Many of our members are new moms who are adjusting to life after having a child, which comes with a whole new list of responsibilities, sleepless nights, and a packed schedule, not to mention the poop. We wanted to hear more about their experiences and take a closer look at how they are making it work, so we asked them a few questions. Here is what they had to say.
When asked “How has being a mom challenged/impacted your fitness?” they agreed that the biggest fitness challenge is simply finding the time. With so much on their plates, even making it to the gym can be difficult.
“After being a mom there’s limited ‘me’ time and as much as I love working out, it often feels like you have to choose what to do when you have free time- should I workout, read, clean, rest, etc.” – Diana
“I have had to be more diligent about scheduling time to workout – no longer have the ability to be flexible.” – Alex
“It’s become more of a priority, I want to live a long and healthy life and set a positive example for my kids. I’ve also had to learn to be more flexible and give myself some grace, because life with 3 kids is chaotic!” – Morgan
“Time. Time changes when you have your own child. Your time is never just your time anymore. Up all night with a fussy baby? That 6 am class probably isn’t going to happen. Plan to work out at lunch? But then the school calls with a sick child. Even the best-laid plans are often subject to last-minute changes.” – Amanda
“I would say being a mom has definitely created the challenge of finding the time and the energy to work out. It can be difficult to find the motivation to exercise when you have very limited sleep. The lack of motivation is compounded by several months of sleepless nights filled with multiple nursing sessions, changing smelly diapers, vomit on your clothes, and if you have a toddler/older child, the infamous calling for “mom.” By the time I have a moment of quiet for myself, the only thing I am thinking about is sleep and rest. When you give so much to the care and nurturing of your children, you forget how important it is to take care of yourself.” – Memory
There is also the physical toll that giving birth can have on the body to take into consideration.
“Just the physical recovery from birth took a lot of intention and patience – and even 7 months postpartum I’m still rebuilding and adapting my workouts compared to my pre-pregnancy level. But I am amazed by how fast my body healed because of my pre-pregnancy fitness. I’m more inspired now to be an example for my daughter of how to prioritize health and movement, no matter what it looks like. I am learning to listen even more closely to my body and to nourish it well.” – Stacey K.
“Your body is recovering from so much, for so long…you have to change how you think about ‘fitness’ and let go of expectations you had before.” – Amy
Getting Back to the Gym
Next, we asked about their biggest barrier to returning to the gym and by far the most popular response was “time,” but many also mentioned a sense of guilt.
“Feeling guilty that I should be doing other things at home or resting when the baby was asleep.” – Diana
“I’ve always been a full-time, working mom. For me, the hardest part was feeling like you had just missed out on 8-10 hours with your child while you were working, only to leave them again for 45 minutes to work out.” – Amanda
Finding Alternatives to Fit Your Schedule
For some, the solution has been working out at home so that there is more scheduling flexibility.
“After my first, the only barriers I had were the recovery process from having a C-section. I coached and continued training consistently afterward. My challenges are now centered around it being my second pregnancy (which was different and brought new challenges than the first) and being in a different career (which does the same). Just using my peloton much more than going to the gym.” – Lauren
“I completely stopped working out with my first. I was extremely busy in other areas of my life/adjusting to a new baby. The gym took a backseat. Unfortunately, my mental health did as well. I promised myself I would prioritize fitness after my second. I was able to do this with at-home gym equipment (peloton and tonal). I don’t feel like I have the time to go to a gym. However, I really miss the experience of working out in a gym with a group of people.” -BG
Moms also have to deal with the challenge of finding affordable and trustworthy childcare. This was the second biggest barrier to returning to the gym among our respondents.
“The biggest barrier for me has always been finding a gym with trusted, high-quality childcare. I cannot focus on myself unless I’m confident that my kids are being taken care of.” – Nellary
“Childcare! I have a hard time leaving my kids with anyone who isn’t family and financially it can be a stretch.” – Morgan
Words of Wisdom from O&I Moms
Finally, we asked what advice they would give to other moms trying to balance life and fitness and they offered us some words of wisdom.
