The biggest thing that I’ve learned over the course of my pregnancy and postpartum journey is that the word journey captures it all. And I think that a lot of us tend to forget that.
As people, and specifically those who fall under the health/fitness enthusiasts and professionals categories, we tend to compare ourselves to others who are similar to us and to what they are doing in that moment. We then go on to look at our own actions and activities and come up with a positive or negative feeling as a result. Most of the time, for whatever reason, the feeling is negative because it’s easy to feel less accomplished or valued than the person you’re looking at … but why?
I couldn’t tell you that, but I can tell you that I have caught myself comparing myself to others who are not only going through a similar postpartum journey that I am, but also to others who are months and even years ahead of me. Thankfully, it didn’t take me long to realize what I was doing and laugh at myself. Then I started asking myself … but why?
When you think about it, comparing your journey (whether it’s postpartum or even as something as unrelated as getting through medical school) to anyone else’s is ridiculous. The interchangeable factors are variable, and you’re not really comparing apples to apples. In most cases, it’s more like kiwis to oranges. They’re both high in Vitamin C content, but are so, so different.
I could rant on for another 1000+ words about this, but I’m going to leave it there. For now. The point is, I think we all get caught up in The Comparison Trap, and I hope this post is a reminder for you to get past it.
I shared a glimpse into an imperfect day on Instagram yesterday, so I want to segue that into talking about something that I’m currently struggling with: (not) feeling like yourself when you can’t work out, and how to deal with it.
Let me just start by saying fitness doesn’t rule my life.
There was a point where that statement could have been argued (I’m talking to you, 22-year-old Heather who worked out almost every day, sometimes twice a day, to look her best in an NBA dancer’s uniform). Those who have known me over the last four years or so, however, know that I’ve backed off of my personal fitness goals. A lot. The reason? Our precious baby boy, Skyler, and it was one hundred percent worth it.
(five weeks old)
In a sense, you could say that 2015 is when my postpartum journey really started. As soon as Scott and I started seriously trying to grow our family, I took my workouts and fitness frequency down to something completely new to me. I quit running long distances, I put races on hold, and I only pushed myself to what I would consider about eighty percent of my maximum efforts. I was always thinking … “What if I was pregnant and didn’t know it? Would this workout hurt the baby? And is that worth it?” Again, everyone is different, and I realize that I sound crazy to some of you reading this. It’s fine.
Fast forward to the end of this month (when I will be cleared to work out again), and I feel like I’m actually recovering from years and years of “taking it easier.” So, my journey is completely different than someone else’s who is also currently at five weeks postpartum.
The way I see it, I could look at it two ways.
- Oh man, I have a long, long way to go to get back to feeling like my old self again.
- I’m already used to taking it easier on myself, so I’m okay with whatever I can do.
Truth be told, I’m currently in middle of both of those statements, and it’s totally okay. That’s where I consider myself in my own personal journey, and the biggest favor I can do for myself is to acknowledge that. Again, it’s a journey (as in nothing happens overnight, my friends), and this is all part of it.
And to conclude the longest introduction in the history of blog posts, here are a handful of things that are keeping me motivated to stay healthy and fit while I’m still recovering and unable to work out.
I acknowledge what my body can do.
Any time I’m feeling down about not being able to do something like carry a lot of groceries home (thank goodness for Instacart), or the ability to be out and about all day without feeling physically exhausted, I try to take a step back and remember that I grew a human and birthed him. That’s pretty freaking amazing, and it shouldn’t be forgotten.
(37 weeks pregnant)
It’s important to put what your body can do over what your body can’t. Because, eventually, it will most likely be able to do all the things again.
I drink a ton of water.
