If I had a dollar for every time someone (especially parents) told me that they are just not motivated to exercise, I would have a lot of money put away! Undoubtedly, the first weeks and months after the birth of a child can be nothing short of emotionally and physically exhausting. And as time goes on, it only gets harder!
For many parents, feelings of exhaustion become a fixture with the birth of each additional child, and the growing demands. Exercise may be the last thing on a family’s mind. Getting motivated can often come from a place of inspiration or desperation. Regardless of where it comes from, that motivation is what you need to get going and feeling good. The goal needs to be making your family healthy and feeling good.
I remember the months after my third son was born. I was back to work right away as a business owner, nursing an infant who had colic for 12 weeks, eight solid hours a day, potty training my middle son and doing homework with my oldest. The line between sanity and insanity was almost non- existent. It was all about survival. I am no advocate of the super-mom achievement but needed some self-care and was at a loss. I did not need to exercise to be super mom. I needed it to stay sane. I literally found myself three kids in with a fitness business known nationwide for its work with moms. And there I was, backed into a corner of barely able to survive the day to day. The problem was not knowledge, or even desire. I could not find the solution. There are times when the intensity of it all makes things seem impossible. It is in those moments that you have to spend time problem solving to find a way. A completely self-sacrificing life is not sustainable or healthy.
Fitness has been the driving force in my life and the one thing that has sustained me in hard times for as long as I can remember.
About 12 years ago when I was pregnant with my first son, I found just the excuse I needed to sit on my expanding behind. Late pregnancy brought with it pregnancy-induced hypertension and other complications, including depression, which stayed with me into motherhood.
I gained 65 pounds during that pregnancy and delivered a 5 pound, 15 oz baby. I was miserable. Being active my whole life had not prepared me for the overwhelming experience of motherhood. I needed to feel better quickly because depression was taking over my life. I knew the key was exercise, but I had sunk so low I had no desire. There have been a few times in my life where coping and having very little support has made it hard (understatement).
Getting motivated to exercise when you don’t feel emotionally healthy is especially tough, but here are six key things you can do to get your mind and body back on track.
1. Focus on the outcome. Determine your big and small reasons for wanting to get fit. This is a bit different than specific goal setting. This is about constantly defining the kind of life you want to live and how you want to feel. Think of it as a personal mission statement.
2. Set goals. If you feel like you live a pretty healthy lifestyle but haven’t had that “I’ve really accomplished something” feeling in a while, perhaps it’s time to set a big goal. May be it’s something you could never imagine yourself doing, like competing in a 5 km run or a triathlon. Work towards something that takes you out of your comfort zone.
3. Step back and take stock. If you’ve experienced personal trauma in your life recently or are pulling away because you are feeling overwhelmed, take a step back and think of ways you can include small workouts into your day. Feeling blocked or unmotivated does not have to be attached to any recent trauma. It could be an accumulation of events over your life that keeps you stuck. If there is something stopping you that you cannot identify, slow down, self evaluate and acknowledge where you believe the challenges come from. There is freedom in this.
4. Go to bed earlier. This is one thing that can improve your outlook dramatically. Sleeplessness can have a huge negative effect on your decision making ability. If you have young children who still wake up during the night, this is especially important for you. Sleeplessness is crucial to healthy energy levels, healthy metabolism, and your cognitive abilities. Do not underestimate how poor sleep is affecting your life. It’s huge. You will notice a difference almost immediately when you choose disciplined sleep patterns.
5. Seek support and knowledge. Some people train well alone while others may need extra support, encouragement, education and entertainment. Connect with a training partner, or a group of friends who makes fitness a social outing. It will help you stay motivated and focused.
6. Most of all, have fun. If you enjoy it, chances are you will stick with it!
7. Admit to your fixes. It could be late night TV, chocolate kisses, shopping or even smoking. These things that are giving you immediate gratification are also energy suckers. Everyone has crutches, but if you realize that there is only so much time in the day, then you can take honest stock of how you spend it.
Andrea Page is a nationally recognized wellness expert and founder of FITMOM. Having helped over 20,000 women and their families, creating the FITMOM DVD series and being an international contributor, she is thrilled to share her knowledge in the community she now calls home with her husband and three boys.