It’s time for the third installment of my Life After Baby series with my partners at UnityPoint Health! Today we’re talking all things fitness which, for me, has been the hardest thing to get back into after having a baby.
First, a little background on my fitness journey. I was extremely active throughout high school with dance lessons 4 days a week, and school dance team practice 5 days a week. Being active, coupled with a killer teenage metabolism, meant I never had issues surrounding weight. I wasn’t immune to gaining the freshman 15 in college when all that physical activity abruptly came to an end, and I traded my Mom’s home cooking for dining hall lasagna, but I was having too much fun at school to notice or care.
Luckily the weight melted off when I got into running and working out at the local YMCA after moving to Minneapolis after graduation. I only had a few friends in the city at the time, so my daily routine was work, gym/lake run, eat, sleep, repeat. I was in the best shape of my life. (So young, so well rested!)
The love of fitness I’d found in Minneapolis continued after moving back to Iowa and getting married. I ran a half marathon, bought a bike, and in general just loved to SWEAT. I think I might be the only Midwesterner in existence to crave a disgusting outdoor jog during Iowa’s muggy summers! This was about the time I started Iowa Girl Eats, and if you’re a long time reader you may remember lots of posts with workout routines and trips to the gym.
Then I had a baby.
I had grand plans of getting back into a rigorous fitness routine after Lincoln was born, but didn’t foresee his birth triggering an autoimmune disease which came with such intense levels of fatigue, that simply existing felt impossible some days. I had no motivation to workout either, as I lost my baby weight and then some in less than a month because I was so sick. (I know, poor me, but truly it was horrible.)
Already long story short, it’s been 3-1/2 years since I regularly worked out. As someone who associated sweat with their daily existence for so long, this fact still shocks me. On one hand I want to say, ‘how did I get here?’ But on the other hand, I know exactly how! I was super sick for over a year after my diagnosis, all the free time I had that wasn’t spent taking care of Lincoln or Ben was devoted to working. Rest is vital for someone with an autoimmune disease, which meant burning the candle on both ends to fit in family, health, work, AND fitness just wasn’t in the cards. I know I sound full of excuses, but I think many other Mamas can relate – there is just never enough time!
So where is this story going, you may be wondering?
After Cameron was born, something clicked. I recovered from my C-section faster than anticipated. My Celiac Disease is now under control. Our baby SLEEPS at night (for now, anyway!) The biggest change though? I’m ready to put my word of the year, Nourish, into practice.
I read something from a fellow blogger recently that really resonated with me – give yourself grace, but not excuses. All my excuses for not working out right now are just that, excuses. Not ACTUAL reasons why I CAN’T work out. For the first time in over three years, I am physically able. More than that though, I’m craving the workout experience and benefit. When I work out, I eat better. When I eat better, I feel nourished. When I feel nourished, we all win! Losing the baby weight so I can finally fit into my clothes again is a huge bonus.
A lot of this momentum has just started building over the past several weeks, thanks in part to some really beautiful and mild weather that has me itching to hit the trails. Got my personal alarm all ready to go! The boys and I have been great about going on winter walks this year, but I’m ready to start pushing myself in the fitness department. That said, here are 8 ways I’ve been motivating myself to get back into a fitness routine:
1. Buy new fitness gear. I get really uncomfortable when I feel like I’m wearing the wrong thing in any setting, but being uncomfortable in your workout clothes can make joining a gym or participating in a new group fitness activity even harder. If you’re in the same boat, spring for a new pair of leggings (dying for these!) shorts, sneakers, a cute workout tank, etc. I mean, hello, you grew a human! You deserve it! If your budget is tight, head to Old Navy – they’ve got some great, affordable stuff.
2. Talk to a friend. After deciding the time was right to ramp up my fitness game, I reached out to my butt-kicking, super-mom, sis-in-law Kerry for some advice. Kerry’s a CrossFitter and she invited me to join her for her next workout. I accepted, and let’s just say I got around better after my last C-section than I did after our workout. OWWWW! Also, my legs gave out while doing lunges so that was super embarrassing, but the point is, I would have NEVER gone to a CrossFit class alone, so talk to your friends and family members about what they’re doing fitness-wise and if they can lend you a hand, or an invitation!
