WORKING OUT HASN’T BEEN… WORKING OUT

There’s a subtle distinction between reasons and excuses, and I fear that by this point, I am veering well towards the latter.

Oliver is more than eight months old and I’ve yet to re-implement any consistent, formal fitness training program. For the first time in years, I do not have a gym membership; this despite the fact that J gave me a hand-made coupon for a one-year gym membership as part of my birthday present. Five months ago.

It’s a bit of a catch-22. I haven’t wanted to take J up on his offer until I was sure I could commit to a regular schedule of gym visits; but the lack of a gym membership has been one of my barriers to regular training. Instead, I’ve spent months deliberating over which gym to join: which gym has that elusive combination of top-notch training, optimum facilities and equipment, a generous schedule of classes, a convenient location, and a monthly fee that won’t blow our budget. I’ve long given up on the idea of a gym with childcare. The types of gyms I like to frequent do not offer childcare.

There was a time, not too long ago, where it seemed my entire life revolved around eating well and keeping myself in top physical condition. I spent every evening at the gym, every weekend pursuing recreational fitness activities, and I would turn down social engagements if I thought they might derail my perfect diet or cause me to miss a CrossFit class. I was obsessed, and I had the body to prove it.

I love the turn my life has taken since then, but there are things I miss.

I miss pushing myself to my limits, then spending an hour or two shooting the breeze with my coaches and/or fellow athletes after class. I miss that body. I miss striving for perfection and feeling so completely in control of myself. I miss being consumed with optimal macronutrient ratios and personal bests (I’m kidding about those last two… or am I? :)).

I also know those days are over, at least for the foreseeable future.

Obsessing over being the paragon of fitness has given way to obsessing over being the paragon of housewifery and motherhood.

Over getting every last fingerprint off the doors of the kitchen cupboards. Over meticulously logging nursing sessions and naps. Over trying to cram in as many stimulating mom and baby activities as possible. Over endless vacuuming, laundry and tidying. Over family meal planning, cooking, and sitting patiently through an eight-month-old’s self-feeding. These new “Mom” pastimes have come to replace that which used to be my gym time.

My other new pastime is being in a constant state of exhaustion. Despite the fact that Oliver sleeps a solid 11 to 12 hours per night, he is a surprisingly fussy bundle of perpetual motion, boundless energy and insatiable curiosity during his waking hours.

All of these elements combine to create my reason (no, let’s call a spade a spade) excuse that:

a) I can’t find a daily — or even thrice-weekly — two hour block of time in which to travel to a gym and take a class; and

b) even if I could, how on earth could I muster up the energy to do so?

Evening workouts, after Oliver is in bed, are out of the question. I simply can’t do intense training within two hours after a big meal, and there are no gyms offering 9:00 PM classes. Also, I am already working (part-time) one or two evenings a week. I don’t want to fill the three remaining weekday evenings with obligations. It’s not sustainable, and it’s not fair to J.

Mid-day workouts are presently not an option, as I’d have nobody to watch Oliver. It would be too much of an interruption to have J take two hours off in the middle of his work day. Perhaps if/when Oliver becomes more accustomed to his new daycare and is staying for longer stretches, I will be able to hit the gym on Thursdays and Fridays. Two days are better than none.

This leaves me with the dreaded early mornings. I’ve never been a “morning” person, let alone a “morning workout” person. Furthermore, I think the military long ago killed any desire I might have ever have had to drag my ass out of bed at some ungodly hour — tired, cold and starving — and partake in intense exercise. But this weekend we will be eliminating Oliver’s 11:00 PM dream feed, freeing us up to go to bed much earlier. With that, I think that 7:00 AM workouts will become feasible, if still unpleasant.

The only issue I’ve yet to figure out is what to do about engorgement. Since my classes will take place more than 12 hours following Oliver’s last nighttime feed, and since he doesn’t receive his first morning feed until after 8:00 AM, I’ll be going to the gym with very, very full breasts (TMI? Sorry!). I really don’t know how that’s going to work. I’m afraid it will be tremendously uncomfortable, and that I’ll leak. I’m afraid that Oliver might wake early one morning, and that J will be stuck for an hour or more with a cranky, starving baby.

