“Can’t You Just” Work Out?

working-out.jpgChristmas is a magical season when your kids are young, and this year we made two trips to see Santa. Usually Aubrey will dutifully inform him of her requests, give a big hug, and off we go. But this time Santa turned to me and asked, “and what does mommy want for Christmas?” At first I was like a reindeer in the headlights… what do I want? I laughed and replied, “a nap!”

Later after we left I had my real answer… the one I wouldn’t say out loud but is what I actually want:

“Santa, I want to return to my pre-baby weight for Christmas.”

Any other working mom out there ever wanted that for Christmas? And to those who are thinking, “Girl, can’t you just…exercise/eat better/do Whole30/get it together?” let me explain…

The baby weight relationship is a bipolar one for me. During pregnancy I love the weight gain. Every pound is like a precious physical reminder that a baby is growing inside and I’m enlarging to make room. I love bump pictures, wearing maternity pants early, gummy prenatal vitamins, and “eating for two” at Chick-fil-a. I feel cute during pregnancy, even at the end when I’m carrying 50+ extra pounds (no exaggeration – when it comes to pregnancy and babies, I go big). My hair is thick and full and despite the physical discomforts my heart is happy. I really love expecting a baby.

But once baby is born my attitude about the weight completely changes. No longer can I affectionately cradle my tummy and think about the baby inside. The bump which still persists today (at 7+ months postpartum) is just stubborn extra pounds that despite all the claims, has not vanished as a result of breastfeeding. In fact, I’m pretty sure I gained weight post-delivery before I lost any. I get frustrated that maternity clothes look weird, my old clothes don’t yet fit, and so I keep wearing the same one pair of jeans or black pants. I return to work from maternity leave still looking like I’m expecting. My 5 year old regularly pats my tummy and asks “why do you still have a big belly?” One of her friends innocently inquired a few weeks ago at church if the baby was in the nursery or still in my stomach. I’m convinced every other woman loses her pregnancy weight faster than I do. So can’t I just, you know, work out?

I actually would like to work out. I’m an athletic type and have played sports most of my life. I like swimming, racing, jogging, biking, yoga… heck, even a nice brisk walk! I just have such a hard time fitting it into the schedule. I know there are at-home videos and online coaches and 15-minutes of sun salutations a day… but I want 45-60 minutes to hustle and sweat, preferably outdoors or in a group fitness class.

Years ago when I attended barre classes the instructor always started out by affirming the attendees for taking time for themselves. I would think,

That’s odd, this isn’t exactly fun. It’s called WORKing out for a reason… if I were taking time for myself I’d be on a massage table somewhere or soaking my feet.

But now I get it. Having time and energy to work out, and subsequently caring for my body, is a luxury. It’s something I have to make time for and re-structure the normal routine to fit in. It doesn’t just happen. Now I know why all the women who were killing it in those barre classes were the moms. While I was busy avoiding the instructor’s eye because my plank looked more like a tee-pee, the moms were not wasting a single second of the workout. I remember running a 10K before I had kids and even when giving it my best effort I was far surpassed by a young mom of two who nearly won the race while pushing one of her babies in a jogging stroller. So yeah like I’ve said before, moms are beasts.

Many leading employers have long known that providing access to exercise facilities is a smart move. It’s a great benefit and improves employee concentration and reduces healthcare costs. Perhaps they could take it one step further and offer personalized exercise coaching or support groups for working moms. Postpartum moms need to re-enter exercise gingerly, and often doing it with others helps overcome the discouragement barriers I mentioned above. It also needs to happen during the workday. Coming in earlier or leaving later is just not an option. If it were a simple “can’t you just” adjustment, we would have made it. With the demands of a family and a full-time job, we need our employer to partner with us on creating pathways to exercise.

I’m so grateful that my employer, Good Sam, recently added a group fitness room to the second floor of our clinic, run by the local YMCA. I’m able to take classes during the week with minimal time cost (that’s the key) to my job or family. It is convenient, accessible, free for staff, and fun. It really is a win-win. The only difference on fitness class days is when the family gets home, I’m in yoga pants and a tank top, which inevitably prompts my daughter to ask, “Mommy, did you exercise?”

And I reply, “Oh this? Yeah, I just worked out.” 🙂

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