Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Body Post Baby: Finding Time to Work Out

For the first 3 or 4 months after Reese was born, I did little to no exercise.  I was just too overwhelmed with her needs, the fatigue, the difficulties I was having with nursing, the fact that my husband had tough work schedule.  After that, I would sporadically start to work out and then stop again.  It really took almost 15 months for me to get back on a serious workout schedule, plus some serious motivation.

In a few months, I'm running the ING New York City Marathon.

(Oh, god, just typing that made my stomach do flip flops)

While, obviously, you don't have to be training for a marathon to get in a regular workout schedule, it is really important to have a plan and make an effort to work out once you have a baby.  I'm not saying it's not difficult for people who have jobs, multiple babies, jobs and multiple babies, etc.  These are just ways I've found to make the time to exercise.

1.  Start off slowly.  I started going to a Mommy and Me yoga class in Pittsburgh as soon as I could, when Reese was about 8 weeks old.  It wasn't even really exercise at that point, just a reason to get us both out of the house, but eventually I got some stretching and strength in.  Also, don't expect too much when you start doing the regular cardio again.  My first time back on the treadmill - the first five minutes were awesome, the next six were torture and that was about it.

2.  Let some things go.  If you are going to work out at night, don't expect to also make a home cooked dinner.  Let the laundry sit for the evening.  There are going to be tradeoffs here and exercising is important, make it a priority and let some of the other stuff slide.

3.  Just GO.  I used to want conditions to be perfect for a run.  Not too much to eat beforehand, mental preparation etc. That simply does not happen these days.  For example, recently, my husband had a big case scheduled for early in the morning.  I was going to skip my planned run and spend the morning sipping coffee and playing crayons with Reese.  Well, the patient didn't show up to have her cancer removed and my husband could stay home.  Even though I was not in the mood, I got up and ran.

4.  Find a buddy.  An unsympathetic one.  Preferably one without a baby.  You need someone who will stare at you blankly when you moan about teething pain and colic and the fact that the store was out of the favored Bunny Grahams flavor and tell you to get your ass to the gym and meet her.  You want someone who will push you, not indulge you.

5.  Or fly solo.  I prefer to run alone.  I don't own a jogging stroller and I don't want one.  Exercising is my time to be alone, to listen to music, read a magazine and watch the Kardashians and rot my brain if I want to.  It's selfish, but true.

6.  Early bird...  I'm going to try not to be one of those cliches where I whine about how hard it is to be a doctor's wife, but bottom line is that my husband has an unpredictable and demanding job.  Sometimes he leaves at 5 and gets home at 9.  Thankfully, that's rare these days and the most variability is in when he gets home.  If someone comes in at 4 pm with an airway emergency, no one is going to care that he promised to give Reese a bath so I can run.   So, most of my runs are happening in the morning.  EARLY in the morning. This was totally unthinkable when I was still nursing, but now that I can have my workout out of the way and just focus on Reese during the day, we are both a lot less stressed out.

7. Invest where it counts.  I belong to a gym, even though I prefer to run outside.  Why?  They have a great babysitting service that is dirt cheap by Manhattan standards.  To be able to leave Reese for two hours in a place where she has fun and I can get my workout in is absolutely worth it.  If you can run with your baby, I would buy the best jogging stroller you can afford.  Or hire a regular babysitter so you can get to the gym.  It's important.

8.  Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies.  (Is that totally stuck in your head now?  It's in mine.)  I used to think that it was not worth going to the gym if I wasn't going to work out for less than an hour.  Nowadays, I just tell myself that all I have to do is work out for 30 minutes.  That's it.  Once I'm there, I'll usually guilt myself into doing more, but if that's all I have time for, that's ok too.

9.  Focus on the after, not the during.  Every time I would engage in one of my sporadic workouts I would marvel at how much better I felt afterwards.  Calmer, in control, more alert, happy.  Whenever I feel lazy, I try to focus on that feeling.  Or my husband will gently remind me that I'm much more pleasant to be around after I've worked out.

10.  Plan.  It's important to be flexible when you have a baby, but planning is essential.  At the beginning of every week since I started training, my husband and I talk about which mornings he can go in on the late side, when my mom might be here to watch Reese, or which evening might be a good take out night, so I can run.  Obviously, things cannot be set in stone, but if there is no plan, it's not going to happen.

So, there it is.  Not revolutionary stuff, but things it took me almost two years and a HUGE goal to figure out.  Any other tips?  Especially for early on after having a baby, since I was so terrible at it?

And now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go yak because I just admitted to the internet that I am going to run a marathon and that means I actually have to do it.


  1. Good for you! I think that is wonderful. A marathon is no simple accomplishment. It's great to hear that it was about 15 months to really get into a routine - truthfully it helps me feel better (I'm at twice a week workouts). And, now that you've admitted to running a marathon in a few months, I'll commit to the 5k in November I'm thinking about. Now we both have to keep our word. Good luck with your training :)

  2. Thanks! It definitely took a while to be able to commit to working out. When Reese was little, her schedule was so up in the air and I always flaked out on my workouts. Making a real effort is so important, but it's ok that it takes a while to build up to that. Mostly, I think you just have to forget about being one of those people who goes every day. Not going to happen.

    Good luck with the 5K! You'll do great!


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