But alas, those precious early hours are probably the only ones I can count on if I want to establish any sort of consistency with my fitness routine.

Don’t get me wrong: I’ve remained active throughout the post-partum period. I walk (often for hours) while Oliver naps in the stroller. I take Oliver hiking, snowshoeing and swimming. I am constantly chasing, lifting and carrying. My life is the epitome of Mark Sisson’s mantra, “Move frequently at a slow pace.” I look fit.

But I am craving more. I want a regimented program, complete with goals and coaching and meticulous record keeping. I want to see my six-pack again; not just hints of abdominal definition. I want to be able to rip off a “Murph” and still be able to walk the next day. I want to be a mom and an athlete. Is that too much to ask of myself? I don’t think so.

So the excuses stop here. If I really and truly want this, I will have to find a way to make it work. And that way is going to involve some rather unpleasant mornings for the time being. But who knows — maybe someday I will come to love my morning workouts.

Did you have a passion or obsession that you temporarily gave up for motherhood? How do you find balance in your new role as a mom, while still indulging your need to excel at another pursuit?

26 responses to “WORKING OUT HASN’T BEEN… WORKING OUT

  1. I recently wrote an email to my cross-fit trainer with my (excuse) reasoning for not being able to renew my membership at the 3 month post-partum time as I had optimistically hoped. I explained that mother nature maybe has a reason why running sprints, swinging kettle bells, and other exercises might not be optimal for new moms. I certainly don’t want to be running down the street in the early hours with full milk jugs swinging to and fro (in any kind of super bra)–because if it were comfortable, there are days when we mommies might just keep on running! Those full milkies kind of make us more inclined to stay near our babies and not get too excited by the prospect of running away!

    Really though–you will have time to exercise and re-devote your energy to those awesome body pursuits–babies are only babies for so long–think of those endless elementary school days and preschool is only around the corner! They arrive much faster than you know. In the meantime, move, move, move! Being a mommy in the early years is just crazy hard work.

    I am going to go change a poo-splosion now, if you’ll excuse me (since I ignored the potty cues to type…) phew! 🙂

    • You’re always so full of wisdom 🙂

      And the image of “running down the street in the early hours with full milk jugs swinging to and fro” totally cracked me up!

  2. Pump when you first get up, and you’ll make enough milk by the time you feed Oliver and you won’t have full boobs. The first few days of this you may not make as much as he’s used to, and you can finish the feeding with milk in a cup for him or he’ll just nurse again earlier than usual. After a few days your body will adjust and you’ll make enough for him in that two-hour period.

    • Sigh. I did think about pumping, but the idea of getting up an additional half hour earlier to do so is really off-putting :). But that may be my only option…

  3. I commend you for keeping up, even just mentally, with remembering that you are a person apart from your baby, and having dreams and goals in mind for yourself. Good job! I always said I would never got lost in the fog of “I’m a mommy and only a mommy,” but I did for a while. I’ve been coming out of it in the past few months and it feels good to be aware of my interests again 🙂 I love to cook and have been trying to get back to that, so I put my girl in her high chair in the kitchen and narrate what I’m doing while she sits and watches and chews on her teething toys. We have been going out to the mall and thrift stores lately, and we’ll browse and we get to talk to other people and “treasure hunt.” Perhaps there is a way you can incorporate your baby into your exercise? Something to brainstorm about…
    Regarding your early morning workout/engorgement concern, do you have a manual breast pump? I have the Avent and it’s wonderful. It is less than $40 at Target and comes in handy for times like when I awake sooner than baby is ready to feed, or I am up later but don’t want to wake her, or once on a road trip when we couldn’t stop and she was sleeping soundly… Anyway, you might consider investing in one of those; it’s a small price to get yourself that workout.
    I have an eight month old as well, my first, and I also have ongoing autoimmune disease issues that have made it an eventful eight months. My baby is very busy (healthy!) like yours, and I just get wiped out every day. I have help a couple times a week, but the rest of the time I just have to get through it on my own. What keeps me going is truly the thoughts of how short this time is – I am amazed at how fast it’s gone by already! We’ll be moms of “kids” and then teens and then adults before we know it. So try to cherish the time, make memories, and trust that your time for you and those awesome goals will come soon enough. And maybe you’ll get set up at the right gym for those one or two days a week soon, and that is really great, definitely (like you say) better than nothing! 🙂

    • Thank you for all of your kind words of encouragement and support 🙂

      I have an electric pump, but I have heard from friends that the manual pumps can be amazingly efficient. It might be a worthwhile investment for just quickly “taking the edge off” in the morning without doing a full pumping job.

