My life used to be a whirlwind of Instagram-worthy photos, cool swag, and a super toned body that didn't require a single penny for a gym membership. Then, about a year and a half ago, I made the decision to bid farewell to my dream job as Fitness magazine's fitness editor to stay home with my three-month-old baby girl Evie.
I wasn't immune to the fact that I loved my job as a fitness editor and the amazing team I worked with, but I knew I wouldn't be able to be present for all the little moments many working moms miss out on. So, I left the office world behind for 24/7 sweatpants (I had enough Lululemon and Nikes to make them fashionable) and breastfeeding marathons.
While I've still been able to write through freelancing gigs, I haven't been able to keep up with my pre-baby workouts, and it's been a long time since I've seen my six-pack. Here's what I learned from going from fitness editor to new mom all while trying to stay fit.
1. Two-a-day workout sessions are only realistic if you're playing high-school football.
Since the job description of fitness editor includes working out pretty much all the time, sometimes my day would look like one big training session. There were times I'd take a 7 a.m. yoga class to test a new mat on the rooftop of an NYC skyscraper, then duck out during lunchtime to attend a boot camp class hosted by Kim Kardashian's personal trainer, then finish the day with a half-marathon training run along the Hudson River. Before I even walked into my apartment door at the end of the day, I'd have finished two or three workouts when most people were trying to still figure out how to squeeze in just one.
Nowadays, I'm that person trying to find time exercise. This means working out in my kitchen while my daughter eats or sneaking in step-ups on the park bench. And I have to admit, I feel pretty bad about all those times I'd tell new moms to work out while their baby sleeps. When you have a newborn, you're either just so tired, or nap time means getting the 100+ other things from your to-do list done, like preparing dinner, folding laundry, or maybe even showering! Squeezing in a short workout seriously is a workout in and of itself. Today I'm proud of myself on the days that I can do a few short circuits here and there, or pop my daughter into the jogging stroller.
2. Morning really is "me" time.
Since my world was centered around exercise I didn't need to make time for it—wearing fitness apparel to the office was literally part of the job description. Today, waking up at 6 in the morning before Evie starts calling my name is truly the only free time I have to work out. Sure, I could hit the treadmill in my basement as soon as Evie goes to bed. But by that time, dinner needs to be made, and my husband and I have probably had a glass of red wine or two. So that workout I "planned" is just not going to happen. As a mom, if I don't put my workout at the very tippy top of the day's schedule, I'd only be kidding myself if I say it'll happen later.
3. Taking a class is a rare treat.
As most moms can relate to, finding the time to leave the house to work out sometimes feels like moving mountains. Coming from the girl who went to Soul Cycle almost daily, trying to make it to one class a week is a huge accomplishment. Since I'm not lucky enough to have family nearby who can be on-call to babysit, the idea of paying a sitter for an hour class really stinks. That basically sets you back the price of two classes when you factor in the cost of childcare these days. So your whole perspective on the studio experience is a lot different than the days when you could pop into any open class. On the weeks I make it to Soul Cycle or SLT, it's definitely an hour I don't take for granted.
4. Don't ditch your workout because you don't have an entire hour.
When you're a fitness professional and you live and breath exercise, spending an hour at the gym can actually feel pretty short. During events when we spent only 30 minutes sweating it out, I'd sometimes feel shortchanged. Today, I'm thankful for apps like The 7-Minute Workout and online streaming that lets you fit in a workout in under 20 minutes. These kind of short bursts of exercise are my lifeline to staying fit while my daughter plays with her toys. If I can manage to complete a couple of these high-intensity efforts a few times a day, then I've done enough. If I stuck to my old mindset that anything under an hour wouldn't cut it, then exercise might only happen once or twice a week. (Find more fast but efficient workouts SweatTV. Complete workouts are available for free streaming!)
5. The buddy system really does work.
As a fitness editor, I always told readers that meeting a friend for a workout would hold you accountable or being part of a group with the same goal makes the journey more fun and less intimidating. Back then I never needed anyone else to push me to get to the gym or out the door for a run. Now when my days are jam-packed and the only "me time" I get is when my daughter finally goes to bed, the last thing I want to do is hit the weights. (Like, what could be better than watching The Bachelor on a Monday night and sipping on a glass of Malbec? Not much in my book.) It wasn't until one of my friends asked me to join her Beachbody team that I thought they might actually be on to something with this buddy-system idea. I now see the beauty in at-home challenges. It makes you feel included and part of a team.
6. Having a coach is a valuable investment.
What good is a gym membership if you never step foot inside? When I realized making it to the gym wasn't going to be as easy as I thought it would be, I had to come up with a better strategy. I discovered that spending money on my body and my own happiness was a valuable investment, so I hired a running coach. Through TrainingPeaks' Coach Match program I was quickly set up with a coach who fit my needs and whose training style spoke to me. When you belong to a big-box gym and don't show up, it's not like you're going to get a phone call from the front desk asking you why you missed your workout that day, but when I don't log my workouts with my coach or I miss our weekly phone calls, my coach is undoubtedly left wondering what's up. Telling her that I missed a workout or two because my favorite show was on or I just didn't feel like it, didn't seem like good excuses. Having someone hold you accountable is a sneaky little strategy that truly works wonders.
7. Steps DO count.
It's okay when 10,000 steps a day end up being all the physical activity you can squeeze in. The thing about being a mom is that your days are never the same and always unpredictable, so even if you planned a workout that day, something can—and will—inevitably go wrong. I knew I needed to be technologically plugged into my physical activity throughout the day, otherwise how else would the steps matter? Now I realize steps do count because, as any mom knows, you never stop moving. It's not shocking when my Garmin Vivoactive beeps around noon telling me that I already hit my daily goal, or by the time I go to bed at night I discover I have literally walked miles, yes miles, without ever leaving my own neighborhood.
8. Being a mom is a sport. Sometimes, dancing at 7 p.m. to dance hits from the 90s might be the only workout you're going to get, and that's OK because your daughter's uncontrollable laughter watching you do it is too good to be true. And who said dancing isn't a real workout? I used to brush it off when readers claimed they lost weight by dancing with or running after their toddlers, but it's absolutely true. I not only break out in an all-out sweat after busting out my throwback dance moves, but I actually feel sore after toting my 25-pound toddler around seven days a week. (Get moving with this 10-Minute Dance Workout for Flat Abs.)
9. Working out at home isn't always a piece of cake. Pausing a workout DVD mid burpee to change a diaper or deal with a temper tantrum means my already short HIIT session is filled with a whole lot of stop-and-go. It's during these kinds of days that I restart and attempt it a second time around, or more often than not, I don't make it back to finish. (P.S. Pick up just two magazines on your next trip to the grocery store, and you can have a month's worth of workouts and routines!)
10. It's all worth it. When I catch my 22-month-old doing jump squats—or her version of jump squats—in front of her stuffed animals, my heart melts. Or on the days when I do actually make it through a living-room workout while my daughter lays between my hands as I do pushups, kissing me each time I lower to her face, I know that in the end it's all worth it. I love being able to set good examples for my family and introduce my future athlete to everything I've ever loved about sports and working out. That's the awesome thing about fitness, it can open up your life to so many amazing things once you make it part of your world. Oh, and I'm starting to see my abs again too.