I’m going to get back into shape.”

I’ve said it. You’ve said it. We’ve all said it. After getting that +15 after a few stressful university semesters, after having a baby, after New Year’s celebrations are behind us, upon turning 30, 40 or 50… but what exactly are we trying to “get back” to?

Since having my first baby, I’ve found freedom and happiness in a basic fact of life:there is no going back.

I taught Zumba® until I was 35 weeks along, and the only reason I stopped was so I could give my students notice in advance of when classes would end (rather than leaving them hanging in the event I went into labour early.)

My baby was due early July, and I naively though that I would be back teaching classes by the fall. Some of the wiser ladies in my class would chuckle at that, but I continued to believe that since I was relatively young and fit, labour wouldn’t be difficult and I would heal quickly.

I was wrong. I didn’t get back to teaching until my baby girl was 9 months old.  I didn’t even get back to any moderate exercising until she was 6 months old! The fact is, while my labour went really well and I didn’t even need an epidural or any pain medication, the delivery was very difficult, so I had a lot of healing to do. A series of postpartum infections and hospital visits, plus a variety of issues before getting the hang of breastfeeding (I’m so thankful I never gave up though!), meant I was seeing doctors almost every week for the next five months.

I could not even sit cross legged until she was 3 months old, let alone do a squat. While my legs had stayed fairly toned through pregnancy, I could feel the muscle slipping away, and that oh so alusive “thigh gap” I’d managed to achieve prior to pregnancy was a distant memory.

So here I am, with a 10-month old, getting through teaching Zumba® with a good amount of adrenaline, and those very helpful and necessary leak protection pads! My body is different. It is still healing and it is changing to fit my lifestyle needs right now. “Getting back” to what I was at 25, free of stretchmarks with toned abdominal muscles and the ability to do the splits, is not my goal right now. Besides, having a little bit of pudge around my midsection provides a pillow for those precious and fleeting baby cuddles.

It doesn’t mean that I’m never going to feel my best again. But I choose to look to the future to define my fitness goals. Yes, I could make it my aim to fit into all my pre-pregnancy clothes, but even getting back down to my pre-pregnancy weight hasn’t meant that these clothes fit me properly. My butt is actually shaped differently, and while I’m back to a size 2 (on good days), a different cut of jean is now more flattering. Now that my breasts are fulfilling their mommy-purpose, many of my old shirts aren’t as attractive either. So, goodbye old clothes! What’s in style this summer? Any excuse to go thrift-store shopping works for me!

Right now, my role models are moms that I know with older children, who have managed to fit exercises they love and healthy eating into their busy lifestyles, and look and feel fantastic for it! Some of these moms are in my Zumba® class.

I’ve decided to make a concious effort to take the phrase “getting back into shape” out of my vocabulary, and out of my thinking. It’s time to appreciate who we are in the present, and get excited for our futures! Will you join me?

2017 Update

Sometimes I like to go back and read this blog article (my very first one!) to encourage myself. I’m still learning to love the way my body is now, while doing what I can to move forward, work in fitness and be healthy. Having two children now definitely adds to the challenge (or forces me to run around more!) I’ll try to write more on this topic in the coming months. I should note too, that since moving I have not started up a new Zumba class. However, I am available for teaching children’s creative movement classes and dance fitness workshops as requested. You can see another blog post with spontaneous dance (for the purpose of worship) here.