Exercise after Baby

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Exercise after Baby

December 18, 2013

Before becoming pregnant, I was the fittest I had ever been. I was teaching full-time, and would spend 1-2 hours at the gym a minimum of 5 days a week. Even after becoming pregnant, I maintained my routine, with minimal changes – no hot yoga and less running due to SI joint troubles – and maintained my fitness level.

It did not even occur to me that my body could or would change after having a baby.  After all, I was one of those women who only looked pregnant from the side. I had no idea how much my body would change, how difficult those first few weeks and months would be, and how hard it would be to leave my baby and make time for myself.

Before our daughter was born, it went without saying that I would wake up refreshed after a wonderful night’s sleep, workout for an hour in the basement, have a shower and be ready for the day before my baby had even awoke.

Boy was I wrong!

It took several months to get a decent night’s sleep and even after that, I had such a sleep deficit that I was always exhausted. My energy levels were even lower due to inconsistent nonexistent exercise.  I also had a heck of a time keeping myself properly fed in those first few months.

Our daughter will be two at the end of January, and only now am I learning how to carve out time for myself to exercise and spend time on me. Over the past almost two years I have tried. I cancelled my gym membership and we invested in some Bowflex Weights and an indoor cycling bike. I tried waking up early and working out, running outside in the summer, going to yoga. But for some reason I was never able to keep up a routine. It took me until a few weeks ago to finally realize why.

Before the end of my maternity leave I decided to become the North Edmonton Mommy Connections Director. I also started subbing a few months after my mat leave ended. I was offered a part-time teaching position in the summer for the start of the 2013 school year and decided to take it. Any chance at a routine and time for myself officially went out the window. My husband was working even longer hours than ever before and I was running a business and teaching part-time but needing to be there every day of the week. I had no idea how to run a business, teach, spend time with our daughter, my partner and family, and carve out time for myself.

Those first few months going back to teaching were really tough. It’s been over four months now and I’m still not sure if it was the right thing to do, but I’ve managed to learn how to incorporate my own personal wellness goals into my life. Here’s what I needed:

1. A Reason. What I needed to really get motivated and keep motivated was why I wanted to exercise in the first place. It was a combination of things, really. I needed time for myself. I was unhappy with my body and how tight my clothing had become. I really wanted to feel great about myself again and I knew those endorphins would be an added bonus. Most of all, I wanted my daughter to look up to me, to see that I didn’t put my life on hold to become a mom, that I hadn’t given up on myself or placed myself at the bottom of the priority list.mommy and zoey

2. Realistic Goals.  I have extremely lofty goals in almost every aspect of my life. I’m also a terrible estimator, especially when it comes to how long something will take. So I have had to really sit back and be honest with myself. What is manageable in my new life? How much time can I allot myself and what can I do to make the most of that time?  For me it has been carving out 30 minutes each day, 6 days a week. Upon a colleague’s recommendation, I started doing Jillian Michael’s Body Revolution workouts. I already had the weights and resistance band and more than enough space in our basement. I will admit it took me a while to really stay consistent – and it’s only been 2 weeks – but that’s because I was missing a few other key factors needed.

3. Schedule/Plan. In addition to my daily workouts, I have decided to go to Hot Yoga twice a week. This has definitely been the most challenging, due to the inconsistent nature of my husband’s schedule. What I have found is setting a schedule at the beginning of the week makes the most sense. My husband and I are notorious for forgetting to tell each other things, like when I have Parent-Teacher Interviews or when he has ball hockey games. So I’ve put a calendar on the fridge and we update that as often as possible. Without a plan, and a realistic one at that, regular exercise is almost impossible.

4. Support. My husband is a supportive guy, but he wasn’t really getting that I needed help to stay motivated, that I needed him to make a concerted effort to help me to go to yoga and that if I did, I would be happy and in turn, so would he. So I decided to tell him what I needed.

Support can come in many different forms. It may be a co-worker, friend, partner, sibling, or parent. Make sure that you have support in place before you begin. You are amazing and incredible and you shouldn’t have to do it alone.

It’s also extremely challenging trying to fit workouts in when I am home with my daughter. If she is awake when I need to workout, she will do them with me. They are only 30 minutes long and because I am not on a treadmill or bike, I can stay near her the whole time. It’s actually turned into a bit of a bonding experience for us both and she gets to see mommy making time for herself. A win-win.

It’s so easy to get down on yourself after having a baby. Nobody really talks about how difficult it can be mentally, emotionally and physically. Let’s share our experiences, our joys and our struggles, to remind ourselves that we are not alone.

Wherever you are in your pre or postpartum journey, be gentle with yourself. Your body and your mind are capable of amazing feats. Just remember to be realistic, make a plan and seek the support you need.

~chelsey

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