Your baby alarm clock starts wailing at 6:12 and you groan as you roll over and less than gracefully stumble/fall out of bed.
You narrowly miss cranking your shoulder on the door frame as you try to see through your puffy eyes to get to baby (wishing you could press the snooze button).
Up half the night trying to coax your tiny human back to sleep only to wake up to them wailing again 2 hours later.
You’d planned to go to that exercise class with your friend today and you were really looking forward to getting out of the house and getting a good workout in but right now all you want to do is crawl back into bed and sleep for another 4 hours.
You’re a busy mom. Your energy is always coming and going. But on days like this you really question, “Should I exercise when I’m so darn exhausted all I can think about is how many seconds I have to keep it together until naptime?”
And while it may seem like there’s a simple answer, there really isn’t.
There’s more to this picture than meets the eye.
And before I help you decide whether that workout is the best idea for you, I need to consider something else.
Something that we need to explore in order for you to get the whole picture.
You see, I’ve realized that a lot of moms have 2 toxic feelings about exercise:
1. Pressure to exercise – especially if you feel like you should be doing something to “get your body back”. Which can mean you have a tough time listening to your body when it says that the last thing it needs right now is a HIIT class.
2. Guilty when you skip a workout you had planned on doing – because you feel like you should or else that makes you lazy. Right?
So when you’re weighing the options between “Should I skip my workout or should I push through and exercise even though I’m exhausted?” you inevitably feel pressure to do it, or guilty if you don’t.
That’s a no win situation.
But the truth is you don’t have to feel that way.
And you shouldn’t feel that way.
So before we can decide whether that workout is the best option for you today – especially when you’re tired (or more tired than usual) – you need to have a handle on this pressure/guilt cycle so you don’t feel forced into it when your body really isn’t up for it, or guilty for skipping it even though you know your body really isn’t up for it.
So how do you get rid of these pressure/guilt feelings?
You get to the root of why you’re feeling that way in the first place.
Is it because you’re comparing yourself to pre-baby you?
Pre-baby you had no problems getting in 4-5 workouts a week.
Current you feels like you’re winning if you get 2 workouts in a week.
It’s not even close to fair to be constantly comparing yourself to a version of you that no longer exists.
Life is different now. Becoming a mom is a ridiculously life altering experiencing.
You don’t have the same time or energy.
So do yourself a favor and stop assuming that your workout schedule should stay the same.
We all go through different seasons of life and right now your season includes a lot of sleep deprivation and very little “you time”.
So if you’re not exercising as much as you did before you had a baby – and it’s making you feel guilty or like you should be exercising more – remind yourself that this may simply be one of the least exercise intensive moments in your life.
At some point you may get back to that 4-5 workouts a week. Right now 2 (or so) sounds awesome.
Is it because you’re comparing yourself to other moms?
That mom has a nanny.
That other mom has a baby who sleeps through the night.
That mom over there has a husband who doesn’t need to travel for work.
It’s so easy to compare your life to other mom’s lives, but that’s the quickest way to feel guilty, shameful and not enough. All. The. Time.
So when you find yourself criticizing your choices because you saw someone post on Instagram that they just got back from their third spin class of the week and they’re feeling #awesome remember that it’s okay to not be like them.
Your life isn’t their life.
You’re doing the best you can.
Don’t constantly assume that’s not enough.
Is it because you feel like you shouldn’t look pregnant still?
In our vain society so many women feel pressure to have a baby and not look like they had a baby as soon as possible.
“I can’t believe you were just pregnant! You look amazing!”
“Come on! No way your baby is only 3 months old. You’re so skinny!”
“Wow! You don’t even look like you had a baby.”
We hear these kinds of comments constantly in the media, directed toward people we know, maybe even said to us.
In our world it’s a compliment to have a baby and then be told you don’t look like you had a baby.
While these comments are made with the best intentions – the person is trying to be nice – it has the unintentional consequence of suggesting that a woman’s worth is strongly tied to her appearance and moms shouldn’t look like they ever even had a baby.
