Working Out Makes Me a More Fit Parent

by Cheryl Maguire January 18, 2017

women doing workout

I’m a fitness fanatic. Six days a week, I’m either in a spin class, body pump class, or watching an at-home DVD workout program. I wasn’t always this way. In fact, I used to be the type of person who avoided all forms of physical activity. So what changed? It began when I met my husband, who loves to work out.

But I didn’t really transform until I became a mom.

We had a family gym membership, which was only used by my husband. Being a stay-at-home mom to twins made me feel overwhelmed and isolated. Our gym offered free child care while you worked out. The thought of having an hour to myself during the day was motivation enough to pack up my brood and head to the gym.

At first I considered reading a magazine in the lobby during the hour since I didn’t really want to work out, but my guilt got the better of me. I compromised by reading the magazine while walking on the treadmill.

Reading on the treadmill is incredibly boring, but I had a view of the aerobics room. The pulsating music emanating from it reminded me of a dance club. The participants of the kickboxing class moved in unison like a choreographed dance routine. It definitely looked more fun than the boring elliptical machine, so I gave it a try. I loved it. Over time I got hooked and started going to variety of fitness classes.

One of my favorite parts of fitness classes are the motivating messages the instructors shout as the sweat pours off my skin. Sometimes during the day, I’ll think of comparable phrases to help me overcome the many parenting challenges I encounter.

Here are a few of my favorites:

You are stronger than you think

This one helps you lift heavier weight. In strength training, the goal is to move up in weight over time. So if you have used 15-pound weights for several weeks, you try to move up to 20 pounds. It’s pretty common to fear you won’t be able to move to the next level. Hearing this phrase it helps you overcome that fear.

It took me a long time to believe this message both related to fitness and parenting. After 11 years, I’ve come to the realization that I can at least try to lift that heavier weight. Parenting is hard both emotionally and physically; it requires a great deal of strength. Knowing you’re strong helps you face those challenges with confidence.

Get out of your comfort zone

On “Celebrity Apprentice” Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi basically said to Arnold Schwarzenegger she wasn’t comfortable naming a person to be voted off. His response was something along the lines of the experience not being about comfort. If he’d remained comfortable while a body builder, he would never have achieved any success.

In strength training, your body becomes used to the weight you’re lifting. In order to build your muscles, you need to move up in weight. When you do this for the first time, it is both hard and uncomfortable, but it leads to being a stronger person.

As a parent, you experience a plethora of uncomfortable situations, both as an advocate for your child and as a parent. Your child continually moves through phases of development that require you to constantly change your parenting techniques as well as your interactions with your child. For example, the time out technique you use with your toddler would not be the same as the one your use with your teen.

As an advocate for your child, you interact with their teachers, doctors, and child care providers. It may feel uncomfortable to disagree with your doctor’s diagnosis, but ultimately you have to be uncomfortable to help your child. By being comfortable with being uncomfortable, you become a stronger person and parent.

You can do anything for five minutes

During every fitness class, the instructor will shout out, “You can do anything for five minutes!” Usually it’s during a really difficult section towards the end when you’re tired and wondering when it’ll end, because it feels like it never will. But it will. In just five minutes.

This is a great phrase to say to yourself the next time your child has a full-blown, stage-five meltdown in the middle of Target. Granted it may last longer than five minutes, but at some point your child will become tired, right?

The fact is, the duration is limited, and you can push through the pain (and embarrassment) to finish up the shopping trip just like you finished the fitness class.

Don’t phone it in

Some days you don’t feel like working out. On these days, you may be inclined to just go through the motions. “Don’t phone it in” motivates you put in 100 percent even though you might not feel like it. It helps to realize you really can push yourself harder by increasing the resistance on your spin bike or running at a faster pace.

Don’t feel like being a parent some days? Want to just crawl back into bed and forgo your responsibilities? Those are the days you need to work at not “phoning it in.” Your child will notice the difference. It’s worthwhile to push through and give it your best effort.

Try a fitness class

Here is my motivation message. If you are not already working out, go try a class or borrow free fitness DVDs from your library or a friend. Most cable companies offer free fitness classes on demand. If you ask, many gyms will offer a free day pass.

You’ll feel better both physically and emotionally. And you might pick up a few motivational messages.

Cheryl Maguire


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