As many of you know, I had a beautiful baby girl four months ago. What many of you also can probably relate to is the total chaos that your life becomes when a new life that is totally dependent on you enters it. Now that the smoke has cleared a bit, there are some serious lessons I have learned so far. It is amazing how many of these things also apply to those of you who are trying to make fitness and health a regular part of your life so I thought I would outline them and give some tips for managing things when it seems like absolutely nothing is manageable:
- Prioritizing is essential.
I’m very lucky that I make my own hours and can (sort of) control my own schedule. When you’re dealing with your child, they are obviously going to take precedence over most other things (sometimes everything). Too many people in my experience put fitness and health too low on their priority radar when it should be much higher. If you aren’t healthy, you can’t take care of yourself or your family. If you have no energy, you can’t jump out of bed on those nights when the baby cries at 2am. If you have a bad back or bad knees, you can’t hold/pick up your kids or the mountains of bags they generate. After holding an infant for hours in a Baby Bjorn even my back was killing me, which was a sign that I needed to start working on my lower back strength a bit more. You might have areas that need the same thing.
- Think about the long term, don’t obsess about the short term
Any good fitness and health program is a period of months, if not years – and should really be a permanent part of your life, just like your new little one. Development and progress can be drawn out over a period of time. Ask my wife after our little one just got through her first two baby teeth! Children develop at their own pace and can be encouraged but not forced, just like your body. Give everything time to settle into place and develop at whatever pace works best. Set goals that stretch over months and seasons, not a “90 day challenge” where at the end you go back to doing whatever you were doing before. Check back with yourself in a year and you might be pleasantly surprised.
- Patience is a virtue and remain calm
Not everything is going to go smoothly. Your routine might suddenly get thrown completely out of whack when changes occur. You might have to deal with setbacks or situations you can’t control and the best thing to do is just stay calm, make sure all of the right strategies are in place and keep moving forward. Don’t hit the panic button after a bad week and try to change everything around. If you have a good trainer, simply trust in the process. Even when your child poops in the middle of the doctors’ office, sometimes you just have to laugh it off, stay calm and realize that there is nothing you can do about it so why worry? Clean up the poop, change the diaper and next time, make sure to pack an extra change of clothes.
- Expect to hit bumps in the road and have setbacks
Sometimes as a new parent it is easy to get frustrated. Things can be humming along in a good routine and then something crops up that makes it hard or stops progress. If you expect and prepare for this ahead of time then you will be much better off. Can’t make a workout? Have a backup plan. Have to suddenly travel one week? Make sure your hotel has a gym or research local places you can get in your exercise. Teething and growth spurts for us was a prime example of this when you can’t keep the baby from being uncomfortable. Just realize what is going on and also realize that it is a temporary thing that will resolve itself in time.
- Enjoy yourself along the way
For every exasperating moment we might have with our daughter, seeing her smile at the start of the day and cuddle into your chest is probably the best thing in the world. Find that aspect of fitness that makes you feel really good – that class you love, the feeling after you hit a personal best on the weight stack, the runners’ high – and remember that every time so that you stay motivated and just keep going. Like I said before, it is a process that should take place for the rest of your life, just like watching your child grow and develop.
At the end of four months you never realize how much your life can change for the better but now we can’t imagine what our lives were like without our daughter. Think about that the next time you think about skipping a workout because ideally it will almost feel the same way. Better health and wellness to all of you!