I used to exercise to look a certain way. I had goals for my body; a six-pack, defined delts, and a perky booty.
And to get there, I exercised a lot - I ran, lifted weights, taught 6 yoga classes a week, walked to work, biked to school, and then likely ran again. I never fully met my goals and, I had no purpose other than those looks that I saw in all my magazines, which were lying in stacks in the bookcases of my apartment.
And then Ethan came along and changed that.
Or rather, watching my body grow and change throughout my pregnancy, giving birth, and watching that same body morph back to where it is now changed that.
Of course I still cared about my fitness but the new appreciation for my body and what it could do turned that strong desire for a six-pack into the strong desire to just feel good so I could show up as a happy, healthy mama.
Exercise postpartum became a resource to find energy, burn off frustration, and feel human again. I haven’t taken to set any goals over the past 18 months- no marathons, no picking out a muscle group to see definition in, purely working and moving to feel strong and be the best mama I can for E.
But I know this isn’t true for all moms- postpartum can be hard; laden with disappointment about how the body looks and feels. There can be so much let down when it comes to strength and fitness that you may feel let down and you may wonder:
A few months back I started waking up stiff and achy it started messing with my mind. I thought I was having some sort of emotional breakdown; I couldn’t pick Ethan up easily, open jars or even tie shoes without my hands hurting. I struggled getting out of bed in the morning and my workouts started leaving me exhausted in a way I had never known before.
Finally my husband insisted I see a doctor and that doctor insisted I see a rheumatologist.
When he told me I’d like have to be on long term pain medications for the rest of my life I moped and wallowed in pity.
I haven’t felt 100% in months and to hear that chronic pain sans meds was imminent made me ponder the meaning of life. I mean seriously, this is my work, my job, my body is my tool to help other people.
So, what’s the point?
For a few moments in time my internal dialogue went like so “Why should I even worry about working out anymore?” “How can I help other moms if I feel like shit?”
It was a fleeting moment but it reminded me of so many clients and patients I had worked with in my past. It reminded me of so many mamas that I’ve heard from who’ve expressed their postpartum concerns about working out- feeling aches and pains and stuck in their head about where to start, what to do, and how to move.
Early in my career I worked with both general and special populations, holding different positions in private gyms, cardiac rehab and managing the fitness programs at an independent and assisted living facility. These jobs had prepared me to work with my own body- I understand how to work around something like arthritis but mentally, I have to admit, while I was sympathetic to their needs and issues I didn’t understand their holdups… I didn’t understand their frustrations, hurts, and emotional blocks.
But now, now I get it. I SO get it.
Pain is not just physically debilitating, it’s an incredible mental strain as well. I feel like my body has let me down. I feel ashamed that I can’t do things I’ve always been able to. This morning I cried because it took me 10 minutes to put on Ethan’s shoes- partially because Lando the dog ran off with one, but mostly because I couldn’t quite grip the shoe hard enough to get it on. Some days I have no urge to work out because seriously, WHAT’s THE EFFIN POINT. I likely won’t feel great even if the workout is amazing. Even if I have the best yoga practice ever I’m probably going to hurt a bit. The emotional strain has been harder than the physical strain.
And if you’ve felt let down or frustrated with your body postpartum you’ve probably felt like this. Maybe you think you’ll never be able to fit into your favorite pants again, or you feel like your back may never stop aching, perhaps you feel like you’ll never be as strong as you once were, or maybe you think you just won’t be able to concentrate because of the other million things going on in your life.
Well, let me tell you what the point is mama.
Movement is not a just physical. Movement can help regulate mental activity; you don’t do it just because you want to increase your heart rate, you do it to feel clarity, to feel space, to get rid of frustration and guilt, to feel good about moving on with your day.
Movement allows us, as moms, to handle the things we need to handle.
Every day, I push back. I get up and take the dog on a walk and then if time allows I do yoga or hop on the bike.
I know it’s hard to move when you hurt- physically or emotionally, trust me, I understand. But movement is just a tool- to dig deep and to search harder within ourselves.
Movement moves us into a space that allows for healing.
It doesn’t have to be a big movement and you don’t have to move for very long. You just have to move enough to get your mind away from the littleness and limiting beliefs you are experiencing.
Movement allows for subtle mindset shifts that open doors to gratitude, patience, and kindness.
Don’t worry about your body.
Don’t worry about “love handles” or getting your “pre baby body back”.
Don’t worry about lifting the heaviest weight or doing the hardest yoga pose.
Shift your attention to how the movement allows you to feel and think.
Bother to do the movement because it feels good.
Bother to do the exercise for your happiness, your sanity, and because it gives you a sense of calm.
Bother to do the exercise because your babes need you and it makes you a better mom.
Bother to do the exercise because you know you are worth it.
That being said, on September 13, I'm launching my Mindful Mama E-Course.
I couldn't be more excited to finally release it because I poured my heart and soul into the content. Quite frankly, it was cathartic and emotional to write and exactly what I needed to get my head on right after having Ethan. My 10 years of teaching yoga have allowed me to pen something I'm really proud of.
In this short seven day e-course you'll receive an email with a short discussion on a mindfulness topic related to motherhood, a quick 5 minute yoga practice, a two minute guided meditation, and three minute journaling exercise. All of the worksheets you need come with the course. Additionally, I'll be creating a FREE Facebook support group for everyone purchasing the course where I'll post weekly mindfulness challenges and a monthly LIVE STREAM yoga class!! For those of you on my email list, the course will be offered for $7.00! If you're interested in being on the wait list, you can sign up HERE.