Inspired by Dr. Gitkind’s story last week, about how he used his fitness to help others, I decided to do a blog series about the real life exercise challenges and successes of UMass Memorial Weight Center Staff. This week I interviewed Anna Grotevant, one of our dietitians. As many of you know, she had a baby last year. I asked her about how being a new mom has shifted her mindset about exercise.
What was your mindset about exercise before pregnancy?
Before starting a family I exercised to stay fit and as a social activity. I wasn’t very consistent. I had more time to myself and tended to procrastinate. I didn’t really use exercise as a form of self-care because I had other forms of self-care that were more relaxing. Exercise felt more like something I had to check off on my to-do list. I would go weeks or months without exercising even though it is important to me.
What do you do now for exercise as a new mom?
After giving birth to my daughter a year ago, I spent time recuperating. I stopped exercising completely as I didn’t have the physical or mental energy to think about it. I also felt like I was so “out of shape” that my typical forms of exercise (running /yoga) were out of the question. Once I hit six months postpartum, I started with some walking. I built up from there, and now I’m walking, running, strength training and doing some yoga – usually something every day. I exercise on my own in the evening and with my sister on the weekends (we have “run dates”, which I really enjoy). I also walk on my lunch at work when it’s nice out.
How has your mindset about exercise shifted since having a baby?
My mindset about exercise has shifted. Since I have less time to myself, I tend not to procrastinate. If I’m going to do anything it has to be while my daughter is sleeping, so I get right on it as soon as my daughter goes down. I also have to multitask – I look at exercise not only as a way to stay fit but as a form of self-care and relaxation. I appreciate the time I have to myself a lot more. I’m a lot more gentle and forgiving in my workouts because it’s not about burning calories or running faster, but just about being able to move my body and have some time alone.
What is the biggest challenge about exercising as a new mom?
The biggest challenge about exercising as a new mom is the time that it takes. There’s always something I “should” be doing. Exercising during my daughter’s nap time means I’m not doing any of my household tasks. Having exercise dates with my sister on weekends means I’m not spending time with my daughter and husband. That can actually make my life feel more stressful, especially if I’m falling behind in my responsibilities or it’s a particularly busy time of life. I try to manage this by prioritizing. I say no to some activities and requests from others so that I can preserve time for the people who are most important to me. I try to incorporate exercise into family activities on the weekends. Most importantly, I try to remember that no one is perfect. I can’t be the perfect mom, wife, sister, daughter, employee or exerciser. I can just do my best with what I’ve got and keep moving forward.