It’s a change I’ve leaned into and embraced in my personal life but I wasn’t sure if it was something you guys noticed or even cared to hear more about but your comments on my August post were so encouraging. It became clear to me that maybe seeing someone share three workouts a week rather than a jam-packed exercise routine has its place, too.
A Focus on Movement Above All Else
I am not currently training for anything. I don’t have any huge fitness goals or big athletic achievements I’m working toward so my approach toward fitness comes primarily from a place of seeking to live a healthy life. I understand the importance of daily movement and it’s something I feel committed to not only because I genuinely enjoy it but because I know it’s important for my body and my overall health.
Over the years, I’ve found myself gradually shifting away from craving super-sweaty workouts that leave me feeling breathless. For years, HIIT workouts, plyometric workouts and circuit-style cardio sessions that incorporated lots of jumping and sprinting gave me a sense of accomplishment. They still absolutely have their place but they’re not where I’m at right now.
My focus right now is on movement and motherhood. Thankfully those two go hand-in-hand fairly easily for me since caring for three very active boys ages six and under means we are moving A LOT. We’re walking, running, playing games and moving all over the house and yard and neighborhood every day. Most days of the week THAT is my workout. And I 100 percent believe that is enough. Ask any mom out there caring for little ones all day long if she is physically exhausted by the end of the day and I can almost guarantee you’ll hear a resounding “yes.” Motherhood IS physical and I don’t discount this at all when I look at my daily movement.
A Focus on Enjoyable Exercise (Strength Training)
Though I’ve always been someone who enjoys fitness, I’ve also always been someone who thrives off of the group exercise environment. I love group fitness and going to the gym so 2020 and the pandemic definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone as I learned to embrace at-home workouts. I quickly realized that motivating myself to work out at home was a million times easier when I only did workouts I genuinely love. For me, this looks primarily like strength training workouts and Burn Boot Camp workouts (Burn’s strength days versus their cardio-heavy workouts).
When I am able to get enough work done from 5 – 7 a.m. before the boys are awake and a workout window pops up during Rhett’s morning nap, it doesn’t take much motivation for me to talk myself into a workout because I know I’ll genuinely enjoy the workout I’m about to do and feel great when I’m done. I wanted to specifically touch on this aspect of my current approach to fitness because there are SO MANY different ways to move your body out there and I fully believe every single person can find a way to exercise that they truly enjoy. If you haven’t found that yet, I encourage you to try new things and put yourself out there until you do. It’s so beyond worth it and makes working out feel less like a chore and more like a fun and positive thing you’re doing for your body.
Strength training is my favorite form of traditional exercise (I will forever credit BodyPump for igniting this love) and I know it’s incredibly beneficial for my body from a health perspective, especially as I get older. And that brings me to my next topic…
Aesthetics + Postpartum Life
Let’s talk about aesthetics. It’s the elephant in the room when it comes to health and wellness because saying anything along the lines of “I workout because I want to look good” can be met with harsh criticism from people who want you to love your body. I fully believe it’s possible to work out because you know it’s incredibly important for your health but also make time for exercise because you want to feel good in your skin. I would venture to say most people fall in this camp!
I think it’s possible to love your body but also want to see your body get stronger. I think it’s possible to appreciate your body and still be a little bothered by the postpartum weight you can’t seem to get rid of after baby number two. All of these things can exist at the same time.
I am grateful for my body in innumerable ways. It carries me through daily life and allows me to move and stretch and run and play with my kids. My body birthed three children. It carried three amazing boys around for nine months and nursed each of them for over a year. When I see my looser skin, less-than-perky boobs, love handles and cellulite, I know I have a mother’s body and I don’t say that with any ounce of negativity. A mother’s body is a gift. It is incredible. (True story: When Chase was three, I got out of the shower and he poked his hand in a cellulite dimple on my butt and asked, “Mom, what’s that hole in your bottom?” Oh kids, they keep us humble.)
One of the many gifts of having multiple children is the ability to know how your body responds to postpartum life with a little more clarity every time. After I gave birth the first time, I remember being much more preoccupied with wondering when (and if) I’d reach my pre-baby weight. It wasn’t my focus but I was absolutely more aware of my postpartum body after our first baby. After our second baby, I trusted my body a little more. After Rhett (baby #3), my focus was on making the safest return to postpartum fitness possible (with a specific emphasis on pelvic floor recovery) and this meant I didn’t jump or run for six months postpartum. I also had built-in knowledge about my body and knew that for me and my body, 9+ months postpartum was my “sweet spot” when it came to returning to regular exercise and losing a lot of the weight I gained during pregnancy. (This not-so-coincidentally seems to coincide with the time our babies have seemed to get into a better groove with more predictable naps and nighttime sleep.)
Mash three kids and a pandemic together and finding time to workout at home was harder than it ever was for me before. I began counting long walks as workouts, something I never would’ve done in my 20s. (For what it’s worth, the more I’ve read and learned about fitness and overall longevity the more I fully believe walking is one of the absolute BEST forms of exercise out there. HECK YES for walking!!!) Any workout time I had was dedicated to strength training. I try to make my strength sessions count and opt for heavy weights that challenge my muscles. My workouts are never more than 45 minutes but they often leave my muscles fully fatigued.
And guess what? I look mostly the same as I did when I was working out 6 times a week and sweating my face off in the gym.
Every body is different. Every person is different. The way our bodies respond to exercise and what we eat is different but, for me, focusing on less intense cardio and swapping in walking and more challenging weight training has been a welcomed change that hasn’t left me looking dramatically different.
I say this not because losing weight postpartum comes easily for me. This is not the case. I have to put in effort but my mindset around the whole thing is filled with more grace and patience and a knowledge that it’s not realistic for me to “bounce back” three or even six months after birth. My experience in this third postpartum period of life has only proven to me that more exercise isn’t always the answer. It’s not always a good thing — mentally or physically. I’ve felt less stressed out by the “need” to work out this time around and truly have zero guilt when I go days without a “real” workout other than walking. Walking is enough. Being a mom is enough.
It’s a big shift in my mindset from the days when I felt a little more on edge when I skipped a workout. It’s different than the way I was a decade ago when my workouts were something integral to my daily routine. Are my workouts still important to me? Absolutely. Do I still enjoy fitness and think it’s important for my overall health and happiness? Yes. Is it a focus in my everyday life right now? No. Do I think this is a good thing? Yes. If I was still trying to do what I did in my 20s in my current life with my current obligations and responsibilities and motherhood in the mix, I know I’d be running myself ragged. Something had to give and fortunately when it did, it came along with a mindset that looks at fitness for what it should be — something important for my overall health, not something that causes me anxiety or guilt or any kind of negative emotions if it has to be overlooked a few days a week.
My workouts make me feel strong and powerful and give me energy. They may happen half as often as they used to, but I’m grateful I’m in a place where I believe that focusing on motherhood and movement and lifting heavy weights a few days a week is enough.