When I became a mom last spring, I learned pretty quickly that exercise, one of my favorite outlets for stress relief, was going to become my precious “me-time.” Like everything else about family life, there is a definite balance to this activity that we’re constantly working to achieve. Here are some of the things that I’m learning along the way:
Lower your expectations, but know that working out is still possible
Before my daughter was born, I used to aim for 5-6 workouts a week, and now I consider it a good week when I fit in 4 workouts. There are definitely some weeks that 3 or 4 workouts don’t happen, and I’ve reached the point where I’m okay with that, too. There’s always the next week.
Do what you enjoy, but still incorporate variety
I love swimming and running, but for some reason, core work and strength training are the first things that fall by the wayside. On the one hand, it’s vital to find an activity that you love (or even tolerate) in order to make time for yourself and do something that is good for your body. But you also have to take the time for the not-so-fun stuff that might help you be better able to keep doing those races, swims, and hikes. Also, hello, postpartum one seriously needs restorative core work. Yes, it might be boring to do endless leg marches and modified planks, but your body will thank you for it in the long run.
Enlist help, but count on some at-home workouts
On Sundays, I’ll leave the oatmeal feeding and morning nap time to my husband, and I’ll go to barre class. For me, it’s more than just getting in a good workout and that essential full hour to myself; it’s time with like-minded individuals who are also there to do something good for themselves (also, I work from home, so any time with adults is a bonus.). However, we can’t afford for me to solely rely on these types of boutique classes, and we don’t have that much free time, so I also have a set of weights and a yoga mat in my office for those nap time (daughter) or lunch time (me) workouts.
Have a plan, but prepare to be flexible
I learned very early on in my return to working out that it was something I would have to schedule to ensure it actually happens. I am a planner, and every Sunday I write down my meal, chore, and exercise plan for the week in my notebook (yep, I’m old school). I think it’s really important to have a plan in place so that you can ensure you make time for the workout, and to make sure you are hitting that variety of workouts. I scope out the weather forecast for the week and try to find the best day for running, and I double-check the hours at the pool to make sure they have lap swim during my limited 1 hour between work and picking up my daughter. However, I am learning that it is equally important to be flexible because plans change fast when you have a child. I often do not accomplish everything that I plan for the week, whether it be vacuuming or getting outside for a run. Because of my nature to schedule everything to the nth degree, this is something that I still struggle with. But, when my daughter is home sick from daycare, I’m obviously at home with her and not swimming laps at the pool. When it’s a snow day, I’m reading books with her, and maybe I’ll go into my office during nap time and lift weights.
In the end, fitting in exercise can be more difficult when you are a mom, but it’s also that much more rewarding, because you are really taking time away from other things, and giving it to yourself.