummy muscles that often decide to pack it in after childbirth, but this will really challenge your balance

* Assume the all 4’s position

* Draw belly button in and raise one arm off the ground at a 45° angle with your thumb pointing upwards until it is at the same level as your body.

* Then extend the opposite leg out and back until it is level with the body.

* Try not to move over onto your supporting hip/shoulder or change the curvature of your back, again imagine that tray containing glasses of water is on your back and you don’t want to cause any spillage!

* Hold this position for ten seconds then lift the other leg and arm. Aim for 10 repetitions on each arm-leg, but only if your technique stays good, as soon as you lose good form stop!

1) Intro – mindset

2) Movement

3) Strength

4) Pain relief

5) Nutrition

6) Sleep/rest

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Parent Fit – Part Two

Is it possible to stay healthy when your world is turned upside down?

When children arrive, all your health goals go out of the window right…?

In this series we’ve been looking into ideas that actually support a healthy lifestyle when children arrive and your world is turned upside down.

I understand that if you haven’t got children you may feel this is not for you. You’d be right. But you may be able to use the principles outlined when going through certain crazy situations in work or with family that completely turn your world upside down.

But before all that…

IMPORTANT NOTICE: You may find this hard to believe, but I’m not actually a midwife J . Nor am I a doctor or any other of those amazing people on the maternity ward. The topics we discuss in these articles are merely observations and suggestions from someone who’s studied how to improve the performance of the human body and mind-set as a living for over 15 years. Please do not take these ideas as prescriptions, see your health professional before you do anything.

This week I want to talk about movement

You may notice I have used the word movement not exercise. This is for a very specific reason. When you hear the word exercise, what are the first images and emotions that come to mind? For most people, it involves a sweaty gym and often, a sense of punishment or obligation.

There is a common belief that the only way to benefit from exercise is that you have to do it in a gym and work until you cannot work anymore! No wonder the mere thought of it can give new parents nightmares.

There is another way

Intense exercise causes energy expenditure, hence the term: work-out. As I will talk about in a future article in this series, during child birth your whole system goes through a tremendous amount (obviously a woman’s far more than men’s). So tough work outs i.e. expending more energy, aren’t always appropriate.

What we found to work well for us were work-in movements. These are gentle movements that don’t raise the heart rate or get you breathless (so you are not expending energy). Yet the movement still improves blood flow, which helps to restore the body, so you actually gain energy. You can read more about work-in and work-out exercises here.

Movement is always helpful. What movement is appropriate at any given time should be the question. So whilst you are still reeling from the dramatic shift in your life (or anytime when you are under a lot of stress and feel a work-out would make you feel worse) work-in exercises could be the key. Here are three simple examples:

1) Gentle walking. Ideally outside so you can get the benefit of fresh air. Start with 5-10minutes/day, see how you feel afterwards and adjust the time accordingly

2) 5 minutes of slow, deep breathing. You can either do this lying down or standing up accompanied by rhythmic arm movements (as if you have a paint brush in each hand and are painting the fence)

3) Play. Pick activities you really enjoy but don’t normally get a chance to do.

See these less as a chore and more like you are giving yourself the gift of movement. You deserve the benefits they give. After a while, you may feel like you would like to do something a bit more

energetic or feel the need to strengthen your body (back & core etc.) due to the new strains. This is what we’ll talk about next week.

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Parent Fit – Part One

Is it possible to stay healthy when your world is turned upside down?

When children arrive, all your health goals go out of the window right…?

In February of this year, my wife gave birth to our first child, a beautiful young girl named Lily. If you’ve ever had children, you’ll understand the emotions that come from nowhere when you hold your child for the first time. Everything changes, forever.

The plethora of advice

When it comes to people willing to give advice on a subject, I thought the diet industry was the most prolific. But it’s got nothing on the baby industry! As you may have experienced, from the moment your wife is pregnant, advice flows in from all angles and I must admit, as a complete novice in the area of raising human beings, it all sounded good.

What I’m not such a fan of however, is what usually comes with the advice, the ‘matter of fact’, or ‘world view statements’ such as ‘well that’s the end of you training 3 times a week’ or ‘healthy eating goes out the window with a baby’ or ‘putting weight on is natural when you have kids’.

I understand that many people have good intentions when they say these things, and are often just making polite conversation (the things we say to make small talk is a topic for a whole other day!) People rarely however realise the power of their words. We are a result of our beliefs and core values, and often these can come about merely because they are everyone else’s beliefs and core values.

Have you ever noticed yourself picking up small habits or sayings from the people you hang around the most? Another example is that many people’s weight will actually fluctuate to match the average of the people they hang around the most. These days, the weight usually goes up, and it is justified with world view statements said within the group like ‘well, it’s natural when you get older’.

So shall we just shun everyone and go live on a deserted island with our family? Absolutely not. We are designed to need each other and work together. What I’m suggesting, is we must be careful not to fulfill our need to fit in by taking on other peoples negativity.

Why am I saying this?

