Finding it hard to stay consistent with exercise is something I hear on a daily basis from my clients. The truth is, I might be a personal trainer, however my own training regime often goes out the window. As a mother myself, I know what it's like to have restless nights and feel seriously demotivated the next day to do anything, especially exercise - Some days you may not feel like exercising, and other days you may be more motivated but by the time you’ve gone to the effort to start exercising, nap time is over or you’re being pulled to the next task of being a mum. This is my advice of staying consistent with exercise:
1. Choose an achievable number of workouts to complete in a week
Let's be honest if you set your goal too high and don't achieve 'X' amount of workouts in that week, not only will this hugely demotivate you, you may self-criticise and throw in the towel. Set yourself an achievable number of workouts to complete in a week. For example, someone first starting out I would suggest two to three workouts in a seven day period. This means that you have the full seven days to find 2 to 3 blocks of 20 to 30 minutes of exercise. Once in a rhythm and you’re achieving these workouts, you can then increase this number to 4 or 5 in 7 days.
Don’t plan to ‘workout on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays’ this allows very little flexibility should you have a restless night - you’re more likely to throw in the towel as you ‘missed a day’ and consistency will seem impossible.
2. Random workouts = random results/no results at all
To me this is one of the most important factors to consider when beginning to exercise after a baby. If you want to see results, in your core and overall strength particularly, then choose a handful of exercises to target core, lower & upper body and repeat them regularly for 2 to 4 week blocks in order to actually start seeing a difference. If you constantly change exercise type, how will your body ever adapt and muscles grow and strengthen? Your muscles need consistency. Without this, you wont stay consistent as you wont see results!
I say to my clients on a regular basis, it’s great to mix up the routine, but if you want to start seeing your training pay off and feel stronger quicker, then repeat the exercises! My online clients stick to the same set of exercises for 4 weeks at a time and then change for the next block, gaining strength each week from repetition of the same exercises will show quicker. You can find more information about this style of training here.
Remember, for those hoping to lose body fat, strong muscles means you burn calories faster (as your muscles need more energy) and more efficiently than when doing purely cardio…incase you were hoping to HIIT your way to your goal. When performed correctly with minimal rest, strength training will literally make you sweat more than a high intensity workouts!
3️. Choose a method of exercise that works for you and that you enjoy
Ideally make sure that it's something that you can do from home, with your baby in tow, in minimal time and also with minimal equipment. This way you are more likely to actually do the workout because it takes less preparation and you don't have to pack up a bag for the baby and leave. Taking up running because Sue next door enjoys it too isn't necessarily the right attitude because different exercise works for different people, plus everyone has different goals.
“I can’t find the time to exercise”
4. Finding time to Exercise
Ok, so this is the hardest one to master, I get that. I cram my own workouts into 20-40 mins, the luxury of having an hour to myself finished a long time ago. Firstly, this is dependent on the baby/toddler routine. My girls are 18 months and 3 years so more in a routine and more predictable, however their attention from me is skyhigh! Currently I workout before they wake, however for those early risers you might find nap times or after bedtime is a better time to use 20 mins for a workout.
Even with a sub-12 month old baby I found workouts during nap times, even the shortest ones, were the most effective as I knew I was up against the clock.
No nap babies? Bring your baby along and let them play next to you! All my 1:1 clients bring their babies to the workouts, it’s fun to have them there. Babies LOVE watching squats and always brings out the giggles. Stop and attend to them whenever you need - you can still achieve so much even with the baby there.
What to do in that 20mins?
Pick 5 or 6 exercises of your choice and do the following:
As many rounds as possible (AMRAP) of each exercise in that time - do 8-10 reps of your 6 chosen exercises and keep repeating the exercises until the time is up
Set an interval timer for 30 to 40 seconds of work with 20 to 30 seconds of rest and do as many as you can of the 6 exercises in the time
By minimising your rest periods between rounds, you're less likely to waste time, maximise your workouts and really break a sweat. Then you can slowly up the reps or sets as you become more efficient with your workouts. It is important however to take rest where you may need it, especially if you're just starting to exercise.
5. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing
AKA my mantra! I find so many mothers never want to start something because they feel they will never finish it and be distracted. If you think about it, walking five minutes to the shop and back is more exercise than sitting on the sofa doing nothing - The same goes for working out. Unless
you are going to the gym solo, then expect your environment to be disturbed by the baby! Do what you can in the time that you are given. It may only be 10 minutes out of your planned 30mins, but that 10 minutes was more than zero minutes, and that in its self is a huge achievement so be proud. My kids will still interrupt me during workouts, so I just pause and get back to or or just pack it in after 10 mins and try again later.
"Do what you can in the time that you are given."
I say it to all my bootcamp mothers who are worried their babies will disturb their workout, absolutely expect the baby to cry, just do what you can in the time and when your baby cries or needs attention, take a break and get back to it once the baby is settled!
6. Have a plan in place for when you get that time to workout
I know what you’re thinking, how can I find the time to plan AND do the workout? Let me refer back to point 2, choose a handful of exercises (just 5 or 6) and concentrate your workout around them. Jot down your workout ready to go, so when you have that spare 20 minutes with or without the baby, you've got it ready to go and you're not wasting any time. My on demand channel (found here) and six week postnatal program (found here) very much do the hard work for you with the planning. The workouts are all 20-30 mins, and you follow along the video using a phone, laptop or tablet. I guide you through workouts suitable during pregnancy (*on demand channel only*) and postnatally to ensure that you're strengthening all the right areas. You’ll seriously work up a sweat too!
What is YOUR motivation to exercise? This is one of the hardest questions I find my clients can truly answer. Is it for health reasons? Is it to strengthen your core and tummy muscles? Or is it so you feel confident in your own body again and lift your children without injury - I know that was mine!
Speaking the truth here my postnatal recovery’s we’re SO different. I felt more pressure to fit back into my pre-pregnancy clothes after my first, I felt I rushed my postnatal recovery. So instead for my second, it was more about how strong I felt in my body and how confident I was. I may not have been back into those skinny jeans that I was in when I was 21, but I set a realistic goal and the difference in my confidence, how I feel, how I hold myself and how I am able to lift my children was a huge achievement.
At the end of the day when you are pregnant your body is a home for your growing baby. This means it may not feel like your own, literally, and it can take time for it to feel like yours again especially when things feel a bit looser here and there.
Your true motivation is something I encourage all mothers to understand and acknowledge first before beginning. If you want to exercise 'because you feel you should' it isn't a true reason and it wont help keep you motivated on the harder days. Set yourself a realistic goal, not a weight goal or size you were when you were 21, more a goal of confidence and physical strength you can clearly visualise and feel as you progress.
8. Do exercises that you enjoy
This may seem like a really obvious point, however everyone is so different in their exercise preferences as I said before. If you dislike an exercise, for example reverse lunges (I don't enjoy them either as you have to do both sides!) it wouldn't make sense to put a load of single leg work into a workout if you don’t like it. If you choose exercises that you dislike, you are more likely to skip them or skip the entire workout because of the thought of them. At the end of the day we do need to challenge ourselves and push outside our comfort zone, like having that one single leg exercise, however don't plan your entire work out around exercises you really dislike otherwise this is a firm track to failure.
9. Don't give up if you had a week or two off
So often I have a week off due to time of the month, a sick child or work commitments. Don't be disheartened, don't throw in the towel, it will only make you feel worse. Instead get straight back to where you left off. You haven't 'lost' your strength, you can regain it immediately but it's just important to not give up at a fallen hurdle.
10. Start slow and build up
Remember Rome wasn't built in a day. Through your pregnancy, regardless of whether you managed to stay fit or not, your body still went through huge changes so your journey back in to fitness or starting fitness can more or less feel like you're starting from scratch - which can be very daunting indeed, trust me I've been there twice! So make sure you listen to your body, start slow and ensure what you're doing is safe for your body. My 6 week program (found here) and on demand channel (found here) will give you safe, effective and targeted workouts to help guide you safely through workouts.
All of the above will give you the tools to help stay consistent with exercise. Understand and appreciate it won't always go to plan every time and know it doesn't have to be all or nothing. If help with your workouts is what you need, my on demand channel can be accessed here and my six-week core and strength postnatal program can be accessed here which is the perfect kick start into exercise after having a baby. If you need a bit more one-to-one attention my free personal training consultations can be accessed here. Good luck with your journey to staying consistent with exercise!