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So you’ve been cleared by your doctor to start exercising post-baby. You have the gear, you have the fitness program (check out our Move Like a Mama program on obé Fitness!) and you have the space. The only thing that’s MIA? Your motivation.
First of all, cut yourself some slack. Your body and mind have just gone through a life-changing event, and everything feels different. “It is so hard as a new mom to get workouts in,” acknowledges Kathryn Avery, a PROnatal certified fitness instructor at obé Fitness and a new mama herself. “But I always know that I’ll feel better, more nourished and more like myself after a workout.”
Here’s the good news: Motivation isn’t a murky, hard-to-pin-down emotion that comes or goes as it pleases. In fact, feeling motivated is fully in your power to control—yes, even on those hard parenting days when it feels like nothing else is! Keep reading for pro tips that can help you tap into your motivation to move—and keep it up in the long run.
1. Find Your ‘Why’
It isn’t just a feel-good phrase yoga instructors spout during class; in fact, finding your “why” is drawn from a psychological concept known as “intrinsic motivation, ” which is defined as doing something because it’s enjoyable and interesting to you, rather than because of an outside incentive or pressure to do it.
Your “why” for working out should have less to do with an external result or consequence, and more to do with the deeply personal reasons you want to show up on the mat or in the gym. Translation: It’s about much more than a number on the scale or a clothing size.
Avery’s “why:” “To feel alive and at home in my body,” she says. Michelle Brugal, another obé Fitness instructor who’s also a new mom, says that feeling like herself again post-baby was a major “why” behind her postnatal workouts: “It let me focus and connect to something specific—it gave me a sense of control, and a goal to reach,” she says. “Plus, you get a wonderful sense of accomplishment after taking time for yourself.”
Whatever it is for you, your why is that intrinsic motivation that keeps you coming back. If you need help remembering your why, put pen to paper: Write it down in your planner, or tape a sticky note on your bathroom mirror.
2. Take Out the Guesswork With a Structured Program
As a new mom, you have a full plate, which is why choosing the path of least resistance when it comes to fitness is crucial. “Find a workout program—like our Move Like a Mama program in partnership with The Bump—that takes out the variables and questions,” Avery says. Not only does following a postnatal program ensure you’re doing moves that are safe, effective and targeting the right muscles, but it also does the legwork of choosing which exercises to do each day.
3. Remember, It’s Not All-or-Nothing
This isn’t the time to go all out for 45 or 60 minutes. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: Every little bit counts. As Avery notes, “Any time we dedicate to our training is progress!” She loves the 10- or 20-minute options on obé, since her baby only reliably naps for 40 minutes at a time: “It’s just enough to get my heart pumping and to feel really accomplished!”
Plus, making your workouts bite-sized isn’t an excuse to do the bare minimum; it’s a proven way to power up your motivation. In positive psychology, there’s a concept known as neuroplasticity, which refers to your brain’s ability to rewire itself over time and create new, more successful pathways. Achieving a small goal allows your brain to experience the feeling of success, which helps create a new pathway that says “working out feels good—I got this!”
In other words: Motivation follows action, so when you start moving, you will be much more likely to pick up momentum and keep going. “Maybe you just do five minutes of focused core work on the floor, or spend 10 minutes focusing on 360 breathing and pelvic floor activations,” Avery says. “Other days, you may be ready for a longer strength or sculpt class—it all counts!”
4. Align Your Schedule With Baby’s
If you don’t plan it, it won’t happen, Avery notes. Add your workouts on your calendar just like you’d do anything else, and make sure they align with baby’s napping schedule.
“Make a list of your priorities for the day—including fitness—and then plan to act accordingly during each of baby’s naps,” Avery suggests. For example, during her baby’s first nap, she takes time to center her spirit with prayer or meditation; during the second nap, she’ll tend to household must-do’s that pile up; then during the third nap, she knows she’ll be ready for the workout. “I’ll pick the class I’ll do on the obé app in the morning, which gives me some time to mentally prep for that third nap.”
5. Practice Positive Self-Talk
Sure, it’s easy to get in a rut and start to think negatively about your workouts—or yourself. The problem: “Humans are not motivated by our shaming thoughts; we are motivated by encouragement,” Avery says. “Try to reframe every negative thought that arises for a positive one and see what happens.”
For example, rather than focus on thoughts such as, “I am just so dang tired,” try to think encouraging thoughts like, “Even if I just do 10 minutes, I’ll feel better!” or, “I have the energy for XYZ exercises today.” “You’ll be amazed how your body responds to the positive feedback loop,” she says.
6. Find an Accountability Group or Partner
Joining a group of people who share your goals—and current challenges of being a new mom!—can be a game-changer in boosting your motivation. Plus, it’ll make you more likely to achieve your goals: Publicly sharing your goals gives you a 65 percent chance of success, and having ongoing check-ins with an accountability partner boosts it to 95 percent, according to experts.
This community could be an online group (check out obé’s super active Facebook group where like-minded people share their fitness wins!), a mom’s group at the local park or an IRL fitness or yoga studio that provides a sense of community and accountability. Or maybe your accountability partner is already at home! “I ask my husband to hold me accountable to workouts, and he is more than happy to make sure I get that time to workout,” Avery notes. “Sometimes all it takes is asking for help: Most partners are willing to watch the babe while you take 30 minutes or an hour to yourself!”
About the experts:
Originally from Miami, Michelle Brugal has always believed in exercise as a tool for self-expression, a skill which she honed on the Broadway stage. In her Barre and Sculpt classes on obé Fitness, Brugal seamlessly blends her passion for dance and fitness to deliver effective and empowering results. Her certifications include PROnatal Pre/Postnatal.
A former captain of the Brooklynettes Dance Team, Kathryn Avery fuses the movement of professional dance and the science of sports medicine to generate both physical and mental change. She believes in the power of fitness to make you feel better, and always practices what she preaches with a contagious feel-good attitude. Prepare to leave her classes feeling inspired, motivated and full of self-love. Her certifications include NASM, CPT and PROnatal Pre/Postnatal.
About obé Fitness: obé Fitness is a premium fitness lifestyle destination that brings daily live classes, endless on-demand workouts and world-class instructors to your fingertips—anywhere, anytime, any screen. obé keeps members moving with 15+ class types and curated training programs, as well as only-at-obé moments such as celebrity guests and themed classes. Start your free trial at obefitness.com.
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