Guest post authored by Angie Black
Actual conversation between a personal trainer (me) and a new client.
Trainer: How long has it been since you last exercised?
Client: Oh the last time I did anything regular was before my first child was born.
Trainer: How old is your little one now?
Client: Twenty one…
So funny, and yet so common. Even for the most healthy of people, the birth of your first child can throw your world into a spin. Your body changes (obviously more relevant to the mums, although the “Dad bod” is gaining popularity!), there are sleepless nights, exhaustion and no time to prepare proper meals. You hope that once your little ones are at school, you will get back into exercise. Then in between juggling jobs, school activities and your children’s social lives, time flies and you are the parent of a 21 year old, unfit, unhealthy and the road back seems far too long.
Depressed yet? Don’t panic!!! This is NOT how it has to be! With a little bit of guidance, some forward planning and a touch of determination you can stay fit, strong and healthy all the way through parenthood.
Before we dive in…
I want to start by giving the mums a little pep talk about their bodies after birth, as this can be a really tough time for many:
- Take your time: Remember it takes 9 months for your body to change as your baby grows, so it should take AT LEAST 9 months for it to settle back down. Often longer, especially if you are breast feeding.
- Every body is different: Some people find the skin around their stomach goes straight back to the way it was, for some it will always be a little looser. Some people lose weight breast feeding, others put it on. Everyone experiences different things during and after birth and that is completely normal. Don’t compare, just take care of yourself.
- You will never be the same and that’s a beautiful thing: During pregnancy, our bodies do amazing things – our hips widen, our rib cage may expand, our feet may even grow! Those beautiful stretch marks, or slight softness of our stomach skin is a reminder of the precious bundle we carried for 9 months. Learn to love these reminders.
OK, let’s get to the business at hand, how to stay healthy and strong through all stages of parenthood:
Baby / toddler stage
- Start with 10 minutes of movement every day: You have 10 minutes to spend on yourself every day. Yes you do! Now you need to use those 10 minutes to do something active. It doesn’t have to be complicated, just head out for a walk. Or hang out with bubs at home and do one of these “at home exercise routines”. Put a chart up on the fridge and tick off your 10 minutes of activity every-single-day.
- Commit to this plan with a friend: Tell a friend about your 10 minutes of movement a day and get them on board. Check in and hold each other accountable. Or even better, meet up and do it together.
- Only buy healthy food: Although I would encourage you to eat proper meals when you can, the reality of parenting little ones is that often times grabbing snacks in between feeding and bathing is all that can be done. One simple tip around eating well is to only buy good food. If the unhealthy snacks are not in the house, you simply can’t eat them. Fill the fridge with cut up vegetables, hummus, cottage cheese, fruit, boiled eggs, nuts, greek yogurt, tins of tuna etc.
School aged children
- Be a little selfish: Intellectually, we understand that we are no use to others when we are completely exhausted. However, we still find it difficult to put ourselves first. As our children’s schedules become overwhelming, we find ourselves running from pillar to post with no time for our own exercise. It’s OK to make the kids wait a little longer for dinner while you do a strength circuit at home, or to let them get their own breakfast while you go for a run. You will be a happier parent when you are done.
- Only make one meal for the family: As soon as your kids are eating proper food at the table, get into the habit of making one meal for the whole family – and I don’t mean macaroni and cheese! Cook a healthy meal and serve it to everyone. There can be small variations (I tend to have a little more salad and vegetables than the kids) but the base of the meal is the same. If you try to cook two meals you are just creating extra work for yourself.
- Be creative: Fitting in exercise is all about being creative. When the kids are at soccer training, run laps around the oval rather than sitting in the car. Meet a friend for a walk rather than a coffee. Exercise during your lunch break. Just make it work.
During these exhausting yet wonderful years, be kind to yourself – not by eating chocolate biscuits and scrolling through facebook – by taking care of your body and your mind. Move as often as you can, eat good food and enjoy every moment. Let’s celebrate our children’s 21st feeling fit, strong and healthy!