“Are you drinking a lot of water?” is a question that my mom has continuously asked me throughout the duration of my pregnancy and now through breastfeeding. I always knew that staying hydrated was a healthy habit I needed to adapt, but it’s something that needs to be stressed even more during prenatal months and postpartum recovery. It’s recommended to at least drink half of your bodyweight in ounces, and that’s without a baby or workout routine in mind. For example, if I weighed 135 pounds I would need to drink at least 68 ounces of water per day. That’s between 8 and 9 cups per day. If pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s suggested to drink an extra quart (32 ounces) of water per day. So that’s about 12-13 cups per day!
When I’m not feeling all that great or producing much milk, I think about the water I have (or haven’t) been drinking and try to keep that at the top of my mind!
I go for walks.
Getting outside and going for walks is so great for the body, mind, and soul.
Even if I’m not cleared to work out, living in New York City requires a lot of physical activity on a daily basis. I live in a fourth-story walk up apartment, I take the subway (and all of those stairs) to get around, and I have a dog that requires walks multiple times a day. I took it as easy as possible for the first two weeks of recovery, but since then I clock in an average of 5 miles (and who knows how many stairs?) per day. My body does not feel like it used to and overall I just feel soft, but I also feel like I’m getting the exercise that I need right now.
My favorite time of the day currently is right before I put Skyler to bed. I put him in his baby carrier, hook Roadie into his harness, and take both of them around the neighborhood to wind down. Right now, this time coincides with the sunset and it’s incredibly refreshing in so many ways. It’s amazing what a quick 20 minutes outdoors can do!
I limit television time.
I barely had a concept of time after bringing Skyler home from the hospital. Constant feedings, diaper changes, and (hopeful) naps made the days go by quickly, and I think I re-watched the entire Grey’s Anatomy series to help me stay awake during late-night and early-morning nursings. This got me in the habit of always having the television on in the background throughout the day, but I’ve started to back off and only turn it on when I’m eating lunch or when Sky is in bed for the night. Doing so has forced me to pick up more books, listen to more music, and spend more quality time with my husband, baby, and pets.
I try to eat consciously.
It can be tricky to meal plan when a newborn requires your attention every minute of the day. I’ll admit that I spent a few weeks grabbing whatever I had available, and sometimes that was simply a slice of pizza, a bowl of cereal, or a burrito from the freezer for meals. After a while, however, it started wearing on me and I didn’t feel great. It’s still challenging to cook right now, but I at least arm myself with fresh produce, stock my freezer with frozen fruits and vegetables for easy, throw-together options, and pack my pantry with heathy snacks.
If I feel like I’m lacking on fruits and vegetables, I’ll make a salad with fruit on it or get a fresh juice when I’m out.
We’ll get into a routine where I can spend more time planning what to get at the grocery store, but for now I am ordering a ton of healthy options for a mix-and-match approach. It’s actually working out well!
I attempt to get onto somewhat of a routine.
This one can be laughable with a new baby, I know. But, we are trying, and even though we still have multiple wake-ups during the night, it’s nice to go through the motions of what “night night time” will look like hopefully sooner than later. In an ideal world, Skyler will be asleep between 7:30-8 p.m., and the next few hours will be my time to blog, catch up on housework, work out at home, shower, and read. We’re obviously still working on it, but it’s so nice when it works out that way!
I believe that having a routine of knowing what’s coming keeps us and Skyler happier in the long run, and knowing that I have that quiet time to look forward to is great for my mind and at times, body (when I will be able to work out again!).
I haven’t attempted yoga yet (which I’m sure would be just fine), but I try to end my days with a good stretch session whenever possible. If I have the time, I’ll take a lacrosse ball out and massage the knots out of my neck and back on the wall while I’m watching something on television. It’s amazing (free) wind-down therapy and makes my body feel more like it should.
I hope this posts helps those of you who are going through similar journeys. Be easy on yourself and listen to your body for cues on when to get back to “you” again!
I’d love to hear some of the things that you do to stay motivated, too.
Feel free to comment below!
