Big­ger, bet­ter, faster, more

Ev­ery­thing changes when you have a baby—in­clud­ing your body. Laura deCarufel joins Canada’s most hard­core gym and charts the blood, sweat and (yes) tears of her fit­ness jour­ney

The Kit - - FRONT PAGE -

I’m a great be­liever in lit­tle joys. For me, that of­ten means food so de­li­cious it’s guar­an­teed to of­fer de­light: a sand­wich ooz­ing with molten cheese, a crois­sant with a cen­tre of sweet golden damp crunched up with toasted al­monds. When I got preg­nant, I lis­tened to my crav­ings with an at­ten­tive­ness most peo­ple re­serve for Her Royal Goop­ness—or the Pope. Two years ago, when I had a baby—the great­est joy I’ve ever known—those lit­tle joys be­came nec­es­sary salves for the fact that my life had be­come a blur of nurs­ing, night wak­ings and heart-sear­ing love. “Ba­nana bread!” I barked at my hus­band one par­tic­u­larly dark morn­ing, like an ER doc­tor rolling up her sleeves. In the evenings, as baby Char­lie snoozed against my neck, I scrolled through In­sta pho­tos of fit­ness-y moms, mur­mur­ing, “Wow, good for them,” while half-watch­ing Love It or List It and chomp­ing through a bag of All Dressed. Go­ing back to work shoved any thoughts of get­ting #back­atit off my pri­or­ity list. I was still a sleep zom­bie, ex­cept now I was ex­pected to wear pants. Sure, they were a few sizes big­ger than be­fore, but who had time for steamed spinach— or squats for that mat­ter?

Then, last De­cem­ber, in the pre- Christ­mas swirl of Pros­ecco and pâté, an in­vi­ta­tion ar­rived from Equinox to start a no-holds-barred six-week pe per­sonal train­ing pro­gram in Ja Jan­uary. Equinox is the type of hi high-end gym that of­fers chilled eu eu­ca­lyp­tus-scented face tow­els an and a high La Perla count in th the change room, plus the best tr train­ers and equip­ment in town. IhI had done a Best Butt Ever class th there once and al­most died. Sw Swanky, cer­tainly, it was also se­ri­ous. Plus, Jan­uary was weeks away. I ac­cepted im­me­di­ately and prob­a­bly ate a candy cane.

Re­al­ity dawned on a chilly morn­ing, as I ar­rived for the first ses­sion with my trainer, Stephen. In­side, the gym was all chic neu­trals and per­fect light­ing— more like a Dubai condo than a sweat tem­ple. Stephen had a Tom-Cruise-in- Top-Gun- vibe, buff and tough. “So, why are you here?” he asked, pen poised over the pa­per. I hadn’t ex­pected the first ques­tion to stump me. “Wel­lll,” I be­gan, then pro­ceeded to ram­ble on about con­fi­dence! Em­pow­er­ment! Pos­i­tive self-im­age! Plus, I’d re­cently had a baby—“Post-baby body—the usual. Got it,” replied Stephen, rightly shut­ting me up. “It’s okay to say here that you want to lose weight,” he con­tin­ued. “You’ll def­i­nitely get stronger and feel great too—bet­ter than you ever have be­fore.” Great! “Let’s start with the weigh-in.” Great?

In the train­ing of­fice, we did the usual mea­sure­ments—arms, thighs, hips—then I stood on a next-gen scale that cal­cu­lated, among other things, my body-fat ra­tio. I’ve blocked the ex­act per­cent­age from my mem­ory, but I can re­port that it was high enough to make me blanch—a word I’d pre­vi­ously as­so­ci­ated with my beloved al­mond crois­sants. I knew my two years of bliss­ful in­ac­tiv­ity had im­pacted how my jeans fit; it hadn’t oc­curred to me that a 20-pound weight gain was also im­pact­ing my health, pos­si­bly lead­ing to high blood pres­sure and an in­creased risk of heart dis­ease. I had to take that se­ri­ously—I was some­one’s mother! Clearly, I had work to do. As part of the train­ing pro­gram, I would work out with Stephen for an hour ev­ery Tues­day and Thurs­day for six weeks. Ev­ery Tues­day, I’d step on the scale to see if I’d met my goal of drop­ping one to two pounds a week. I would also keep a food di­ary, which I’d send to Stephen ev­ery night. If I had been mildly in­ter­ested in a kick-start be­fore, I was now fully com­mit­ted. Time to hit the floor.

I came to un­der­stand that Stephen went easy on me in that first ses­sion—he was eval­u­at­ing my strength, stamina and bal­ance, as I lifted weights, at­tempted the row­ing ma­chine and planked for what felt like weeks. “Stop apol­o­giz­ing,” he’d say, laugh­ing, af­ter I’d mixed up my right and left leg for the umpteenth time. I left ex­hausted, but weirdly ex­hil­a­rated, too.