“The best mom is a happy mom, so it’s important for mind and body to carve out time for yourself for exercise, fun and rest. Listen to your body too – recovery from childbirth is different for everyone and for every pregnancy.” – Carrie
“Make it a priority. Whether it’s waking up before everyone else in the family to get it done or finding a gym that has childcare and other moms to hold you accountable. Make sure your partner is on board with your goals and make a plan that works best for everyone so it’s easier to stick to.” – Diana
“If you don’t make it a priority, it won’t happen. However, working out is something to do for yourself and that’s so important when most of your life is now revolving around someone else. Working out gives you not only physical benefits but gives you a mental break!!” – Alex
“Just try to find movement when and where you can. It won’t look exactly the same as it did before pregnancy but that doesn’t mean it’s not good enough. Any movement and amount of time is valuable! Also, give your body plenty of time to rest and recover – that’s just as important as being active, even more now than before. Find a good postpartum recovery program and/or a postpartum PT to help you safely rebuild strength before jumping back into intense workouts in group class settings. Being “cleared” by your OB at 6 weeks postpartum does not mean you will physically be back to normal.” – Stacey K.
“Give yourself some grace. I had to lower my goal of working out five times a week down to three. Sometimes I meet my goal, sometimes I don’t. Keep an open mind to fitness as well. You don’t always have to go to the gym. You can walk outside and it still counts. Also, I realized diet is just as important as going to the gym.” Stacey M.
“Making time for yourself makes you a better mom.” – Nellary
“Find something you like and can be consistent with. Ask your immediate family for support in helping you meet your goals. Give yourself grace.” – Meg
“Very important to make time for yourself. If you feel good it’s easier to be a better mom!” – Sarah R.
“A jogging stroller is your best friend -make time with the baby productive and go for walks/runs! Progress over perfection! Don’t stress about missing a workout!” – Stevie
“Put yourself first so you can care for your kiddos. Especially as their emotional needs grow.” – Lindsey
“Do what works for YOU. Find a program, something that you love to do. It’s easier to stick with it if you love it. Even if it’s just 10-15 minutes a day. There is always time, you just have to be willing to create the space for it.” – Morgan
“If fitness is something you want to prioritize for your mental or physical well-being, then DO IT. Ask for help with childcare and see fitness as an essential part of your week.” – Amy
“Kids observe the habits of their parents. Living an active and healthy lifestyle will influence the habits of your kids.” – Ashley
“When I prioritize myself, I’m a better mom. Sometimes prioritizing myself is a thirty-minute run with the jogging stroller. Sometimes it’s getting in a workout in by myself. If I only have twenty minutes to get a workout in, I try to commit to an at home workout. I don’t discount the quick workouts, because I think doing something is better than doing nothing.” – BG
“Don’t forget to take care of yourself physically and mentally. It’s OK to take your ‘ME’ time. You do good for your baby when you are happy and at your healthiest.” – Sydney
“Schedule gym classes on your calendar.” Sarah M.
“Make it a priority, you deserve to be a priority. Happy mom = happy household and kids. Exercise increases endorphins and gives you energy once you get through the workout which are issues moms can struggle with more than others.” – Anna
“Every day is different so give yourself grace. If one day you can only fit in a 5 min core exercise or 30 min walk, that is ok. Not every day needs to be a 1hr group fitness class to be “worth it.” It’s ALL worth it and it all matters.” – Anonymous
“You need to focus on yourself on a regular basis.” – Kristen
“Figure out a way to make it work.” Torri
“Know that nothing stays the same; they call them phases for a reason. They won’t cry forever and eventually, they do sleep through the night. Coordinate schedules with your spouse. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Know that a happy child is the product of happy parents. Don’t forget the things that make you happy. Find a community that will support you. Most of all, it’s 100% ok to not feel like yourself. Your world has just been rocked. Be easy on yourself.” – Amanda.
