At one point or another, most of us will need to take time off from exercise. Whether it’s an injury, illness, or pregnancy, it’s pretty common that something will sideline you from working out. And, of course, it’s okay””more than okay””to take time off and take care of yourself.
But, when it’s time to make your grand comeback to exercise and your routine isn’t what it used to be, it’s tough not to get discouraged and frustrated, especially when your fitness level is much less than it used to be. After I had Quinn, I thought I would magically be faster and stronger when it came to exercise (after some recovery, of course) because I wasn’t pregnant and carrying an extra 40 pounds on my body. Well, that definitely didn’t happen, and I felt really discouraged, so I wanted to share how I’ve managed to keep myself motivated and positive about getting back into exercise after having a baby.
Don’t compare yourself to your old self
Easier said than done, right? This was easily the hardest part for me when it came to getting back into a fitness routine. And thinking: “Wah, I can’t do X anymore” wasn’t going to do me any good.
I still remember the first postpartum workout I did with 65-pound Thrusters. It was a partner WOD with my friend, Jess, who is currently pregnant (and still rocking out CrossFit workouts like a champ). We split the reps up into sets of 5, and I remember struggling so much that I further broke up the reps into sets of 3 and 2. While I was huffing and puffing and grimacing through burning quads, I couldn’t help but think about my “Fran” time from a year ago. It was just too easy to compare my new self to my old self. “Fran” has 45 Thrusters at 65 pounds and, before getting pregnant, I could plow through them, but, during the partner WOD, I was struggling to get through just 5 reps.
Initially, I was kind of bummed, but then I changed my thinking and basically cut myself some slack. First, I reminded myself that I hadn’t been working out at my previous fitness level for the past 10+ months, so, of course, things were going to be harder. My body was busy making a baby and then recovering, so I really shouldn’t get discouraged about where I was fitness-wise. And, second, I reminded myself that I was still getting used to my new body. (This was especially important when getting back into running. My body felt foreign to me at times!) I had gained 40 pounds and then lost a bunch, so I was still trying to figure things out and get my bearings with what my body could and couldn’t do.
Don’t compare yourself to others
This is one of my favorite quotes ever:
Imagine how much happier we’d all be if we didn’t compare ourselves to others! And I too needed a reminder of this during my first couple of weeks back at CrossFit.
When I was pregnant, I never compared myself to other women at CrossFit. I mean, I was pregnant. Hello. There was a lot going on in my body, and I had an extra 40 pounds on me. Of course, someone who wasn’t pregnant was going to be faster and stronger than me.
After I had Quinn, I knew I wouldn’t be Rx-ing workouts right away, but I thought I’d do okay with L1 and L2 workouts. And I did, but I couldn’t help but compare myself to other people who were doing these same workouts. If someone’s time was faster or they used more weight, I was little bummed. Comparison is the thief of joy. I should have been happy (thrilled even!) that I was CrossFitting again. I knew comparing myself to other people was doing me no good, so I stopped looking at the whiteboard for a few days. After that, it was much easier to focus on myself and stop worrying about what other people were doing at the gym.
Be patient with yourself
Once I started to be patient with myself, getting back into fitness after having a baby was so much more enjoyable. My first few postpartum runs were really rough. Like I previous mentioned, it felt like my body was totally foreign to me. My hips felt weird, my legs felt heavy and they would only go one speed: slow. If I tried to pick up the pace, it felt like my knees would buckle below me. It was all so strange and discouraging.
What I did to get past these negative feelings was adjust my expectations and look at my experience as more of a “journey” than a comeback. I thought of it as starting exercise as a beginner, so everything was new and exciting. And it didn’t matter if I wasn’t good at things right away. I was a newbie, so I was learning and improving along the way, which helped me stay positive and not get discouraged. So instead of thinking that I could bust out 3 miles without any issues, I started with just one mile and allowed myself to walk if I needed to. My only goal was to cover that distance. Once I felt confident with one mile, I increased it to 2 miles and then 3 miles just like a new runner would do. I still remember the day that I ran 3 miles without stopping. I was seriously so, so,so proud of myself. Instead of diving head first into what I used to be able to do and probably not succeeding and definitely getting discouraged, these victories motivated me to keep going and moving forward with my fitness goals.
Set lots and lots of mini goals
Setting small, attainable goals has been key to me not getting down on myself since returning to exercise. Setting a bunch of mini goals (ones I can achieve on a weekly and even daily basis), like not walking during a run or pushing myself during the last minute of a WOD, have really helped me stay motivated and boost my confidence. When I achieve these goals, I feel like such a rock star, so I want to keep progressing and set even more goals for myself. Basically, once I got the ball rolling, it was easy to keep up the momentum and move forward with my fitness goals.
Questions of the Day
Have you ever taken time off from exercise? What helped you get back into it? What’s your best advice for not getting discouraged when returning to exercise?