This poster hangs in the personal training gym where I work out and the moment I saw it, I knew I was in the right place.
Before we had kids, Kevin and I would often do boot camp classes five days a week— we were in the best shape of our lives! I was also working out with a personal trainer before becoming pregnant with Harper.
The moment I saw a positive pregnancy test, my anxiety got the best of me and I was too scared to work out in my first trimester. On top of that, I ended up being extremely nauseous for the first 12 weeks of my pregnancy so the thought of doing any physical activity was, at the time, unimaginable (kudos to you pregnant mamas who continue to workout during pregnancy— y’all are rock stars!)
Other than a brief few weeks of boot camp prior to our trip to the Bahamas when Harper was 18 months old, I had not worked out in four years. I was even sicker when I was pregnant with Lincoln and I never had the desire to work out when I was postpartum/nursing/pumping. The thought of adding that to my already crazy schedule of exclusively pumping five times a day, working full-time, spending time with my family and running my blog felt completely overwhelming. I’ve also mentioned before that I lose a ton of weight when I pump — that’s just how my body works, even when I’m eating constantly — and I didn’t want to demand more of my body/risk my milk supply by throwing in workouts (and to be honest, I did not have the hours in my day to workout anyway). I don’t want to make excuses, but I truly believe in listening to your body and doing what feels right — and for me, exercising never felt right when I already had so much on my plate during each baby’s first year of life.
So, what motivated me to want to start exercising again? My desire to be strong, toned and healthy was of course a great motivating factor. But even more so was my mental health. This is a separate post for another day and I have not shared this on my blog yet because I didn’t feel ready, but I have been in therapy for a few months now for PPA (postpartum anxiety) and GAD (generalized anxiety disorder). I will share more details at some point, but I’m doing a type of therapy called CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and I’m confident that it will help me resolve an issue I have been struggling with to varying degrees since I was a child — and that became much worse after Lincoln was born. It’s still hard for me to talk about all of my feelings on this topic because the online world isn’t always a compassionate place, but I know that many of my readers will relate to my story when I’m ready to open up. I’m proud to have taken the step towards a more effective solution for dealing with chronic anxiety. As difficult as it was to admit that I needed help and wasn’t myself, it was also the most liberating feeling to have access to the help I needed and I’m so thankful for that.
When I was in a really stressful job over five years ago, the ONLY thing that saved me during that time was exercise. During one of my first sessions, my therapist told me that 30 minutes of daily vigorous exercise can have the same effect as taking an anti-anxiety drug. When she said this, it resonated with me because at a time in my life when I most needed the release and endorphins that exercise provides, I had the time and energy to do it — and it helped me tremendously.
For weeks I told my therapist I was going to start exercising again because I didn’t want to take medication (this is a personal decision — I support all women in their choices — medication saves lives and helps people live better lives!)
It took me some time to finally get started and with the help of a supportive and encouraging group of ladies (y’all know who you are) and some incredibly motivating friends, I decided to start seeing my trainer again. I realized that investing in myself would make me a better mother, wife and friend. I knew that regular exercise would naturally lower my anxiety (and it has!), help me sleep better, feel more energized, and much more.
It’s only been a few weeks but even in this short amount of time, I can already feel differences. Of course my muscles are sore — that’s a given. But I feel renewed, refreshed and proud. Starting my mornings with a workout makes me feel prepared to start the day and like I’m doing something great for myself that will trickle down into every aspect of my life. Sounds dramatic, right? Exercise is now very much a part of my therapy.
What was holding me back for a long time with starting to work out again was time — I knew my only option was to work out in the morning, before the kids were awake. I already miss time with them when I’m at work, so I was not willing to miss time with them before and after work in order to exercise.
That meant working on changing my poor sleep habits (something I continue to work on). When I was pumping, I was waking up at 5:30 in the morning to pump for half an hour and I did the same from 10:30-11 p.m. each night. As you might imagine, after a YEAR of doing this, my body and mind got into this routine and when I stopped pumping, it felt nearly impossible to get out of it…it still does some days. It’s difficult for me to fall asleep before 11 p.m. but I’ve had to force myself to start my bedtime routine earlier since I’m now waking up at 5 a.m. for my 5:30 workout.
Every 5 a.m. wake-up gets easier as I get into this new routine. What helps is that I’ll usually sleep in a clean sports bra and socks and that way I just have to throw my leggings, tank and shoes on and I’m ready to go. Right now I see my trainer 3-4 days a week and supplement with classes at a local gym and/or different classes I want to try in my area. Working out four days a week is my goal and so far I’ve met that. I would be thrilled to do five— but we will see!
I don’t know how to end this post other than to try to be encouraging. I hate that women and mothers are so hard on themselves to do everything and be everything to everyone. Sometimes, you have to prioritize what you can and can’t commit to and that’s OK. I was not able to workout during my pregnancies and when my babies were young for a plethora of reasons and it’s not an excuse — it was my reality. In that season of life, it wasn’t in the cards for me, but it is now. I recognized where I needed to be and what I needed to spend my time on when my babies were young and now I’m able to invest a little bit in myself and my physical and mental health as a new season has come.
I don’t say this to justify anything — I don’t need to justify it to myself because I know, unequivocally, that I made the best choice at the time. I say this so that if you’re reading this and struggling to find the time, energy or motivation, you know that it’s OK to press pause. It’s something you can come back to when the time is right.
Finally, if you’re struggling with anxiety or think you may have PPA, go here to learn more about the signs and symptoms (there is a difference between postpartum depression and PPA— though some symptoms do overlap). If you need encouragement or support, feel free to contact me. I can’t tell you how many people helped me along in my journey through this and I know how validating it is to talk to someone who knows how you feel.
I will continue to update y’all on my fitness journey as time goes on. Thanks for reading and if there’s a specific type of post you’d like to see related to fitness, please let me know in the comments.