  4. what katie said. pump. Oliver will be fine, don’t worry! (even though i know if you weren’t worrying, you’d be worried why you weren’t worrying haha)

    If he wakes up cranky, have a store of pumped milk for J to feed him – or let him feed himself some solid breakie 🙂 (my kid loves her scrambled eggs!)

    your boobs will adjust to the new routine faster than you expect. they are super awesome at finding homeostasis…. something to do with evolution….or economics (supply and demand) or both 😉

    i hear what you’re throwing down. it is not easy to fit it all in, but between you and your hubby, you should be able to figure it out! best of luck!

  5. Our box has moms that switch back and forth and take turns watching each others kids so we can all wod 3 or 4 days a week. I am happy to offer two days of my time in order to have my children right there in the club room with a mom I trust on the other days. Maybe suggest implementing such a program at your old box?

    • That is a great idea! And how nice to have your kids right there at your facility, under the care of someone you trust. I’m going to be starting at a new gym, so it’ll probably take some time before I meet people and am able to make such arrangements, but it’s definitely something I could look at once I get to know everyone.

  6. We do the mama-trade time too and it works out great. I put up a post at our gym for a trade time when D. was 6 months old and found some interested local parents who wanted to juggle gym schedules together. When Oliver is bigger, you’ll start to notice that watching two kids is easier for you because kids can entertain each other. About 1.5 hours is the max. when they’re little though. Drop-off, run to gym, exercise, run back, get baby, head home. Phew! It’s definitely mental exercise!

    • I feel like my options continue to increase as Oliver gets older and more independent. Notwithstanding his current separation anxiety (when does that abate, anyway?), it’s certainly a lot easier to leave him places now that he doesn’t need to be fed every two hours!

  7. Carli! We must be of one and the same mind this week. I just wrote a post yesterday using the same pun on working out before heading over to read yours this morning. I too am struggling with the age-old dilemma of wanting my body back and understanding that “my body” comes with some very interesting mommy strings attached given my parenting philosophies. But I’m slowly learning to make peace with what appears to be a long journey back to the ripped abbed, nutritionally consistent days of yesteryear. But I completely understand your desire for that life, and the constant struggle to work it back into the new, ever changing schedule motherhood brings. When I’m feeling myself throw a pity party, I remind myself of all the hardworking single mothers who don’t even have time, access, resources, and possibly therefore a desire for a lifestyle of fitness and I try to remember that I am lucky to know that those days might once again return for me.

    • Just read your post. I can’t believe we posted an almost identical perspective on the identical topic on the same day – that’s too funny! 🙂 It’s nice to know I am not alone in feeling this way.

      • Definitely not alone, Carli! Fingers crossed to more crossfit time in your future. 🙂

  8. What everyone else said: try and pump a bit out before heading to the gym.

    My excuse: no Crossfit box here. I’ve tried a several things to get myself motivated on my own, gym membership, buying a kettlebell, but none of it has worked. I need the group setting to push myself and see results. I’m considering taking some bootcamp or kick-boxing classes. Something is better than nothing.

    Thanks for writing so candidly about your struggles. Helps to know even the uber-fit and motivated moms can’t always get back into their pre-baby routines.

    I also think you would be the ideal person to make some videos and workouts just for us moms to do in our living rooms. Like a virtual Mom’s Only Crossfit Box. Four or Five WODs a week… maybe install a forum on your blog where we can check in, discuss results, encourage each other. Have you seen EPFit from Everyday Paleo? Something like that.

