If you’re like most moms, it takes more than good intentions to stay committed a fitness routine. Don’t let that occasional cookie get you down. What’s really standing in your way is an overdose of something much more toxic: Mother Guilt.
Overcoming Mother Guilt–maybe just locking her in the closet for an hour at a time–is essential if you want to carve out time to get fit. First you need to free up a little mental space so you are strong enough to make the appropriate compromises.
Lose the Preconceptions and Misconceptions
Start by identifying your preconceptions of motherhood; you’ll probably realize what you thought were parenting no-no’s might actually have a place in your life. For example, maybe it’s not so bad to let your kids watch television if it means you can jump on the treadmill or tune into FitTV for an hour. Junk food might be okay if it gets your kids into the jogging stroller. Perhaps you can miss a soccer practice to go for a quick power walk or run. The point is to challenge what you’ve accepted as parenting truths and get realistic about what life is really like.
Take some time to write down what’s important to you, what values you want to impart on your children (hopefully health and fitness are near the top of the list). Then, take inventory of one or two typical days and see where you’re actually spending your time. Like it or not, top entries for your day translate into your top priorities. Work to make health and fitness an actual, not just perceived, priority. Then, remember who is watching because, like it or not, we lead by example.
Protect Your Priorities
Once you’ve established what your actual priorities are, it’s easier to fight to protect them. Allocating the right amount of time to each of your priorities leads to a certain type of contentment; the alternatives are resentment and (you guessed it) guilt. Saying “no” to something that isn’t a priority starts to feel good when you use the time freed to attend to something that is. You’ve likely fine-tuned your ability to say “no” walking the aisles of Target with your kids. It’s time to put those skills to good use and clear a little clutter from your life.
Remember it’s a Balancing Act
Learning to say “no” is important because sometimes we have to say it to something that is a priority–including fitness. When life throws you a curve ball, make a decision on how you will react. If fitness doesn’t fit in during a particularly hard week, let it go. In making that decision, you stay in control–there is no resentment, no anger, no feeling like the victim. Keep those priorities in check and realize it’s okay to experience temporary imbalances. Sooner or later, you’ll find equilibrium again and your fitness will return.
If you’ve had a hard time maintaining a regular fitness routine in the past, try focusing some attention on the mental components first. Physical fitness requires mental training; knock Mother Guilt out of the picture and the possibilities are endless.
Laurie Lethert Kocanda is an endurance athlete, mom and co-author of Hot (Sweaty) Mamas: Five Secrets to Life as a Fit Mom.