June 6, 2012
“Having a baby will change everything.” We all hear it: before we’re pregnant and plenty while we’re pregnant. Usually, with a nod and a polite smile we agree and move on thinking they are talking about the extra mouth to feed, the dirty diapers, the constant disarray in the living room and random wake-up calls throughout the night. We’re prepared to take on those changes. But, little do we know ... those new ‘to dos’ are the tip of the iceberg and, often times, the EASIEST adaptation once baby arrives.
What women should really warn you about is how everything we used to consider non-negotiable is suddenly thrown by the wayside. Exercising??? Forget it ... I barely have time to shower! Combine your feelings of exhaustion with a dose of ‘mommy guilt’ and the ever-prevalent ‘judging committee’ (a.k.a. some in laws, co-workers and frenemies), and it’s no wonder that working out (and lots of other activities) becomes a thing of the past for most moms.
Oxygen Masks, Spinning Plates & A-Ha Moments
One thing I realized early on, and try to help other moms understand (regardless if they’re a new mom or one with older kids trying to get back into fitness), you have to put your oxygen mask on first. We’ve all listened to the flight attendant’s safety demonstration. Stop and think about their urging … you can’t help your child, your husband, your friend or anyone else, for that matter, if you’re gasping for air. Take this nugget into the real world and find time for YOU.
Yes, taking time to work out (or even read a book, get your nails done or just lay in the grass) may seem indulgent to some well meaning, judgmental types ... but I insist on it and my husband agrees. The time I give myself allows me keep my ‘me-ness’ and to be more of a parent when I am with my munchkin than if I spent every waking moment by her side neglecting the parts of me that make ME whole. It also teaches her a valuable lesson ... true love starts with loving yourself and taking time to take care of you! You’ll be a better mother for it! Even if it’s 20 minutes a day, that counts.
Next ... juggling is tough, but spinning plates is easier. If you try to juggle all of your roles and responsibilities, you will surely let something drop. Ever watched someone juggle in the circus? More than three balls and the person gets a little tense: the eyes start to narrow, they can’t avert their gaze or add one more thing in without biting their lip and looking really scary! Remind you of anyone you know?
But, have you ever watched someone spin plates? They look a lot more relaxed because it’s not all that tough. As long as each plate gets a little love at regular intervals, all the plates stay right where they want them. Welcome to your life! Don’t juggle ... spin!
Take a look at all the ‘plates’ you have in your life: you (and yes you make the list, and you better be at the TOP of the list), children, spouse, friends, work, hobbies, spiritual faith, and so on. Then, make a plan to spin these plates EACH and EVERY day! Yes, EVERY day. Now, it’s not to say each plate will get the same attention every day. Perhaps the YOU plate gets a big jolt on Sundays when you’ve got the babysitter and then a little less on Monday when there’s no school ... that’s fine, as long as the plates are always in motion.
For me, I have a color-coded calendar (sounds scary, I know). The colors block out my time, appointments and obligations weeks and months in advance so I can have an overview of where I need to find time for everything to be sure all plates are in motion. It may not always be equal if you look a day at a time, but over a week, it all evens out, as it should. Everything in balance- everything in motion.
While your life will certainly change with the arrival of the baby, it’s better to establish your ‘new normal’ as quickly as possible instead of fighting it every step of the way. Then, accept the re-negotiations that will be around every corner. If I’ve learned one thing as a fitness professional turned momma, just when you think you’ve got it figured out and you’re back on track ... everything changes AGAIN! I’m almost three years into this mom thing and my workout life STILL does not resemble my pre-baby life … and, until I accepted that and moved on, it was REALLY hard. Your new normal should begin with adjusting your expectations, resetting your priorities, and diligently squeezing your time!
My expectations now are more realistic ... yes, I can do and be anything I want to be, but the most important thing to be is present. Present doesn’t mean physically, it means emotionally. Insert the oxygen mask analogy. I MUST take care of me in my own way to be present. Moving daily helps me be present even if that means an extra 30 minutes of her watching TV so I can sneak it in (blasphemy, I know!)
My priority shifting took some time, as I just wasn’t ready to accept that my career was not my priority anymore; I’m a fitness professional that is judged on a daily basis for my appearance. Prior to baby, fitness had a different meaning to me. It was about looking the part; not being the part. My top three priorities these days don’t have ANYTHING to do with having a six pack, fitting into the dress I used to wear or winning a triathlon. Maybe they will one day, but for now ... fitness fits in as a daily, non-negotiable that provides me with more energy to play with my daughter. The priority shifting has helped me be OK with how my workouts have changed in intensity, duration and frequency. As well, I’ve realized that getting in fun with her counts (I highly suggest you get a Nike Fuel Band or BodyMedia FIT Armband and count your steps!!). I love sharing this nugget of information with my clients; what a relief.
Finally, I squeeze my time and squeeze it hard. Spinning plates helps and multi-tasking is a new obsession for me. Working out while reading, catching up on TV, or phone calls does the trick. Changing my wake-up time as hers has changed to get in a workout prior to her rising works for now, but maybe not in the future. Bottom line, I schedule, schedule, schedule and schedule some more. Now, more than ever, if I don’t sit down and write it out, my commitment to exercise gets a little fuzzy. I schedule seven days of workouts in advance knowing that life will get in the way for at least one or two (baby’s sick, appointments, unexpected work deadlines). The more I schedule, the better the results.
Some people say ... if you want something done, give it to a busy person! I’m pretty sure they were talking about moms. Seems to me, if we can make it through childbirth, there’s not much we can’t do! So I say, bring it on. When I finally realized life was hard, it got a lot easier. No more excuses, no more complaining about how busy I am or how much I have to do. I just decided, well, here we go … and the rest is history (or the future, actually!).
Shannon Fable, 2013 IDEA and 2006 ACE Instructor of the Year, is the founder of SFR, a consulting firm for aspiring fitness educators, manufacturers and managers, as well as the owner of Balletone® and GroupEx Pro®. Shannon is a 15 year fitness veteran, freelance writer, as well as an international presenter for Schwinn®, BOSU and ACE. She is a member of the ACE Board of Directors, has helped author portions of the ACE and ACSM Group Fitness manuals, and has starred in over 25 fitness videos. Shannon is a certified Book Yourself Solid® Business Coach interested in helping fitness professionals navigate the fitness industry and find their place. She's busy improving the self-esteem of the world as the the Director of Exercise Programming for the Anytime Fitness Franchise.