The Struggle of Exercising for an Ex-Athlete after Giving Birth
A lot of women, athletes included, find it a struggle to have the will and the energy to get back into exercising after giving birth. I know for me, it was one of the hardest things to do—decide to take the time away for myself after I had my baby girl. When you become a mother, your perception of the world changes, your priorities change, and your entire daily schedule and life can get flipped on its head. Self-care gets pushed to the side because caring for your baby becomes priority number one.
A Healthy Baby Wants a Healthy Mommy
However, you also need to care for yourself.
Finding the motivation can be difficult for many reasons, but for me personally, I struggled a lot with guilt. I wasn’t used to the new body I had acquired nor did I believe that I could get back to the shape I was previously in—especially with a new life to devote my time and attention to.
Let me give you a little insight into my background and the woman I was before I decided to start having kids. I came from a family of four kids, all of whom played sports.
My parents both participated in sports as well—my mom played basketball and volleyball while my dad ran track and played football. Growing up, we were able to try any and every sport we wanted to, and boy did we. It’s safe to say that we were a very athletic family.
I ended up sticking with volleyball and soccer and eventually made a career out of being a professional soccer player over in Europe. I also got a Bachelor’s degree while playing collegiate soccer.
Needless to say, I’ve been in great shape my whole life—so for me, losing the body I had before placed a very heavy weight—both mentally and physically—on me. It also impacted me very negatively on a daily basis.
Overcoming Emotional Obstacles Can Be Harder Than the Physical Ones
Let’s face it, we all have negative thoughts about ourselves after giving birth so be assured you are not alone. A lot of moms (me included) feel very unattractive and uncomfortable in our new bodies or even have feelings of being invisible.
Not only do we have to deal with our hormones taking a nosedive and playing with our emotions but we are also trying to recover physically. All the while, there is this innocent little life counting on us for survival, and that alone can make us have feelings of guilt from taking the time away from them and directing it towards ourselves.
We go through so many emotions as a mom, the ups, the downs, the good and the bad but the great news is there are ways we can address these feelings and try to turn them into positive action in order to get back into shape.
First, Tackle Your Fears—Then We Can Take on the Gym
Overcoming our feelings and fears about getting back into shape can be daunting and sometimes challenging but here are some ideas on how you can get there:
We all want to have the ability to snap our fingers and magically transform back into our pre-pregnancy bodies but that will never happen. It’s important to remember we all have different body types that will recover at different rates. However, it is essential for everyone to start slow and build your way up to doing more. Starting with a too high intensity of exercises or working out for a long period of time right from the beginning could be discouraging if it is too tough and you find you can’t do the things you want to do. Start slow and be patient with yourself.
Build your confidence before you start a new workout routine by doing some research. Everyone’s schedules are different so look at all your options to find out what will work best for you and your schedule. There are so many different ways to exercise these days and later in this series I will provide you with some ideas.
Don’t make Comparisons
We all are guilty of this—comparing ourselves to other people or to the body we had once upon a time. This can be such a hindrance when it comes to finding the confidence and motivation to get back into shape. Realize and accept that, that pre-pregnancy body may never be seen again but what matters most is that you are bringing yourself to be a healthy happier you.
Have a Support System
Whether it’s your spouse, a close family member or friend or an online support group, find a way to surround yourself with people who understand and want to help you achieve your goals. There are so many open platforms out there for moms that can help make your journey a positive one.
Plan Time for Yourself
We all need to release those feelings of guilt for taking a little time away from our kids to focus on ourselves. It took me some time to realize that I needed that little mental break to just forget about all my responsibilities and all the things everyone else needed from me. When I exercise, even if it’s only for 10 or 15 minutes, I feel so much better about myself and happier that it makes me a better mother and wife.
Work on You
Change. It’s one of the most dreaded words in the dictionary of life and it’s one of the hardest things anyone can try to do. That’s why I prefer to say that one of the best things I could do for myself and my family was to work on me. I decided that I wanted to be a lead-by-example kind of parent, especially for my little girl, so I set forth on working on myself and making a slightly better me.
I thought about what I wanted to make a priority and set doable goals for myself.
Have a positive body image
Since I had a little girl it became very important to make sure she would always love her own body and treat it with respect. No more negative thoughts and rants to my husband about how bad I’m looking lately. They have all gone out the window and it is only positive, affirming comments about ourselves in our house.
Provide a healthier lifestyle for your family
I encourage family walks, playing sports together outside or just finding fun ways to get your kids active. It’s also essential to provide healthy-eating options which will then turn into habits for our kids. This doesn’t mean saying no to cookies, cakes, or ice cream—no way! That should be illegal—but just keep it in moderation.
Taking it one day at a time
Baby steps, baby steps, baby steps. We all want to be perfect parents and we all fail miserably from time to time. Take things day by day and work on being the best possible you for that day. I find it helpful to write positive affirmations on my mirror and even sometimes my husband will leave little notes reminding me that I’m doing a great job. I can’t tell you how much it helps me to find those little words of encouragement throughout my house every now and then—especially on the tough days.
We are not perfect and we all have those tough days and times. But new moms have to stick together. Although hundreds may claim it, there is no “mommy expert”. Since we are all in this together, we can help encourage one another in the little ways and be more positive with ourselves. The more positive version of me I can be, the more my family—especially baby—benefits from it