One of the biggest challenges both my clients and I face is taking care of ourselves! We want to be fit, energetic, and confident in our own skin, but who has the time (and often the money)?
Gyms, trainers, recovery, meal prep, grocery shopping, family-friendly meals, and actually cooking! It can make you want to book a one-way ticket to “forget it”.
Here’s the thing though momma.. We all have those days when you eat your kid’s cereal, skip lunch then devour a pasta salad, get too caught up for groceries – so pizza – and by 10:00pm, think, “Well, that cheesecake has to get eaten sometime.” But with each meal you feel consecutively worse, right? The full tummy, the dragging after-feeling, and the spiral of really negative thoughts compounding throughout the day. If this sounds more typical than the exception, that compounding only gets worse each month and year.
It feels way more like surviving than it does really living.
I know you are exhausted and adding in something new is truly daunting, but I want to challenge you not to justify your self-care away. The truth is, it doesn’t have to be a 24/7, full-time gig. You’ve already got that. All it requires is some daily attention. Not just thinking about it, but taking a step every day that serves your health and fitness goals.
Here are three things to consider when Taking Care of Ourselves
1. Exercise should not take hours
If you can commit 20-30 minutes 3-4 times a week of the right kind of exercise, that’s all you need. Which leads to..
2. There is an exercise hierarchy
When it comes to optimal body composition, aiding hormonal balances, and helping out our bones, there are things to prioritize:
Lift heavy things. [NOTE: 5 lbs dumbbells are not heavy things] All exercise is stressful to the body, but when you strength train, you force your body to adapt to the stress you are putting it through. You tear muscle, but you rebuild it so that the next time you do those exercises your body is ready and capable. This kind of stimulus means more lean muscle and a faster metabolism, which means fat loss momma!
Intervals are a short period of really hard work (like sprinting) followed by a rest period (like walking), repeated over and over for short cycles. I like to use 8 to 20 minutes of intervals because you want the ‘work’ to be fast and hard. If you start doing intervals for an hour, you’ll notice the work gets slower and less intense as the minutes pass. Doing less at a higher capacity forces your body to need to adapt (think: strong muscles and fat loss) in a way you wouldn’t get from just going for an easy run (more on this below).
Now, this is a bit controversial, because cardio lovers REALLY love their cardio, but if your goals are for better body composition, strength, healthier bones, and less stress, cardio is the last thing I would do in your week. That means, if you have done three strength sessions and an interval day, then it’s not so bad to lace up your sneakers and go for a run. The problem is that the stress on your body from long bouts of cardio has the opposite effect of strength training. It actually can break down your muscle instead of help to grow it.
Picture a marathoner’s body versus a sprinter, weight lifter, or pilates instructor. That means that while you do burn calories during your run, it stops there and you can ultimately lower your resting metabolism from muscle breakdown. So just remember, if you love to run then do it – something is better than nothing – but if you can, try and stick to the exercise hierarchy.
3. Nutrition always comes down to preparation
Being a nutrition coach, I’d say I’m pretty savvy when it comes to the whats/whys/hows of nutrition for a hot and strong bod. But even I will fall victim to a muffin for breakfast or a grilled cheese for lunch if there are no groceries or meat cooked in the fridge. We either set ourselves up for success, or we don’t. It’s always about preparation.
So now we know what we need to do – how do we find the time? Here’s the big, mind-blowing thing you’ve been waiting for: If you want it, you’ll find the time.
I hope you were sitting down. Because that was a huge bomb I just dropped. Wasn’t it? But lets really think about this! Understanding that your health and fitness has very little to do with how much you can bench press or how exact you count your calories, and everything to do with your mind is a really big deal!
We find time to go on Pinterest, to read blogs on Ottawa Mommy Club (awesome choice by the way), to watch Grey’s, to cook pasta, and every other thing we have to do. The thing is, it’s your decision what HAS to get done in a day. If you’ve already decided that a 20 minute workout is an essential part of your day, then it is, and it gets done. If you’ve decided that a 20 minute workout can get done after you’ve finished the rest of your to-do list, then it will not get done. Because our to-do lists are never finished, are they momma..?
Here’s how we make it actionable:
1. The Do, Delegate, Delete.
List out all of the ‘stuff’ you have to do: daily, weekly, monthly, big picture – we’re talking everything you can think of. What are the things you just need to DO to get them out of the way? Those menial things hanging over you? Do those things. Look at the things you could easily delegate. You don’t have to DO everything to be superwoman, but you do have to get really good at delegating the stuff you either don’t want to do or that you are terrible at. Lastly, delete. Look at the things you are doing that you just don’t have to. Things you maybe feel pressured to do or that you do because ‘you’ve always done’ but are obsolete. In order to make space, some things have to go. Delete and forget.
2. Remember that your kids are little sponges
It seems impossible at first to do a workout at home with the kiddos in tow – but they get used to it really quickly and can end up being your best accountability partners. They learn from you that strength and health are worth prioritizing and while it takes a couple of workouts to get them to stop crawling all over your face, they learn and become the ones to say, “Mommy are we working out today?”
3. Kids love to help
I think we sometimes think that we have to do all of the menial stuff – like food prep – when the kids aren’t around. Why? Because they are crazy and make a mess of everything. This is true, things take a lot longer with the kids. But, would you rather be investing time into teaching your kids about cooking, washing and prepping vegetables for the week, spicing up chicken to cook, or making homemade protein bars, or would you rather spend that time sitting down to watch the same Paw Patrol episode for the 80th time?
Not that I’m saying that’s all we do, more that we spend time with them ‘doing’ things anyway so why not instil amazing habits that will serve them for the rest of their lives? Just think – when they are away at college they could be practicing a ‘Sunday Ritual’ of chopping all their veg and cooking off all their meat for the week! #WIN
4. Deciding what your ‘normal’ is
It’s noisy out there. From the habits – good or bad – that we have from our early caregivers, to the marketing we see everywhere, to the judgements we perceive from others it can be a lot to take. But in the end what you do for yourself and your family – ‘your normal’ – is up to you. I often hear concerns about missing out on things or what other people will think of them for taking the time for self-care. Lets consider what we are missing out on if we don’t care for ourselves.
Here’s what I mean – say you are going skiing with a few friends and the kids, and at lunch you (gasp!) don’t have a poutine. Are you missing out? Or are you SKIING in the first place because you have made a healthy and active lifestyle your normal. You will never look back at a ripe old age and think, “I can’t believe I was healthy and fit! I wish I’d ate more chips.” Decide what your normal is, hold yourself to it, and never apologize for doing YOU momma.
The take-away on taking care of ourselves?
It’s about deciding that you are the person you want to be right now. Today. Because once you do that, all of your actions begin to align with who that person is and there is always time for what you want – because it’s just ‘what you do’.