Postpartum Fitness: How I Overcame Feeling Discouraged

This post is sponsored by Fitfluential LLC on behalf of Reebok as part of the Body After Baby series

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.

Postpartum Fitness How I Overcame Feeling Discouraged

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.

photo 1 (6) (600x800)
Workout gear: Women’s Reebok ONE Series Running Graphic Tee / Women’s Reebok CrossFit Chase Capri / Women’s Reebok ZQuick TR

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?

74 Comments

  1. This is such a great post! When the time comes for me, I will remember that comparison is a thief of joy. I have never been athletic, but I love everything about CrossFit. It will be hard to not jump right back into the level I’ve finally reached, but in time my body will remember 🙂 You look amazing by the way!

  2. This post is so great! When I went back to exercising (Class WODs), I wanted to jump right back into class (I was overly excited and a little stir crazy!). I started doing a strength program 3 days a week as my strength was in the toilet. Ambitious as that was, I realized that was WAY too much for me too soon after having Austin. I was SO discouraged that I “quit” the program because a lot of people had really high expectations for me but for my sanity I was so glad I did. I had then started focusing all the Positive things I had done and not the negative. Its SO easy to compare yourself. But once I started recognizing all the things I had accomplished, my outlook on everything was a lot brigher.

  3. I love this post, Tina! I recently lost my job and moved across the country, so I couldn’t afford my gym and trainer anymore. I didn’t have motivation to work out on my own because I was stressed and looking for a job. Well, I’m still both of those things, but I know that I had to get back to exercising to keep myself sane 🙂 It feels good, even though I’m not as fit as I was a few months ago. In time, I’ll be back to my old self!

  4. Tina–I cannot thank you enough for posting this. It is exactly what I needed to hear and read right now. The past few years have been really tough for me in terms of exercise. I used to be super duper active and athletic, always moving and working out. During and following some health issues, I was told by my doctor that I could not exercise–plus I had absolutely no energy to do so anyway, which was discouraging. I just graduated from college and moved to a totally new state and city for a job where I don’t know anyone, and there are all of these outdoor and athletic opportunities everywhere that I am dying to try and get back to! Each time I would try to do something, I would be so upset with how weak and how pathetic I felt compared to the old me and to everyone else. I wouldn’t even want to try anymore because the mental comparisons were just too discouraging. After reading your post, it helped me realize that I am not alone in this and it IS possible to start again. Instead of making a “come back” I am going to frame it as a “fresh start” and try not to compare myself to anyone or my old self. The truth is, my old self was not healthy in other ways, so now I have the chance to be the best me that I can be–new and improved. It just takes time and patience 🙂 so thank you times infinity and beyond!

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