Honestly these days I’ve found myself playing the comparison game with myself! I had my second son 9 weeks ago today and I gained more weight this time around despite similar eating habits and fitness routines. The first time around I lost the weight pretty quickly and was only about 5 lbs above my pre-pregnancy weight by this point in the postpartum journey, but this time around, the weight is lingering and I’m still 20 lbs up. It’s been extremely frustrating considering the weight is staying steady despite adding in my workouts, but I’m really trying to be easier on myself. I would never criticize a friend, or any other woman in fact, about still having pregnancy weight at 2 months postpartum, so I really should give myself the same grace. Every woman and every pregnancy is different, but what is the same is that our bodies have done something amazing and deserve some appreciation at this point in our lives! Thanks for being so vulnerable regarding your journey. I think we’d all benefit if we were all really honest with each other about the struggles in addition to the joys regarding this stage of life!
Hi Erika! Thank you so much for reading and sharing. You know, we really just have to give ourselves grace. And you’re so right! Every woman, baby, and pregnancy is so different. Here’s to you, mama! Keep up the amazing work! xo
Postpartum time is hard. I was super active before pregnancy and muscular and ate really well. After a c-section and exclusively pumping and working on grad school? I didn’t even have time to pay attention to food. I don’t think I even cared. I barely ate. My shape was SO different, even after getting back to pre-baby weight. My boobs were HUUUUUGGGGEEE. For somebody who really never gave a ton of thought to how my body looked, I was constantly frustrated by how my clothes fit and how I felt. A routine is SOOO nice. We were on a schedule from day 1, but because pumping took up such a huge amount of time early on, I still barely had free time. Once my son went to daycare around 3 months, life got soo much easier. And now that’s he’s 2, I can’t imagine the routine of a newborn again, haha. It’s so nice once you get into a groove, even thought that groove changes a lot over the first year. We also never had the TV on if our son was awake for the first 15ish months. Background noise drives me crazy and I did a lot of research into developing baby brains and decided I really wanted no TV for a year and limited TV until 2. We still try to keep it off for the most part and our days go wayyyyy better when he’s not in the habit of having the TV on. So as Skyler grows, maybe that’ll be nice anyway!
Kirsten @ little bites of my life
When you wrote about getting back to your old self, I think that it is important to realize (and I am sure that you do!) your life has changed and now it is time for a new version of “you”. I am so tired of seeing pictures of celebrities or reality stars who had a baby like 5 minutes ago and are already showing off how flat their stomach is. As if!!!! That is not real life and it makes real women feel frustrated with their bodies. The most important thing for you right now, is to enjoy your time with your new little baby boy! Congratulations on your little guy and I think you look amazing!
Kirsten @ little bites of my life recently posted…Essential Oils – my top five uses
Post partum is such a beast sometimes! I was always a total disaster for at least the first 3 months, so I think it’s awesome that you are on top of your game already!
P.S. I follow you on Instagram and love the stories you post with your little boy, congrats again!
Jen recently posted…Rewriting Food Rules
Hi, Heather! You are such an amazing and brave woman. This post is great and I thank you for this. Cheers!
It is really hard to overcome anxiety and the moment of comparing myself with others. The good thing is, I have survive everything through prayers. It also helped to have supportive friends and family members.
I am thankful because I have understanding circle of friends and family members. I have also overcome my insecurities by joining religious groups. You got it girl! Stay strong!
Hello, Heather. This is indeed a nice post and surely many readers will get inspired by this. I can relate with what you’ve experienced. And for me, I overcome post-pregnancy ‘feels’ by prayers, reaching out to friends, and having a supportive husband. You’re doing a great job Heather and I am happy for you!
Hi, thanks for this. When I can’t work out, I start the day first by praying/ meditating. I evaluate myself, my work, and my family. Then, through divine intervention, I can gradually feel a push that will inspire me to keep going and work. I believe in a higher being and it’s helping me with all my problems. Even if just by staying fit and getting forward in my life, I lift my issues at the Lord and I can overcome it little by little. Xoxo.