Dear Moms: I Give You Permission to Quit Exercise (for now)
Listen, mamas, I have a secret:
I don't always love exercising.
I am in no way a #fitmom — trust me. But I am trying, and I'm coming up on my one-year anniversary of committing to fitness. (That can be a thing, right?) I started my first-ever Jillian Michaels workout on Thanksgiving Day last year, and exercise is now officially a part of my life.
I work out five to six days a week, incorporating cardio and weight training. For the first time ever, I am lifting actual heavy weights, like barbells and squat bars and all that other stuff that makes me feel like a B.A. when I strut into the gym in my mommy yoga pants. Watch out, everyone!
But seriously, exercising has changed my life for the better and not because it's helped me lose a million pounds or given me a flat stomach (nope and hahaha, definitely not), but because it's given me a source of strength to keep going in my days as a stay-at-home mom.
I'm currently at a point in my Mommyhood Career that I would classify as this: Losing My Freaking Mind. My four kids range in age from 7 to 1 and, although, in my head, I'm the perfectly calm, rational, fun-loving mother I always imagined I would be, in reality, I'm constantly stressed, losing my cool and, in general, kind of unhappy.
Here's the thing: I am completely realistic about how freaking hard it is to exercise when you have a baby. So here are a few ground rules about when I give you permission to quit exercise:
- If you are getting less than four hours of broken sleep a night. Sorry, but your body needs to freaking recover, so just give it some time.
- If you are fewer than six weeks postpartum. Because, obviously.
- If you are breastfeeding. Milk-making boobs are not always comfortable — I get that. You get a free pass for now.
- If your baby is less than a year old. Enjoy that baby, and if you can't find the time to exercise, it really isn't the end of the world.
OK, so there you go. And now, if you've given yourself a free pass and you're finally sleeping more and maybe your boobs hurt less and your baby is getting past the wants-you-to-hold-her-24/7 stage, I encourage you to stop looking at exercise as something you “have” to do and look at it as something that is a special treat just for you.
Thinking about exercise as my “me” time really changed how I approached it. Instead of dragging myself to the gym and dreading it, I think of the pure pleasure of being alone without anyone touching me or needing me. I listen to cool podcasts or watch Friends while I walk on the treadmill for my warm up. It's pure, untouched “me” time, and I feel a million times better when I'm done.
It also helps me to never, ever let myself feel guilty about going to the gym or ducking down in my basement alone to exercise. I don't care how much your kids want you to play a game with them or how much your husband wants to chat about his day — all of you need you to be healthy, so don't even go there. Don't feel guilty if you have to pay a babysitter “just” to work out because, at the end of the day, it's completely worth it.
Nothing is more important than your health.
So, mamas of the world, if you're struggling with fitting in exercise right now, in the trenches, and your arms full of new baby, let me just tell you — it's fine. It's OK. You can quit for now, but don't let yourself quit forever. You will get there, but you have to keep one important thing in mind — the only reason in the world to exercise is for YOU, so there's no guilt allowed either way.
Like I said before: treat exercise as a little “me” time, and before you know it, you'll be running away to the gym. Which may or may not be on the way to Starbucks, and if it is, then that's our dirty little secret.