If you’re a new mom, you are probably still getting used to being responsible for a small human. You may also be trying to figure out how to survive on little sleep and a lot of coffee. (we can sleep when they go to college, right?) So getting back into a fitness program may not be your top priority right now. I get it, I was there!
When I was pregnant, I was still teaching group exercise classes through my 7th month. After I decided that I wouldn’t be returning to work full-time after the baby, I had visions of jumping right into my post-pregnancy fitness journey as soon as I got the 6-week OK from my doctor. I thought “I’ll just teach a few classes, workout at home while the baby naps…things will be great!” Years as a personal trainer, health coach and group exercise instructor should have given me all the tools I needed to get myself back into shape, right?? It turns out, it was a struggle for me, too!
Why is it so hard to get started?
One reason we have a hard time getting started is that we may have unreasonable expectations for ourselves. Being a first-time mom, I don’t think I was quite ready for all that was labor, delivery, and recovery. I had an unplanned C-section which required even more recovery time that I just wasn’t ready for. Not only was I physically not ready for the same workouts I did pre-baby, I didn’t have the same motivation to workout.
Between figuring out how to keep a human alive, hardly sleeping, and finding time to eat, workouts just didn’t make it onto my list of priorities.
Creating lofty goals can also put a damper on your fitness journey. I don’t know about you, but looking at all of the “Fit Mom” Instagram pages that were meant to motivate me to get back into it may have had the opposite effect.
Seeing others bounce back a lot more quickly than me was a little discouraging. When I thought about what I would have to do to meet those big goals, it was too overwhelming. It was easier to stay in my comfortable yoga pants (and I wasn’t doing any yoga)!
I can also count several times that I went full-force into workouts only to retreat back after a few weeks because I couldn’t maintain that level for my current physical and mental states. I thought if I couldn’t be all in, then maybe I shouldn’t be in at all.
So how can you prepare yourself for a successful fitness journey?
1. Figure out if you are ready.
Now is the time to get really honest with yourself about your readiness to make changes to your current routine. Are you lacing up your kicks and heading out the door, or are you still at the store deciding which sports bra to buy?
If you have been thinking about going to the gym but you haven’t actually signed up yet, you’re probably still contemplating take the jump. Have you bought a few sets of dumbbells and downloaded some fitness videos? You are preparing yourself to get your workout on! The next step is to take action.
You are more likely to stick with it if you are truly ready to make the changes!
2. Where does your motivation come from?
It is VERY easy to compare yourself to other moms and put yourself down for not being able to “bounce back” as quickly. But it’s important to figure out exactly what will motivate YOU on your journey.
Are you trying to compete with your mom friends that seem to lose weight just by looking at a carrot? Do you have a pair of pre-baby jeans that you are determined to fit your butt back into? Do you want to feel better and healthier (who doesn’t)?
While it’s ok to have something externally motivating you- those size 8 jeans- you may end up quitting early if that reward doesn’t come soon enough. If there is something internally driving you to make yourself better, you’re more likely to stay invested. I have a great post about the different types of motivators, check it out here.
3. Identify your obstacles
You clean up the toys before bed so you don’t step on a Lego when you get up to pee in the middle of the night, right? That’s a pretty literal example, but you get the idea. If you identify the obstacles that may keep you from working out (or changing your eating habits, etc.) before you even start, you can make a plan for how you’ll deal with them.
When I worked in corporate fitness, time was THE biggest obstacle that kept members from sticking to a regular workout schedule. I get it. I thought I was busy before! Now with a one-year old tearing around and two older kids with loads of activities going on, it’s tough to figure out how to fit everything in.
My 25-year-old self would cringe at the idea of going to the gym at 5:30am! Now that’s the best chance for me to get a workout in before the rest of the day gets in the way.
So make a list of your obstacles, and then come up with a few different doable strategies for each that you can use to keep yourself in check and moving towards your goals.
4. Establish several short-term goals
Speaking of goals…you need them! And not just the generic “I need to lose weight” or ” I want to eat better” goals. You need to set yourself up for success! Come up with several short-term, attainable goals that will get you started and boost your confidence. Once you achieve these, you can set your next set of goals.
If your ultimate goal is to get back to your pre-baby weight, start by setting 3 short-term goals. Example:
- Workout for 20-30 minutes, three mornings a week for the next four weeks.
- Drink at least 48 oz. of water every day for the next four weeks.
- Add a serving of fruits and/or veggies to each meal for the next four weeks.
At the four-week mark, you can evaluate your progress. If you were successful with these, then you can set new goals that are a little more challenging.
If you want to read more about goal-setting, check out this article on SMART goals.
5. Evaluate your commitment
OK, so one last question to ask yourself: How likely am I to commit? Look at the goals you’ve set for yourself, the obstacles you’ve identified, and the motivations you have for making healthier habits. If you had to think about it on a scale of 1-10 right now, today…How likely are you to do what you say you’re going to do??
If you can say a 6 or higher, yay for you! If there is still something holding you back, you might need to go back and reevaluate your plan to make it really work for where you are right now. Only YOU know what’s going to work best for you!
6. Establish your support system
Here’s where you ask for help! There are a lot of ways that your people can help you be successful on your journey. The easiest way is to just talk about your plans. Once you make your plans known to your husband, your kids, your friends…you instantly become more accountable.
All that nagging your kids about cleaning their rooms and finishing dinner? Now they can turn the tables and make sure you’re getting your workouts in!!
Another way to amp up your support is to enlist workout buddies! You are more likely to get out the door for a workout if there is someone waiting for you. Not only can they help you stay accountable, but a workout with friends can be more enjoyable. The more fun you have, the more likely you are to stick with it!
7. Have fun!
This might be the most important! Sure, you’re going to have to put some work in to see success. Some days might be harder than others. You’re gonna have to sweat, girl!! But let’s be honest, your workout has to be somewhat enjoyable for you to want to come back for more.
As for me, I’m slowly but surely getting back into my groove. One of my goals is to get to the gym at least three mornings a week. I also try to get out for walks or quick at-home workouts throughout the week so that I’m moving most days of the week.
Once school starts and we get the new activity schedule squared away, I’ll revisit my goal. Maybe I can increase to 4-5 days in the gym! Another simple short-term goal I have is to up my water intake. I want to make sure I’m getting at least 64 oz. of water a day. This one is a little challenging because I tend to get distracted (ya know, making sure my toddler isn’t eating dog food or something…) but it’s a work in progress!
So tell me, what are your biggest barriers to starting a fitness program (or getting back into one)? What tips have helped you succeed in reaching your goals?