A few months ago my sister in law asked me to come speak at a health and wellness group she runs. She gave me two topic choices that I could discuss: Living a Healthy Lifestyle with Anxiety and Depression, or Finding Time to Exercise and Stay Fit When You’re a Mom of Young Children. Although I would be committed to sharing one of the most raw parts of my personality, I chose the former. I didn’t know why back when I chose it. I didn’t know why when I went to speak. But today, I remembered why.
After several weeks of the Virus That Would Not Die, this week I finally felt good enough to set some fitness goals for myself. An avid exerciser (not all Crossfit crazy, but committed nonetheless), I was missing my workout routines and gym time. I got out my special colored pens and wrote down my goals for the week in my planner. And apparently, that is where they shall stay.
You see, people don’t quite understand why it takes moms years to lose the baby weight. They can’t figure out how a stay at home mom can’t find time to work out. I mean, she’s not at work, right? Get on that treadmill, lady! Exercise gurus shout out, “There are NO excuses!” but I have to politely disagree. There are tons of excuses. Here are a few I’ve heard:
- I couldn’t finish my ab workout because my two year old daughter refused to get off of my stomach while I was attempting crunches.
- I had to return from my run (with children in jogging stroller) because someone had a blowout diaper. After cleaning THAT up, I didn’t have the energy to go back out.
- My toddler was awake thirteen times in the night, which meant I was awake thirteen times in the night. If I’m running on barely enough sleep to make it through the day, you can bet I’m not going to tire myself out more by getting a workout in.
- I worked a ten hour day and then spent the remaining hours preparing a meal for my family and snuggling my children.
- I can’t use my weights with my children in the room because they think they are the Hulk himself and try to participate as well. This can get dangerous.
There are some days, however, that you do figure it out and get it done. Or at least, you make a valiant attempt to do so. My goal today was to do 40 minutes on the treadmill. This would get me back in the swing of things after so many days off of exercise. Here’s a rundown of how I imagine it would have been sans children, and also my day in actuality:
Get your sneakers on.
Get your sneakers on. Put children’s sneakers on. Put them on again because one of the kids took them off. Find another pair of sneakers for the second child because these ones are “too wet”.
Go downstairs to treadmill.
Pack enough snacks to survive a zombie apocalypse. Bring crayons and paper. Throw in some playdough. Don’t forget the sippy cups. Change a diaper.
Put headphones on, enjoy workout.
Put headphones on. Take headphones off fifteen times to remind kids not to A) go back upstairs without supervision; B) spill snacks on the floor, or to C) color your sister’s hair with the markers that somehow got mixed in with the crayons.
Enjoy workout peacefully. Feel great sense of accomplishment once done.
Jump off treadmill in a fury because one child decided to climb up and then fall down basement stairs. Check for injuries. Figure the adrenaline from a potential accident is enough of a workout for your body today.
I somehow managed to get all my steps in today, according to my Fitbit, but I can tell you for sure that most of them were because I was tending to the needs of my littles, not because I was solely focused on a workout regimen.
The truth of the matter is that if you’re a parent with young kids, the challenges of staying fit are going to increase exponentially. This may be why I didn’t want to speak about this topic in my sister in law’s group. I can manage a mental illness, and even help others through it; but throw in two pint-sized time bombs, and I’m a basket case. I’d love to have a lot of tips for you, and give you ways to get it all done, but you know as well as I do that children are unpredictable. We do the very best we can, but their needs come before ours.
I’ve seen moms dozens of times who come into the gym to work out. They drop their kids off at child watch, and get no more than 20 minutes into their routine before little Suzie Mae has a diaper explosion, or Jeffrey James has a meltdown and needs his mom. Every single time those parents come running, away from their health and wellness, and right into the arms of their babies. You know why? Because that’s what we do. And that’s ok. Health is balance. It will all come together in the end.
If you’re like me and you are struggling to find the time to fit in your own exercise routine, take a step back. Look at all you do. Use what you’ve got. And remember, you are doing an amazing job.
Here are some pictures of my favorite workout moms. Got any to share? Post them in the comments. We want to see you managing it all!