“It’s definitely difficult and everyone is different and every family and kid is different. We all have different seasons of life. It will never look the same for you and not getting ideas from social media or the way someone else does it because it may not be the same for you. I think you have to split time with your partner and be a real team and understand each other‘s needs. My husband knows that mentally I am a better person when I move and prioritize myself in that way. Staying consistent and doing just a little bit for what’s right for you in that moment can help. Find something that works for you whether it’s a Peloton, garage gym equipment, most people need to be held accountable by going to a gym, preferably close by and with times that work for you to help you stay consistent when you can. The other thing is you have to be happy where you’re at and it’s so hard but the time will come again that you have more time for you and just enjoy as much as you can now.. it won’t last long. If you’ve established a good base of fitness it makes it much easier to get back to it and it’s never too late to start again. It’s definitely been hard to be content with where I am at right now and comparing myself to others or my former self. I have to consciously take that pressure away and know that I have the ability to get back when I’m ready, when it makes me happy and just enjoying my life today but knowing what I need to do to stay healthy mentally and physically, even just walking is good for now.” -Lauren
“You have to make it your priority to get there. And stay on track. After a week or two off, it’s hard to jump back in.” – Amy F.
“Your health has to be a priority. No excuses.” – Loni
“Make the time and make fitness a priority.” – Lynda
“Find a workout that you love. When you enjoy the workout, you will continue to do it. If making it to the gym is motivational for you, then find the time to do it. Make time for yourself. When you nurture yourself, you are a better mother. I know that it may seem impossible to give yourself time, but it’s worth it.” – Memory
“Even 20 minutes is time well spent.” – Michelle
Answers and Advice to New Moms
We also wanted to offer moms the opportunity to ask their questions and receive advice from our team of experts. Many wanted to know more about what the safest exercises are during pregnancy.
Ultimately, every individual is on a different health and pregnancy experience, so it is important to work closely with your personal physician and listen to your body. As a general rule of thumb, if you had a regular exercise routine prior to becoming pregnant, you are in a good position to safely continue exercising. In addition, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that with a doctor’s approval, women try to exercise at least 5 days a week for around 30 minutes. You can continue with your usual exercises, however, there are a few movements to be cautious of during your pregnancy:
- Anything that increases your risk of losing balance or falling
- Excessive jumping or bouncing
- Exercising in extreme heat
- Intense abdominal exercises
- Or spending long periods of time on your back
Essentially, it comes down to listening to your body and working with trusted professionals as your pregnancy progresses. Everyone is different, so there is no one plan that will work across the board.
Respondents also wanted suggestions for work out that give the best bang for the buck, nutrition and meal prep tips, and how to improve lost flexibility and mobility.
There aren’t any quick fixes, so a workout that will be the best bang for your buck is a routine that is sustainable and realistic for you. Having a child means that time will be at a premium and it will be difficult to muster up energy when you do have small gaps of time. Whether you make it to the gym, work out at home, do some yoga in your office or go for a walk, it is all good because you are taking care of your own well-being.
When it comes to meal prep, having a plan in place is key. If you wait till the last minute or leave your decisions up to willpower, it is too easy to choose convenience over a healthy meal. Try to make easy and healthy snacks readily available so that you always have a solid choice to reach for. Prepping breakfast, like egg muffins or overnight oats, can make it easy to get your day off on the right foot. An instapot also makes it easy to prepare healthy lunches for the entire week.
New moms who are returning to the gym should make flexibility and mobility a top priority. It is easy to get caught up in the mindset of trying to regain that “pre-baby” form and workout intensity. However, it is important to remember that your body just underwent tremendous changes to accommodate growing your baby. Your body adapted to the extra weight and shifted your center of gravity, which changed the way you walked, showered, bent over, and got dressed. After giving birth, your body is once again undergoing major changes and learning to get used to new patterns. Not to mention the effects of hormones like relaxin and progesterone that helped relax your muscles and loosen joints and ligaments to prepare for childbirth.
While extremely helpful during the birthing process this increase in ‘flexibility’ can lead to instability, pain, and injury, which is why it’s important to put a priority on your mobility. It can feel tempting and even imperative to rush back into a rigorous exercise routine, but your body has undergone tremendous stress and numerous changes. Take it slow. Listen to your body and focus on mobility. With the right approach and consistency, you can achieve new fitness milestones.
The new moms at Oak and Iron Fitness are a key part of our community and some of the strongest women around. They keep showing up for themselves and their families and we appreciate everything they contribute.