I’ve been wanting to write this post for four-plus months now. But it’s taken me that long to get my thoughts together. Some of that is because I’m sleep deprived and suffering from serious mommy brain. But most of it is because I really wanted to get to the root of why my workouts — and how I feel about them — have changed so much. Turns out, those roots are deep, yo.
After writing this post a little more than a month after having Gwen, I began to gently (and with a lot of self love) ease back into my usual routine of healthy eating and working out. Once Gwen was about four months old with more of a predictable napping and nursing timeline and my body was truly ready for more intense workouts, I started hitting the gym more regularly and with a renewed focus.
Now that Gwen is six-and-a-half-months old, what started as a rocky post-baby body image has exploded into something I deeply and truly love — and I could not care less about what I look like or the number on the scale. When it comes to my workouts, my mindset has completely changed since having a baby. And it’s changed for the better.
Like I said, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out why the change was so deep, so meaningful. Before I had a baby I loved working out. I loved pushing myself and seeing what I could do. I loved the runner’s high, and the energy it gave me. I never worked out just to burn calories or achieve a certain aesthetic. But having Gwen took those feelings and intensified them in a soul-fulfilling way that has been really hard to articulate. And after much thought, meditation and reflection, I think I’ve finally figured out most of those reasons why …
7 Reasons Why My Workouts Are Better Now That I’m a Mom
1. Me time. I know, I know. “Me time” is the most obvious reason for working out as a mom. But it’s so true! When I work out, that workout is only about ME. And, really, it’s the only time of day that anything is 100 percent about me. Which feels damn good. And which leads me to …
2. Control. Giving up all control is a natural byproduct of having a baby. And it can make you a more enlightened person by helping you to live in the moment, let go of that massive to-do list and being easier on yourself (like, um, you CANNOT be the perfect mom, wife, employee, etc. at all times. You might excel at one of those things for a few hours or maybe even a whole day, but it’s a balance of all the priorities at all times). But doing a workout? Well, that you can control. As long as the baby is napping or being looked after (which, OMG, I have the best gym ever because there’s always someone there to help me out with Gwen when I bring her — Sheryl, Tina, Nicole, Erika … I’m talking to you!), you can give a workout your absolute best, your hyper focus and everything you got. And, for me, that feels AWESOME.
3. My body is mine again. When I was pregnant, I loved working out, but I was hesitant to really work out too hard or too intensly. And, there towards the end (42 weeks!), I was pretty much only moving to help get that baby out. So after all those pregnant months, it’s super motivating to not have to hold back. (And, looking back on it, even before I got pregnant I wasn’t really going my hardest at the gym because I was afraid it could have been playing a role in my fertility issues.)
4. Progress is fun! The first few weeks back at the gym after baby felt darn hard. But, my fitness and muscle memory came back pretty quickly and seeing that progress and improvement in my abilities was kind of intoxicating.
5. I’m an example. On the days that Gwen is at the gym with me, there is nothing better than looking over at her and seeing her watch me push myself. I don’t just want to tell her that she can do whatever she puts her mind to; I want to show her. The gym is one of the places I can do that.
6. It helps me manage my energy. Before having a baby, I might have stayed up late and still made it to the gym for that 5:30 a.m. class. Or, I might have had an extra glass of wine at night. But now I know how precious my energy is and I’m acutely aware with how it’s affected by things both inside and outside of my control. A few workouts a week actually give me energy, but having a baby has made me more intuitive and aware about making sure I take steps to save that energy for the important things (read: going to bed earlier with baby so that I have the energy to do that workout or even opting for a short walk or run because it leaves me with more time to play/nurse baby through a growth spurt/make sure she gets a good nap, etc.).
7. Compared to childbirth, workouts are cake. Seriously. Any time I’m in the middle of a hard workout and I start complaining to myself or wanting to stop, I think about this. Perspective is everything.
A Few More (Deep) Thoughts on Workouts & Motherhood
I know so many women have trouble getting back into a workout routine after they have a baby that, honestly, it took me some time to have the courage to write all of this publicly because I didn’t want to be the a-hole who was all like: “Hey, working out is so easy and awesome after a baby!” Because it is not easy and always awesome. You’re tired and it’s hard and you have a million other things you could/should/need to be doing. But I’m hoping that by sharing my reasons why my workouts have changed for the better that maybe it’ll spark something deeper in you guys, too. (Because, I’m sorry but “fitting in my pre-pregnancy jeans” doesn’t exactly beat out a nap most days of the week.)
Really, our bodies are AMAZING. And being a mother is an incredibly challenging experience at any and all stages. But in it, I think it’s important that we don’t become solely that role. That we realize that we are more than “mom.” But at the same time find the joy and gratitude in the privilege that it is to be a parent and the ability to both grow a human and swing a kettlebell (or Zumba or run or walk or whatever workout you dig).
Workouts, for me, have been a medium to experience both that awe and that independence. They’ve provided a much deeper and more fulfilling motivation to be my best — rather than just getting my “pre-baby body back.” Turns out, my post-baby body is THE BEST THING EVER.
Have workouts changed for you since having a baby? Given you a deeper appreciation for your body? I’ve been really surprised at how much emotion and thought this has brought up for me! —Jenn