3. Eliminate the pressure. There is soooo much pressure put on new moms to get back into their “skinny jeans” immediately after having a baby. It makes me want to barf. Social media only adds to the pressure, so you hereby have my permission to unfollow anyone who makes you feel bad about your fitness journey – wherever you are in it – after having a baby. Last week I had to unfollow a blogger who ran 12 stroller miles with her child who is just a couple weeks older than Cameron. I love this blogger and began following her because she was incredibly inspiring, but then I just started feeling bad about myself after each new post. I am so proud of her and all she is able to accomplish, but it wasn’t helping me on my journey so I unfollowed. You can do the same.
4. Try something new. Choosing CrossFit as my first major workout in 3-1/2 years (aside from running a couple miles here and there) was probably not the wisest decision. My thighs are still toast days later, but I’m so proud of myself for trying something new. If the thought of going back to your old fitness routine doesn’t sound appealing, don’t go back to your old fitness routine! Give yoga a try. Pilates. Tennis. Running. CrossFit. Step class. Cycling. Orange Theory. Boot Camp. Online videos. Walking. Running up and down your stairs for 10 minutes (seriously!) The possibilities are endless.
5. Any exercise > no exercise. The people who tell you to choose the last spot in the parking lot so you can get extra steps in walking into wherever you’re going, have clearly never lugged a 10lb car seat with a 14lb baby inside in one hand, and a toddler in the other hand, getting blasted by freezing-cold Midwestern air in the process. That is not exercise, that is torture. That said, there are other less torturous ways to fit fitness into your day that don’t involve the gym. Take the stairs two at a time (sans baby in your arms, of course!) Play “soccer” or “volleyball” with your kids (aka throw balls at each other hoping to connect with a foot or hand,) Strap your baby to your chest and vacuum! Or, do this quick at-home circuit workout that Dr. Brittany Maxwell, UnityPoint Health, who specializes in Sports Medicine suggests.
This circuit will take you 30 minutes and requires no special equipment aside from a jump rope (you can pretend if you don’t have one on hand.) If you have toddlers, they’ll love doing this with you/watching you jump around!
6. Start an online support group. This is something my MOPS group just started doing and – full disclosure, I haven’t participated yet – but I think it’s a great idea. They made a private Facebook group for Moms who work out at home to cheer each other on, and other groups specific to individual gyms so Moms can meet up and workout together. So fun, right? Even if it’s just you and a couple of friends keeping each other accountable and cheering each other on, it could be a huge motivator.
7. Tap your village. For me, the biggest hurdle to overcome when it comes to getting back into a fitness routine will always be time. Guess who has time? Your village. Your spouse or partner, your family, your friends – these people are the ones you can lean on to watch your children if you want, nay NEED, to workout. You don’t even need to leave your house! Go to the basement or your bedroom and do the above circuit or put on a workout video – may I suggest BodyRock.tv, free yoga downloads, or Tone It Up? Trust your village to take care of your children, so you can take care of yourself.
8. Pick a date and put it on the calendar. Time to put up or shut up (I mean that in the nicest way possible.) Print a calendar, tape it to your fridge, then put an X on the date you’re going to start working out and circle it. In red. Then you and everyone else in the house can help keep you accountable. While you’re at it, write in the times you’re going to workout for the entire month. If you’re a Type A like me, it’ll drive you nuts if you don’t cross off something that’s on your calendar!
As I mentioned, it’s important to give yourself grace but not excuses. That said, maybe you’re NOT ready to get back into a fitness routine yet after having a baby, and that’s ok! The “6 week rule” has been haunting me for, oh, nearly 2-1/2 months, and I imagine it’s haunting a lot of you too. Just because you’ve been physically cleared to workout, doesn’t mean you’re mentally ready yet. Try these tips for getting motivated but if it’s not the right time then give it a week. Or two. Or 10! It took you 9 months to grow that precious baby, and especially if you’re nursing, your mind and body might not be ready for awhile.
I want to end this post with some advice from Dr. Maxwell. She agrees the further out you get from being active, the harder it is to get started again. It’s no small feat to balance a newborn, a job, keeping up with everyday life, and getting back into shape. The reality, though, is that you’ll never have enough time, and waiting for free time to randomly pop up may never work. You have to MAKE time for fitness, and prioritize it if it’s important to you. The same can be said for so many things, right? Your children, your spouse, your family, your job? If it’s important, you’ll make time for it!
When were you ready to get back into a fitness routine after having a baby? What helped motivate you?
If you’re ready to get back into a fitness routine after having a baby, but are facing challenges, UnityPoint Health has services to help!
If you live in Iowa, Illinois or Wisconsin, UnityPoint Health provider services are available. Visit www.unitypoint.org, select the location you live in, click the “Find a Doctor” tab, then select “Physical Therapy” to find a provider near you.