Sleep, Fitness, and Motherhood

Sleeping through the night. As adults, we can’t always seem to do it. So how can we blindly expect it from our infants and toddlers? Remember this the next time your little one wakes up and wants you, they won’t need you forever, so as tired as you are, enjoy those cuddles while they still want them from you. It only lasts a second and turns into a memory soon enough….

First, I’d like to apologize to my body. Sorry for taking advantage of the hours I used to sleep and think it wasn’t enough. As a mom, non-parents who say “I’m tired” makes me laugh. Unless you’re in the military or another job that requires 48-hour shifts and then STILL get only interrupted chances for sleep, you don’t know what “I’m tired” is. Imagine a nursing, wailing newborn, up every 2 hours for a MINIMUM of 45 minutes and then back to sleep, only to wake 2 hours later. And on continues this 24/7 cycle. It’s incomprehensible. 

Now that I have you. Incorporate fitness into this schedule. I feel like this has to be why doctors suggest 4 to 8 weeks before resuming activity – your sleep schedule alone hinders any recovery you would need from your workouts. And you would need that opportunity for rest. Which again, is nonexistent. 

Now, fast forward. (As I’m writing this my daughter is napping, which I should be doing as well, but can’t because I can’t seem to sleep – shocker.) How can we incorporate exercise on such little sleep? Sleep is when your body recovers. If you Google “sleep and health,” it says:

“Sleep plays an important role in your physical health. For example, sleep is involved in healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke.” 

If you miss one night of sleep, your blood pressure the next day is elevated. To sleep is to repair. HGH is released by the brain into the blood and initiates the restorative function of sleep. HGH released during the night is released in the first few sleep cycles and research has shown that sleep deprivation can throw this off and eliminate the HGH bursts we get. We need this as it’s released and used by our muscles to initiate recovery and re-energize our bodies. Not to mention the loss of REM sleep when you don’t go through each stage of sleep cycle. (Four to be exact.) Basically, the body suffers. Period. 

Back to Mom Wendy not Science. How do we survive? For myself, it seemed impossible to get on a schedule and discover routine. Fitness wasn’t priority the first year of Faviana’s life because everything revolved around nursing. Which HURT. But what I could control is what I ate. It helped that the first 13 months, my daughter was allergic to dairy, eggs, soy, gluten, nuts, legumes, citrus, and seafood. I literally ate berries, sweet potatoes, fresh veggies, chicken, and ground beef. Every day. That was it! When I was allowed to add those allergens back in my diet, the scale decided to follow suit – I gained a good 10 to 15 pounds. JOY. So I had to start over. Re-evaluate what I was putting into my body – for me this time. I so easily kept a clean diet when it could affect Faviana.

Why wouldn’t I continue to help myself and keep things clean for me? Why do we end up hurting and being detrimental to ourselves? It took a bit but I took action. I knew I needed help. Disclaimer: I know the following isn’t for everyone. But I reached out to Shannon Dey with Team Bombshell, my prior competition team I joined back in 2011 after 3 years of competing in bikini with other coaches. I wasn’t getting where I needed and my body started fighting me. I needed help then most because my hormones were crashing. My most important objective at the time was feel like myself again. They did just that. Because of my hormones I was told I would have a tough time conceiving when we were gonna start trying and amazingly (and I feel truly because of the help of Bombshell) it happened literally the first month we truly tried. From there I took a break from Bombshell since I didn’t plan on competing anytime soon and the morning sickness prevented me from doing LITERALLY anything physical or eating properly. In reality I should have stayed on a plan during my pregnancy. Maybe then I wouldn’t have had such a rough one. (That will be another blog!) Regardless, my advice is to learn to know yourself and know when to ask for help. Even the best of the best have guidance. Team Bombshell has been and always will be that guidance for me. I didn’t just want them to help me. I NEEDED them to help me. I needed direction.

My body was and still is fighting me. But now I’m fighting back and fortunately I’m not alone. I have my incredible coach Gennifer Strobo supporting me along the way. Even my sleep. It’s amazing how the body works when you care and understand what’s happening. Most importantly, and I know ALL women can relate to this – when you do have the opportunity for help…LISTEN. Words aren’t spoken to fall by the wayside. These professionals get paid to help you. So listen to the goods you’re buying. It’s their job to know how the body works and learn how your body will respond. So when you feel like “tweaking” something yourself, just DON’T. Listen and take direction. And enjoy the process. For the life of me I can’t understand why it’s such a struggle to follow directions. Maybe for some it’s a control thing, but it actually can’t get easier than someone spelling it out for you. Right?! Just follow it. As for adequate rest, I don’t think any mother knows the meaning until you become an empty nester and even then, I know from my own mother – we always worry. It’s in our job description. So do what you can. Staying active provides more energy than oversleeping. Remember that the next time you want to skip some physical activity. (I do, literally 20 times a day.) And know it will pay off in the long run. THAT is worth moving my ass.

Wendy Capurso

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