5 ways to manage athlete-mom guilt

GUILTY

“I’m going now. I’ll be back sometime after 7:00”

“Okay, no rush”

And with those words from my husband something in me relaxed a little more as I headed out on an evening mountain bike ride with a friend. As I mentioned in an earlier post, without the justification that I was training for a race, I’d let my riding time slide. While part of the reason was that life was just busier, another part of me felt guilty spending a few hours on my bike every so often when it took more time away from family or work.

Whether it be a run, a bike ride, a bootcamp, yoga, a soccer game,  or anything else that gets you out the door and moving it is important to do what makes you happy, energizes you, de-stresses you, and brings you back home a better person than when you left.

When I was first fitting in workouts as a new mom, my transitions from and to exercising were probably faster than they ever were in my triathlon races. I would worry about how my precious young daughter was doing while I was gone, and rush back home as soon as I could, guilty that she was starving or crying without me there. I relaxed a little more when my son came along, took time to enjoy a post-workout shower, and have learned to value the importance and ability of others to take good care of my kids. Now that my kids are a little older and more independent (6 and 8 years old), I’ve realized even more how important it is to continue to include guilt-free exercise in my routine consistently at any age and stage. Here are my two cents worth of tips for what helps to stay successful at it so far….

  1. Balance quality with quantity: As someone who loves endurance sport, training takes time. As most of us don’t have hours upon hours every day to devote to exercise, pick at least one day (or a few if you have time) per week that you can devote more time to exercise or add in some additional guilt-free socializing around exercise. Take the extra time for a post-workout stretch or coffee with friends. Other days you might only be able to squeeze in 20-30 minutes of exercise and that’s okay too, especially when you have the longer days to look forward to. I find balancing my needs to exercise with family/work needs on a week to week basis works best. Even if you love getting your workout in, feeling you have to get in a maximum amount in every day of the week to make it worth it can have to potential to leave you more frustrated than satisfied.
  2. Workout with friends or a group at least 50% of the time. I was just at a motivation conference this past weekend, and one researcher presented on how postpartum women were most successful at maintaining exercise when it involved exercising with others at least 50% of the time, as opposed to exercising on their own all the time. On top of the social support of meeting a friend or a group, it gives you permission to exercise control over your training. If you’ve agreed to meet a friend or go to the training group/class you signed up for you’ll be less likely to delay getting out the door by starting a new load of laundry, writing a few more emails or dealing with a kid squabble instead of getting out the door.
  3. Be timely. Adding on to the point above, notice what times of day you feel best working out as well as how you feel afterwards. I know when I get the chance I love to do a workout first thing in the morning as it energizes me, puts me in a better and more productive mood, and perhaps most importantly increases my patience threshold with my kids, the rest of the day. On the flip side, balancing enough sleep with getting up at the crack of dawn can be tough. Some days a lunch time or early evening workout works best. Like the above points some variety in the daily routine, who is involved and timing can keep things motivating, exciting, and fun. This way, I also get to spend different times of the day with my family and not miss all mornings or all evenings for example.
  4. Let go of being the perfect parent. Everyone has their own perspective on this point but there is a lot of pressure to be the perfect parent these days. What is meant by that is individual and can change daily depending on whose advice you take, but I find when I give myself permission to leave the house a mess some days, or let my kids entertain themselves for a while (even – gasp – watch TV), while I do a workout nearby, the world doesn’t end and everyone stays happy.
  5. Make the choice to exercise guilt-free. This may sound overly simple but my favourite online yoga video instructor says, “BE WHERE YOU’RE AT”. What makes working out so good for us is the ability to disconnect, and recharge with a simple minded focus for that period of your day. Take control of your “me-time” and own it. Just like while you can’t be two places physically at once, focus on only being in one place mentally at a time, enjoy focusing only on your time to move, recharge mentally, stay healthy and get strong!

 

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