What's the secret to overcoming the barriers to exercise for new mums? What is the best way to make sure we stick with our exercise plans? How can we beat the excuses not to exercise?
The secret is to give up trying to knock down the barriers one by one. Most of the reasons that we don't exercise will go away when the exercise itself becomes the most appealing thing to do, at the very moment we plan to do it.
Once we transform our mindsets and make exercise irresistible, then anything is possible.
Exercise scientists and psychologists have discovered that, in the medium to long term, our minds usually respond better to positive drivers (like celebration, fun and the social side of things) than negative drivers (like avoiding being fat, unhealthy or lonely etc). Here are some of the best ways I've found work for new mums to make it easy to stick with their plans. To make exercise irresistible, and get back in shape after baby arrives.
Capture the "feel-good" If only we could get some of the exercise feel-good hormones (endorphins) before each exercise session started... OK so there are all sorts of dodgy things we could eat or inject to get us racing out the door for fitness sessions, but I have something far more wholesome to suggest.
We can keep a reminder of how we felt after the last great session to help with motivation next time round. There are lots of ways to do this. One excellent gym I have worked with introduced a facility for members to film themselves describing how they feel after a workout. The gym sends the video to the member a few days later for a personalised boost for the next workout. For a simpler and cheaper option, many mums I've worked with just write down 5 words to describe how they feel after working out. Or you could even just tell someone in your family and ask them to remind you two days later.
Make an effort with your kit. It IS possible to be sweaty and out of breath AND look great. It's all the rage in fact, check out Jess Ennis, what a hero! So find some sports kit you really enjoy wearing, and get ready for exercise with some of the gusto you apply for a night out.
Make a proper plan and keep it realistic. Make sure your plan is effective and safe for you. When I was pregnant I realised how it's even more important to have a tailored and safe plan while you're growing a baby and then recovering from birth. My subsequent research and consultation with experts led to what is now a free virtual personal training service just for mums. You are all welcome to use it for free and I highly recommend it.
Your plan will be realistic and effective, and you need to celebrate EVERY bit of it you achieve.
My own group of new mum exercise buddies still train together every week, and what we started is spreading! Ready Steady Mums provides lots of free help to mums wanting to set up their own weekly exercise group around the UK (and soon the rest of the world we hope). Organising my own weekly exercise group was one of the most fulfilling things I did as a new mum.
Drop "all or nothing" as a slogan. I am talking about those moments where we feel completely off the rails with exercise so that "there's no point started until I can really tackle this properly". Hundreds of brand new mums have shared this sentiment with me. And we know it's rubbish. Something beats nothing every time. I'm doing my pelvic floor exercises right now, and so can you. It's the bite-sized chunks of activity that get you started and before you know it you will be "an exercise person"!