From grade school through high school dancing defined my free time. No nothing like what you are thinking. No elegant point shoes or cool hip hop classes (if you thought the later it’s hilarious), instead I spent hours a day practicing for competitive Irish dancing. Yep. Like the Riverdance stuff. Strange, but true. This beautiful phase of my life that taught me so much about hard work and the power of pushing yourself gave way to a period where I was not so kind to my body. Unhealthy eating habits and typical college behaviors pulled me away from exercise. I wouldn’t find it again, at least consistently until I became a mother.
I am so grateful I found the Fit4Mom community when I did as it showed me that even with all of the loose/stretchy/not myself parts of my body, I could still be strong. Unfortunately, my schedule changed and I found myself dropping exercise once again. Until about two months ago, physical activity was a rarity for me. And then one day out of kind of the blue I started again. That gym membership that debited out monthly finally got used. What happened was both amazing and incredibly frustrating.
1) I realized I was really out of shape.
To get myself back in the grove, I thought I know I will do a personal training session at my gym. Well, bless the heart of the sweet angel who put up with me during that session as I got sweaty and frustrated that my body (that I hadn’t been fueling or moving appropriately) wouldn’t just snap back into its previously strong form. Tears pricked my eyes as 3 lb dumbbells felt heavier than my 26 lb kid. I was embarrassed. Ashamed I’d let my body get so out of shape. No, I wasn’t tons heavier, but I was not nearly as strong. People with perfectionistic tendencies, take heed here. Anything worth doing takes time. Patience with yourself is the ground floor to beginning an exercise regimen, at least one that’s going to last.
2) I felt really self conscious.
Walk into a spin class or a hot yoga flow when you have no idea what you’re doing, and your pride is bound to take a little hit. My eyes traveled to every body in that room with stronger muscles, leaner abs, and confident gazes. Jealousy raged. But why? These other gym-goers had likely given more of commitment to health than I yet had. Jealousy would only lead to my quitting. So as hard as it was (still is a few months later), I have resigned to sometimes being the one off tempo or slower. As long as I am trying that counts for something.
What helped the most with this however, was getting accountability buddies. Other women to text me to meet for gym dates or workout classes so my intimidation would decrease. I am also so much less likely to blow off a friend that a solo workout! People pleasing works here, mamas! Use your gifts haha.
3) I learned it’s easy to over do it.
Once that feeling of victory takes over exercise becomes addictive. Maybe this is that “runner’s high” people speak of that I used to attribute to lack of oxygen. Of course it makes you happy, it’s literally releasing happy bubbles into your brain, as Elle Woods of Legally Blonde reminds us, “Happy people don’t kill their husbands, they just don’t.” Rest is important. For someone that struggles with balance, why do it if you can’t do it well being my mantra for well…ever, I was afraid to take a day off. What if I lost momentum again and got right back to where I started?
4) Mischief (Anxious Brain) Managed.
Have you seen the meme about laying in bed at night and thinking of all the things you did wrong in a day? (check out this article on anxiety and mamas) That is totally me. Laying down to categorize my day and then agonizing of things that won’t matter in 6 months or tomorrow. But run or do a tabata class and you’re too tired to put your brain on the chaos Merry-go-round. Glorious sleep.
5) Habits take time.
Habits take time to form. Some experts say a month some two weeks. In my experience, I can tell something is a habit when I break from it (say a break from exercise to go out of town for the weekend) and then fall back into my new pattern when my life goes back to normal. We as women especially, are obsessed with this idea of self care. (read more on that here) We know we should be taking care of ourselves, but then we run into walls doing it all the wrong ways. Blowing money on a new dress or frivolous things instead of eating well, sleeping well, loving well, and moving joyfully.
I won’t pretend my journey back to someone who makes exercise a priority has been an easy one. I have been hard on myself and jealous of others. I have failed days I swore I’d “eat healthy”. I have chosen a wine night over a workout. You know what? That’s ok. Balance is the only way to sustain a habit long term. My anxious heart really intends to keep moving for joy.