When I was pregnant with my son, I had every intention of staying as fit as I was before and during the pregnancy. I didn’t see any reason why I would stop commuting by bicycle to work, taking long bike rides on the weekends, doing Bikram yoga or even going stand-up paddleboarding with friends. I’d just simply have to find a sitter or have my husband watch my son. Easy, right?
In practice, things turned out a bit different. Motherhood has taught me to stay flexible–a valuable lesson for me since I love to have a plan. Before my son was born, I set up a bike trainer in the garage so that I could get on a bike as soon as I felt comfortable. In practice, I realized that I cycled because I like being outdoors; pedaling indoors was boring. So, about 4 weeks after I had my son, I took my bike for a spin. Although being outdoors was wonderful, being on the seat was painful and I felt like a horrible person for leaving the baby, even though he was in the fully capable hands of my husband. No one told me that ‘Mom guilt’ can be a punch in the throat sometimes.
Once I started back to work, I changed my hours so that I went in earlier and left at 3pm. Since daycare is expensive and my husband has his own business, this arrangement worked out well–my husband could be Super Dad during the day and we’d trade off at 3pm. However, this also meant that on days that my hubby had business to attend to, I couldn’t ride my bike into work because of the longer commute time. Squeezing in a workout wasn’t going to be as easy as I had imagined.
How to fit fitness into parenthood
For me, working out wasn’t all about losing baby weight–although that was a bonus. Exercise is my therapy. If I wanted to get in a workout, I’d have to get creative.
Make time to workout and stick to the schedule
I wake up early, like before dawn early. In his first few months, my son would wake up at 4am for a feeding. When I went back to work, I got used to getting up early, so getting up at 4:30am was no longer a big deal to this girl.
In the new year, I joined a gym. Since my employer subsidizes a large portion of the monthly membership, it would have been a foolish thing to pass up. For the first three months of this year, I went every morning, 6 days a week. During the week, I went at 5am and on the weekends at 6am while the baby and my husband were still asleep. Now, I go three days a week, and sometimes at lunch.
For the past month, I’ve been cycling at lunch with co-workers three days a week. We manage to squeeze in a good 10 miles of hilly riding into 50 minutes. Not only is it a great way to break up the day and get outdoors, but I’m also getting my leg definition back. And it’s great training for the Century I’m riding on June 1st.
Include baby in the workout
My son and I have completed 2 5Ks together. Even though he’s a baby and won’t remember completing these events with his mommy, it’s important to get in the habit of including him in my fitness routine. We go for walks and jogs around town, to the store, to the beach, wherever.
I want my son to enjoy being active and to see his parents keeping fit and enjoying exercise as well. During the week, my husband brings him to jiu jitsu. When our son cries, the guys at the gym–many of whom have children themselves–pick him up so that my husband can continue to train. Our son gets to see his daddy have fun and keep fit while also getting used to being around other adults.
Make the most of the time you have
Gone are the days when I can just get on my bike and ride for 3 hours anytime. If I want to take a long ride, I have to plan it around my husband’s schedule and that usually means that I have to leave the house by 6am. Even if I go to the gym on the weekends instead of cycling, I only have a two hour window. While this may seem restrictive, it’s actually a huge advantage. I have to plan my workouts wisely and make the most of them.
Adjust your attitude
I’m not a gym person or a morning person, but I’ve had to learn to be one. This has been a blessing in disguise. I’ve realized that the morning isn’t so bad, and have come to prefer sunrise to sunset. And going to the gym when it opens allows me to work out with the hardcore, very fit, very dedicated people. There are several women who are probably in their 40s and 50s who are my new fitness role models. Those ladies are fit!
Exercise helps me maintain my sanity and gives me the thinking time I need to put challenges into perspective. And taking this time to myself helps me as a parent.