If You Don’t Take Care of Yourself, Who Takes Care of Everything Else?

It’s 2 AM. My 18-month-old has awakened me AGAIN. I spend about five minutes kicking my husband in the leg, hoping he will wake up and get baby Rex. But he is dead to the world (or at least pretending really well—the more likely scenario). So I run upstairs because I cannot listen to my baby cry any longer, and I spend 30 minutes getting him back to sleep. It’s now almost 3 AM, and the last thing I want to think about is when I have to get up…at 4:20 AM.

Why so early? Because that is when I work out.

At this point in my life, early morning workouts are a habit. I get up and go, whether I slept through the night or if I was up five times (which happened regularly when my twins were newborns). From my own personal experience, I can tell you that sacrificing one hour of sleep for exercise is the most important thing I can do for ME.

I try sleeping a little longer and when my alarm goes off I play that game: you know, the one where you talk yourself out of getting up early. “I’ll just hit snooze one time,” or, “I’ll just go for a run this afternoon,” or, “Working out is overrated; I am happy with the way I look.” Yes, even I have those crazy early morning conversations with myself on why I should NOT wake up. But here’s the deal: when I do give in to the snooze button, I miss out on living life better. Hear me out on this, mommas….

It is the only time in the day that I am alone. “Me time.” From the moment those children (and that husband) wake up, I am never alone and I am constantly needed. During your workout, you can zone out as you sweat out the anxiety and not think about the to-do list at home.

Kids are heavy and full of energy. It is hard work lifting and wrestling and tickling kids. It takes so much energy just to keep up with them. Have you ever chased a four year old that stole your phone? Those little suckers are fast. Exercise gives you energy and muscles make you strong. Work out to be a fun mom…especially if you have boys. Why do they never stop moving? Whyyyyyy?

Mom guilt is a real thing. One of the biggest reasons I find that mothers do NOT work out is that they feel guilty about leaving their kids in order to do something for themselves. If this is you, find a time when your kids are sleeping. For me, that is early morning. But a lot of moms can work out when they put their kids to bed, especially if they have a good at-home workout program to follow.

Social Interaction. For some stay-at-home or single mommas, the only time you might talk to another adult all day long is at the gym. While social media has bridged the gap of social interactions, it still cannot compete with looking someone in the eyes and talking. Remember when you see another mom to say hi, ask her where she got her cute leggings, tell her that her kids are so well-behaved, tell her she is a good momma—whatever it is you see in her, SAY IT! You never know what those few words will mean to another lonely, but never alone mom.

ENDORPHINS! These are your body’s natural anti-depressants. I probably, maybe, most definitely should have been on some sort of medication after I had my twins because that was the hardest thing I have EVER done. But I worked out everyday. I know that those workouts kept me sane.

Elle Woods said it best in Legally Blonde, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people don’t shoot their husbands.” This might be my number one reason for working out. I am a nicer wife (remember me trying to kick my husband out of bed?) and a kinder mother (less psycho screaming “GET IN THE CAR!”). To really catch an endorphin high you’ve got to do several sets of intense cardio; that means short bursts of sprints or Burpees several times during your workout. Simple strength training will not trigger those endorphins.

Confidence! Britney (Spears) said it best: “You want a hot body? Get to work!” My fitness goals can be summed up in that I want to fit into my skinny jeans and not look too horrible in a swimsuit. I think most moms can get onboard with that, too. Exercise helps you lose weight, which helps you feel more confident, whether you’re willing to admit it or not.

Productivity! Just Google “exercise + productivity” and you will see that people who exercise make more money, are better time managers and just get more stuff done than people who sleep in (this is one reason I give myself when I am fighting the snooze button at 4 AM). Why? Because they have more energy. Exercise literally produces energy. Again, Google it if you’ve got one eyebrow raised.

Be the example, not an excuse. When you make the decision to take care of yourself, those little eyes are watching. Your kids will assume that everyone exercises, because that’s what their parents do. At my house, we refer to fitness as something you do everyday that makes you feel good and stay strong. It has nothing to do with body image and the words “skinny” and “fat” are never used.

On the flip side of that argument, I have worked with countless women over the years that blame their mother for their size, saying, “I am overweight because my mom fed us unhealthy food and she never exercised herself. I am still unlearning habits from my childhood.” Maybe that hits a little too close to home, and if it does, you can always start NOW. Throw out the junk, eat the veggies (you must eat them too!) and get moving. ν