I grew up an athlete. I was a big gymnast and swimmer. I played in other sports like basketball and softball but those were by two big ones that I loved and did for years. After I transitioned out of high school, I didn’t do any college athletics. I took a few classes for fun and PE credits, swing dancing, karate, more swimming, but I did miss the team aspect from the past. After I graduated college and started working full time, my movement life looked like going to the gym before or after work. I had a membership and was pretty consistent with it in my schedule.
Then I got pregnant and had a baby. Now I’m not saying that motherhood has to ruin any part of your life, but I know I didn’t have the tools to know how to navigate that transition very well. I went into the traditional and expected role of making my life ENTIRELY about this new baby, trying to keep home and my relationship with my husband afloat.
I had pretty severe postpartum depression (PPD) after baby number two. We had a surprise pregnancy when baby #1 was 8 months old. I had two babies 16 months apart. My marriage was still trying to find it’s footing, we weren’t in the healthiest place. Baby #3 came two years after #2 and so did #4. I had 4 kids 5 1/2 years and under. I also had never really dealt with my PPD, it had just ebbed and flowed in it’s intensity. After baby #4, I had a TON of physical and emotional and physiological issues. Everything hit the fan. It took me two years of hard work on all fronts to feel like I could breathe again.
Then I was left to evaluate my priorities. I knew I couldn’t keep going with this plan of putting myself on the back burner until my kids were independent (10+ more years). I had to figure out how I could incorporate movement and self care into my routine so I could be the best version of myself, not just for my kids or my husband, but for my own health as well.
This routine ebbs and flows with my monthly cycle, as well as being aware of the yearly cycle and also what’s going on inside of me and knowing what would be truly nourishing to my spirit as well as my body.
My Non-Negotiable Checklist: Everyday I have to do these things or I don’t feel well and nourished.
Drink water- I know it doesn’t seem like it’s movement related, but it is. My cells, from my brain to my digestive system to my hormones, have to have water to work efficiently and for me to think clearly. Drinking water is a vital part of my daily routine.
Putting in the extra effort for my food to be healthy- again, this might seem like a stretch but it is movement related. It takes energy and movement to get healthy food on the table. I say it counts. I set aside time to prioritize moving my body to get that food into my body!
Walking: walking is meditative and healing for me, as well as helps my body feel amazing
5-45 minutes of intentional movement: I spend some time everyday moving in ways I know my body craves and loves. From time on my mat doing an online exercise class to taking the time I’m playing with legos with my children and making it more varied and intentional. If I’m on my period or didn’t sleep well it’s very low-key and mindful, if I’m feeling energized and wanting to exert more energy, I swing my kettlebells around and do some fun cardio. It varies greatly and I’m great with that, but the consistency of doing something intentionally with my body everyday that’s not mindlessly moving through my day feeds my body, mind and spirit.
I don’t feel shame or guilt around what I do or don’t accomplish: This one is huge. We tend to expect perfection from ourselves and then beat ourselves up when we can’t reach that standard. (I’m totally raising my hand as a recovering perfectionist!). Movement shouldn’t be one more thing we feel guilty about! It’s about nourishing yourself in your cycles, over your life, year and month. Tuning into your needs and giving your body the nourishment that leaves you feeling really good at the end of the day. And it can take time, trial and error and lots of practice to get there, but it’s possible.
That’s what it looks like for me. It’s really not complicated in this time in my life. Looking at my larger life cycle, still having pretty dependent young children around, there are still nights where they wake up and need me occasionally, there are still times when sickness travels through the ranks and a ridiculously slow pace, there are still weeks where we’re so busy, there’s no way I could carve out an extra hour, I still get my movement in. There are also days, where I feel like doing nothing, where I feel like crawling into bed and not coming out until tomorrow, and movement is at the bottom of my list. At that point, I ask myself honestly, if I crawled into bed right now or if I took a 10 minute walk, which would leave me feeling better. NOT which would make me feel less guilty or shame, but what would nourish where I’m at right now? This is so important to learn to give yourself what you need, because the answer is different for each person each day. I’ve learned to push a little outside my comfort zone, I tell myself I’ll take a 5 minute walk and if I still feel wiped, off to bed I go. If after that 5 minute walk I start feeling more energized, my mood has stabilized and I’m feeling up to either walking more or doing a short movement session, that’s what I do!
Finding that balance is HARD, because there’s no ONE right answer. There’s no ONE right program or protocol or schedule. It’s about learning to be intuitive, learning to trust yourself, learning to practice and learn and finding that balance one step at a time.
Mom life can be challenging, but remembering that we have to have that strong internal connection with ourselves, our needs, what our body is telling us is nourishing, to be effective long term at the rest of this challenging crazy ride!
Sending you big hugs as you navigate this process for yourself!