For years, I exercised when I “had time.” But as a busy manager of a non-profit, a wife, and a stepmother, “having time” was infrequent; so were my workouts. I typically went for an evening walk once or twice a week. I tacked them onto the end of my day as an afterthought.
To keep my weight in check, I mainly used healthy eating—not exercise. But six years ago, I had a baby girl. Ten months postpartum, I still weighed 15 pounds more than I had pre-pregnancy. As I stopped breastfeeding, I could see the weight creep up even further. I didn't feel healthy or happy, and knew that I needed to become more active.
The problem: I was now busier than ever—and at the end of the day, my energy levels were nearly non-existent. Monday through Friday, evening walks were pretty much out of the question.
So one day, following a friend’s recommendation, I signed up for a membership at a local women’s-only boot camp studio. The only class I could make was three days a week. It started at 5:30 a.m.
I wasn’t enthused about the wakeup call. I was, however, determined to give it a go. The first bootcamp class wasn't easy. I left drenched in sweat with my legs trembling. But I felt a good sort of “tired.” I really enjoyed the workout—and I had to admit that a big reason was because it was in the morning.
Soon, I discovered my morning workouts were setting me up to better handle my day’s responsibilities. When I headed out of the door to class, my family was sleeping. I didn’t have to tell my girls, “I can’t play now.” I didn’t have to worry about work emails. Even the streets were quiet. I wasn’t distracted. I wasn’t in a rush. My attention was completely on my workout and myself. It felt good.
By starting the day on a healthy note, I also felt on-task, and better able to stick with healthy eating. Every weekend, I even began meal prepping (for myself and my family) for the week ahead. Because of that, I wasn’t as tempted to grab something unhealthy during my lunch break. My exercise routine inspired me to start new healthy behaviors, too, like tracking my food intake, taking walks during work breaks, and even integrating more morning workouts into my routine.
I used to feel exhausted when I left work. Cooking dinner and helping my girls with their homework were draining activities. But just a few weeks into the exercise routine, I had more energy — and since I wasn’t stressed about my after-work responsibilities keeping me from my workout — I could better enjoy evenings spent with my girls.
Then, lo and behold, I was pregnant again. I committed to do this pregnancy differently than I had my first, when I hadn’t exercised regularly or put a major emphasis on nutrition. This time around, I went on long morning walks, played with my daughter in the backyard, and continued to prep healthy meals. I used my lunch breaks to sneak in extra steps. My second pregnancy felt easier and healthier than my first. My pregnancy weight gain was healthier, too. And, after giving birth, losing the weight was a natural result of my lifestyle.
Today, I have three daughters under my roof and I still get up at 5 a.m. five days a week to exercise. I’ve been going to the same 5:30 a.m. workout class with many of the same people for five years. We’re like family. If someone isn’t there, everyone asks why. We motivate and push each other.
On my non-class days, I do 30-minute strength or cardio workouts either at the gym or in my living room. I often use Pinterest to find new exercise and workout ideas. I also often wake up at 6 a.m. on weekends to go hiking with friends near my Southern California home. I love the peacefulness that nature offers. You can’t beat watching the sunrise over the hilltops, with downtown Los Angeles in the distance.
Over the last two-and-a-half years, I’ve lost 15 pounds but, most importantly, I’ve made fitness a lasting part of my lifestyle — and my family’s. My husband sometimes joins me on my hikes when my parents can watch the kids, and my two youngest daughters (now six and three years old) love to come with me to my Saturday morning workout class. My teenage daughter (now 19 years old) also works out several times a week.
I don’t jump out of the bed every morning excited to get my sweat on. But I don’t let the comfort of bed win out, either. Some days, I let myself hit snooze and use those few extra minutes in bed not to sleep, but to have some real talk with myself. I remember that my morning workout is the one thing I can do that day that is just for me. So I get out of bed—and I never regret it.
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