A beautiful, early-spring day in the Tuileries Garden of Paris doesn't seem like a place one would run into barre3- at least, not at first glance. But that's where it started, none the less. That day, I laced up my running shoes and headed out across Rue di Rivoli with my husband and three littles to the park, which was our afternoon ritual. Everyone else in Paris-local or otherwise- had the same idea. It was one of the first really warm, sunshiny afternoons in Paris that spring; so the park was filled with people walking, sitting, watching, sipping, talking. A crew was setting up for some sort of fancy dinner/fashion show thing on one side of the park; on the other, the playground was filled with children enjoying the late afternoon sunshine. There was a line for the in-ground trampolines (my kids' favorite attraction) and humming conversations filled in the air, along with some accordion music from the little cafe. We strolled to the playground and I told my husband I'd be back in a bit; then I walked to the perimeter of the park and began to jog. I'd decided it was time to shed the last 15 pounds of baby weight I still carried after the birth of our third child, newly one and weaned while we were in Paris. The Gardens would provide the perfect motivation to start running again. At least, so I thought.
It sounded so incredibly romantic to me-running through the Tuileries. And it was, for the first 200 yards. Then it very quickly turned into one of the most embarrassing moments of my life as my three-pregnancies-in-4-years bladder gave way...and not just a little leak, either. I was prepared for that. But oh, no... by the time I was halfway across the park, I had fully peed my pants. I could practically hear the Parisians around me sipping their espressos and sneering at the obviously-American girl who was peeing her pants in the Tuileries Garden. This? This was not romantic AT ALL. I quickly stopped running, my face burning. Walked a bit. Then squeezed things a bit and attempted to jog-hobble back to the playground as quickly as possible...which wasn't very quickly. I grabbed an errant sweater and wrapped it around my waist, feeling all the time a mix of embarrassment and a sense of betrayal from my own body. That was it, I decided. No more running for me. Ever, Ever again. I'd have to find something else. Or just resign myself to being un-fit forever.
Of course I had known things wouldn't be quite the same after having three babies in relatively quick succession. I'd make it to 18 months postpartum and-poof!-pregnant again! But I'd never thought my body would feel so old after having babies. By the time my third was born, my joints felt so out-of-wack and fragile that even the thought of jumping or running to chase my littles made me wince. I felt as if I'd fall apart at the slightest jolt, which was not the kind of mother I wanted to be. I've always enjoyed being active, and I love playing with my kids. I wasn't unhealthy in other ways, necessarily; we ate fairly well, mostly whole foods, homemade bread, very little processed food and if I was a little too addicted to my morning coffee-well, that was only because of the lack of sleep (I thought). I just felt like I couldn't keep up. And at 29 years old, I didn't like it. I wanted to be able to do what I wanted to physically without pain, or a migraine. But now-Well, that afternoon I felt more than a little hopeless, since it was quite clear there was no possibility of falling back on my old standby of running, or even cross-fit. Dance classes aren't exactly convenient with three littles in tow; and even swimming ended up giving me a migraine because everything was misaligned. My back and core were not strong enough to hold my spine in the right position. Nursing, carrying babies and toddlers and giant diapers bags-and everything else that comes along with littles-it all exacerbated the problem.
It was a day or two later that I got a Groupon offer in my inbox for a 5-pack to a barre studio near me. I talked to Adam about it, instinctively knowing I'd love the combo of barre work and pilates because of my dancing days. And he wholly supported me trying it out-he knew my love of dance, my frustration with my current physical health, and the importance of being able to move and be healthy. I bought a 5-pack. And had my mom and husband each gift me one, too. After our trip was cut short and we ended up back in the Valley, I was more ready than ever to try out the workout. I needed the physical stress-relief the exercise would bring, as well as the mental clarity. Adam was starting P.A. school on top of everything else, and I looked forward to my first Saturday class with anticipation-and a touch of anxiousness.
It turned out that I needn't have worried. After the first class, I was hooked--and my only concern was that I had just enough classes to get though the summer, one a week, since there was no way I could afford the studio's regular prices on a grad-student-with-a-family budget. What would I do when they ran out? I committed to just enjoying the time I had and not worrying about it. Maybe my body would be ready to try running again at that point, I thought. I looked forward to Saturdays and each week's class refreshed me and left me feeling stronger and more flexible; every week I could feel my body begin-just a teeny bit-to recover its old fitness. But I did dread-just a bit- the end of summer and the end, so I thought, of my barre-days.
In August, just as I was coming to the end of my 15 classes, I began to see posts on Facebook from a friend of mine about something called Barre3. She, it seemed, had a friend who was opening a studio in California and she'd gone for the opening. The photos intrigued me as I'd fallen in love with barre at this point, and this studio looked so different from the one I was going to. It looked warm and light and they all looked like they were having so much (sweaty) fun! One day, she posted about Barre3 online, mentioning online workouts-and I knew I'd found my answer. Here was a way to keep practicing barre, a way to maybe-just maybe-continue to regain some fitness. So I signed up. $15 a month was something we could afford. And I LOVED the variety of workouts and time lengths because it seemed so doable for a busy mom. At this point, I just wanted to be able to play with and chase my kids without pain; maybe lose some weight. I didn't have a lot more goals than that.