How cruel is it that moms – especially new moms – who are struggling to figure out everything about motherhood see these kinds of confidence bombing comments constantly?
Or they see the flip side.
Tabloids and even friends or family members blasting moms for “still” looking they had a baby months or years after said baby is born, like we all need to pop ’em out then magically conform back to pre-pregnancy state overnight.
It’s unfair, unnecessary and something that needs take a hike.
It’s okay to look like you had a baby.
If you want to lose the weight, the belly, the whatever, that’s okay too. I get it. It’s your body. I’m not interested in judging, or criticizing or telling you what your goals should be.
I just want to make sure it’s what you actually want. Not what you think you should want.
Or is there another reason? What’s your why?
It’s essential that you get to the root of why you’re feeling that pressure and guilt so you can move forward knowing you’re making the best decision for your physical and emotional health – instead of feeling like you’re constantly failing.
So explore this.
What’s your motivation?
Why are you feeling that pressure?
Why are you feeling that guilt?
Once you know the root cause of these feelings you can work on letting them go and ensure that they don’t impact the decisions you make so that you can make the best choice for you, today, in this moment, instead of letting external forces push you one way or the other.
So now that you’ve taken a few moments to psychologize yourself, the next step is to actually answer the question – should you exercise (especially on those days when you feel like you need to tape your eyes open)?
And the easiest way to get your answer is to ask yourself this simple question:
“Will this workout give me more energy or make me feel better than I did when I started?”
You’re a mom. You only have so much energy to go around and I’m not about to encourage you to partake in a hardcore workout sesh that makes you want to crawl onto the couch and nap for 3 hours afterwards.
You don’t have the luxury of letting your body recover from an intense workout session that drives you into the ground when you have to pick your kiddo up from the gym daycare and parent, and lift, and do the things for the next 10+ hours.
So if you have a feeling that the workout you thought you might wanna do will deplete any remaining energy you have left, maybe it’s not the best idea to do it.
That doesn’t mean you can’t workout at all, though.
When you’re weighing your options between should I, or shouldn’t I exercise, you typically have 3 choices:
1. Don’t exercise. Skip it. Nap. Rest. Sleep in. Eat a snack and read a book instead. If you’re really bagged and you know for a fact that the only thing that will help is a power nap, go for it.
2. Change up the workout. Instead of that #RiseAndGrind style workout, how about a leisurely walk, or some gentle yoga or pilates, or simply a couple minutes of stretching. You’ll still get the blood flowing, and instead of driving your energy further into the ground, you’ll get a nice little boost.
3. Re-schedule. If you’re really set on having that sweaty, feel the burn workout, don’t skip it entirely. Just re-schedule it. Put it in your calendar for another day. Go to bed early, let your partner know they’re on duty for any nighttime wakings the night before, and do everything in your power to make sure you do have the energy for it (like eating a great protein+fat+carb breakfast before you go).
I love postpartum fitness.
I think it can be an amazing tool to help you get some of your you-ness back and feel like yourself again.
But I’m not interested in pushing your body past its limits and I’m certainly not interested in supporting that pressure/guilt cycle.
The choice is yours.
You can still workout when you’re tired. But maybe it just looks different than what you’d originally planned.
It’s also okay to go take a nap instead.
Remember, this simply may be the least workout intensive time in your life and it’s not because you’re lazy, it’s not because you’re unmotivated, it’s because you’re a mom.
You have one of the toughest, most physical, most emotionally roller-coaster-y jobs in the world.
You deserve to feel good before, during and after a workout.
Not feel like you need to push through because you feel pressure to look like you aren’t even a mom in the first place.
P.S. Did you like this post? If you did, please share it with your mom friends. I’d be super grateful if you did!
Isabelle Bosshard says
Thank you for this article ❤️
Jenna Dalton says
You’re so welcome, Isabelle 🙂