Caring for You While Caring for Others

It is inevitable when we are in college, have a new baby, new job, need to care for our parents as well as our kids or some other person or thing is demanding our time, we will find ourselves with less time to get fit. If we were to see those times of our lives when we are caring for others as enriching our relationships and our spirits I think we would feel a little less guilty. Then attempting a workout would feel less loaded with the expectation of accomplishing a goal but more about how our workout creates good feelings physically and emotionally. This is the real goal as it will help you to build stamina and maintain a positive outlook for the more challenging days.

I am a mom, have been for 21 years. I am also a fitness professional, have been for 34 years. One of the most difficult times in my life was when I had just given birth to my first son. I had a serious vertigo and dizziness issue that left me feeling depleted and drained every day. However, I didn’t allow our delicate states of being to sidetrack my desire to get strong and resolve my inner ear issues. I found ways to workout anyway.

I found that I had to stop seeing the time with my newborn as a time that I was prevented from getting in shape or getting a workout in somehow. Of course, we want to lose weight, of course, we want to be more fit feel strong and have greater endurance. First we have to thank ourselves for doing what we feel is right for those we love, then we can start thinking about when, where and how to carve out time for ourselves. I think it’s important to see your attempts at physical activity including your workout as a lifestyle habit, not necessarily the thing you do to crush your goals.

If you are at one of those life changing junctures or are sedentary and want to start getting more physically active try to follow the three C’s of fitness. The first C stands for “Change”. Make small changes can make an even bigger difference in your ability to sustain a new lifestyle habit. Even though you might not be able to change your baby’s sleep schedule, your energy level or what you are eating (especially if you are breast feeding) focus on those things you can change. Things like movement patterns, what you are able to do while playing with baby or ways you can motivate yourself like playing great music, watching inspirational videos or just getting outside more.

Then create small attainable goals that you can realistically “Commit” to (the second “C”) like walking 2,000 steps a day with your parent at the mall or in a wheel chair instead of 10,000 steps or putting baby on your stomach and doing 15 small crunches to start. I found myself doing a quick yoga video while baby and I rolled around on the floor together.

I did ab workouts while my baby was napping and got my cardio in during “Mommy and Me” swim classes. I eventually got a jogging stroller as my cardiovascular endurance improved and I could sustain a light jog or run on a track. I would also “cruise” along side my baby as they learned how to walk. As they got older it got even more fun as chasing a toddler is hysterical once they think it’s a game.

If you find yourself caring for a parent or spouse you may want to consider how independent they can be and for how long. If you can leave them for an hour then you may want to take advantage of that time and go for a quick walk/run or jump on the elliptical at your gym. I would also strongly suggest you set up a support network early on. Have a friend stop by for coffee once a week to be with your loved one or find a visiting nurse service that can relieve you for a few hours every week so you can workout and perhaps get a little pampering for yourself like a massage as a reward.

You may not have a fitness professional at your elbow to help you progress your workouts however, you may want to use RPE (rate of perceived exertion on a scale between 1-10) to rate how far, fast or frequently to increase the intensity of your workouts to be helpful. Knowing that jogging 2 laps on the track is no longer a 10 might be the motivation you need. This might give you the ability and desire for the third “C” Consistency. Nothing happens without a consistent effort, that’s not to say you should attempt a strenuous workout while fighting a cold but it does mean making appointments with yourself and honoring your process.

The key to building your healthy lifestyle habits is being patient with yourself and your loved ones, taking small gradual steps and giving yourself lots of positive messages and rewards along the way. You will not only feel better but you will have given your family the best example of how to live a balanced, happy and healthy lifestyle!

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