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6 Great Tips to Help Exercise Happen After Baby

Photograph by Getty Images/Tetra images RF

The other night, Dave and I were chatting with a group of friends, and one couple, expecting their first baby, asked us what the hardest part of adjusting to new parenthood was. It's a tough question, but I said that the most difficult part for me was definitely feeling like my old life was over and there was this vast unknown of what a "normal" day as a mom looked like. Not to mention what a normal week, month, year, etc., would entail. Needless to say it's a huge life change and can be a little overwhelming.

The happy side of this is you are still yourself after becoming a mom! Granted, you will have to reshuffle your schedule slightly and let some less-important things go, but life doesn't end after having a baby. It's a whole new wonderful world!

For me, something that really helped me feel like my "old" self was getting back into exercise. Whether you were an avid exerciser before your pregnancy or are trying to make it a part of your new post-baby lifestyle, there are so many benefits to working some activity into your day. It just takes a little more creativity and juggling now that there's a bambino.

Here are some things that I found helpful as I tried to get back to the gym.

1. Plan ahead: As with most things in life, if you make a plan to achieve a goal, it is 1,000 times likelier to happen (roughly). I have found that sitting down on Sunday night and making a plan for my week, including my workouts, makes me more motivated. This is essential when training for a race, but it's also just really helpful in daily life.

2. Prioritize: The thing here is to realize that if you want exercise to be a part of your day, other things may have to slide—like, for example, grooming. I don't have as much time to myself as I used to, so I have to seize the moment when it arrives. I have dashed out the door when there is a sink full of dirty dishes because Dave is home for lunch and that's the only time I will have to get out by myself that day. Just give yourself a little permission to let some less-important things go (obviously your family's needs should totally be No. 1) in order to take care of your physical and mental health for a little bit.

3. Make it fun: Granted, this can be hard because sweating it out on the treadmill is NOT as alluring as, say, an hour during nap time with some chocolate and your very full DVR. Some ways that I help myself look forward to my workouts are making plans to meet up with a friend or one of my sisters at a class at the gym, trying out a new running route, or saving a show I love to watch while I am on the treadmill.

4. Get others on board: I am lucky because Dave knows how important it is to me to work out. After being married to me for four years, he has probably seen firsthand my mood shift that can come with a little exercise, so he is really helpful in letting me get to the gym or out for a run. (And I am so thankful!) Let your loved ones know that this is really important to you, and have some specific ways they can help. Some nights I will tell Dave, "I really want to run tomorrow morning, so when my alarm goes off in the morning, will you nudge me to get up?" It's silly, but being accountable to him and having him give me a little "shove" can be so supportive.

5. Get creative: Let's face it, there are some days when you can't pull yourself out of bed before the kids get up, you are working/have a million things to get done during the day, and your husband is working late so you have no babysitting. Is all workout hope lost? NO! Grace, one of my favorite bloggers ever, has a great list of her favorite workout DVDs to do when shes home with her kids. One of my favorite workout resources is also Blogilates: There are a TON of videos on this site for all fitness levels, both for cardio and toning. I have also traded babysitting with neighbors so we can both get a workout, and added bonus, the kids get a playdate! And, when all else fails, the jogger is my best friend.

6. Be realistic: Pre-Ella, I could pretty easily manage working out five days a week. Now, although I still love a good workout, I love my family more. I realize that I have to make some adjustments to my old routine to make it fit in with our life now. I generally aim for four workouts per week, and I try to keep them to an hour unless I am training for a race and have to do a long run that will take longer. That only happens toward the end of a training cycle. Something is totally better than nothing! Even a quick 30 minutes can do so much good for your physical and mental well-being. You'll burn the extra calories off running after your kids anyway.

If you can't tell, I get really excited about this. Exercise really is such an important part of my life, and I am here to tell you that it doesn't have to end once you become a mom!

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