Last year, hubby and I embarked on a gym and eating programme – pretty intense weight training, cardio and targeted nutrition. Although I’ve done exercise programmes and diets of all shapes and sizes, this was definitely a step up. Wandering into the male-dominated territory of the weight section in the gym was quite daunting…
To my left, brutes heaving weights half my body weight; to the the right, Neanderthals staring at me while I sheepishly find a weight I can carry, let alone do 3 sets of 12 reps with. It’s one thing squatting with a barbell on your back; it’s another thing trying to figure out how to get it there without falling on your face or looking like a you’re playing Twister. And then it was trying to figure out the machines by nonchalantly walked past them desperately trying to crane my neck to make head or tail of it, without appearing to at all. Let’s say I felt a little intimidated – and not only in the gym. Walking into stores geared towards big-time body builders and trying to look like I know what I’m talking about when asking where the Casein is with a toddler climbing up my leg, was just as intimidating.
That said, I’m loving it! I’m feeling good and I’m feeling strong, besides the happy little “bump” in the road (more about that another time). I’ve set goals and I’m pushing towards them. I’ve taken my challenges (you have no idea how odd my bod is – one short leg, recent car accident etc etc) and worked with them. Sometimes I peer longingly in at the aerobics studio window, longing for the old days of “nsss-nsss” beats and box step, but it’s been good to prove to my not-so-confident self, that I can take on something as intimidating as this and show myself that I can do it, even if I’m succeeding by my own little standards.
But then there’s the time factor… It takes a lot, in the gym and prepping and shopping for food. Sometimes I sit there and wonder if I really am being a fit mama by taking this on. Should I be investing my time in this or more time into my kids? Isn’t it selfish to be gymming when my little ones are playing without me at the gym’s kiddie care?
And then I came to realise… In order to be a truly fit mama, I need a little time to myself. No, not sitting-in-a-bubble-bath-for-hours-reading-magazines (not like any moms actually have the time for that kind of indulgence, right?). I’m not talking about spending oodles of distracted time on Facebook or booking an extended hair appointment while your son’s biggest soccer match of the season is on. It’s not about diving in self-preservation mode, while hungry minds want answers and open arms want cuddles. It’s just about carving out a bit of time for you. And why?
…Because mamas are people too, and all people need a break, a bit of inspiration or even a new challenge. Mamas who never get time-out (the good kind of course, although any kind would do at this stage – wouldn’t it be lovely to be told to sit quietly in the corner for 3 whole minutes?)… But seriously, mamas who never get any down time can’t be fighting fit mamas. It’s not possible. Our default setting requires us to rest at regular intervals and when we don’t, we’re on our way to total system failure. Mamas who don’t rest become impatient, frazzled, critical and worn-out. If not addressed, it often escalates to all-out explosive behaviour, and when the fire has finally cooled down, all that’s left is the ash of disappointment, disillusionment and the sense of never measuring up as a mom. So please mama, try take a bit of time out, so you can give as you always do and as much as you always intend to. And go easy on yourself – you’re doing better at this “mommying” thing than you think.
Now I know what the next question is… But how?? Trust me, I know. The ultimate “boot camp” for my soul is doing something creative, and it’s taken me how many months to find the time to write my next blog post? But here are some suggestions:
♥ Don’t be afraid to ask for or accept help. We’re designed to live in community. Rope in your partner to babysit while you go for a walk or do something that helps you unwind. Ask a friend to grab a couple of things for you at the shops while she’s there. If another mom offers to have your kids over for a playdate so you can have an hour of quiet time, say yes! Don’t pretend you can do it all. Maybe you can for a while, until one day you can’t, and it all falls apart. Yes you are supermum, but every superhero needs a friend.
♥ If you happen to be on the upswing, look out for the mamas who aren’t, and offer some help. Lifts, playdates, meals, a little encouraging note – these are all little things that can make a big difference to a worn-out mama.
♥ Try do something every day, even if it’s for 15mins, that’s yours alone. Something that re-energises you and fills your tank – reading a good book (preferably one without cartoon characters, unless that’s your thing), writing a song, going for a run, having tea and cake, chatting to a close friend, or anything else that helps you feel like all is right with the world again.
♥ Remember, you’re running your own race. Don’t try keep up with someone else or follow in their footsteps – you’re not supposed to. That’ll only lead to a detour into rocky territory and total exhaustion. You have your own path as a mom and your own way of doing things. Run the race marked out for you in the way that works best for you and your family.
And mama, remember you are fit. Some days you may be sore. Some days you may be tired. Some days you may want to throw in the towel. But not matter how you feel, you’re getting stronger all the time.