Fitness: From Overwhelm to Finding My Peace

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For the 10 years I have been a mother, I have put my kids and family first. I felt like that’s what moms do, right? I sacrificed sleep, time for myself, and often eating healthy meals in order to use my time and energy to make sure my family was taken care of.

Working as a nurse on a busy surgical unit prepared me well for the life of a mom. Speed walking from room to room, passing meds, and making sure my charting was in before my next admission . . . it wasn’t unheard of for me to finally sit down for lunch at 3:00 p.m., drink my coffee cold, hold my bladder, and stress eat with sweets left for the nurses in the break room.

After having my first baby 10 years ago, it was tough getting back to the weight I was before pregnancy, but I felt comfortable enough in my new body. Eleven months later, I got pregnant with my daughter and had two more babies in the next six years. All the while, between wavering motivation, no set plan, and the anxiety of how to keep my kids occupied while getting a workout in, a workout usually never got done. Unfortunately, my unhealthy coping mechanisms remained consistent.

In March of 2020, I was seven months postpartum with my fourth baby, we were moving into our new house on March 14th (our 10th wedding anniversary) . . . and two days later school shut down for the rest of the school year for Covid. For the next school year, I chose to homeschool my kids which brought joy, adventure, great memories, and also exhaustion. With even less “me time” than ever, and the added stressor of homeschooling for the first time, I hit an all-time weight gain high.

I know my story of putting my own health on the back burner while being a mom is not novel. It also seems like “mom culture” in media portrays overwhelmed moms pouring a glass of wine or hiding in the pantry or bathroom sneaking chocolate.

For me, it took starting a fitness program with an 8-week challenge and planning a vacation with my husband (our first trip without kids) to motivate me to change my lifestyle and crave exercise. In the process, I’ve carved out precious time for myself that has made me feel more alive and refreshed than I’ve felt in a long time. I look forward to these pockets of self-care every day.

I have learned a few helpful strategies to make it happen along the way:

  • Have a measurable fitness goal. Most people start with a weight goal, but once you meet that goal, it’s time to make a new one! Do you want to run a 5k? Do you want to be able to do a 4-minute plank? Having goals keeps you focused and consistent.
  • Take the path of least resistance. Let the kids watch a show for 30-45 minutes. In order for you to get a workout routine down, sometimes you just have to keep the kids entertained in the easiest way you know. If you have babies, sometimes exhaustion makes it really hard to even fathom exercise. Wait until they are napping and get ten minutes in here and there. I’ve also done a workout out in my regular clothes when I felt I didn’t have time to change into workout clothes. Make it as easy as possible for yourself.
  • Have a mantra; speak kindly to yourself. One of my favorite trainers on Peloton is Robin Arzón. She is a spin and running instructor — and an inspiration to me. Some of her powerful mantras include: “movement is medicine”, “protect your peace” (as moms we understand this one), and “I give myself permission to take care of myself.”
  • Find an exercise activity that you enjoy. I found a Peloton on the Facebook marketplace last year, and I ride at least three or four days out of the week! You don’t have to have a bike to use the Peloton app — you can pay monthly for running, strength training, cardio, yoga, and cycling workouts. I love a great playlist with top hits, 80s, punk pop, and hip hop. I’ve also downloaded the app Couch to 5k, which helped me go from barely running two minutes nonstop to running the Turkey Day Run last Thanksgiving, and now I’m working up to a 10k!

Hopefully, some of these tips will be inspiring to you! Start before you are ready, you’re never too old to change your life!

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Elizabeth Wagner is a 5th generation Charlestonian and a 3rd generation James Islander.  She and her husband maintained a long distance relationship throughout her nursing school and his Marine Corps deployments. They married in 2010. After working as a neurosurgical nurse for ten years, she became a stay-at-home mom of their now four kids. From her natural passion to help others and through caring for her own children, Elizabeth became interested in herbal remedies, the benefits of plant medicine, and natural ways to treat her kids illnesses. In 2016, after the birth of her third child, she started Island Bloom Herbals. She makes homemade elderberry syrup, cough syrup, and herbal teas. She and her husband are beekeepers and have three hives in their backyard.  Elizabeth and her husband also love to dive. Her husband proposed to her underwater off the coast of Charleston and they have dove in the Georgia Aquarium with whale sharks!

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