My Postpartum Relationship With Exercise
It’s fascinating for me to step back and observe the perspective change that accompanies age and experience.
- How 10 years ago I couldn’t be bothered with exercise because I was too busy chasing my next high.
- How 7 years ago I treated exercise as a means to an end that I never could quite reach.
- How 5 years ago my relationship with it was healing, but how I NEEDED it to help me get through the pain of intensive therapy and a fracturing marriage.
- How 4 years ago I hit the sweet spot — exercising for my physical and mental well being without using it as punishment. Not being terrified to let my body rest.
- How 3 years ago I found my love of lifting heavy things and the sense of accomplishment that came with it.
- How a year ago I found out I was pregnant and appreciated my body even more for what it could do. That I worked out until the day I went into labor and didn’t hate myself for having to modify movements.
It’s been almost five months since I had Miles, and I feel like my relationship with exercise has shifted once again. I waited longer than the customary 6 weeks because I know my body and I know that 6 weeks is really too short an amount of time for anyone to get back into exercise after having a baby (a more detailed post on postpartum exercise is coming once I finish my certification).
I returned to the gym around 10 weeks postpartum and only went a couple times per week. I just wanted to move my body. I missed people I had been accustomed to seeing. I didn’t care as much about my weights compared to everyone else’s. I learned to give myself grace and return at my own pace.
My body is softer. Some of my clothes need to be a size bigger. I could get back to my pre-baby body weight and appearance quicker if I was stricter with my nutrition. But you know what? My son doesn’t care about any of that. He’s not impressed with my ability to finish faster than someone else. He doesn’t care that I’m not using the same weights I was before I had him. He’s likely happier if I take a rest day because it means he doesn’t have to ride in the car seat that he’s not a big fan of.
Today, I exercise because it’s how I like to start my day. It’s a form of self-care that I look forward to. It helps my mood and my brain. I don’t *love* finishing last sometimes, but I can appreciate that I showed up to finish at all. I don’t push myself quite as hard because I know that an injury these days could impact my ability to care for my son. I always appreciated the functional abilities that strength training gave me such as carrying groceries in the city or being able to walk around for long distances, but today, I can add carrying a stroller when there are no ramps and having the strength and endurance to carry a child and walk a dog.
I started my fitness journey as a way to change my outsides so that no one would be tempted to ask about my insides, which were anxious, depressed, and festering with self-loathing. It was a way for me to exert control when I felt out of control. It was a search for perfection that became unattainable, and it was a way for me to punish my body for everything it wasn’t instead of celebrating everything it was.
Exercise is important for my mental health, but self-acceptance is even more so. I’m ok with not being the best in the room. I’m ok with the way I look after having a baby. I created a life and then spent almost two days working to have him. I’ve found that as my sense of self gets stronger, the less I can be influenced and impacted by external forces telling me to look a certain way or work out when I don’t want to. I wish that I could have gotten to this place sooner, but it’s the journey that makes us who we are and teaches us what we need to know.