Please read this in context, raising children is of course a great challenge and does change everything (at the time of writing this my daughter is only a few months old, so many of you are way ahead of me). You realise how selfish you were and how much time you actually had to spend alone with your wife or give to hobbies.

But I cannot accept that having a child automatically meant you had to sacrifice your health.

So I thought I’d put together a compilation of observations and ideas I’ve had so far, that support a healthy lifestyle whilst raising children.

We’ll kick on with this next week. Until then, I’d like you to question the situations in your life you’d like to change, but you are accepting them because ‘that’s the way they are’. Sometimes we don’t even realise we’re doing this. Hopefully this will be far more than just a guide, it will encourage you to challenge the way you do things for the better.

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Fatloss Tips – Bonus List!

Last month we put together a list of short and sharp fat loss tips. They were so popular that we’re going to put together a couple more lists. And to hopefully further help, we thought we’d categorise them so you could work at one thing at a time (which seems to be the most effective way at approaching a new task, from a results and sustainability point of view).

This week – Bonus Fatloss tips you may not have thought help!  

  • Burn fat in bed. Did you know that the most potent fat burning hormone in your body peaks at 10.30pm?! But there’s a catch; for you to get the most out of it you need to be in bed asleep. Sleep is when your body repairs and re-charges. And considering all the hard work we put into getting in shape, treating yourself to good nights of sleep is a pleasure you’ll soon come to treasure.
  • Keep hydrated. Thirst is a cheeky one and can often be mistaken for hunger pangs. Smash in a big glass of water, then assess the hunger situation (pic under a waterfall/wet cat)
  • Vitamin D plays a huge part in fat loss. Whenever the sun is out, get in it as much as possible. As well as the vitamin D benefit, I’m sure there are tonnes of great things we don’t even know about yet from being outside in the sunshine.
  • Work on ways to manage your stress levels. Whether it’s journaling, talking things through with a trusted friend, prayer, whatever it is, plan it into your schedule. When our stress levels rise, our body thinks we’re in for troubling times ahead. If we’re always worrying and stressing, our body responds by laying down fat over the vital organs (belly) for protection and fuel reserves. Let go of it bro!
  • Forgive. What a biggie this cheeky one is! Unforgiveness harbours bitterness. If this is not dealt with, it can lead to elevated stress levels and health problems people wouldn’t even imagine is linked to unforgiveness. Make a list of those you need to forgive and do it. Remember, they don’t always have to be there for you to forgive them, and forgiveness is not ‘letting thm off the hook’, it’s releasing yourself. Unforgiveness is drinking poison and expecting someone else to die
  • Keep a Grateful journal – Being aware of what we have and being grateful for it dramatically reduces stress levels. Buy yourself a nice notebook and each night write down 3 things in your life that you are truly grateful for.
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Fatloss Tips – It’s All in the Head

Last month we put together a list of short and sharp fat loss tips. They were so popular that we’re going to put together a couple more lists. And to hopefully further help, we thought we’d categorise them so you could work at one thing at a time (which seems to be the most effective way at approaching a new task, from a results and sustainability point of view).

This week – it’s all in your head!

  • There are two main ways to approach fat loss through your diet.  
  • With advice from an expert, plan a 14-30day blast, where you dive in head first. 

Pro: This method can produce jaw dropping results and provide a real kick-start/boost to your healthy lifestyle improvements. Very good for the ‘all or nothing’ personality

Con: It can be too much too soon for some people i.e. too much of a shock to the system and not sustainable.  Also, if you’re not careful, this method can cause a backlash of binge eating at the end of it, causing you to be bigger than you were.

  • Constant baby steps. 

Pro: The side effects are less harsh than the ‘all in method’. You can gradually implement changes to your lifestyle that are not painful and are definitely sustainable e.g. increase your water intake by one glass/day or change one of your daily coffees for a green tea.

Con: The results aren’t as quick, and if you don’t pay attention to your measurables (tape measure, piece of clothing, photos etc) it is easy to lose heart and think nothings happen even if you have made great strides over a longer period.

  • Instead of setting a goal e.g. lose ½ stone, aim to set habit forming challenges e.g. drink a glass of water first thing in the morning. You are a result of the things you do every day. Forming good habits will cause your results to last a lot longer.

Pick a training partner/team to help you on your journey. Pick people who:

  • Already have what you want
  • Are better than you in this area
  • Or are as motivated as you are, if not more so.
  • We are AMAZING at justifying anything to ourselves. Make yourself accountable to someone. Arrange with someone to keep a check on your progress and how you are doing with each weeks challenge. (pic of someone eating a strawberry cheesecake, 1 of my 5/day!)
  • We all fall off the rails at some point. This is life.

Come up with some ‘back on track triggers’ for the times (which are inevitable) you come off the rails. It could be reading an article on health, an inspirational youtube training clip, even a conversation with certain friends can pick you up. Learn what works for you

  • Make the call. With all the tips in the world, no one can ever make you achieve your goals. It has to be your decision.
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