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Several months ago I talked a lot about self care and how deeply important I think it is, especially for moms of young kids. It's far too easy to get caught up in the day to day tasks and lose ourselves in the process! We begin to exist only as "Mom" and not as "Katie" or "Amanda" or "Cari" or "Nicole." But by finding ways we can take care of ourselves, ways to fill our own cups, we will not only hold on to our own identities but we will have the ability to really pour into others.
Since becoming a mom I've found that I really enjoy exercise. After our second son was born I lost more than 70 pounds by doing at home workouts and cutting down my calories. I usually did a few 10 minute videos but I attempted to go through P90X at this point. I missed lots of days and didn’t push myself as hard as I probably could have. But it still felt amazing to fit into sizes I had never fit into before and feel healthy and energized for taking care of my kids.
Fast forward to three kids later, the two oldest being in school and the youngest two being twins and exercise fell by the wayside. I knew I needed to keep up on it but I kept putting it off for other things. After I wrote the post about self-care I had an “ah-ha” moment for myself and realized how much happier I am when I’m putting in the effort for my physical needs. So I told myself and told all of you that I was setting out to complete the P90X program. I announced it so I knew there would be people following along and asking about it (and boy did they!) I started on August 1st and after needing to adjust the schedule a few times due to illness or vacations I finally wrapped up my 90 days on November 12th. But what did spending 90 days on one fitness program teach me?
I can do amazing things. If you had told me I would go from being able to do 5 push ups on my knees during the first week to nearly 30 on my toes by the end of the program I would have laughed in your face. But I can now. I’ve never been “strong” and even after mostly going through P90X five years ago I still wasn’t this strong. I wasn’t lifting the weights that I’m lifting now. Apparently it took five years and three extra kids to realize that I can do things I set my mind to, even if they seem difficult.
I can listen to my body. There were days when my mind wasn’t in it. When I didn’t want to push play because the thought of hiding under blankets and reading, or watching a show, or playing in the kitchen sounded so much more appealing. But there were also days when my knees ached with every step or my head pounded each time I moved. I learned to really listen to my body and kick my lazy self in the butt when it was trying to convince me to not workout and give myself grace and some healing time when I actually needed it. Far too often it goes the other way for me. I give in to that little voice telling me it’s okay to skip and ignore the cries of my body telling me it needs a break. I still pushed myself at times when I shouldn’t have but overall I did a far better job of knowing when to bring it and when to back off.
I can compete with myself. I’m a very competitive person. I grew up with a dad that used to play cutthroat monopoly with us before we were 10. “You landed on Broadway, sorry, that’s all your money and I win.” He had no mercy in that game! He instilled in me a deep desire to win and beat everyone else. At times it’s okay to want to come out ahead, but the competition doesn’t always need to be with other people! By using the worksheets for the workouts I was able to out-do myself each week and see how much better I could be. It didn’t matter that the people in the videos were doing 30 regular push ups. What mattered is how many I did last time and how many I can do today. Although, I won’t lie, it did feel really good when I was able to beat some of their reps.
I prefer strength training to cardio. This one surprised me a little! I spent fifteen years as a dancer growing up plus performed colorguard and played softball and rugby. Cardio had always been my go-to form of exercise. But this go round I learned to love strength training. Cardio is fun and is obviously a great workout but I’d much rather do a strength workout. I think it goes back to the previous points - it’s really effective for me to see what amazing things my body can do and to see how much further I can push each time. Sure I might notice I’m less winded in a cardio workout or shave some time off my mile but watching the amount of weight I am using going up and up for the same exercise to feel the burn is incredibly satisfying. I’ve actually got 12 pound and 15 pound weights on my Christmas list so I can keep pushing myself further!
