How I Got My (Fitness) Groove Back

by Sally on January 17, 2011

She is far more perky, toned, and well groomed than I was when I had a baby.

Once upon a time, there was a woman who exercised regularly during her pregnancy. When her baby was born, she took Mommy and Me Pilates classes and logged miles with her jogging stroller. During naptime, she did squats while folding freshly laundered onesies.

This woman is not me. I read about her in magazines, so apparently she exists.

I’ve got nothing against exercise. I signed my first gym membership when I was in high school and stepped, spun, kickboxed, and grapevined my way through college, two jobs, and three cities.

But it all came to a screeching halt when I got pregnant and fell into the black hole of morning sickness, then the black hole of being a new mom and generally running on fumes. I canceled my membership and put fitness on the shelf. I figured making time to shower regularly should be a higher priority anyway.

But a funny thing happened: I missed it. I thought I only worked out to keep off weight. Yet as my thirties ticked by, I felt a physical and mental void I knew exercise would fill. I had stiffness in my joints, felt sluggish long after everyone was finally sleeping the night, and was wound tighter than the springs in my toddler’s crib mattress. But the thought of yet another commitment was overwhelming.

Then about a year ago, a friend of mine announced on Facebook that she was doing a workout DVD every day for 30 days (Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred) and would post her daily progress. For the month, her friends cheered her on via Facebook comments—then she invited us to join in the next month. And something clicked for me.

I’d never liked exercise DVDs. I owned exactly one, a body sculpt workout with bad lighting and even worse music. But something had to give. I had no time (or funds) for a gym membership, my knees couldn’t handle running, and I’d ditched my basement treadmill after realizing how much I hated power walking next to the litterbox. The real selling point: The 30 Day Shred was just 25 minutes long. I’m a card-carrying run-ragged mom, but if I couldn’t locate a spare 25 minutes, I deserved my flabby upper arms.

So I dusted off some old hand weights and set my 30-day goal, the first exercise-related goal I’d made in years. On day one, I thought my ankles would snap during the warm-up jumping jacks. By the second week I was far less winded, and by day 20 I could push both kids uphill in the double stroller without feeling nauseous. By the end, I felt like a new person. I had reclaimed a piece of my pre-baby self: I was, once again, Someone Who Exercised.

I don’t work out every day anymore (though now I know that I can, if I set my mind to it). I try to do something 3 to 5 days a week,  rotating through a whole library of workout DVDs, going to a strength training class once a week, and walking with a neighbor when the weather is warm.

But the biggest change was a shift in my thinking. Being active does not have to mean 90 minutes at the gym. It could mean the 25 minutes between bus stop drop-off and work. I also adjusted my expectations: There would be weeks that work deadlines and sick kids would eclipse everything else—but that did not make me a failure.

And I’m no longer in it just to keep the scale happy. I do it because feeling my stronger muscles at work, whether doing a push up or carrying a two-year-old and three grocery bags up the back steps, is deeply satisfying.  And because when the waistband of my jeans is not digging into my flesh, I snap at my kids much, much less.

But I still don’t do squats while folding laundry. I mean seriously, who does that?

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Robin Plotkin January 18, 2011 at 10:30 am

Sally-I have been struggling with this very same thing! Thank you for the inspiration and honesty!!

Sally February 1, 2011 at 7:40 am

Glad you liked it, Robin! Thanks for the nice comment.

Steph February 1, 2011 at 7:11 pm

Struggling here, too! I felt like I was reading my own story (minus the morning sickness:))
I was getting back into it, then Zander came along. But, my too tight jeans are really annoying!

MeghanM February 2, 2011 at 10:43 am

I have a 6 year old, 3 year old, and 4 month old and I wish I could exercise but it’s impossible to find the time! I have a gym membership but don’t want to put the baby in the babysitting until rsv/flu season is over. I have a wii fit but my kids decide to fight with each other and the baby cries when I try to do 30 minutes with that! I only have 5 lbs to lose but I want to be fit and not just thin!

I have to confess though..I have done squats while rocking a tired baby…

Randee Donovan February 9, 2011 at 3:34 pm

Hi, Sally! My name is Randee Donovan, I’m a friend of Sheila Quirke’s who “watched” you all Shred on FB last year. This January, I began too. I made it through about 12 workouts in two weeks, but like you, I’m trying to embrace balance in all of this. Thanks for such a great outlook. We Moms need to support each other with this kind of honesty- and lots and lots of laughter!

Sally February 9, 2011 at 3:43 pm

Thank you for such a nice comment, Randee. If you ever want to join our Shred Facebook group, let me know! It has helped me a lot to have that accountability and support.

Sally February 9, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Meghan, I know what you mean–there always seems to be something conspiring against us when it comes to exercise! As you know, it will get easier when your little one is a bit older. I couldn’t even think straight when my son was 4 months old, I was so sleep-deprived. Good luck with things and thanks for reading. :)

Neil Butterfield February 17, 2011 at 12:15 pm

As Tony Robbins advises that people should apply the principle of CANI to their lives. This is constant and never-ending improvement to their lives. Each day people should just do a little bit extra to improve their lives in whatever area needs improving. In time the results will be mind-boggling.

Tam January 20, 2012 at 11:00 pm

Just did my first class in 5 years today.. I too was an exercise daily gal, until I fell pregnant and my blood pressure decided to scare me… I felt like you just mirrored my experience, 2 babies later and finally back into it…. yay.

Sally January 20, 2012 at 11:03 pm

Tam–I’m so glad to hear that. It feels like you’re getting a piece of yourself back, doesn’t it? Enjoy! :)

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