MOODIVATION: Exercise Incentive for Weary Moms

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been an on-again-off-again exerciser.

The pattern looks like this: I get all motivated and start working out, I last a few weeks or months in a good routine, and then an illness, vacation, bad weather, a new season of Parks and Rec on Netflix–whatever–will derail me. It only takes a few days, and then it’s like pulling teeth to get started again.

I’m 99.9% sure I’m not alone in this.

What I’ve found helpful to break this cycle is examining WHY I want to exercise. In the past, my reasons have generally fallen into one of these categories:

1) I’m getting a bit squishy around the edges and could lose a few sticks of butter off my butt.

2) I know it’s good for my heart, bones, muscles, blah blah blah.

Unfortunately, those two things do nothing to motivate me to exercise. Nada. Zilch. The truth is, I can live with the couple of extra sticks of butter on my butt. And even though I know it’s good for me, the general health benefits of exercise feel very detached from my everyday life (even though, intellectually, I know they’re not).

What I’ve found as THE best motivator for me to get moving: What it does for my moods.

As Mom-in-Chief, my mood affects the whole family. When I’m feeling “blah,” it’s harder for me to be the mom I want to be. And when I’m not physically active, I get “blah.” I don’t always recognize that that’s why I feel “blah,” but boy is it clear as soon as I start exercising again. I always – ALWAYS – feel better after I get moving.

I’m 98.9% sure I’m not alone in this.

So what I tell myself when I’m unmotivated to exercise is that exercise makes me a better mom. That’s 100% true. Moderate exercise makes me feel good. And when I feel good, it spreads to every area of motherhood. I have more energy and less guilt, more patience and less moodiness.

Note that I said moderate exercise. Not mega-workouts. Not pushing myself beyond what’s comfortable and enjoyable. A brisk 20 minute walk followed by some crunches. Turning on music and dancing for half an hour. Anything that just gets my body moving.

Confession: I’ve tried to love yoga. I don’t. I hate it. 

I gave up being picky about what kind of exercise I was doing a long time ago. If I start to think I need to be doing something more, or something specific (see yoga confession), I get overwhelmed and am less likely to do anything.

I’m 97.3% sure I’m not alone in this, too.

The cool thing is, I find when I start small and simple, just the act of getting back into an exercise routine naturally leads to more intense exercise. After walking a while, I start to want to jog a bit. My muscles start wanting a bit more challenge. Overcoming inertia naturally leads to a healthy amount of exercise. Our bodies want this. We just have to gently remind them of it when it’s been a while.

BUT the minute I start feeling external pressure to push myself farther (whether that’s a P90x infomercial or a Yahoo! article about some celebrity’s workout regimen), my motivation becomes harder to find. Feeling the need to meet some standard of physical fitness that is far beyond my current level isn’t motivating at all. In fact, it’s more likely than not to make me fall off the work-out wagon.

Some people eat that stuff up. My husband, God love him, is one of those people–he’s in fantastic shape, never misses a workout, and enjoys pushing himself physically. I don’t. As much as I’d love to be one of those people that *loves* to exercise, that’s just not me. At least, it’s not when I’ve been out of the routine for a while.

I’m 95.7% sure I’m not alone in that, either.

So, whether it’s because I’m getting a little extra alone time or because of the endorphin release or whatever, I’ve become all about moodivation over motivation when it comes to making time to exercise. One of my daily Mommy Mantras has become, “Move for your mood.” No expectations for a perfectly toned physique. No drill sergeant pushing me to do “just one more!” I don’t even think of it as exercising or working out. Just daily movement to improve my mood and my motherhood.

Try it. I promise it’ll relieve the pressure you feel to exercise for any of those other reasons, but you’ll still get all of the benefits.

And so will your kiddos. 🙂

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Annie writes about life, motherhood, world issues, beautiful places, and anything else that tickles her brain. On good days, she enjoys juggling life with her husband and homeschooling her children. On bad days, she binges on chocolate chips and dreams of traveling the world alone.

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