    I’ve realized lately I need the Crossfit community almost as much as I need the workouts.

    • I’ve also tried a variety of “working out on my own” endeavours, and they never seem to last. There are certain things I like to do on my own, for example, running, trail running, hiking, cycling, snowshoeing; but when it comes to throwing down a tough CrossFit WOD, I need to be inspired by my environment and by the people around me. So I definitely understand where you’re coming from with that excuse.

      I like your idea of videos and a forum! The videos have been on my radar for potential future blog-related projects. I’m still trying to figure out where I want to take this blog and what I want it to evolve into…

  9. I completely relate this post, Carli! I was, in my opinion, in pretty darn good shape before I got pregnant; in fact I was training for 47 mile bike race in the hills of West Virginia (can you say “lung burner”?) and CrossFiting when I found out I was expecting and continued to train for it until I was 4 weeks from the race itself (at which time I quit because my coach flaked on me and I was just too exhausted).

    I used the fact that I did such intense workouts even while I was pregnant to beat myself up for a long time after my baby was born. Then I realized how pointless it was to do so. Do not let the good be the enemy of the perfect. If you can only get in 2 or 3 days a week then just do it. If you can only jog once per week, then just settle for that for now. As for not wanting to do the 7 am workouts….you’re just going have to suck that up if that’s the only time you can workout. And I mean that in the nicest way possible 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • You’re absolutely right – having perfect be the enemy of good is exactly what I’ve been doing. I find that with fitness, my attitude tends to be “all or nothing,” so if I can’t get my 4-5 CrossFit workouts plus one recreational activity in each week, I get discouraged. But realistically, a couple of workouts and a run each week would still be a lot better than I’ve been doing, and would make a noticeable difference to my current fitness level (and appearance).

  10. I relate…and will relate some more after baby #2 arrives here shortly. But I would also suggest that you are not making excuses necessarily– really, you can’t excel at EVERYTHING ALL AT ONCE. Not enough hours in the day. I think that there is a lot of growth to be gained through the process of accepting that your priorities have changed (because if working out were your #1 priority, you would keep Oliver in daycare longer– I mean, it IS possible, but it’s just not what makes sense for you and your family right now, and quite honestly, if working out WERE your #1 priority….well, I live in LA, I know it’s common, but it doesn’t make for the happiest of families), your reality has changed, and everything will be okay. I totally feel you on wanting to be in control– I’ve been obsessively googling at-home workout routines, weird diets, etc in hopes of getting right back on track post-partum…but part of what this tells me is that I need to work on accepting that in many ways, esp for EBF moms, one’s body is not really one’s own for a long time, and one’s energy/sleep/best intentions are often shot to hell…and I’ve got to learn to be okay with that. I’m not saying give in, get sloppy, and join the obesity epidemic. But between lower standards and total insanity/beating self up/guilt/etc, I’ll go with the lower standards. A hint of abdominal definition– sounds like a good goal! I salute you!

    • Well-said (and very much appreciated). I am definitely getting the sense that maybe I need to ease up on my expectations. After all, there is a huge middle ground between perfection and abandoning my efforts altogether, right? 😉

  11. Pingback: My Luxuries | The Minimalist Mom·

  12. Um…yeah, I’d be thrilled to see just a hint of abdominal definition…I haven’t had that in 5 1/2 years. I am however 18 weeks pregnant with baby #2, so I have just taken on some light exercise to offset my rising blood sugar (type 2 diabetes and pregnancy do not mix well)

  13. Just thought I would share what worked for me. I do (HIIT) bodyrock.tv workouts from home that only take 12 minutes and they are perfect for us busy moms. I have seen great results so I love to share with other moms.They have a website bodyrock.tv and they also have a channel on you tube as well they are on Facebook. I am living proof that it can be done. If you want you can check out my instagram pics under the user name bodyrockingmommy =)

    • Thanks for the tip! I’ve actually seen some of those videos before, and that woman is seriously fit! I don’t know why it never occurred to me to try that as a post-baby workout strategy. Certainly everything she does can be done at home, with very minimal gear. I will check out your fit mommy photos 🙂

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