The next day, I woke up in pain, but I was still able to lift Char­lie out of his crib and walk down the stairs with­out winc­ing. Maybe this was how it felt to work out with a pro­fes­sional, in­stead of taking a fren­zied spin class ev­ery six weeks.

I ar­rived for the sec­ond ses­sion al­most ex­cited. I had started the day as Stephen had sug­gested—with a berry smoothie amped up with pro­tein pow­der—and I couldn’t be­lieve the dif­fer­ence in my en­ergy lev­els. “It’s about work­ing smarter: chang­ing 20 per cent of what you do, so that it makes an 80 per cent dif­fer­ence,” Stephen said, as I rolled out my mus­cles us­ing a foam core. Stephen’s phi­los­o­phy is all about fo­cus­ing on strength ex­er­cises and per­fect­ing tech­nique to max­i­mize ev­ery move­ment. He’s a fan of the dead­lift— bend­ing your knees, keep­ing your back flat, then lift­ing a bar­bell, with arms straight, up to your hips, and then back down—which ac­ti­vates all your key mus­cles, in­clud­ing your core. We also did back lifts, lots of lunges and chest presses (“Gun show!” Stephen would yell en­cour­ag­ingly as I puffed through them like Rowdy Roddy Piper). Ev­ery ses­sion ended with a dreaded car­dio “fin­isher” de­signed to get your heart rate up. On the first one, I imag­ined that I had to row fast, fast, fast to pro­tect Char­lie from a ram­pag­ing tiger. Spoiler alert: The tiger won.

Over the next six weeks, I learned about the value of “get­ting fat” be­fore lift­ing—taking a big breath so that the ex­tra oxy­gen pro­tects your mus­cles. I learned that my strict tod­dler-in­duced rou­tine made it a lot eas­ier to stick to a fit­ness and nutri­tion plan—I just did what Stephen told me. I also learned a lot about my­self. Keep­ing a food di­ary was hum­bling—left to my own de­vices, I ba­si­cally ate like a Me­tal­lica roadie. I took Stephen’s ad­vice and tried to eat pro­tein at ev­ery meal. I dra­mat­i­cally de­creased my crois­sant in­take and ate a ta­ble­spoon of peanut but­ter when a sweet crav­ing hit—which, to my shock and de­light, they did less and less fre­quently. “Who are you?” my friend asked in mock hor­ror, when I or­dered pep­per­mint tea in­stead of crème brûlée. “It’s crazy,” I af­firmed.

The cra­zi­est thing is that I learned that I was so much stronger than I thought. That shouldn’t have been a sur­prise—hav­ing a baby makes you re­al­ize that the body is es­sen­tially a ma­chine, and the chal­lenge of bal­anc­ing work and moth­er­hood de­mands some level of su­per­hero-dom. Some­how, though, I had never con­nected that to my own phys­i­cal strength. About a month af­ter my fi­nal Equinox ses­sion, Char­lie woke up in the mid­dle of the night. He had a fever. I kissed his hot lit­tle fore­head and walked him for an hour to get him back to sleep. In the fog of 3 a.m., the warm, sweet weight of my child against me, some­thing be­came clear: As amaz­ing as it was to be able to wear jump­suits again, the great­est gain of my fit­ness jour­ney was that my lit­tle joys had snow­balled into my big one. My pri­or­i­ties were aligned. By be­ing strong for me, I was stronger for him. Now I like to think, I’d give that tiger a run for its money.

“Keep­ing a food di­ary was hum­bling—left to my own de­vices, I ba­si­cally ate like a Me­tal­lica roadie.”

@GOKCENARIKAN “Fit­spo” moms, like the ones above, have be­come an In­sta­gram sen­sa­tion, of­fer­ing en­cour­age­ment and real talk along with work­out tips. At their best, they’ll in­spire and mo­ti­vate you— even if some­times, you may be tempted to power down your phone and make a batch of brown­ies.

@OURFITFAMILYLIFE

@MSJEANNETTEJENKINS

@YOGA_ MAMI

@REVIEJANE

@MASUMI_G

@SIMPLYSADIEJANE

@BABY_ FITGYM

@EMILYBREEZE

CLOCK­WISE FROM TOP: J. CREW EAR­RINGS, $85, JCREW.COM. WARBY PARKER SUN­GLASSES, $225, CA.WARBYPARKER. COM. ELA BAG, $485, ELABYELA.COM. PINK TAR­TAN TOP, $245, PINKTARTAN.CA. ZARA JUMP­SUIT, $70, ZARA. COM. ALDO SHOES, $65, ALDOSHOES.COM. FENDI PANTS, $1,215, NET-APORTER.COM. BA­NANA REPUB­LIC DRESS, $124, BANANAREPUBLIC.CA

One of the joy­ful things about com­mit­ting to fit­ness is that when you lose weight, you’re ba­si­cally forced to go shop­ping. These are a few pieces— in­clud­ing pas­tel pants!— that I’m ex­cited to wear this sea­son. My spring hit list

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