When Exercise is Your Nemesis

Here we are, 18 months postpartum and you’d think we’ve got this whole exercise thing nailed by now. Think again… Why is it so hard to actually fit in a workout when we know of all the benefits that come along?

Let’s get the science out of the way for a minute. Being physically active or as I’d like to call it – moving often – comes with an array of benefits such as lowering your risk of disease (e.g. diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis..etc.), improving your cholesterol levels, increasing your metabolism and improving your body composition.

More often than not, people have been programmed to see exercise as something that they are “supposed” to do, which I believe serves as a recipe for inconsistency and ultimate failure. So perhaps we should change our views as to why we exercise in the first place. My story with exercise started after my first year of university where I piled on  a whopping 15Kg thanks to a diet of alcohol, freshly baked muffins, fast food after hours and well, 1st year uni life really (shocking for a 1st year dietetic student!). As I slowly started to improve my habits, I decided to enrol in a gym for the very first time! The journey to shift that number on the scale started and after about 10 months, I managed to lose 13 Kg and develop an obsession with “working out” to keep that number from going on an upward trend again.

As an 18 year old, you don’t really understand the physiology behind weight fluctuations clearly with an expectation that you will remain the same throughout your life. So, as soon as that number slightly went up, I was back at the gym, breaking a sweat, paying the price for any indulgence. As a 32 year old dietitian and mum, I now believe that the main cause of my struggles with exercise and consistency stemmed from that experience. And so my wiser-self has a few tips and tricks for those struggling to keep up with exercise so here goes:

  1. Start addressing the reasons behind why you would want to start moving and get more active. Forget about weight loss and focus more on strength and enabling your body to perform better.
  2. Being active comes in many forms so find something that you enjoy doing as you’re more likely to keep that up long-term. As a family, we have started spending so much more time outdoors whether it is for our weekly forest walks or alpine hikes. Start a weekly ritual with your family that involves some sort of activity.
  3. Avoid gym memberships unless you plan to visit AT LEAST 3 times per week.
  4. Commit to a routine. I found that blocking off my calendar 2 days a week just to train made it as important as any other meeting. Time is really no excuse, even as a busy working mum!
  5. Invest in a personal trainer if that is the only way to get you moving! Story of my life really…Since I’ve started with my personal trainer postpartum with a focus on recovery and strength training, I could honestly say that this has been the best investment in my road to “self-care”. The “improved body composition” was actually a side-effect and was never a focus but I’ve learned that I need to be challenged and guided.
  6. See movement and training as a show of respect rather than punishment. Don’t look at exercise as means of compensating for indulgences because that simply pushes you into a vicious cycle of dieting and guilt. Respecting our bodies involves nourishment and moving – moving for strength, agility, injury prevention, flexibility and trust me your body will thank you for it.

It took me years to figure out how I could keep “movement” consistent as part of my life, so take the time to understand your approach and attitude towards “movement” before mindlessly deciding to start an exercise routine, which may or may not work for you.

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