I can stop the excuses. Sometimes I feel like an excuse generator. “Oh, the room is too small to get in a good workout.” “Whoops, I didn’t get such and such done first, guess I can’t workout today.” “Oh, the kids might wake up and interrupt me.” Um… it’s not too small, that thing will still be there when I’m done, and yes, they will, but that’s what the pause button is for. Our living room is not big. Five years ago when I did P90X we lived in a different house and I (in my mind) had more space for doing the workouts, especially Plyometrics which requires a decent amount of space. Guess what - I managed to do it even when we had a couch practically in the middle of the floor. Excuse smashed. Oh, the dishes from lunch and breakfast are still in the sink? Yeah, they’ll still be there in an hour when I’m done. Didn’t vacuum? Suck it up and get covered in crumbs and cat hair. Excuses smashed. And I think nearly every day someone woke up during my workouts. I pressed pause, dealt with the issue, and pressed play again. A few times the little guys had to watch me finish a workout. Sometimes someone had to wait for help because I was in the middle of a set and their need wasn’t an emergency. The few times I actually had to STOP the workout because it wasn’t safe to continue? Minimal. Less than 5 out of 90. Excuse smashed.
I can tell the difference when I miss out. When I got sick and had to take a break I noticed how it took more mental and physical strength to complete a workout again. When I skipped for whatever reason, real or excuse, my attitude suffered. Some type of physical exertion is absolutely a cup filler for me. I can sweat out all my crabbiness or mental fatigue and focus on getting the job done. It’s about me. Doing pull ups doesn’t really benefit my family. Me lifting a 10 pound weight won’t significantly impact my kids. But I’m doing something that builds up my self-esteem, my mental game, and my energy - all things I need for raising these little people. I may not be able to stop myself from getting sick or my body needing a break but I can absolutely stop skipping for lame reasons because I am worth it and so is my family.
It’s not about the weight or the size. Last time through the program my goal was to lose weight. I was carrying a SIGNIFICANT amount of weight after back to back pregnancies (clearly, if I had 70 pounds to lose) and I had very little clothing that fit, let alone looked okay. This time around was different. Yes, I could lose some weight to be considered “healthier” but it’s nothing compared to where I was last time. I have clothes I like and that fit me comfortably. I don’t hate how I look in pictures… at least not all pictures. I haven’t even stepped on a scale in ages because it’s not what my focus is anymore. I think I’ve lost at least a pant size because all the pants I was wearing in the spring are baggy now. People have commented how great I look and that they can see I’ve been working hard, especially in my face. Sweet, but I’ve risen above the numbers, both on the scale and in my clothes. I’ve learned how great doing some type of exercise is for my mind, body, and soul.
Where do I go from here? It’s a great question. I really like the format of P90X - focusing on different areas of the body on separate days - but I’m not a fan of the length. I understand that they are on the longer side so you can get a really great transformation after the 90 days but I’m a mom raising five kids between 2 and 8. I’m also involved in several groups and I’m trying to keep this place up and running since it’s such a huge passion for me. So where does that leave me?
I am going to keep working out, no doubt about that, but I’ve got to shorten this all up. I’m going to switch to four days each week, rather than seven. That was hard for me to keep up with and many weeks I missed getting in every single day. It is what it is. Four days, focused on different areas, and right around the 30 minute mark.
I’ll switch it up between video and non-video workouts. I like videos because I think it pushes me harder but I also greatly dislike the repetition of watching the same videos over and over. Seems strange since I can watch the same movies over and over without batting an eye but I guess when I’m working out I don’t want to know everything line by line.
I’ll keep encouraging people to find something that fills them up. We can’t keep draining ourselves and expect there to be a constant supply. We run dry, we overcommit, we get touched out. Find something that can fill you up and restore your soul so you have the energy and ability to pour into others.
I'm really please with my mind shift over the last several months. When I started I was definitely in the "lets lose weight" camp but the more I focused on strength, progress, and taking care of myself, the less I cared about all the extra stuff. I'm so ready to stay this path and keep working on my health, both mental and physical, so I can be the best Katie I can be.
What are your favorite ways to practice self-care? Do you exercise on a regular basis? What are your favorite ways to keep your mental game in check?