Don’t Work Out For Your Body–Do It For Your Mind

For well over a year, after popping our four kids in six years, I finally got in the habit of exercising almost every day. I mix up my workouts, alternating between my favorite at-home video workouts (I love the Beachbody videos, especially Shaun T.'s Max 30 and T-25 programs), days at the gym lifting weights with my much younger and fitter sister, and doing strength and flexibility videos, like yoga or Pilates.

It took me a long time to find my exercise groove and now, I feel a little antsy and gross if I go too long without exercising. But before you start thinking I am one of those slightly annoying moms who post bikini ab pictures with hashtags like #fitmom #youcandoit, allow me to assure you, I really don't look all that different.

Sure I might have a few extra muscles here and there, but on the whole, I still am rocking a pretty mean mom gut and could pass for a six-months pregnant woman. 

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But I have no plans of giving up exercise anytime soon and honestly, that's because for me, working out has nothing to do with what I look. 

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I mean, don't get me wrong, I enjoy seeing my body get stronger, but it's more for the mental boost that it gives me. There's something about being able to lift the next heavier weight up or go faster in my run or do one more rep that tells me, You are worth it. 

I'll just cut right to the chase and tell you: I feel like being a mom doesn't come naturally to me. Like, at all. I struggle with the constant chaos that surrounds me. Someone is always sick and someone is always crying and pooping and there is always laundry to be done, cleaning to tackle, groceries to get. Throw in working and no sleep and most days, I feel like I kind of just want to curl up in a ball and cry because how in the world did I end up in charge of all of this? 

I'm not sure I'm the woman for the job. 

But working out has reminded me that I am strong. When I go to the gym, it's the only 45 minutes of my life where it feels like no one is asking anything of me. It's the only time that I feel like I exist only for myself. It's the only time where I honestly don't give a flying crap what I look like. It's a relief, in a way, to realize that my body doesn't have to perform for anyone but me. I don't have to look a certain way to “bounce back” after babies; I don't have to worry if I'm still sexy enough for my husband, and I don't have to worry if I'm presenting a healthy body image for my daughters.

It's just me, my messy bun, probably not enough deodorant, and the weights. And I love it. I've come to crave it, because it's probably the cheapest form of therapy I can buy right now. In a world that seems to be going crazy around me, going to the gym and focusing on the basics: breathe in, breathe out, lift, repeat, calms in a way that I haven't found through anything else. 

And I wish I could tell you that it's a magical solution that has suddenly made everything else in my life better, but of course, it's not. Finding time to go to the gym is a daily fight. My husband and I still haven't found a good groove to make it work yet and I know it's been a shock to his system to have to rearrange his schedule to accommodate me hitting the gym. 

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But seeing the difference in how I feel–and thus how I am able to tackle my responsibilities as matriarch of this family–has taught me that there is no going back. I am worth the time I give myself to do this for me. I am worth my husband rearranging his schedule. I am worth the $30 gym fee or few bucks I throw at a babysitter to make it there. 

Exercising, for me, has taught me that I am worth so much more than just a body that should look good for the expectations of others. Exercising, for me, has shown me that I am strong and I am capable of so much more than I thought. 

Exercise, for me, has helped me find my way back to myself. And that's a gift more than looking good in a bikini. 


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Don’t Work Out For Your Body–Do It For Your Mind

Chaunie Brusie is a writer, mom of four, and founder of The Stay Strong Mom, a community + gift box service for moms after loss. ... More

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