Last week, a mom at our school stopped me and said in a friendly, self-deprecating way that I made her feel guilty because she saw me jogging after morning drop-off. She was joking. Well, sort of. In typical Cabot fashion, I had worn my running clothes to the playground and as soon as I kissed the kids goodbye, I set off on a forty minute run around our neighborhood. I didn’t go as long or as fast as I wanted. But the time was precious. It set the positive, relaxed tone for my entire day. The woman went on to lament that she felt she couldn’t get out to exercise because of all of her commitments at the school. Then I started to feel guilty. Was I taking too much time for ME? After about 2 seconds, I told myself, absolutely not. In fact, I don’t think I take enough time. This is one of the reasons I love the philosophy behind the new book Hot (Sweaty) Mamas by Kara Douglass Thom and Laurie Lethert Kocanda. It’s a pep talk for moms, just like my friend at the school, those women who don’t give themselves permission to make exercise a daily routine but who know how good they would feel if they did. The book is written by two moms who know how hard it is to carve out any personal time, let alone time to sweat.
With the holidays on the horizon and the time crunch as we race to the end of the year, it’s a great time to make sure you make time for you. Some days it may feel like you just can’t do it. But talk to your spouse or partner, friends and family and tell them that you need help to create time for you to lace up your sneakers even if it’s for 30 minutes. That’s the best gift you can give yourself and your loved ones this season. Below, check out the inspirational interview with Laurie and Kara. Enjoy!
Q & A with Author Laurie Lethert Kocanda
What is the biggest fitness mistake moms make?
LK: There’s a big misconception out there that you need large chunks of time to make fitness worthwhile. With that attitude, it’s easy to see why so many moms give up on exercise. The biggest mistake moms make is adopting an all-or-nothing attitude about fitness. Motherhood is full of the unexpected, which oftentimes means things don’t go according to plan. When that happens we have to be content with Plan B, maybe develop a Plan C on the fly, if we’re going get and feel fit. Any exercise is worth when you consider both the mental and physical benefits. You are making small deposits that will eventually pay off. Guaranteed.
How can other members of the family support a mom’s fitness goals?
LK: Having a good support network is essential if Mom’s fit lifestyle is going to take hold. Family members can help by providing encouragement and supportboth in action and in wordwhenever possible. Help keep Mom accountable by asking about her workouts; show her what a wonderful mentor she is by joining her whenever possible. In this way, she’ll be encouraged to continue on her path to fitness.
What about moms who are too busy for exercise?
LK: Finding time to exercise is really about identifying and living by the priorities in our life. Moms often say they are too busy taking care of their families to fit in exercise, but we have to ask, “Aren’t you a member of the family, too?” In fact, aren’t you a pretty important part of the family equation? Most moms don’t let their kids skip a soccer practice or swim lesson, but don’t hold themselves equally accountable to their fitness endeavors. We have to be creative, but like everything in life that holds value, we will give time to the stuff that really matters.
In your book you talk about how there’s more than one way to exercise. Explain how this applies to new moms and what they can do.
LK: Moms should take comfort knowing that the benefits of exercise are not lost in the absence of a good calorie-burning, cardio-pumping sweat. There are a number of other reasons to workout, beyond maintaining physical fitness and athletic training. So moms who find motherhood more exhausting or time-consuming than they anticipated can fall back on the other reasons to workout, the other types of fitness. For example, some semblance of sanity is the goal when we exercise for mental health. This form of fitness is less about what you’re doing and more about why your doing it. Protective exercise is the foundation on which everything else we do is based; it includes things like strength training, yoga, and Pilates. This flavor of fitness doesn’t require a gym membership or equipment, which is nice for a mom who is less likely to leave the house to workout. A simple routine of squats, pushups, pull-ups and plank are all you need. Truly, exercise doesn’t always have to get you hot and sweaty to be worth your time.
You mention mother guilt as a big barrier to fitness. What is it and how can I keep it in check?
LK: Mother Guilt is that little voice that comes from within telling you it’s selfish to choose a workout over another more “important” mommy task. And while sometimes it is good to listen to your inner voice, too much banter from Mother Guilt is usually an indication that you’ve set unrealistic expectations of yourself and of motherhood in general. “Putting family first” does not mean ignoring your personal wellbeing. You are, after all, a pretty important part of the family, right?
Mother Guilt is prone to unexpected visits. If you want your fit life to take hold, you must first do a little mental training to prepare. Start by identifying your preconceptions of motherhood; perhaps what you thought were parenting no-nos might actually have a place in your life. Maybe 30 minutes of television isn’t so bad if it frees up some time for you to squeeze in a quick workout. Challenge what you’ve accepted as parenting truths and get realistic about what life is really like.
Next, take some time to write down what’s important to you, what values you want to impart on your children. Then work to make health and fitness a value you act ona priority to which you allocate some time each day. If laundry gets more attention than you do, it’s time to do some more mental work. Saying “no” to something that isn’t a priority will feel good when you use the time freed to attend to something that is. Especially if it means saying goodbye to Mother Guilt.
Q & A with Kara Douglass Thom
What makes Hot (Sweaty) Mamas different from other fitness books for busy moms?
KT: Hot (Sweaty) Mamas is not a how-to-get-your-body-back-after-baby book. It’s about how to make or keep fitness as a priority as a mother; how to protect that priority so that fitness becomes a habit in our hectic lives. But the other important component of this book is how to make fitness a family endeavor so that we not only get fit ourselves but also raise fit kids.
Why is it so important for moms to take care of themselves as well as they take care of their children?
KT: I think it’s interesting that while we’re pregnant we take inordinately good care of ourselves. We do this, of course, because we want what’s best for our baby. So why don’t we carry on that thinking after the baby is born? Most expecting moms realize the benefits exercise has for them while pregnant and will make that extra effort to workout. Same goes with our nutrition and avoiding unhealthy behaviors. Of course, a baby changes everything and our focus innately shifts. But it’s important to know that we don’t have to be attached with an umbilical cord for our healthy behaviors to benefit our children. Feeling good physically and mentally undoubtedly makes us better at parenting. Laurie and I could do our own study that surveys our children’s opinion of us as moms before and after a workout. Trust us, they prefer the post-workout mommy. Besides, it all comes around anyway. Our children grow up watching us take care of ourselves and pursuing fitness, which means they’re more likely to grow up fit and healthy, too. And what mom doesn’t want that for her kids?
What has surprised you the most about being a fit mom?
KT: When I became a mother I felt that my kids limited my fitness options, and I let them to a certain extent, because I was still trying to accomplish the same fitness routine I had before having children. But after I started to get creative and expand my fitness options, whether that meant doing a workout with my kids around or trying a new group fitness class because it worked around the nap schedule, fitting in workouts became easier. So in this sense, children didn’t impose limits, they gave me more options. And now I feel more well-rounded, challenged and excited about exercise.
Aside from personal health and wellness, what’s another benefit to being a fit mom?
KT: Being a fitness mentor for your kids. Whether I’m leaving them behind to pursue a workout or including them in, I know I’m showing my children that fitness is a family value. When I workout it really isn’t “me time” anymore, I’m also setting a good example for my children.
What’s your favorite way to get sweaty?
KT: That’s like asking me which child I like most! I can’t possibly name favorites. Besides, I have exercise ADD. Running, snowshoeing, swimming, cycling, Zumba, Yoga. Whatever I can escape to do or whatever I can do with one to four kids along is my favorite exercise of the moment.