If you’re reading this, you’re a mom charged with the responsibility of caring for other humans. You may also be working outside of the home. You may also be a partner to a significant other, as well as a daughter, a sister, a friend, a citizen, not to mention all the other facets of your identity that are uniquely your own such as being a dancer, an artist, a social activist, a Sagittarius, a curator of vintage jean jackets, you name it… you are made of many parts and roles.
Our lives are full and time often limited in today’s culture of hustle, grind, do. It can feel as though the proverbial “on” switch is jammed in our nervous system. If this pattern persists it can lead to “burnout” which renders us more vulnerable to a host of mental and physical maladies including anxiety, erratic sleep, immunity degradation, and chronic fatigue. You may be wondering: Uh, isn’t this supposed to be about fitness?
I’m setting the context for why incorporating movement is mission-critical to humans, and particularly mothers. As engaged caretakers leading full lives we need to cultivate as much natural energy as possible. Leaning on props of excessive caffeine, sugar, even, dare I say, constant productivity, is unsustainable. Research supporting the beneficial impact of exercise continues to mount so we won’t waste time proving that here, but rather focus on how YOU can carve out more time to prioritize movement.
Committing to a gym is wonderful, you have the potential of building community and it’s a monetary investment which in theory can increase attendance. For this reason, I love my CrossFit box because it’s the same faces every M/W/F at 7:30 a.m. – knowing my pack will be there pushes me to show up. That said, this arrangement is not always possible. I’ve certainly been kept away from the gym due to various schedule demands, travel, or family illness. In these times it’s so easy to resign ourselves to being sedentary, to feel it’s impossible to exercise when we are out of our routine or charged with being both mom and nurse, however, I invite us all to challenge this belief. Provided you are not ill yourself, you are in need of movement more than ever, to help you manage the additional stress and energetic output of tending to illness around you. Also, it will boost your immunity against invading viruses and germs.
1.) Incorporate short bursts of activity and “movement breaks”. Watch your kids and attune to our natural impulse as homo sapiens, which is to stay in motion. Sure, there’s variation, for example, when my son is absorbed in a LEGO creation, his body is still but otherwise, he’s a mover and a shaker. Provided they are able-bodied, they love constantly moving: dancing across the room to grab a tissue and somersaulting off the couch. We are the same. This is our very nature. As the saying goes “sitting is the new smoking,” because we are designed to move. Our minds are overemphasized and our bodily needs neglected in today’s culture. We can change this.
2.) Release the image of what movement should look like and embrace what feels good in your body and is accessible to you in this season of life. Timers are an invaluable tool when first developing the habit of movement breaks. If you’ve been seated for over 45-60 minutes, set a timer to move for 5 minutes with a walk around your environment, light cleaning, stretching, yoga, dance, etc.
3.) During your designated workout time remind yourself at the onset that you only need to move for five minutes, frequently this will lead to more because of the nature of momentum. An object in motion stays in motion and setting the bar low helps with initiation energy. Always remember you don’t have to get it perfect, you just have to get it going.
4.) “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.” I have done many a 10-15 minute bodyweight workout when I was crunched for time and definitely reaped the benefit despite the shorter duration. Check out awesome free apps such as the HIIT Timer to encourage quick routines. Pick a handful of movements, set that timer, and get it! My default bodyweight movements are air squats, burpees, walking or stationary lunges, chair dips, pushups, and sit-ups/planks. You can do all of these anywhere.
5.) Focus on function over form – be awed and grateful for ALL that your body CAN do. Reorient your mind to this focal point when you drift into body scrutiny, judgment, and frustration. It’s human and okay to want certain things about your body to be different, whatever that is for you. It’s equally human and okay to fully embrace your body as it is and love every inch of it. Neither is good or bad really, they are subjective experiences, however hating on yourself, or your body is not the path. It creates further distress and insecurity, thereby increasing your likelihood to engage in “quick fix” self-soothing (insert negative habit here: eating non-nutritive foods, over-drinking, compulsively checking devices, spending money, etc.) since the nervous system is now in a stress state. Research supports mindful self-compassion for moving through these struggles. The outcome is that you are statistically more likely to adhere to your goals by giving yourself the benefit of the doubt. It isn’t fluff or new age woo – it’s science.
Shoshana Koch is mother to Luca: former micro-preemie turned six-year-old extraordinaire. She has been married to her husband for ten years (together for 15). Typically you can find her around town reenacting Harry Potter scenes with her son, dancing to live music with her partner, connecting with powerful women, and drinking copious amounts of oolong tea. Serving as a therapist and addictions counselor for over a decade, she has helped many people unscrew themselves and create meaningful change. She offers individual and group coaching and consulting services through a synthesis of Holistic Psychology, Ayurveda, and the most current science in behavior change and habit formation. Her group course, Be Rhythm™: Heal your Body, Ignite your Power, guides people into deeper alignment with their resilience and desire for identity evolution. In a pack of like-minded souls, we create a container of stability, clarity, and simplicity. We reclaim, renew, and revel in our true selves. Each of us is worthy and capable of robust health, self-expression, and mental ease-now let’s make it happen! Find Shoshana on Instagram at @coach.shosh or visit her website here.