My life was crazy busy when my kids were very young. Working out was the last thing on my mind during those days when I was chasing a toddler around the house while nursing a newborn (and yes, by my second child I had perfected the art of nursing while standing, walking, cooking, shopping–you name it). I hardly had time to finish any of my meals before I had to clean up a spill or grab an escapee from a high chair, and I was routinely awake for more than 20 hours a day. I was always exhausted and haggard. Although I was at my lowest weight since high school, I was not in much of a shape and lacked muscle tone. My stomach still jiggled like jello. I looked like a shrunken version of my shriveled, postpartum self, somewhat resembling a prune.
It was a far cry from my running days which stretched from my high school cross country team well into adulthood. I loved training, racing, and occasionally winning, back in my prime. Running was so freeing.
Fast forward a few decades, and I found myself pushing two babies in a double jogger, vainly bribing them with cheerios to stay in their seats for at least one city block so I could somewhat get my heart rate up. Running became anything BUT freeing! However, running without the kids meant I had to hire a sitter or wait until David got home, and then I would be beset with guilt about leaving the kids for my 30-minute run. So, I just basically gave up on exercising altogether.
The day of reckoning came without any warning: my back went out one day. I was swinging my toddler son around, and all of a sudden I crumbled to my feet and couldn’t get up for three days. Just as I got over that painful episode, I tore my calf muscle when I tried to go out one day for a rare run. The doctor told me it was your typical “middle-age, weekend warrior syndrome.”
That’s it, I said. I’m going to start going to the gym!
I began attending the local 24 Hour Fitness club, taking full advantage of the wonderful child care program they offered onsite. I stopped feeling guilty about working out, because I was there with the kids, not away from them.
Before long, I was going to fitness classes and moving with music which, I discovered in my middle age, I totally enjoy. I regret having made fun in the past of “those gym rats” who weren’t exercise purists like us runners. But no matter. I was no longer exercising to win; I was exercising just to survive. I needed to be strong for the kids, and I wanted to live long, healthy lives for their sake. And I had to stop feeling guilty about doing so.
So, here are a few things I learned about moms and exercising:
1. Just do it! Don’t feel guilty about taking care of yourself. The kids need you, and you will be in so much better mood after a workout.
2. Do whatever you enjoy. If you’re able to go out for a run, and that’s your favorite form of exercise, then go for it. If you like to dance in the living room, walk with a stroller, take a class, or play tennis, choose whatever works for you. Set yourself up for success, not failure.
3. Schedule your workouts ahead of time. If you don’t have it in your calendar like any other appointment, you probably won’t make it.
4. Work out with a group. I’ve met some great friends through these classes, and these people keep me accountable. We text and check up on each other!
5. Do it for your health, not vanity. We all still have stretch marks and permanent pregnancy flabs, but we aren’t trying to win a beauty contest. We’re here to get strong.
My kids no longer need child care, but I continue working out at the gym. And I don’t feel guilty anymore about that, either!
* * * *
Do you have guilt about exercising and taking time for yourself? Tell me about it!