Staying Fit While Raising Kids
I’ve tackled the subject of staying fit with PKD. A subject that is very personal for me. But sometimes I feel like that’s easy in comparison to staying fit while raising children. If you’re a parent, you understand. It doesn’t matter what age they are; you’re invested. As I watch my kids grow through all the various stages I realize that even though they become more independent with life, our lives still seem just as busy as the day they were born. Perhaps even more so. It doesn’t matter if you have one or five. When you have kids, you’re busy, because you’re invested, that’s what makes you such a great parent.
If you know my story you know I struggled with getting back into shape after baby. It was a lot of uphill, downhill, and back uphill again. It wasn’t that I had a ton of weight to lose, maybe 20 pounds, it was more that I felt weak, tired, breathless, and just completely out of shape and more than anything, not myself. It wasn’t until I realized that it’s not just about exercise, that it’s also about food, sleep, recovery, mental health, emotional health, spiritual health, and joy that I truly became fit and balanced – holistically the healthiest I can be. It’s a journey I walk every day. I can’t sit here and say, “I’m fit, all done!”, nope, I realize it’s about a lifetime of focusing on all those things stated above: exercise, food, sleep, recovery, mental health, emotional health, spiritual health, and joy. Every single one of those things is connected to the other and if one is out of balance, they all are. That’s why, if you truly want to be fit, it’s important to work on all of it. This isn’t something most people want to hear. They’d rather hear they just need to diet and exercise…. sure, that can work for a time. However, if you want it to last, everything else matters too. And it takes work.
Balancing all those things while raising kids? That’s a challenge. I won’t sit here and tell you it’s easy. It’s hard work. But its hard work worth doing. Especially if you want to be there for a long time. AND you desire to not just be present but engaged. Trust me, to be engaged, you need to be the healthiest you can be. SO, how DOES one stay fit while raising kids? What if you’re working, what if you’re not, what if you work from home, what if you work ridiculous hours, what if health has never been your focus before and now you want to start, even when things have gotten even busier?
Step 1: Identify what you truly desire. One of the things that keeps me going is that I really want to be around for my kids. I want to be at everything. Not just physically, but mentally too. If I’m at my daughters’ dance recital I don’t want to be thinking about other things, I want to be appreciating and documenting in my mind every little moment of that experience. I also want the ability to be active with my children. To play with them, when they’re older I want to go on adventures with them, even if it’s just a hike up the nearest mountain or a bike ride to the next city. If God should ever bless me to be a grandparent I want to be equally as active.
Step 2: Make yourself a priority. Truth is, us moms tend to put ourselves last. When you think about it, that does NO GOOD. Mom needs to be healthy. So, take care of yourself first. If you do, you reap the benefits in the other areas of life. When I was suffering from anxiety it was because I was doing too much, plus not sleeping well, plus not eating well, plus not taking time for me. I was absolutely no good to ANYONE. And EVERYONE suffered because mom didn’t make time to recover. I was probably working out too much for as little as I was recovering, I was eating things I knew my body didn’t like just because it was marketed to me as healthy, and I wasn’t resting! I had a kid still waking up nightly, but I kept pushing through as if I was a single something 25-year old. I’ve learned a lot since then. This again proves it’s not just about diet and exercise. We need recovery and we need it often!
Step 3: Create Time. If you go looking for time, you’ll never find it. You’ll always be too busy. It’s about creating time in your day to prepare a good meal, or take a walk, or exercise, or journal. We sometimes spend time doing unproductive things like social media surfing, Netflix binging, comparing, and dwelling. But what if we used that time productively to: workout, pray, meditate, hire the help we need, and make progress on us. I’ve had a few friends come to me recently and say they just don’t have time to exercise or that their exercise time was cutting into time with the family. I made the same recommendation to them both - create 30 minutes in the morning to exercise. Go to bed early, wake up early. It’s hard at first, I told them, but you’ll get used to it. Guess what happened? They now both LOVE their morning workouts! In fact, one told me recently, she feels like something’s missing on the days when she doesn’t, and now has more time with her daughter after work. Create the space that works for you. Personally I create time in the morning to exercise, I create time to meditate 10 minutes a day (5 in the AM, 5 in the PM), I create time on weekends to do a little food prep for the week ahead (45-60 minutes), and I create time with my family. All while doing other life things!
Step 4: Let go of guilt and live in balance. Some people call it moderation, I call it balance. Don’t feel guilty if you miss a workout because you were up all night with a sick kid, your sleep is more important that day. Don’t feel guilty if you enjoyed some cake at a birthday party, the guilt will do more to harm you than that slice of cake will. Only have time to prep snacks and not meals this week? Great! You prepped snacks! The truth is, we can’t do it all, all the time. And living healthy also means ENJOYING your life. If that means sleeping in one day or having a donut for breakfast every once in a while, so be it!
Step 5: Find a tribe. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I just need help from other mamas. Or I need accountability from my fit friends. Surround yourself with like-minded people. Tell them to hold you accountable. Invite them along for the ride. Offer support when THEY need it. Friendships add joy to life. Joy, believe it or not, helps us create and maintain a healthy body. Find joy in fitness and healthy food. Need a tribe? We have one, here.
Step 6: Find Activities that Involve the kids. I hold a Piyo class every week where kids are welcome too. Take the kids for a bike ride. Take a family walk with the dog in the morning or evening. While they are at the park, do some squats! There’s no rule here. You can take your workout on the go and even divide it up! Do squats and push-ups at the park, then come home and have a dance party with the kids for 10 minutes of cardio. Pop in a yoga DVD and let the kids climb all over you while you hold plank – it’s extra resistance. It doesn’t matter, but if you can do it with them, you can still get it done. Exercising with the kids in tow seem daunting? Utilize the gym day care – they have fun activities for kids too! They get to have fun, while you get in a sweat.
Summer always reminds me how busy it can be at home with the kids. We are constantly going from one thing to the next, all while I try to manage the rest of life. I love being with them and I am so grateful for this time while they are young. I would never change a thing. However, it’s during these periods I must remember to make time for me; quiet time, exercise time, time with my husband, time with friends, etc. All of it makes me better at motherhood and allows me to be more present when I am with them. As a side note, we’ve enjoyed a lot of cookies this summer that I won’t feel guilty over because we’ve also eaten some yummy new healthy food too. I’ve done a lot of sleeping in because of late summer nights, and we’ve been active in so many wonderful ways. We’ve kept somewhat of a schedule for the sake of my sanity, but mostly just enjoyed each day as it comes to us. Ever changing days, means ever changing balance, adjusting to each moment as it comes.