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Embarking on a fitness journey is a tough thing to do, and that’s especially true when you’re a mom trying to carve out time to dedicate to your own well-being. Raising children comes with countless challenges and inherently leaves you with very little time to prioritize your own needs.
As a mom myself, my kids are easily my biggest motivation for staying as fit as I can for as long as I can. I know now that being here for them and acting as an example to them is so important, but even I had doubts about prioritizing my own well-being at first.
Whether you’re a new mom or mom with older kids, check out some of the lessons and tips I’ve picked up as a mom and fitness fanatic.
Carmel Rodriguez is one of your Oxygen Challenge 8 Coaches. Find out all you need to know about OC8 here!
1. It’s best to take it slow — and take some time to enjoy motherhood first.
It’s not a race, and you have time! So, enjoy your little one(s), because time flies by so quickly.
Once you’ve cleared it with your health care provider (especially if you’ve had a complicated pregnancy), start with what you already know; walking, lunging, and other simple movements. Take moments while you’re at the park with your kids to hang on the bars or run around with them.
After my second pregnancy, I had to start from square one — walking — because I had hip problems and experienced a lot of pain for a long time in the beginning of my post-pregnancy fitness journey. I had to walk to learn how to run again.
Spend a few dollars if possible to hire a post-natal trainer, even if it’s just for a few sessions to give you exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor, and especially if you had a complicated birth. The goal should be to get yourself active gently to create more energy, get the happy endorphins flowing and re-introduce your body to fitness as a mama now.
2. Know that you’ll have to make time to get it done.
It’s tough, because as a mom you need to make time to find the time for a fitness regimen. If you can, recruit family or friends to help you do this.
As moms, we often feel that we have to give all of ourselves and sacrifice our own well-being for our children and families. In the bigger picture this is absolutely true to an extent, but if investing a little time into yourself can make you a better, stronger, more focused and clear-headed mom (and a better overall example for your children), wouldn’t that be worth the investment of your time?
Outside of moving with my kids (taking walks with them in the stroller, heading to the park, and so on) I would also do things to get moving while I was in the kitchen with them. It could be some calf raises while I reached for things in the cupboards, holding a squat against the fridge while waiting for something to boil, or other fun movements.
This is when your creativity and multi-tasking skills come into play! Try to have fun with it, be silly, laugh at yourself, have fun, act crazy — when it’s just you and your baby, they’ll think you’re the silliest and best mom ever. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s going to be worth it.
3. Ignore the naysayers (even if that includes yourself!), and remember why you’re doing it.
I faced a lot of backlash on social media that made me second guess myself, even early on in my journey. My husband was my biggest supporter and helped reassure me that my fitness journey wasn’t “selfish,” as some people had called it. Now, I let them say whatever they want. After all, most people criticize based on their own trauma, shortcomings and judgment of themselves.
Even if others aren’t making those comments about you, it’s common for moms to feel self-centered when they take much-needed time for themselves. If you’re struggling with feelings that your fitness journey is a selfish endeavor, just remember why you created your goals in the first place. Life and raising children is about the balance of being unbalanced — meaning everything we do as people and especially as parents is a learning curve. We try to find balance in the way we do things and often fail, but why? Because in order to be successful at something, you must fail first.
Again, many people believe that moms should focus on their children and sacrifice themselves entirely. And while there are certain stages in your kids’ lives where that balance will weigh heavier toward caretaking, prioritizing your health is not the “selfish” journey some may try to tell you it is. We are individuals too, still our own people, and that doesn’t just stop because we become moms. I want my son and daughter to know this, so that when they’re in my position or supporting their partner in my position, they will have the same outlook.
4. Extend your healthy habits to your family.
I know that in my case, of course I want my whole family to be healthy, but my kids aren’t going to be eating tofu dinners. When they were younger, I would find sneakier ways to add nutrition to their diets while letting them eat kid foods. When we used to make pasta for spaghetti night, for example, my husband would take all the vegetables that we would need and grind it up in a Vitamix before adding it to the sauce. The kids had no idea they were eating mushrooms and spinach and garlic.
As a side note, of course I eat pasta, too! It may get a bad rap in the fitness world sometimes, but I have no problem with it. Do I portion it? Yes — I don’t eat a huge bowl, just what I need to fuel my body. But no foods should be totally off-limits.
5. Give your kids some independence with food choices.
Ever since my kids were young, we’ve given them their independence when it comes to eating nutritious foods. We’d tell them that they could have anything in the fruit drawer they wanted at any time during the day no matter what else they’ve eaten, for example. That was their go-to snack. I feel like we’re visual eaters, so I took the time and have still been taking the time to cut up the fruits and package them in mason jars and stuff like that. Because if you don’t, then fruits get lost and vegetables get lost in the drawers and they all go rotten.
Instead, I make them visual and they look appealing. So, we have several big mason jars full of strawberries and watermelon or other fruits, and that’s gone in two days with my son. I spend a lot of time doing it, but it’s totally worth it to me. Now, he’s been doing this for years and it’s a habit for him. And because of that, I know that even though he also eats chips and pizza, and drinks some pop here and there, he’s still getting great nutrients throughout the day. It’s implanted in him, and it’s something that he’ll continue to do as a regular thing, because that’s just what we’ve ingrained into his daily routine.
6. Don’t come from a place of restriction.
It’s very important for our kids to understand that food is a means to energy, and that’s a big part of how we are in this home. We’ll tell them, “Make sure you eat, because you need this or because you’re going to play soccer,” for example. My daughter plays soccer six days a week, so we emphasize that she needs to eat to fuel her body to feel good while she plays.
We make sure they know that when you eat really well most of the day, it’s perfectly healthy to have a little bit of ice cream to enjoy as a treat. At the end of the day, it’s a matter of feeding our systems so that our systems work for us — and enjoyment is a part of it, too. But I don’t want my kids wandering around thinking, “I can’t eat this,” or, “I can’t eat that,” or, “I shouldn’t touch this,” and have that negative feeling toward food. To me, that would be detrimental to any kid growing up.