When most people think of step aerobics, images of leotards, leg warmers, and side ponytails come to mind. However, for me, the mention of step aerobics brings a big smile to my face. I feel a bit sheepish admitting it, but I love step aerobics.
Since I’m a child of the 80s, I missed the peak of this exercise’s popularity. But that hasn’t stopped me from embracing it. Every Saturday morning, I wake up before the rest of the family and go downstairs to stream a step aerobics workout. It’s the workout I look forward to all week. I love starting my weekend with L steps, around-the-world turns, and rocking horse moves. It’s as close to feeling like a dancer as I get.
As I step, turn, and sweat in my basement, I’m struck by how many of the principles of step aerobics apply to motherhood as well. Like step aerobics, parenting is often a matter of timing, patience, and persistence. So, my friends, these are the truths of motherhood I’ve learned from being a stepper.
Be present. When a wayward thought or worry makes its way into my workout, a stumble or misstep is sure to follow. Step aerobics demands my full attention. This practice in mindfulness helps me live in the moment with my kids. When I can push other distractions to the side, I’m able to slow down time for a bit and appreciate my kids as they are in that moment.
It’s only step. When introducing a complex move, the instructor often reminds the class that it’s only step. Sometimes I can’t master a new routine no matter how hard I try. It’s ok. It’s only step. In motherhood, this reminder to keep perspective is helpful. It’s ok if every toy isn’t put away, the kids wear mismatched clothes, or my daughter insists on wearing rain boots on a sunny day. It’s just the nature of life with kids.
Break it down. Sometimes the moves in step make me feel like I have two left feet. Whenever this happens, it’s always helpful to break down the routine into micro-steps. I use a similar approach when I teach my kids a new skill. Together, we walk through the steps one by one, trusting that they will master the skill with some practice.
Just keep moving. I almost always get lost at some point in a step routine. When this happens, I return to the basic up and down step move until I can jump back into the routine. As a mom, some days I misstep or completely miss something altogether. In these moments, I remind myself to let go of the illusion of perfection and keep moving forward.
Frustration makes it harder. Frustration is often my first response when a step routine seems too hard. But dwelling in this feeling only makes the situation worse. Instead, with a deep calming breath, I remind myself to focus on what I can do instead of what I can’t. Raising kids makes it easy to get lost in the daily frustrations of cajoling, corralling, and disciplining kids. Knowing how to work through this emotion helps me to stay focused on what I can control.
Laugh at yourself. In step, I often look ridiculous – especially if a routine involves a body roll. I’ve learned to let go and laugh at my lack of coordination. As a mom, my ability to laugh at myself helps me loosen up when I take things too seriously. It allows me to embrace being a ninja with my son, crawling around like a crocodile with my daughter, and playing the kids’ silly game of monster chase.
In both motherhood and step aerobics, I’ve learned that life is about progress, not perfection. It’s ok for me to make mistakes and get frustrated along the way, but the most important part is that I keep moving forward.