How My Daughter Revolutionized My Fitness Routine

By Mary Stewart, RD, LD

I’ve always been told that having children will change your life forever. This is undoubtedly true—your love expands to depths that are indescribable. But I never expected that having children would revolutionize the way I view and support my fitness routine. 

(Photo: Alexander Kusak)

Pre-Baby Fitness Goals

Prior to having my daughter, I worked out every day. If it wasn’t for at least an hour, and at a high-intensity, I was convinced I didn’t get a “good workout.” Back then, my main purpose behind working out was to be fit and healthy, but if I’m being completely honest, my “why” was really to make sure I “looked” fit. 

Unfortunately, my mentality towards achieving fitness was void of tuning into how I felt on any given day. I was constantly pushing myself without taking the time to ask questions like, 

“Am I tired? Could I use a rest day?”  

“Am I under a lot of stress? Would I benefit more from a long leisurely walk than an insanely intense workout?” 

“Are my muscles really sore? Would doing yoga be a better way to support my recovery today?” 

It took having a child for me to begin shifting my mentality toward achieving whole-body health and fitness.

Becoming More In-Tune With My Body

It wasn’t until I was well into my first pregnancy with my daughter that I began to feel a shift in my body. While I was growing a little human being inside me, I suddenly started to notice signs indicating what my body was capable of doing or not doing. My body was adamantly telling me to shift my priorities and listen more carefully to its needs versus doing what I thought I needed to do to be “fit.” This was the beginning of my search for a more diverse fitness routine that would better support my “new” body and reality.

After giving birth to my daughter, I transitioned into a new phase of life, which came with a new outlook on life and health in general. To say this transition was difficult would be an understatement. It was really, really hard. I was navigating new experiences and responsibilities, now with less time and energy (hello, constant feedings, diaper changings, working full-time and lack of sleep) while also trying to maintain my healthy lifestyle on the same level as I did pre-baby. 

Understanding My Body’s Limits

As you might imagine, trying to be and do it all was beginning to take a toll on me. And my daily feelings that I was failing to meet my fitness goals added unnecessary stress. I quickly realized that my expectations were unrealistic for this stage of life. I knew I needed to shift my perspective and revolutionize the way I viewed my fitness routine, whether I liked it or not.

Everyone can relate to experiencing a new season of life in some way. It could be starting a family, caring for a sick loved one, moving to a new city, starting a new career, etc. Does a new season, with new variables in life, mean we just stop investing in our health? No. Should I just stop exercising because I’m tired every day from caring for a newborn? No. I wasn’t going to give up on exercise altogether; it was too important to me. I just needed to redefine what exercise, or as I like to call it, “movement,” looked like for me. I let go of my past, reset my expectations, and did my best to embrace changes as they came.

My Post-Baby Fitness Routine

And there were a lot of changes. I began to celebrate a 10-minute yoga session while my daughter napped. I savored a walk—brisk or slow—while pushing her in the stroller. I included her in my workout videos and just had fun with it.

It’s been a tough but incredible learning experience as I’ve walked through this new phase of life. Most importantly, I’ve learned that when you tune into what your body needs versus listening to external factors or being trapped by what you have always done, you begin to feel a new sense of freedom and empowerment.

I have learned that life is dynamic, and so is our health. And, to optimize our health, I believe we must evolve with our ever-changing lives. We must listen to our inner voice at all times, even if it feels easier not to.

My Ever-Changing Fitness Journey

Fast-forward to today: I now have two children. My daughter is 5, and my son is 3. Once again, life has changed and so has my fitness routine to match my energy level, my priorities, and my goals. Today, we like to have family fitness time together, and my “why” has become so much bigger than myself. 

My needs and goals have stretched far beyond a desire to “look” fit. I want to be and feel fit and healthy because I want to feel energized enough to keep up with my kids all day. I also know that being healthy will support my mental health and allow me to be a positive influence on my kids’ health.

Family Fitness Resources

Fitness is a journey that changes through the different stages of your life. Starting a family can sometimes make it difficult to maintain strict fitness goals and routines. If you’re looking to start a new fitness routine that fits into your new phase of life, or want to begin incorporating family fitness time into your days, here are a few free resources that have supported our family fitness goals over the years:

Your Fitness Journey

What type of fitness routine makes sense for you right now? It’s okay if it’s not the same as it was 10 years ago or even five months ago. If it’s time for a change, try to let go of what you think the perfect fitness routine looks like. Instead, listen to your body and your heart, and find what works right now, in this moment.

(Photo: Shutterstock)

About Mary Stewart, RD, LD
Mary is a Registered Dietitian, Founder of Cultivate Nutrition and has been in health and wellness for over 15 years.

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