This post is for every mum who wants to get fitter, lose weight, feel better about themselves, and have some time to themselves.
This morning, I got up with the kids at 7:30am, and by 8:15am I was in the gym, on the treadmill. I did 5km, my weights routine, 10 press-ups and stretched. I introduce you to a newer version of me, one that likes to go to the gym now.
Before I start, I imagine a good number of you will have already groaned, or had some kind of thought about this being a chance for me to show off about my new hobby. It is absolutely not. Believe me, I’m not one of those. I used to be you, in fact I still am you. I used to groan if I saw someone post about the gym, scroll past and carry on devouring my chocolate bar. In reality, I was jealous. Jealous that someone could find the time, the energy, the money and the willpower to get themselves fitter and healthier. This post is just a little insight to the start of my journey (uugghh I sound so clichéd), but if it helps to inspire any other mums, or anyone at all, to start on their own fitness journey, then happy days.
I’ll begin by saying I’m nowhere near where I want to be fitness or weight wise, and judging by some of the conversations I hear from very slim, fit looking people, we never will be. However, I’m on the road to it, I’m doing it every week, and I’m finally seeing some progress, which makes it all worthwhile.
Having children did things to my body that I’ve had to face and come to terms with over the last 4 years. Stretchmarks, aching pelvis, fat in places that I never had fat before, more grey hair, mood swings, mummy rage, irritability, tiredness…just a few in a long list of ailments you suddenly encounter. After Malachy I lost feeling in half of my right leg and toes for a few months post birth, and I could barely walk to begin with, but as with anything, time heals.
That’s point number 1: Allow yourself time. Having a baby is traumatic for your body so you need to let it rest and recover. I’ve heard that it takes the length of the pregnancy, post birth, for your body to get back to what is was before, so allow your body that time. So hitting the gym at 6 weeks post natal isn’t always the best way to get rid of that baby belly. Take small sensible steps, and eat well. After Lylah, I didn’t worry about weight. A lot came off straight away, and I walked everywhere during the summer of my maternity leave, which I think made the world of difference. After Malachy however, I was more obsessed with it. I wanted to lose weight quickly, so after the 6 week mark, I started slimming world (I was breast feeding so had to do this carefully so as not to affect my milk supply), and lost 2 stone pretty quickly. I had stints at the gym between the children, but have never really stuck at it. I went to the gym and saw a trainer at the same time as starting slimming world, and after 10 minutes on the treadmill, I could barely walk my pelvis was hurting so much. Not advised! Take it really easy, and re-introduce exercise into your diet gradually, doing stuff that works with the children. Go for walks, run round the park, get lots of fresh air and dance around the kitchen. Eat well and drink lots of water and the weight should fall off. It won’t happen overnight, but you can exercise more later. Enjoy the baby cuddles and rest your aching body.
In October last year, I realised that I really needed to get fitter and lose weight. The weight had crept back on (yep, that 2 stone I lost at slimming world) and I was feeling really rubbish about myself. My mood swings and temper were starting to get worse as well, and I blame a lot of that on tiredness and a bad diet.
I started back to the gym with a good friend and fellow mummy. Her baby was only about 4 months old at the time, so she had to take it really easy. When discussing how often we should go the the gym, we decided to commit to just 1 night a week, at a set time.
This leads me to point number 2: don’t over commit. You’re a mum, you may or may not be working as well, you’re doing school runs, ballet classes, bath times, bed times, plus you’d quite like to actually see your family occasionally – when are you going to fit in gym sessions? The chances are that if you start by committing to 4 sessions a week, you’ll fail. But luckily, exercise is addictive, and it can become a habit fairly quickly. It was manageable for us to do 1 session week in October. Last week I did 4 sessions and a ballet class, and I would’ve done more if time allowed. The key to fitting it all in is organisation. There is time in your day (probably when you’re sat watching TV when the kids are in bed), and if you organise work, childcare etc around your gym slots, and manage to do 1 or 2 a week, then you’re winning. And believe me, when you want to do more, you’ll make time. Mu husband was off work today, and normally I’d enjoy the lie in and late breakfast, but instead I was on the way to the gym at 8am.
3: Find a workout buddy – things are so much more fun with friends, and this is especially true with exercise. Our gym sessions are not only a good chance to exercise without the interruption of dirty nappies or a 4-year old wanting her princess dress put on again, but a lovely time for us to catch up, have a chat and clear our minds from the everyday clutter. Saying that, we quite often talk about the children, but the point is, its our time to talk about whatever we wish.
The other thing I’ve found with keeping up the exercise is to find a little variety. We always try to do a different exercise, or take advice from others at the gym, to keep our workouts varied. I’ve also just done 2 sessions of adult ballet, which is amazing. I came away and my calf muscles were shaking, and it was a completely different workout to my gym sessions. So, point number 4: find something that works for you, exercise that you enjoy, and mix it up. Then you won’t get bored, and your body will feel the benefits of everything you’re trying.
I’ve liked talking to new people about exercise, mainly in the gym, and have taken tips and advice from a few different people about things I’m doing right/wrong. The main thing I’ve taken away from this is to not worry about feeling stupid or doing something wrong – the important thing is you’re moving your body, and you can work on technique and more advanced exercises as you progress. These people (Sarah, Mel, random gym man 1 and crazy fit gym man 2) have also made me realise its important to set yourself goals and targets. Point 4: try and improve. Every session, try and do something more than you did last time. This relates back to my point about variety, you’re trying something new, pushing your body that bit more, and improving your fitness as a result. My goals for this year are to run 5k or 10k race, and to learn a ballet routine.
5: Motivation and Inspiration. It is easy to feel inspired by someone or something, less so to get motivated by that same thing. I’ve found that I get inspiration from lots of different places, my super fit Facebook mummy and non-mummy friends, my gym obsessed buddies, the Khloe Kardashian ‘Strong’ book, my sister doing a boot camp for a month, my little girl working hard in two dance classes every week. There is so much to be inspired from, but you’ve got to turn it into motivation. If you are seriously ready to get fitter and healthier, then the only person that can do that is YOU. You can take help from others, be inspired by others, even say you’re doing it for others (I am doing this not only for me, but for my family), but your key motivation has to be that little voice inside you’re head egging you on, as opposed to keeping you down.
6 months into this new lifestyle, the one thing I’ve learned which is the thing I believe stops most people in their tracks early on, is to manage your expectations. Point number 6: it won’t happen overnight. Work hard, stay motivated, allow time to heal and then grow, enjoy it, get inspired and listen to the voice shouting “YOU CAN DO IT” and you’ll get there. I’m not there yet, but I’m on my way. We all have little slip ups, a week can pass with no gym trips, but don’t let that stop you going for ever, just get back on the bike. I feel stronger, I can do things I couldn’t before, my moods have improved drastically and those endorphins feel good. The best thing is I haven’t had to diet to lose weight. I eat far more sensibly now because I don’t want to undo the hard work I do at the gym, but I allow myself treats and certainly don’t feel guilty about them anymore.
At soft play last week, I held my 2 1/2 stone son in my arms whilst bounding up a rope bridge without holding on. I could feel my core working and my legs aching, but I could do it, and I climbed that soft play energetically 3 times, so my kids could go down the slides over and over again. I can dance round the kitchen with them for 1/2 hour solid, and feel good rather than feel exhausted. And it’s only going to get better.
Get up off the sofa, get outside, to the gym, to a class or on your bike. Do it for your future, do it for your family, but most of all, do it for you.