I consider myself to be about three years into my fitness journey and officially at a point where I can claim to be someone who’s “into fitness” enough to write a post like this. Before I had kids, I was not at all consistent when it came to fitness. The one thing I had going for me fitness-wise at that point was my dog who I walked for at least 5 miles a day every single day. Once I had E, I was still obsessive about walking the dog but we’ve had to dial it down to 1–2 miles a day on most days. I tried fitness classes here and there, or hour-long workout DVDs but nothing stuck.
My decrease in walking combined with my complete lack of consistency in any other type of fitness combined with growing two human beings inside of me all lent itself to a really out-of-shape and soft body that I just wasn’t comfortable in. I don’t diet (I follow a not-at-all-strict diet of “don’t eat like an asshole most of the time” which most people call “everything in moderation”) so I knew I had to step up my gym game.
I started off by joining the local YMCA because it’s reasonably priced, has daycare, and a ton of classes to choose from. I’m not someone who can just walk into a gym and self-direct. I’m much more likely to take a nap on the stretching mat than ever pick up a dumbbell if I take that approach. Group classes are really the only way I get anything out of a gym membership. After a few months, though, I decided I wasn’t getting my money’s worth (pretty sure I went to like 4 barre classes in 4 months) and cancelled my membership.
Shortly after my YMCA dropout, I discovered Jillian Michaels DVDs. I convinced a fellow postpartum friend to compete in a fitness challenge where we assigned point values to each Jillian Michaels DVD and also earned points for miles walked each day. The DVDs we selected were all really short workouts, ranging from 18 minutes (if you skip the 2-minute cool-down, which I obviously do) to 28 minutes.
By the end of our first week, I was pleasantly surprised to already see some results. My strength and stamina were already better and I could see positive changes all over my body. By the end of our 6-week challenge I was looking and feeling completely different — all just by being consistent with very short workouts. It was nothing earth-shattering, nothing I had to rearrange my entire life to fit in, but it made an enormous difference and changed my entire outlook on fitness.
I’m proud to share my renewed fitness outlook, which has me stronger than ever, 3 years and 2 kids later:
- Work out at home. As a mom with two kids and a job, it’s not always easy to get to a gym or a class around nap, school, and childcare schedules. It’s much harder to bail on a workout that you don’t even have to leave the house to complete. I used to be all about finding excuses to NOT work out, and having to leave the house was definitely my #1 excuse. Switching to at-home workouts completely stripped me of that excuse.
- Set attainable goals, time-wise. It sounds uninspiring, but set low goals. You don’t have to work out for an hour a day to see results. It’s much harder to say “I can’t wake up 18 minutes earlier to do this workout” than “I can’t wake up an HOUR earlier to fit in this workout.” It’s also just logistically difficult to work out at home with kids and keep them occupied for a long period of time. We recently put a spin bike in our basement and I never set my biking goal higher than 20 minutes at a time. If I get to the end of 20 minutes and the kids are still occupied and I’m feeling like a rock star, I’ll pick a 10-minute spin ride or DVD to do after! And if I get to the end of 20 minutes and I’m done, then I still feel great about fitting in that 20 minute ride. By setting my goal super low, I often exceed my own expectations which is much more encouraging than continuously failing to meet high goals.
- Find a workout you love. About two years ago I discovered SLT which is the hardest workout I’ve ever done. Two years later and I still get sore for days after workouts sometimes. To me, SLT is a workout that plays to all my strengths (pun intended). It’s too intense to do more than 2–3 times a week so I continue to supplement with at-home workouts but it’s nice to have a workout that I feel so strongly about. I get excited to go, I have good friends and trainers there, and it makes me feel great. My husband even goes with me every week now and it’s really fun to prioritize that built-in “date day” every week (also I love that I kick his ass there… because we’re not competitive at all).
- Find a workout you don’t love, and do it anyway. I don’t LOVE spinning. In fact, I kind of fucking hate spinning. But I do it anyway. I tell myself I’m going to spin for 10 minutes, I get on the bike, and I suck it up for 10 minutes. Again, the low goals and at-home elements both help me here. It’s REALLY hard for me to say “I don’t have time for this” when it’s TEN MINUTES IN MY BASEMENT.
- Opt for high-intensity over huge time commitments. The Jillian Michaels workouts I love are only 10–30 minutes long but they’re intense. She has a 10-minute cardio workout that nearly killed me. When I select a spin ride, I always try to find the HIIT rides. If I know I’m only doing something for a short period of time, I’m more likely to really commit to it and I personally feel that I get more out of it than I would get out of a longer, less intense workout.
- Be flexible. In the past I’d completely bail on a workout if something unexpected came up. With 2 kids, that could translate into A LOT of bailing. Instead, I try to be flexible with my fitness schedule. I have an SLT class that I’m kind of militant about attending every Sunday morning, but other than that I change my plan based on how the day is going. If I’m on the bike and R wakes up from a nap, I’ll go get him and come back down to finish my ride (or a more likely scenario — I’ll just leave him until I’m done because it’s like 10 minutes and seriously, the kid’s gonna live). If I’m doing a workout DVD in the living room and someone pees on the floor (has happened more than once), I’ll pause the workout, clean the mess, and finish my workout. I’ve even been known to put dinner for the kids in the oven (OK, OK, the MICROWAVE), complete a quick circuit, and then go back to take the food out. I work out in the morning, afternoon, and night. I just get it in where I can with the understanding that everything I do counts, no matter when I do it.
Adopting this outlook has allowed me to remain consistent over years and has truly changed my life. I feel stronger than ever, I can keep up with my kids, and really nothing beats the feeling of hearing your 4-year-old say he wants to be “strong like mommy” when he grows up.
How have you made your fitness routine work for you? What are some of your favorite at-home workouts?