Here's the thing... I think we need to reassess how we think about exercise, working out, fitness goals in our lives as mothers. We are NOT those high schoolers who played three sports and had time for three hour practices. We'll NEVER be them again. We are NOT supposed to have the bodies we used to have in high school. Our bodies back then didn't expand to grow human beings. Of course, we're changed physically. We are not supposed to be who we were in college or even the first year after having our first child. Of course our bodies grew along with our hearts and expanding families. It's NORMAL. Let go of that guilt right now.
BUT as parents... we need more ME time, more patience for ourselves, more self-care and more time moving our bodies to be stronger moms. I firmly believe this will make you a better parent, if you give yourself more of yourself, more time getting active.
Here are a few tips for getting yourself moving again as a busy mom:
- Accept the season you're in and the limitations you're experiencing. If you just had a baby, enjoy the time on the couch resting and feeding. If you had health issues you had to get through before working out became a priority, it's all good. If you are nursing, man, that's ENOUGH of a calorie-burner right now, it's OK to skip working out at this point in the game of motherhood. If you just started back at work, take a breather and get used to that first before starting a new workout regimen. If your kids are sick, or you are dealing with constant doctors appointments, I get it, that's priority right now, fitness can wait a bit longer. Accept the season you are in, moms. You WILL get out of that season, they all pass. You WILL be at a point in your life again soon where you can work out more routinely. If right now is not it, accept it, take a breath, and give yourself some grace and understanding. Let yourself BE right now, and accept you WILL get back there sooner than later. I just personally went through having a baby 16 months ago. I got back in shape last spring, only to get out of shape after having a surgery this summer. I got back in shape after the surgery, only to have my kids get sick this fall and I got out of shape again. I'm getting back in shape again now, and it's awesome. Accept the season, it will pass. It's not to say you can make excuses, but with parenting being the hardest thing ever, it's OK if it takes more time than normal to get back on track with your fitness routine.
- Let go of daily pressure to work out. There's no time for that for most parents. If you aim for 3 days a week, 30 minutes each that's better than not working out. Do your best. Walk 10 minutes a day up and down your stairs if you have to. That's better than sitting those 10 minutes. It doesn't have to be daily. I personally feel better if I work out daily, but there are many seasons in my life where that's NOT doable. So tell yourself you'll do it a few times and then be proud of that.
- Get yourself up and move. Just move! It doesn't have to be a fitness video or a gym membership. It can be dancing around in your kitchen for 5 minutes before dinner. It can be parking farther out in the Target parking lot. It can be lugging bags to Goodwill in and out of your car. It ALL counts. If all you have time for is 20 crunches one morning, then so be it. That's 20 more than doing nothing for your stomach muscles. If all you have time or energy for is stretching after a long night with a teething toddler then that's awesome. Start to think of every little bit adding up to a healthier you. It'll make you want to do more in the long run.
- There is no "right" time. Find what works. For me it's Saturday morning while dad is preparing breakfast, I get up early and get moving before the kids notice I'm not around or bug me, that's one day down, a few more to go. It's waking up early in the morning so it's done, so nothing can become a reason why I can't get it done, no appointments or kid stuff has come up yet, they are sleeping so I'm not missing anything with them. Tell your partner it's important that you get this done, tell them what you need for help. Having their support is very helpful so you can keep going.
- Prep ahead. I get out my workout clothes the night before, even socks and my headband. I fill the water bottle the night before and have it ready in the fridge. I set my alarm the night before. There is literally no reason not to get up when you prepare. If you don't prep, you'll find an excuse not to do it.
- JUST DO IT. Be like Nike. I had to get up for 13 months for my third baby to pump milk at 5 a.m. so it was ready for his 5:30/45 bottle/wake time. I did this religiously for 13 months straight, every single morning. I never missed a beat, I couldn't, I HAD to do it. When pumping I could not fathom being awake at 4:30 to work out and pump, it just didn't work during that season. But once I stopped pumping, I told myself "you used to get up at this time and do something for 30 minutes for your baby, why can't you get up at the same time and spend 30 minutes on YOU?" So now that's what I do. I tell myself I have to. I feel better after I do it. I am more patient with the kids. I focus better at work. I feel happier, confident, stronger. I just do it. If I stop to think about how the hell I pumped for a year, I go crazy and think it's nuts. Same with exercising at 5 a.m. if I stop to think about it... I'll not do it anymore. Don't think, just DO.
- YouTube it. Find some cool workout videos to get you started, motivated if you can't get to a gym or don't have exercise equipment at home. They are motivating, fun, hilarious even. They can be 10 minutes up to 60 minutes, whatever you need. You can replay them if you don't get the moves. Anything to make you sweat is awesome. Try different ones each day.
- Reframe your goals. When you're a mother, time matters, because usually time away from your kids doing something for you means just that: away from the kids, your precious littles. You don't ever have enough time with them, so if you are going to do something important it has to be valuable. The working out thing cannot be about losing weight. It can't be to fit into a bathing suit or your pre-maternity leave pants. It needs to be worth MORE than that... it needs to be so you can chase after a busy toddler or so you don't get a heart attack like your parents did at a young age. It needs to be so you can focus better at work or so you can feel stronger when pushing the stroller at the park. It needs to be so you can be around for your kids, teaching them a healthy lifestyle. Your weight could fluctuate a few pounds daily if you ate the same thing every day. Don't waste your time on numbers. Focus on changing your life to be a stronger person for you and your family. Your goals as a mother working out are not going to be the same goals you had in high school on the sports team. That's normal and OK.
- Buddy system. Find a friend who wants to take walks with you and the strollers. Get someone to join a dance class or workout class with you. Go swimming with your family on weekends. Buddying up helps, not to compete or see who can lose more weight, but rather to have an accountability partner to encourage you and tell you it's worth getting out there.
My biggest tip for getting a busy momma out there getting stronger and fit: MAKE YOURSELF A PRIORITY. I know, I know, you're busy. I get it. I was just there like a minute ago, way way way too busy to work out routinely. If this is not your season, it's OK. But if you think you can manage a few days a week and only 30 minutes a session to spend on yourself, getting stronger and happier, then TRY. It's OK to be a priority of yours. It's OK to put yourself first for a second. You've taken care of your kids for so long, it's all right to make sure you take care of yourself.
Realize you won't be perfect at this. It's OK. Start somewhere. Start tomorrow with just stretching and see how that goes. Then the next day walk up and down your stairs a few times. The more you do, the easier it becomes.
Have fun. Get movin'. I swear it's worth it.