I Didn't Get Back to My Fitness Routine After Motherhood—I Found a New One

As a former circus acrobat, fitness was my thing. But hanging onto the past after having kids—what I used to do and how I used to feel—almost destroyed me.

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I was sitting in the throes of undiagnosed postpartum depression and thinking that if only I could muster the energy and time to go work out, my life would start to turn around. That’s when I realized that I needed SO. MUCH. MORE.

I remember it clearly: My luxury-brand lounging clothes covered in various stages of dried or drying-out baby barf and my toddler whining and wailing because he didn’t want to leave the house. He didn’t want to do anything other than pull on me and cry at my face. And there I was. My body wasn’t my own, my snuggly clothes were gross, and I couldn’t even remember my last shower. Without a workout creating the need to bathe and with vomit coming at me all day, why bother?!

That day, as I sat there realizing how different my life and needs were from just a couple years before, I started to understand that the change I was looking for was a lot different from what I thought it was. I didn’t need to get back to my routine; I needed to find a new one. The more I longed for the days when I could get to the gym and blow dry my hair afterwards, the more I resented these sweet, disgusting little creatures I’d brought into my life. And that didn’t feel good.

I loved my role as a mom, but I wasn’t thriving—I wasn’t even getting by. I was tanking.

I was losing myself and the joy and zest for life that I’d always had. So I decided to create the life I wanted. I needed to embrace the new me. I needed to love this new me and learn about my new needs.

I decided to start from the inside out. I was stressed and sad and, to be honest, resentful. I resented how hard I was working and how little I got in return. I resented my husband and my family and anyone who wasn’t a hot mess like me. Holding onto that negativity was toxic, and I knew it, so releasing it—for good and for real—was my first plan of attack.

I started meditating. I had a few clients who swore by it, so I ignored my inner eighteen-year-old punk rocker, who was scoffing and rolling her eyes at me, and committed to meditating for thirty days. And it worked. I was starting a positive dialogue with myself that I’d never had before. I hadn’t even realized how negatively I spoke to myself until I started exploring meditation. So I went further.

I started daily affirmations. At first I just started buying all of the mugs and little signs to help inspire me to love myself and focus on the good. And that worked too. Then I started saying those things out loud and repeating them in my head whenever I felt negativity creep in (which was a lot more often than I realized). When negative thoughts popped up, I caught them and then released them by giving myself a compliment instead of pushing them deep down into a shameful corner in my psyche as I had been doing.

I started celebrating my successes instead of focusing on my failures. I set small, attainable goals, and when I reached them, I acknowledged it and gave myself praise.

I was learning to love this new and complicated me in a way that I hadn’t loved myself ever before. I was diving so deep into my inner struggles that I was unearthing and releasing a lot of negativity toward myself that I’d hidden away.

To start a new routine, I started small.

I gave myself daily and weekly goals so I would have things to celebrate. I started small by adding in little healthy choices, including drinking enough water, making my bed, creating my own bedtime routine, and even getting in just five minutes of activity or stretching. This was nothing like my days as a circus acrobat, doing fifteen chin ups, splits between chairs, and climbing a vertical pole for four hours a day, but it was a start, and I was truly proud to be doing it.

As for actually exercising, my kids wouldn’t go to the gym daycare, and between fighting to get them there and watching them cry as I walked away, I decided it wasn’t a battle worth fighting. So I started getting in my workouts with them. I set them up playing, and I worked out. I helped them with their art and worked out some more, grabbed them a snack and worked out some more. All of a sudden I found myself doing it. I was finding that elusive balance—and it felt great.

My cardio workouts came from racing down the block with the stroller, my toddler on his scooter, and my strength workouts were sprinkled throughout the day: A set of squats and lunges here, grabbing some push-ups and dips there… I decided to see what I could do by just doing what I could. And I felt the results immediately. More control, more endorphins, and even more strength.

My nutrition focused on giving me energy and pride—not getting skinny. And you know what? The weight was falling off. I even made an appointment with my OB because—I’ll be honest—I thought I might be dying. It turns out there is huge power in cumulative changes. I wasn’t depriving myself of food or treats, and I wasn’t spending hours in the gym. I was making consistent choices that made me feel good, and that was getting me the life and lifestyle I’d been looking for.

Motherhood is a journey, and it’s not an easy one. I realized that this is my new role, and if I want to be happy, I need to adapt.

Hanging onto the past—what I used to do and how I used to feel—almost destroyed me. Regardless of my circumstances, I can’t go back. That’s not how it works. But I can go forward! And maybe moving forward is even more incredible than the view I see in the rearview mirror.

Shannon Shearn is the owner and founder of Savage Wellness, a virtual gym designed just for moms. She is a writer, mother, personal trainer and health coach, passionate about helping mothers prioritize their health and happiness.