A new year is upon us and many see this as an opportunity to make or improve on some healthy habits. I know I do! I am a mom of two busy kids; an eleven year old daughter and a nine year old son. Before they were born I was very active playing rugby at an amateur level and hitting the gym 5-7 days a week. I remember saying to my husband that once the kids were born I wasn’t going to make excuses not to maintain this pace….Wow, was I in for a surprise! The truth is that once you become a parent all of your priorities change and it becomes challenging to find time for yourself when your little humans need a lot of your time and attention. I hope this guide gives you some ideas and motivation for yourself but I am also available if you want to brainstorm for your personal situation.
First of all, let’s just take a moment to acknowledge your body the way it is today in all of its wonder and glory. You made a baby (or babies) and for that you should be proud! We can still love our bodies and be grateful for all that they have done yet want to become stronger and fitter. Be weary of quick fixes or too-good-to-be-true solutions. This stuff is hard work and takes dedication to make every day changes, but so worth it for your health and the health and happiness of your family. From a very young age I remember engaging in active pursuits with my parents and watching them play sports. This has stayed with me over the years and I already see it impacting my children. Never feel guilty for wanting to spend time working on yourself Momma!
Over the last ten years my exercise regime has changed and evolved based on many factors, but primarily the needs of my children. So I’ve broken this guide down by years to help you.
IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING BIRTH
Every woman and every birth (even by the same woman!) is so different. Immediately after birth the only thing you should be concerned about is healing and bonding with your baby. Slow things down and enjoy this time. There will be plenty of time later to think about workouts. The best workout or “workin” you can do at this stage is deep belly breathing, it helps to reduce stress, aids in milk production, and tones your abdominals. The other “exercise” that is helpful at this stage is Kegels. Once you have been given the green light by your midwife or doctor then you can consider incorporating more. I would also recommend getting seen by a physiotherapist that specializes in postnatal core rehab to rule out diastasis recti (abdominal separation), prolapse, or pelvic floor issues.
FIRST YEAR AFTER BIRTH
Maternity leave is a great time to start some healthy habits because you have taken on the most important role of your life; Mom! First and foremost, nutrition is key in all stages of life. Start or maintain healthy eating habits now to feel your best. There are so many fitness options these days for new moms in most communities and at home. There are a lot of gyms that have childminding if you feel comfortable leaving your baby. However, if you do not there is a plethora of Mom and Baby classes that are mother-centered but allow baby to be in a carrier or close by so that you can stop if needed to attend to your baby. While at home programs might be convenient, they may leave you feeling isolated, lonely and unmotivated. Perhaps a combination of classes and at home workouts is the best option for you. Classes are great because you get to meet other moms and they are tailored to the postpartum body. If the weather is nice grab a friend and take baby out for a stroll. Mom and baby yoga, mom and baby fitness, dance classes, barre, aqua-fit….the choices are endless. I enjoyed mom and baby yoga, salsa babies and walks outside (even in very cold temps) with my first baby. When I was tired from frequent waking at night or not eating properly, I let myself rest. This is very important so give yourself time to get back at it gradually. Try different classes to find the right combination for you. A trainer that you connect with, class times and location that work best, and costs are all factors to consider. See below for my classes west of the GTA.
BACK TO WORK: THE TODDLER YEARS
This was by far the most difficult time for me and I can honestly say that after my first I struggled for a while to find the right balance. Long working hours and commutes make it very difficult to prioritize yourself. Time with your toddler seems so precious that you can’t bear to leave them.
Here are some ideas:
6am workouts! I know that sounds painful but I can guarantee if you do this consistently you will be astounded at how good you feel for the rest of the day. It’s out of the way and it frees up time in the evening to be with your children.
Noon workouts! Take time on your lunch hour to workout, find a gym close to your place of employment and I guarantee this will become a regular part of your day.
Good news is toddlers need a lot of sleep and usually go to bed quite early. If you have enough energy an 8pm class might be the ticket for you. Then on your days home take your children out for a walk or to play at the park, get active with them when you can so that they see how important it is. Pushing a child on a swing or chasing them around a park IS a workout!
THE SCHOOL AGE YEARS
Once when my kids were in the baby/toddler stage another mom warned me that life would only get busier once my kids were slightly older and involved in extra-curricular activities. I didn’t believe her but now that they are I totally get it. Evenings and weekends are spent taxiing and carpooling all over the city for their sports and activities. I love that they are active and involved but it consumes a lot of time. So now how do you fit in a workout?
When my kids could play a little more independently at the park I would do a workout near them. I would plan out my exercises and reps and do my burpees, squats etc at the playground. Once in a while I would be needed to push a swing then I would get back to it.
Running with little ones in a stroller or chariot, this is a tough one but everyone wins!
6am’s are a good option. I do yoga in my home in the early mornings and it’s not always peaceful. My son is an early riser so some times he cuddles on my blankets and bolsters while I finish my practice but it’s ok, at least I got some in (I figure this is just part of the Mom life and I get savasana with a little-man cuddle).
Noon workouts again are great because it frees up your evenings to spend with the kids doing homework or taking them to their activities. If you can manage it why not strap on your runners for a jog or head to the gym while they are doing their sports. I see so many parents scrolling through their phones or playing Candy Crush when they could use that time more wisely. My daughter’s dance lessons become a run around the neighbourhood for me during warm weather or a weight session at my gym closeby. Sure I’m sweaty when I pick her up but the endorphins feel amazing. Plan activities you can do as a family like skiing, skating or biking. Head to the park and chase a ball. Getting active as a family is wonderful on so many levels!
AFTER PRIMARY SCHOOL WHEN YOUR KIDS DON’T WANT TO BE AROUND YOU MUCH (LOL)
Ok so I don’t have any experience with this stage yet. I do envy the other Moms at my gym who are at this stage and get more workouts in during the week than I do, but I figure these years are so precious and my time will come. I know it seems daunting at times when there is so much to accomplish during the day. Lifestyle changes take time and perseverance but feeling strong physically is so important as a Mom to keep you balanced emotionally. Go to bed early, eat well, drink lots of water and plan those workouts in advance. Not only will you see major changes in yourself but those kiddos of yours will thank you one day! Best of luck Mommas and if you need support and motivation please reach out, we are here to support one another!