The Muffin Top Chronicles Part 3: Prioritizing Fitness- Going All In

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I’m sure there are some parents who can do it all.  They manage to cook healthy and organic meals, keep a clean house, be there for every game, arrange play dates, work just enough but not too much, and maintain 9% body fat.  But I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that most of us do NOT fall into this camp of parenting perfection. In my house, life is a constant battle of give and take.  I cuddled my sick baby, so the dishes have to wait. I have to work late, so we’re eating frozen pizza.  You get the idea.  And in the past few years, it seems that something has almost always taken precedence over my health.  Making time for fitness has been tough.

The Excuses

I hate the phrase “What’s your excuse?”.  Particularly with regards to exercise and nutrition. Even now, as I’ve embarked on a new journey with my own fitness, I still find that phrase irritating.  In reality, we’re all doing the best we can for ourselves and our families.  Right now, I know that I need to be physically stronger and healthier to be happier. And so I CHOOSE to exercise.  If I chose to go home and eat a pizza instead, I wouldn’t need an “excuse” for my behavior. Choosing to prioritize other things over the gym isn’t a character flaw, and I don’t need an “excuse” like I’ve done something wrong.  We all make choices—priorities—for what we want or need MOST at the moment.  And often, the needs of our families supersede our own.

I’m sure most logical people would agree that a healthy, active lifestyle is associated with lots of positive outcomes—but so are the cuddles I get after work.  So I want to preface this post by saying that despite my change in behavior, I haven’t changed my mindset.  And that mindset is—you do you. (Profound, huh?)  This change is for ME. It’s not an endorsement of what you should or shouldn’t do for yourself.  I reached a point where I needed a change, and I made a drastic one.

After a couple of months of dancing around the idea of becoming healthier, and making subtle changes, I realized that what I was doing wasn’t enough.  I was eating lots of broccoli but not implementing sustainable change. Additionally, I decided to make self-care (in the form of fitness) a priority.  I told myself that I needed to stop feeling guilty about leaving my sons for an hour to go to the gym.  I told myself that while my husband would need to do more than his fair share after work sometimes, that marriage is give-and-take, and that right now, I need him to give a little extra. I am not just a wife, mother, employee…I am a person who used to make time to take care of myself.  I am a person who used to love feeling fit.  I am a person who used to have SO MUCH energy.  It isn’t neglectful of me to make time for myself—I deserve this too.

For the past few years, I have agonized over the idea of fitting in workouts, thinking, “My sons need me. My husband needs me.”  That’s true, they do.  But they also need me to thrive and live to see my grandchildren.  Despite the fact that we often neglect them, our needs don’t disappear when we become mothers.    Life gets busy, and finding time is difficult, but I’m in a relative “lull” in my house. The baby now sleeps through the night, I’m almost done nursing…I have a little extra time.  I need to take the bull by the horns. And let me tell you—my muffin top is in total shock, as I make it plank and burpee and do box jumps. Jiggling away, screaming “Laura, what are you doing?! Get back on the couch! Where are the chips?!”

Making the Change

So I joined Cross Fit. Frankly, I think you need to be just a little bit masochistic to enjoy this type of workout—but I guess I’m just a little bit crazy.  It’s not for everyone—but so far—it’s for me! It’s humbling and challenging.  The community there is incredibly welcoming and supportive, and despite the fact that I’m still really far away from my goals, I can see how doing this would help me achieve them.  I’m not napping in the afternoons anymore.  I can feel muscles underneath this layer of fluff.  I get up and down off the ground more easily, and I’m naturally eating better because exercise makes me crave nutrient dense foods.  I’m in a better mood, and my feelings of self-loathing are fading away.  I think the emotional payout has already been worth it.  

This type of thing isn’t for everyone.  But it’s not about Cross Fit—it’s about finding that THING that’s been nagging in your head, making you feel “less than”…and addressing it if you can. It’s whatever you need to do to find yourself again, and find your happiness.  I don’t like leaving my sons to go to the gym—but I like the person I am when I come home.  They have a mother who is happier and more at peace.  As parents, there is plenty to feel guilty about, but I’m done feeling guilty about this. I feel like myself again, and not just a medium to meet the needs of my children and family. Don’t misunderstand me—my children and husband are obviously important—my husband has lots of say in my workout schedule since he holds down the fort while I’m gone, and I check in with him constantly to see how it’s going. And hopefully, it goes without saying that anytime my sons NEED their mama, I’m going to stay home with them.  But if they eat chicken nuggets for dinner with my husband every Monday because I’m at the gym, they’ll be just fine.  And maybe I’ll find myself again.

Next time on Muffin Top Chronicles—will I sustain this momentum?  Or will they find my corpse, crumpled into a corner at the gym because I attempted a handstand push up? Stay tuned!!!

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Laura is a thirty-something mom of 2, living in Cumberland RI—only 3 miles from her childhood home. After meeting her husband and briefly living in Plymouth MA, she dragged him back with her to Rhode Island, where they bought their home. Laura attended the University of Rhode Island for both her bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies and her doctorate in Physical Therapy. She and her husband tied the knot in 2015, and welcomed their first son in 2016. They recently added another son to their family in late 2018, and Laura enjoys being the only woman in her house—the queen of the castle! She works as a physical therapist in an Early Intervention program, work that is challenging and that she loves. E.E. Cummings once wrote “The most wasted of all days is one without laughter,” and these are words that she tries to live by daily.