Health & wellness for Flat Out Mums October 16 2018

Physical and mental health is at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Are we doing enough? How are we feeling? How are our children going? As Mothers, most often we put others before ourselves and of course our own health can suffer. We know it is wrong, but sometimes there are simply just not enough hours in the day and if there are, all we want to do is rest. 

My physical health and commitment to regular exercise has wavered over the years. I have always loved playing sport and have been pretty fit. Motherhood changed that. This is not an excuse, but one of the reasons and a good one at that. Mothers especially need to cut ourselves some slack. Trust me I know what sleep deprivation feels like. I know how hard it is to have the energy to even walk a couple of times around the block. But you have to start somewhere and the experts are not lying when they tell us that the endorphins created during exercise will make us feel better! 

So this year, with all four boys finally in Primary school, I have really committed myself to regular exercise. After 40+ years I know myself well and what motivates me. I am ‘flat out’ most days so I needed to find activities that suited my personality and my schedule. I’ve focussed on some of my strengths - I love catching up with my friends and I don't like letting people down….so having an unmovable time to meet people is good for me. This year I went out of my comfort zone and started cardio tennis. Set times, paid upfront & of course I’m accountable to a group of friends. Added bonus - if you stop running you get whacked by a ball, there’s some motivation for you! It has been amazing for me and normally my face hurts the most at the end of the session from the laughs. (Side note, along with regular exercise, laughter is one of the easiest ways to induce endorphin release - win win!)

To me, exercise has always been about how it makes you feel, not how it makes you look. The energy and the feeling of strength. Feeling strong and healthy is even more important to me now that I have four young, active boys. Not only do I need to keep up with them physically but I’d love to be around to be a great grand mother! So a couple of cardio sessions each week has been great for my fitness and while the boys are getting faster in their pace, at least my cardio can keep up with them. Being outdoors has been amazing for my mental health too (especially now the sun is out!) 

However, I needed more and I wanted to get some expert advice on how to strengthen my body now, for the future. Hopefully I’m not yet half way through my life and I want to make the most of every opportunity ahead. The health and fitness offering has changed so much in the 13 years since I had my first child and I didn’t know where to start. There are enough obstacles to doing regular exercise for Mums so I didn’t want to do anything too hard core or to have to go anywhere intimidating.

Guess what? I have gone right back to the gym I used to attend before kids - Fernwood! They reached out to me recently to see if I wanted to trial some of their classes and it was the perfect fit. What appealed to me when I was younger, smaller and fitter, appeals to me even more so now. Women only (you know I love boys but I don’t need the distraction of them in the gym) plus a relaxed  fun and inclusive environment. Plus I committed to a Personal trainer who was sympathetic to what my body had gone through, but also pushed me to my capacity. 

Fernwood also have a great range of classes included like Spin, Pilates, Boxing, Body Pump and the first one I’m going to try ‘Amazing Abs’. There are also classes offered within school hours (and a lot of the Fernwood Fitness centre’s have a creche!) While my life has come a full circle since I was at Fernwood last, they have changed too. There is a great App I am using as well as their 28 day Breakthru program which kicks you off. Once I have tried more of the recipes, I will share the yummiest ones.

So here I go, my health journey has stepped up a notch and I am already feeling much better for it. I won’t be sharing measurements, weight loss or diets. I won’t be comparing myself to others and I won’t be setting unrealistic short term goals. I am doing this for myself and I know if I am steady and committed, in the long run I will be better for it. So my tip for you ladies is to not exercise to be a certain dress size or panic about an event you want to look good for that is coming up. Start now, get good advice and find an exercise and an environment that suits YOUR personality. For me that is going back to Fernwood and I’m starting by downloading their free E-book with all sorts of tips to get ready for summer (you can too HERE).

Here are some of my tips for overall wellness, please share yours with me too!

  1. 1. Find an environment you feel comfortable in. To be sustainable, exercise needs to be in a place that you enjoy so that the environment is not just another factor prohibiting us committing for the long term (there are too many other things like kids, tiredness and crazy busy lifestyles that already get in the way). EG, don’t try to take up swimming if you hate getting in your bathers, don’t try to take up running if the times you can go are in the cold/dark where you don’t feel safe! Don’t sign up to an intimidating class or studio that just makes you feel worse about yourself / more uncomfortable. 
  2. Be accountable: pay upfront for a set class time, meet up with friends, book in a personal trainer. All of these things make you less likely to cancel as well as being much more fun.
  3. Give yourself a goal: don’t make this a number on the scales or a dress size. Your body changes as we age and the scales don’t always reflect your improvement (especially for your mental health). Sign up for a challenge with a friend instead, to give yourself something to work for (eg a fun run, charity walk etc). Mine is spending a fun summer in the pool with the boys :)
  4. Find the exercise that you don't dread doing. Don’t sign up to ballet class if it just makes you feel like an elephant, don’t go running if it hurts your knees, don’t join a netball team where you loathe waiting until late at night for the game times. Have a good think about it and find the thing that you love doing and you will be more likely to look forward to your next session, rather than dread it. Do you prefer to be outdoors in nature, do you want to start with gentle stretching under candle light yoga, or do you need to let out your frustration on a boxing bag? Match your needs, not other people’s.
  5. Make it funfind a dance class if you love music and no longer hit the nightclubs! Find a like minded friend and do it together. If you’re social but don’t have a friend to join you, pick an exercise where you can interact with others (no silent yoga!) The right exercise for you should be enjoyable (mostly!) and you should leave feeling a lot happier.
  6. Seek professional advice. This is especially true after children and as we get older. When coming back into exercise after children or an injury, we can often be very motivated and hence go too hard too fast. To prevent injuries and help you sustain the momentum longer term, it is always best to get personal advice just for you. Personally my core has never recovered from three caesarians and twins and I am starting over with the expertise of a personal trainer. 
  7. Rest! I learn this from Shane…to exercise well, you also need good recovery days and lots of sleep. Go to bed earlier each night, consistently. You know you can (and bed means sleep, not looking at your phone!) Mum’s can rarely get a sleep in, but I’m sure we can manage consistent early nights, especially during the week :)
  8. Nourish yourself: eat real food, go back to basics and shop for the majority of your food at one end of the supermarket. You know the end with the fresh food, not processed, grown in the ground food. If it does come in packaging a good sign is that it has a short expiry date (that means it is fresh!!!) Less processed, more like your grandma ate. water too. Lots and lots of water. 
  9. Reward yourself. This is my favourite! Book in a massage after the first first weeks, buy yourself a new gym outfit, treat yourself to that dessert you’re been craving. Life is about balance and rewarding yourself is always a good idea. Don’t make the reward fitting into a dress that's too small for one night only. Small rewards often will help you maintain the momentum and before you know it, you’ll probably fit into that dress all the time. 
  10. Be present: be conscious of your breathing (you can call it meditation if you like). You know the type of deep breathing where you actually STOP & consciously breathe for a prolonged period of time. In nature is good. In a quiet room with your eyes closed is good too. This includes being grateful, less distracted and more in the moment. Happiness is the ultimate wellness. 

My last tip…PLEASE do not compare yourself to other people. This is common advice I know but really, all you can be is the best version of yourself. You were born with a certain body shape, metabolism and personality. Your circumstances are different to EVERYBODY else’s. Find YOUR thing and stick to it. If each day you’ve done something for your own health then you are on the right track, it all adds up. Coming off the wagon sometimes is OK too. Just remember why you started and get back on track as soon as you can muster. 

To find out more about Fernwood Fitness, visit www.fernwoodfitness.com.au