We have all heard it before – a happy and healthy mom equals a happy and healthy baby. And I am sure that we
all couldn’t agree more with this statement. In my experience, I have found the number one complaint of most moms, particularly new moms, is that there is absolutely no time to care for themselves? As mothers we have traded in our free time where we could read a book, enjoy a glass of wine, or get in our morning workout for play time, bath time, cuddle time and meal time. And although we willingly and gladly make this trade, at the end of the day most of us are left
wondering – “Was I able to do anything healthy for myself today?”
As moms we know we need to take time for ourselves, and we try. The importance of establishing a regular exercise routine for optimal physical, mental and emotional health is not new information. We know that if we take the time to go for a walk or get to that Pilates class, we will feel healthier and more energized so that we can better devote our hearts and minds to the adventures and demands of motherhood. Yet, for many moms the efforts to incorporate consistent exercise into their daily lives can fall short, leaving feelings of frustration, fatigue and confusion. So, where can we bridge the gap between knowing what we should do for ourselves and actually figuring out a realistic way to do it?
BE INSPIRED, GET MOTIVATED
I am here to say that there is no magic answer; there are only suggestions, inspiration, motivation and most
importantly, your willingness to try different options until you discover what works for you. We are all
individually inspired and motivated in different ways to stay healthy. There are numerous reasons to inspire
and motivate us to exercise, but there are several which particularly relate to mothers.
- Establishing and maintaining good posture. Good posture is particularly important since caring for and carrying children presents significant challenges to lower and upper back, hip, pelvis, and neck health. Motherhood presents the body with new aches and pains, some of which are residual from pregnancy. Exercise helps create muscular balance and leads to good alignment, which can greatly reduce aches and pain.
- Mental clarity. When we exercise, whether it is a steady walk, a jog, yoga, Pilates, or strength training, we must breath. When we breath during exercise we not only send the appropriate amount of oxygen to the muscles, we also send plenty of oxygen to the brain, which helps with cognition.
- Having some alone time. When we set some time aside for ourselves, we feel renewed, reenergized, and accomplished. These feelings accompany confidence – and confidence is integral to motherhood.
- Bonding time. It is very practical and fun to incorporate babies, toddlers, and even adolescents into exercise time. Exercise with children can create a unique bonding experience.
- Be the best example. As mothers everything we say and do has a profound effect on the path that our children will walk in life. When we show our children that we value our bodies and our health through creating a consistent exercise routine, we are establishing in them the value of healthy habits and a good quality of life. This is perhaps the perfect inspiration and motivation to get moving.
Motherhood can make a problem solver out of any woman. When we become mothers we perfect the art of multitasking,
we use creativity to split our time between the people and things that take top priority in our lives and need our attention. Use the creativity, patience and understanding you use in motherhood to discover new ways to give to yourself by establishing a steady exercise routine. We do not magically “find” time to exercise, rather we must create the time and some days we must painstakingly carve out the time. Just remember why you are inspired to exercise and hold on to your motivation, for when you get your body moving you may just start feeling like supermom. The following are some suggestions for busy moms who feel that they have no time to get moving. These suggestions are meant to spark your own creativity in order to establish a solution to the difficulty that all moms have creating the ability and time to exercise. Find your inspiration, create your motivation and get moving. Exercise should not be viewed just as another task to add to the list, yet it should be viewed as a gift we mothers give to ourselves in the midst of our day caring for others.
- Exercise in short bouts. Research has shown that exercising in short, multiple 10 minute bouts through the day can be just as effective (or in some studies, even better) as exercising for 30 consecutive minutes on metabolism and overall fitness. This could be a great solution for the busy mom. If you find it impossible on some days to get 30 – 60 minutes of exercise, engaging in short bouts of exercise could be the answer for you.
- Be creative, explore your options. Sometimes when we think about exercise, we feel that we have to somehow get ourselves to the gym, the running trails, or the yoga/Pilates studio. And if we can’t, we literally just throw in the towel and give up on the idea of exercising for that day. This is where you need to use your creativity. Can’t go for that run this afternoon? Have a back up plan – try jump-roping or jumping jacks or do some lunges and squats. Can’t get to the yoga/Pilates studio? Roll out your mat and do your five favorite exercises, or research DVDs that are level and time appropriate for you and have them handy. Can’t get to the gym? Have hands weights, thera-bands, and stability balls out in a room that you have set aside as “Mom’s exercise area”.
- Use nap time or play time as “your time”. We have all been there – the baby is finally down for his afternoon nap or your toddler is content and happy playing with his toys, and now you finally have a chance to get to the emails, the bills, the laundry, the house, the phone calls. Stop. Remember that you have just spent much time caring for your child and it is now time for you to care for yourself. If you know that your child sleeps for two hours or that your toddler can keep herself entertained for a half hour, begin to use some of that time as your exercise time – there will still be time to get every else done.
- Mommy and Me. Mommy and Me exercises are a fantastic way to get in some much needed exercise all while entertaining and bonding with your child. Try simple exercises such as lying your baby down on his back and doing push ups over him. Try and narrate what you are doing while you perform the exercises, “Mommy is doing going to do 5 push ups now, 1, 2, 3….” Jogger strollers can make walks and jogs comfortable for mom and baby. Talk to your baby while she is in the stroller, talk about the different sounds, the trees or the cars passing by. Take your toddler for a short walk, and as you walk occasionally stop at a bench or wall to perform push ups and triceps dips, or every few minutes perform a set of lunges. You can explain to your curious toddler what you are doing and they may even try a few exercises with you.
- Work with your partner or caregiver. Talk with your partner or caregiver about your need to create a consistent exercise routine. Establish a schedule or deal. Perhaps you and your partner can take turns exercising while the other watches the little one. Or perhaps you could arrange to have your caregiver stay a bit longer so that you get to a Pilates class or go for a nice brisk walk.
- Work in the time as a working mom. Working mothers may feel that they need to rush home after work because they miss their children, and/or they may feel guilty for having to be gone during the day. For working mothers, they can view their lunch hour as “their hour”. Take a walk or attend a lunch-time yoga class. Use that precious hour to not only nourish yourself with food, but also with movement and exercise.
These suggestions are meant to spark your own creativity in order to establish a solution to the difficulty that all
moms have creating the ability and time to exercise. Find your inspiration, create your motivation and get moving.
Exercise should not be viewed just as another task to add to the list, yet it should be viewed as a gift we mothers give
to ourselves in the midst of our day caring for others.
Article by: Leah Stewart