Working Out After Babies

This is a more personal post than normal. I don’t love talking about myself and I especially don’t like sharing photos! It makes me feel so awkward, like, who even cares about my exercise schedule!! So I wrote this last week and kept getting embarrassed about posting it… but I also know that A LOT, like almost ALL mothers (and also fathers! It changes their lives drastically too!) struggle with their bodies after having a baby. I mean, having a kid changes EV-ER-Y-THING, physically, mentally, and with your time/scheduling/priorities/lifestyle. So maybe my/our story will help you.

I reached a milestone at Pure Barre last week, 100 classes, and it’s had me thinking about the last year and a half or so that I’ve been working out there. So I thought I’d share a little bit about how Andy and I prioritize exercise and make it work in our lives with two small children. Joey turned two in January and Olly is 8 months old.

(Photo from @pb_westlakeavon)

My very first Pure Barre class was on my 40th birthday. Joanna was about 8 months old. Honestly, I felt gross. I was squishy and weak. I still didn’t fit in a lot of my non-maternity clothes. Honestly it wasn’t about clothes sizes or numbers on the scale, I just didn’t feel like me.

After Joey was born I struggled A LOT with feeling like my body didn’t belong to me anymore. After ten months of being pregnant, weeks of pain after delivery, and six months of exclusive pumping multiple times a day (which is torture, btw) and then at 8 months postpartum, I still had this belly and felt yucky… I wanted my body to be mine again. For me.

I decided to give myself the birthday present of committing to taking better care of myself. I hadn’t worked out regularly in YEARS. That first Pure Barre class was hard, really hard. But I went back the following weekend and tried to go once a week – ish.

We knew we wanted to have another baby soon, so my goal was to get as strong as I could before then. In December I found out I was pregnant with Oliver, about 3-1/2 months after I’d started Pure Barre. I wasn’t able to work out much during my first trimester since I was queasy a lot of the time, but as soon as I was able to, I amped up to two classes a week, Saturday and Sunday mornings first thing. Since Andy was at home, he could take care of Joey while I went to class. And then when I’d get home from class at 8:45 a.m., he’d jump in the car and go to his workout class at 9. I was able to take classes twice a week pretty much every single week up until 30 weeks pregnant, when I had to stop all unnecessary activity since my pregnancy was high risk.

My pregnancy with Olly was SO MUCH better than my first. I didn’t fall into any of those traps of “you’re eating for two,” or “might as well eat it now while you’re pregnant” like I did the first time. I only gained 25 pounds, instead of the 40 I gained with Joey. Exercising and eating better made me feel stronger and healthier the whole way through. My recovery went WAY better, too, and the second I got the go-ahead from my doctor to start working out again at 8-weeks postpartum, I was back at the barre.

I had ZERO ab strength and it was a little embarrassing. But I kept going and eventually was able to add a third class, immediately after work since the kids are already being babysat, and now I’m doing four or even five classes every week, mostly at 5:30 or 6 a.m. before Andy leaves for work. And Andy is doing 2-3 weekly classes as well, mostly after work. He goes to a small-group personal training class, in addition to playing indoor soccer. So one or the other of us are working out almost every day of the week.

A typical week for us may be…
Monday: Kerry works out at 5:30 a.m., Andy works out at 6 p.m.
Wednesday: Kerry works out at 6 a.m., Andy works out at 6 p.m.
Thursday: Kerry works out at 5 p.m.
Friday: Andy may have a soccer game (except he’s taking this season off due to injury)
Saturday: Kerry works out at 7:30 a.m., Andy works out at 9 a.m.
(Except this week because I wasn’t feeling well and skipped two classes, but that’s also how life goes!)

What it comes down to is that Andy and I have made exercise a priority in our lives. It’s not easy. I reeeeeally don’t like getting up before 5 a.m. to exercise. Andy really doesn’t like not being home for dinner. It’s also not easy financially. Together we pay around $200 every month just in class fees, which is a big deal. But again, it’s a priority and a commitment that we’ve made, and if it means we skip going out to dinner sometimes or we can’t buy something new, it’s totally worth the sacrifices. I also think it’s important for us to talk to the kids about exercise and being healthy and have them see us living the lesson.

Mothers are put under so much pressure in so many contradictory ways… “You need to look like a super model immediately after you have a baby” vs. “Your body is different now and you have to just accept it.” I’m not ok with either of those options. I’ve literally been told that there’s nothing I can do about my squishy tummy and I should get used to it. Maybe that’s true maybe it’s not, but I’m not going to just sit on the couch wearing stretchy pants without at least trying. I can accept that my body has changed, but I don’t have to accept that I can’t do anything to improve it.

(Not something I ever in a million years I thought I’d post on the internet!)

Olly is 8 months old now, so I’m at the same postpartum stage that I was in when I started Pure Barre, 102 classes ago. I feel a million times better. My belly is still squishy and puffy and my belly button is just plain weird (will it ever be normal again?!). I still struggle through the abs section of class (and pushups, but I can’t blame babies for that!). I wear a lot of high-waisted pants to hide my tummy. (I’m so glad they’re in style!) But overall I feel stronger. I feel healthier. And most of all I feel like my body is mine. I’m in control of it and I’m going to take care of it.

Ugh, I hope this doesn’t sound like too much of a humble brag. I mean, I am proud of myself and of Andy for sticking with it and making it work, but that’s so not my point. I guess I just wanted to put it out there that making the commitment to taking care of yourself is important, it’s possible even when you have small kids, and it’s just a matter of deciding to do it. If we can, anyone can.

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