I've never looked back. Each month, each week I began to feel small, significant changes in my body. I didn't step on the scale too often, because I was more concerned with how my body felt, but I could feel my clothes getting looser. I loved Barre3 even more than the studio I'd been going to because the blend of Yoga, ballet, and pilates resonated with my body. The low-impact cardio was a nice addition for someone who has grown up involved with athletics; getting my heartrate up and pushing myself deeper was a challenge I loved taking. I didn't even have a core ball at this point; I used a pillow when needed and was still impressed with the differences in my core strength. My hip pain left, too. I'd squeeze in 30 or 40 or 10 minutes early in the morning or at rest time, after homeschooling my oldest. Often, my two youngest would come in in the mornings and the little one would crawl all over me as I finished my core work (not and easy task...). My 4 year old daughter would imitate the more ballet-esq moves, being crazy-enamored with dance herself. So when that same friend told me she was going to open up the first Barre3 studio in the Phoenix area, I could not have been more excited! I'm sure I was slightly obnoxious to poor Karie; each week when I saw her I'd ask her about how everything was progressing, eager for news of the opening. And when she opened up her home for "Barre3 underground" as she worked toward her certification, she was kind enough to include me on the friends and family list. This-this was wonderful!! So very exciting, my first "real" studio class! It was fun. And HARD. And--holy moly--what that core ball did for my core work was nuts. I couldn't WAIT to come back again.
I went as often as I could to Karie's house for classes beginning in March; usually once or maybe twice a week, if I could get a spot in her very popular underground. I took my kiddos with me every time, and every time we all were warmly welcomed. Soon, my now-two-year-old would ask if we were going to "Kawie's house" for "ba-fwee" every time we got in the car. The kids enjoyed playing as much as I enjoyed exercising, and the hour-long studio classes skyrocketed my results. Getting to workout with friends just fed this extrovert's motivation; and my energy was higher than it had been in a long time. I'd lost pounds and even more inches. I could now jump on the trampoline (for a short time) with my kids, or race my son across the driveway and back. One beautiful Saturday afternoon at the park, we had a rollicking game of family tag all over the play equipment, up and down and around. I ran and chased and jumped and laughed along with my husband and the bigs; and I'll never forget how my husband laughed with joy to see me able and wanting to play like that again. I was starting to feel "normal" again.
In May, I jumped at the chance to join the Barre3 Spring Challenge, and it was enormously beneficial to me. I'd already slowly been re-vamping the way our whole family ate, due to stomach issues I'd been having since my youngest was born as well as for the betterment of all my family. Now I committed to a month of whole foods only-no coffee, no sugar, no refined grains. The company's core value of balance in life has been a catchword for my husband and I in this whole P.A. school journey; and I loved the care encouraged to all aspects to my life, not just to my fitness or nutrition. I also got my very own bright-orange core ball, which came along with the challenge and allowed me to increase my at-home practice. And streaming the online seminars each week with founder Sadie Lincoln and functional nutritionist Andrea Nakayama was educational and encouraging.
By the end of that month, I was completely off my morning cup of coffee (except occasionally, because I do love my coffee!!) and enjoying a cup of tea instead. My energy was higher than it'd been in several years; and I felt like my old self. As a bonus, I'd lost even more inches, and a few more pounds- now down about 10 lbs. from the last spring. Because of the muscle I'd gained and the inches I'd lost, most people thought it was much more than that. But my favorite part? I felt for the first time that my body was really, truly, totally rehabbed from my three babies. I could-and did-do whatever I wanted to do physically. I hadn't had a migraine in months, because my core was now strong enough to hold my spine in proper alignment. Even my ages-old chronic runner's knee leftover from high school cross-country days was beginning to feel better more days than it hurt me, which was a BIG deal. That's when I knew that I wanted more than just to practice barre3-I wanted to be a part of this organization in any way I could be. I met with Karie and asked if I could do childcare part-time (because every barre3 studio offers childcare) in exchange for classes. Even though I've dreamed some about the possibility of becoming an instructor one day and being able to offer the same support and encouragement to others I've found at Barre3, I knew that this was the involvement level we could handle right now with Adam still in the middle of his program. Karie willingly agreed, knowing how I love the company and the workouts; and just like that I've gotten to be a small part of the awesome new North Scottsdale studio. A few weeks ago I even began to float the idea of running again once in awhile to my husband, maybe training for a thanksgiving 5k, not entirely sure how it would go but knowing my body finally felt willing to try again.
So, this morning, I finally suggested we go for a family jog.
I laced up my running shoes and headed out with my husband and three littles on the first cool-ish morning we've had here in Scottsdale since early last spring. Adam pushed the double jogger with the two littles-now 2 and 4-in it, while our almost-7-year-old rode ahead on his mostly outgrown two-wheeler. The light was beautiful. My husband made some smart remark about the fact that we both had on the exact same shade of bright-blue pants on as our double stroller; I laughed--and began to run.
I mentally help my breath at first, taking stock of each muscle and body part; but everything felt good. In fact, except for some tightness in that old runner's knee, everything felt really great. It was true-Barre3 had actually, totally helped me to rehab my body AND helped me maintain (or maybe even increase!) my cardiovascular strength. Now, I didn't run for 5 miles. And I didn't plan to, as this was just a trial run (quite literally). But I ran the whole way, felt strong and healthy--
and I didn't pee myself once.
Thanks for helping me finally get here, Barre3. Sadie Lincoln--if you ever read this--I'm so thankful that the workout you created to rehab your own body has spread like wildfire and has now helped me rehab mine. And I'm so thankful that I get to be a part-even a small part-of the barre3 community. Thank you for sharing this gift with all of us.
And now: I'm not so into selfies. Honestly, I feel weird even posting these...because it's about SO much more than just weight. So much more has changed than just what you can see on the outside. But, I also know before and after pics can be nice...just to actually see what HAS changed on the outside. So, here's a few of mine:
|Before: Jan. 2013 (9 months post-baby)|
|4 months into Barre3, 7months into barre: Dec. 2013|
|Before: Christmas 2012 (8 months post-baby)|