In 2012, this blog started out dedicated to Fitness and Clean Eating. It has since evolved, but these two things have remained core to my everyday life. I’ve been putting off writing about them mainly because I haven’t felt very confident about where I sit on the spectrum of FitMama (I’m no Megan Woldsen(1)). However, as I was doing yoga(2) this afternoon, I realized sharing whilst on the journey to my goals is still beneficial. In the end, I’m not looking for perfection, just progress.
So I’d like to start talking more about what I did during pregnancy, and what I’ve been doing postnatally, to stay in shape and be “better fit for Mommyhood.” To put it all in context: I was back to pre-baby weight by Month 3 postpartum, and almost all my clothes fit exactly like they use to by Month 5.(3) BUT I still have loose skin round the belly, and goals to get my cardio fitness back to where it was in the months pre-pregnancy (10-12km runs 3x a week at 10-11kph; with additional strength and explosive sprint days in between). If it’s within your ability (doctor-approved), fitness and health are gifts you give yourself that uniquely benefit your kin too. They keep you in good form and good spirits (endorphins!) for child-play and childcare (both of which demand high energy and an ever-increasing reserve of stamina and endurance). Plus, if you’re able to achieve the proper balance, it does wonders in other areas of your life too – from life expectancy to better sleep quality, the benefits are manifold(4).
Now all that said, exercise does take investment (sometimes money, but mostly: time). If you’re a parent or lead a busy work life, you’re probably wondering: how do people do it? As a working mom, I have to say parenthood is hard and together with my day job takes up plenty of time, mind-space, and energy. So: where and how can you find the time and motivation to do this? Well, here are some things I’ve done to help me persist:
- Make it matter to you. The first step to actually getting off your butt is accepting the importance of activity in your life. After all, if something matters to you, you will make time for it. (You made time to watch Game of Thrones didn’t you? Your workouts don’t even need to be as long as an HBO show, so yes, you can find the time.)
- Start slow. (BUT STEADY.) More important than intensity, especially in the beginning, is consistency. When I was pregnant, my doctor always told me: “Forget about intense, don’t push yourself to go hard if you aren’t confident. Just push yourself to be consistent. Put in 30 minutes of physical activity everyday.” So during pregnancy, I brisk walked at least 30 minutes a day, and often did additional videos from what I called my Baby Bump Bootcamp playlist (previously mentioned in this past entry on Nurturing the Mind, Heart, and Body During Pregnancy). After giving birth, my doctor reminded me that the best way to heal was to get moving (at a practical, acceptable pace). Not ultra-marathoning, just.moving. And to do it bit by bit everyday and build from there.
- Keep things interesting. If running on a treadmill feels like a death sentence, don’t do it. Unless masochism is an effective self-motivation tool for you, you should be trying different things until you find one or a few that work. (And no, you can’t write-off exercise altogether just because “exercise” itself is the bane of your existence, there are literally tons of different kinds of physical activity out there, and it’s unlikely that you hate every. single. one. Try things out until you find one you enjoy.)
- Have an accountability officer. For me, this is my friend Karen, who’s been my fitness buddy since the dawn of TBF (The Better Fit). She gets me to try new apps (like Freeletics), and we chat almost daily about what we’ve been eating, what workouts we’ve been trying, and what progress (or lack-thereof) we’re seeing. My husband also plays a key role in keeping me motivated by staying fit himself and encouraging me to be consistent and true to my word. Find someone who will either work out with you, or coach you, or cut out added sugars with you – whatever it takes.
- Have a schedule and a strategy. Finding time is indeed tricky. What’s worked for my husband and I is doing shifts. On the weekdays, I try to go home earlier than my husband and throw in a quick 30 minute workout while the nanny is still in. Then I send our nanny home, take over with the baby, and my husband gets to work out. If you don’t have a nanny, this is still not impossible. On weekends, we don’t have a nanny either and we still do things in shifts. After my first pump in the morning, I go straight to working out, then in the afternoons/evenings after we have had our day out my husband works out and I take over with the baby. Taking turns works for us.
- Optimize your rest day. This last tip isn’t a must-have, but I still strongly suggest it. What do I mean by “optimizing” rest days? On rest days, instead of using the extra hour or two that would have been dedicated to transit-exercise-rest-and-shower, spend at least half of it on something useful. Whether that’s taking 15 minutes to plan your week ahead and balance it out, or doing as I do and doing a fresh produce shop and planning meals, just spend a bit of that time being productive. My rest days are on Mondays, and I use the time to cook dinner for the week. This is awesome because I am able to make healthy dinners for us for the rest of the week, which it prevents us from ordering in unhealthy stuff instead on the rest of the weekdays when we’re too busy working out, working late, and baby-caring to cook.
So there you have it! A primer on being Better Fit! Look out for more entries on what my workouts are like, and what kind of food we eat on most days to stay relatively in shape. Do share your own stay-fit tips if you have some! Especially if you have any good home workout / body-weight, low impact workout ideas.