This Mom Has a Message for People Who Shame Her for Working Out

How one busy mom silenced the mom guilt and built the confidence to make fitness part of her life.

Photo: Shestock / Getty Images.

Carving out time for exercise can be difficult. Careers, family duties, social schedules, and numerous other obligations can easily get in the way. But no one knows the struggle better than busy moms. From sunup to sundown, moms are at a "free time" disadvantage, so making time for themselves, let alone a workout can feel impossible. As a busy mom myself I know that doing whatever it takes to stay active-even if that means squeezing in lunges or push-ups wherever and whenever-is so important.

This is exactly why, four years ago, I founded Living Room Workout Club, an online community of moms who want to make time for their workouts, or lose the baby weight, or just feel healthy and be comfortable in their skin again. Through the blog, several Facebook groups, and virtual meeting rooms, I create workout videos and even stream some workouts live, so that together, we can support and motivate each other. (Learn more about why joining an online support group could help you finally meet your goals.)

I knew how hard it was for moms to make time for themselves. At the time, I was a new mom, working full time as a teacher, and building my personal training business on the side. The last thing I wanted to do was spend extra time at the gym and more time away from my infant son. The only place for me to get it done was at home in my living room, working around naptime or with him playing beside me. I made it work.

Those same efficient and effective workouts I created for myself in my living room became the foundation of Living Room Workout Club. Moms all around the world, through the magic of streaming video, began to join me virtually from their own living rooms for 15- to 20-minute sweat sessions. We started making it work together.

Fast forward, and the logistics have changed a bit. I now have an active 4-year-old boy, we live in a 35-foot travel trailer, and I homeschool while we travel full time for my fiancé's work. I need to do all my workouts outside. My 6-by-4-foot living room subs in on frigid or rainy days, but otherwise, I get my sweating done at the park, at the playground, or just about anywhere.

When I first made the transition out of my comfortable, private, living room, I oddly felt more isolated. At the playground, I would position myself as far away from the other moms as possible. I felt uncomfortable working out there, wondering if they were watching me.

I realized my hesitation came from what I perceived as society's opinion about women working out in public places. I thought back to a photo I saw circulating online: A man had taken a picture of a mom exercising at her son's soccer game and posted it on social media saying, "Would it be wrong of me to tell her that every dad at the soccer field thinks her standing out front with her jump rope for two hours only screams she wants attention? And I can only imagine what the soccer moms are thinking."

Then there was another story about a mom who posted a video of herself getting a little workout in through the aisles of Target. The negative comments came by the thousands. "This is the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen," said one person. "Don't make me feel bad for roaming the aisles while snacking on cheese doodles," wrote another. One commenter called her a "lunatic."

While yes, the aisles of Target or the soccer field sidelines might not be ideal places for a workout, that doesn't give anyone the right to ridicule these moms-that may be these women's only real option at the time.

It's not just haters hiding behind a keyboard either. I've experienced it in person, too. One time, a women called out to me as I made my laps around the playground, "Will ya stop! You're making us all look bad!"

These negative comments kept creeping into my head at the playground. I asked myself, "Do they think I'm trying to show off?" "Do they think I'm crazy?" "Do they think I'm selfish for using his playtime as my workout?"

It's so easy for moms to start going down a spiral of self-doubt about parenting, and how self-care fits in with that. Then, to add the stress of what other people are thinking about you on top of it? The mom-guilt can be paralyzing!

But you know what? Who cares who's watching? And who cares what they think? I've decided all the negative chatter isn't going to stop me and it shouldn't stop you either. Taking care of yourself is crucial, and fitness is a big part of that. Regular exercise has far more benefits than just building a firm butt, although that's a lovely bonus. (See also: The 30-Day Butt Challenge) The health benefits filter down into virtually every aspect of your life. Not only will you get stronger and have more energy to keep up with your kids, you'll reduce stress, boost your mood, and increase your willpower (cough, and patience). Exercise makes you a better you, so you can be a better mom.

The bottom line is the negative voices are always louder. So many people have ingrained excuses for why they can't make fitness work in their lives. When they see others out there making it work (yes, even on the playground), their knee-jerk reactions are to find something wrong with it. But I'm here to tell you that positive, encouraging voices are out there, too. You could even be silently inspiring others by proving you can find creative solutions to make time for yourself and your health.

And remember, when you make activity a priority, you are modeling healthy behaviors for your kids. You're teaching them how wellness and "me" time can be worked into almost any situation. Someday when they are busy adults, they'll know from your example what it takes to get it all done.

You see, self-care isn't something you should do in spite of being a parent, it's part of being a parent. When you start to think about it that way, it's easy to not skip a workout.

When I finish my loop around the playground, my son says "The winner is Mommy!" and gives me a high five. And I remember that his voice matters most. So what if it makes the bleacher crowd look bad? They're welcome to join me.

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