I was sitting in my doctor’s office a few weeks ago. My husband and I were there for our annual physicals.
After the nurse checked my vitals, she took a look at me and asked, “Are you working out later?” I could see clearly why she assumed that. I was wearing my typical “mom” uniform – you know the one. I had on my black leggings, oversized and loose workout top and tennis shoes. By the looks of it, I was ready to hit the gym!
The only problem? I had big plans to leave the doctor, head to Bojangle’s and get a Cajun filet biscuit combo, fries and a sweet tea. By then, it would be time to pick up my daughter from preschool and we had planned to meet some other mamas at the museum later on.
So, nope. I had no plans to exercise. Truth be told, I wear leggings now because jeans squeeze my postpartum belly in all the wrong places. That tunic I’m sporting? It covers a multitude of sins, not the least of which are my stretch marks.
My tennis shoes were on because walking around a crowded children’s museum is not only sanity-crushing, but also really hard on my feet. When you’re preparing to spend three hours watching your child stick pieces of sheer fabric in that wind machine contraption, you’ve got to sport the padded insoles.
Of course, I didn’t tell my physician this. I nodded in response to her question and only felt minimally guilty slurping down my tea 30 minutes later.
Then, later that night, I thought about it some more. For a while, I honestly couldn’t remember the last time I’d worked out. Sure, we hold dance parties every afternoon in the living room and truth be told, I’m winded after every single one of those, but really broke a sweat for the sheer purpose of benefiting my body? It had been a hot minute.
I thought about my daughter sleeping upstairs, and the kind of role model I wanted to be for her. I thought about my precious husband, who loves me just the same with a squishy gut and thighs as he did in my high school cheerleading uniform. My people get me, and they adore me no matter what, and I get enormous peace from that.
Still…I couldn’t shake the idea that maybe it was time for a shake-up.
I’d love to introduce a plot twist right here and tell you I’m now a Cross-Fit champion, or training to be on American Ninja Warrior next season. While that might not be true, I did introduce a few key changes into my routine and I believe that for the first time, I’m on track to reclaim a bit of the fitness and focus of my youth.
I didn’t overhaul my life to get here, and I’ve still got leaps of progress to make, but here are some easy-to-implement steps that make it a little easier for me to pick healthy choices.
1. Eating a solid breakfast. I used to skip breakfast almost every day. It’s a nasty habit I picked up when working in the corporate world. I’d wake up just in time to put my hair in curlers, get dressed, and run out the door. I’d make to work at 8:00 on the dot and not a second before, and my routine depended on me not stopping to prepare a meal in the morning.
Yet, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that maybe my own mama isn’t so crazy after all. Every morning, she prepares a huge feast for her and my dad to split. Forget bacon, eggs, and pancakes. She’s setting out yogurt, frozen blueberries, walnuts, and oatmeal. They take their time and savor everything and it’s just about the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.
I might not go to that extent, but I’m waking up a little earlier these days to make some quick avocado toast, yogurt, and coffee before the kids get up. An added bonus? Those first few minutes of waking up can be really rough, but you get a glorious little snippet of time all to yourself. Savor those moments when you can snag them, mamas!
2. Finding a workout that fits. I’ve always loved a workout class. I love the social aspect of it, and the camaraderie. I love sweating alongside others and everyone walking out together. So, I joined our local mega gym with high hopes. I could go to yoga on Saturday mornings, and spin class on Mondays! I could mix in a little interval training in-between and then catch the Pilates morning class on Thursdays!
I tried that for a week and barely saw my family. For me personally, I’m far more inclined to work out if I can do it at home. So I read up on home gym equipment. I learned about treadmill benefits and small-scale weight machines. Ultimately, I settled on a small elliptical that sits in our sunroom. I can now catch up on This is Us while getting a little movement in, and it’s truly the best of both worlds.
3. Talking about it. As soon as I made the decision to reclaim my health, I started talking about it to all of my family and close friends. I wasn’t trying to boast or persuade them to join me, but I did want them to hold me accountable. If everyone knew I was working toward a goal, I didn’t want to make progress in the opposite direction. Of course, I was strategic and only told people who’d love me no matter what, but I still wanted their support.
Now? Every time I show up in a blouse that shows my arms off or a fitted pair of leggings, my parents are quick to compliment me. My sister asks me how my workouts are going and my husband has even started going on evening runs because I won’t stop talking about how much better I feel.
4. Stepping away from the mom uniform. Let’s face it. Leggings rock! They’re stretchy in all the right places. They’re undeniably comfortable. They’re also the perfect pants to show off those long, flowy tops we all love! Yet for me, leggings were sticking me in a rut. I didn’t have to worry too much about getting dressed in the morning because I knew I could just grab a pair of leggings from the bottom drawer.
My wardrobe became a rote move I just performed because I had to. To emphasize my workouts, I made it a point to invest in a few great pairs of actual pants that I love. Maybe for you, it’s a really beautiful dress. Either way, I had to find a way to push past the leggings mentality. Am I still rocking them at preschool drop-off? You bet! But they’re not my only option anymore, and that’s strangely empowering.
5. Indulging appropriately. The first week I started really caring about fitness again, I went to the grocery store and bought one of those really big bags of raw veggies. I ate the entire bag on the way home and felt amazing for about 20 minutes. Then, I felt kind of queasy for the next 120.
To stay on track, I pace myself and give myself cheat nights when I’m stressed, or overwhelmed or just really want a slice of deep dish from our local Italian joint. That elliptical sitting one room over is a great reminder that I’ve worked hard to get where I’m at and a few treats here and there won’t throw me off track. I have to have the balance or I’ll go insane and get truly hangry, and nobody wants to be around that.
At the end of the day, it’s all about finding what works for you. While I don’t claim to have all of the answers, I’ve enjoyed learning more about myself – and my circle – through this process. The good news is whether I’m fitting into those goal pants or not, I’m still a mom, a wife, a daughter, and a friend. That’s all the motivation I need to push forward.