I have always struggled to get into regular exercise habits. I start up, get into a really good pattern for 3-4 months, and then something happens like falling sick or going on holiday, where I stop working out for 1-2 weeks. After this, it takes me a good few months to get back into a routine before the same cycle occurs again. In fact, once my wife fell pregnant, I again attempted to get into a good routine with the hopes it would continue once baby arrived. I even managed to break my old cycles and workout for a solid 6-7 months, 4 days a week for a little over an hour each morning. I also started to see some physical results of my training (as well as an increase in strength and stamina). But then once baby arrived, all of my intentions to workout disappeared along with my sleep and free time. Since then, I have made a number of attempts to get back into working out, and admittedly none of them have succeeded! But I have developed some other good habits that I hope will lay a solid foundation to being able to workout with a baby.
Month One and Two
Being honest, the first 2 months were pretty much a write off. With baby’s sleep cycle being every 2-4 hours, it made it pretty much impossible to find any sleep let alone start a new workout routine. Plus I was still figuring out the whole fathering gig, and then by month two I was back at work again so time was also at a premium.
So I didn’t work out…at all. I mean I had to do a lot of jogging back and forth in the house while trying to settle my daughter (and I even got a few squats and lunges in), but anything that resembled my previous routine just didn’t exist. The best I could do was try to eat well, and get some sleep where possible. And that was OK. You see, I just went through a drastic change in my life and was still adjusting, so if you are in a similar situation then go easy on yourself. The first two months are the hardest of all, so get through it and then get started on your routine after this.
- Eating as healthy as possible
- Trying to survive the adjustment to being a parent
- Taking baby for a walk as much as possible
Month Three and Four
In my situation, my daughters sleep started to become more consistent at this time, so it made it easier to try to get back into exercise. I didn’t actually do any exercise, but it was technically easier now to get back into it! While I didn’t exercise, now that I was starting to sleep better I was making a conscious effort at home to do some ‘incidental’ exercises while I was holding my daughter (doing my lunges not just for the purpose of settling my daughter).
I was also trying to get back into my old wake up routine, and was trying to get up from 5am onward since this was the time I used to do my morning exercises. This part wasn’t too hard as my daughter was an early riser and would wake around 5am, but this also meant I spent my mornings entertaining her rather than doing any exercise. Because of my early wake ups however, I began a bad habit of drinking energy drinks which gave me an unnecessary amount of sugar early in the morning.
- Re-establishing a routine
- Doing more ‘incidental’ workouts with baby
- Continuing with the walks
Month Five and Six
This is where consistency started to come back for us, as our daughters sleep became quite structured at this point and has stayed relatively stable since (aside from any regressions/development leaps and sickness). I used this opportunity to push my wake up time to 4:30am, giving me at least 1hr before having to start prepping the morning routine for my daughter.
It was at this time that I started to get back into exercise. I set myself some workout goals, I started off light so as not to injure myself, and heavily focused on stretching and warming up. I had 2 main barriers thought at this time.
- My daughter would still wake up early some mornings, and so my workout would be cut short trying to settle her or just getting her ready for the day.
- Waking was the easy part, actually exercising was the hard part. I would get distracted by Instagram, Facebook, YouTube etc rather than do my workout. I would watch exercise videos to ‘get me in the zone’, but would spend my entire time watching them rather than actually exercising.
So on average, I woke up at 4:30am about 3 days a week, of which I exercised once a week. It wasn’t much but it was progress. I also started trying to exercise with baby and my wife, watching routines on YouTube and completing them together. However, my daughter wasn’t a fan of us exercising and this didn’t continue for very long!
- Waking early (I exercise better in the mornings)
- Setting exercise goals
- Trialling exercises with my daughter and wife
- Main focus was on warm-ups rather than the workout itself
Months Six To Twelve
With my daughters routine mostly settled (other than illness and regressions/developmental leaps), the last 6 months was consistent enough for me to actually get into a good routine. And with all the groundwork laid in the previous 2 months, you would think that I would capitalise on that and make exercise a more consistent thing. But I didn’t. And mostly, I would say that it was my fault for procrastinating or doing other tasks. Tasks that were still important (like chores, which I probably could have done the night before) but not the purpose of me waking at 4:30am. I also fell ill on and off during this period, which made it tough to get back into exercise properly.
But although I didn’t get back into my workouts, I was able to maintain my early wake ups (except for when I was ill), continue to eat healthy (well healthy enough, the last 2 months has seen an increase in junk food), and still did my stretches/warm up in the morning. I also replaced Instagram surfing with writing up these posts and researching/learning new things, which isn’t anything to do with exercise but it has meant that I keep doing something productive with my time.
- Maintain good habits
- Fill up time in the morning with productive activities rather than non-productive tasks.
Go Easy On Yourself – The First Year Is The Toughest
My journey back into exercise hasn’t been a raving success this first year, I have kept my dad bod and other than stretching I haven’t done a serious workout in the last 6 months. But that’s OK, because I have a baby now, and I have been trying to figure out how to adjust my lifestyle to fit into this baby’s needs, and that is an ongoing challenge for me.
But what I have done is set up some good habits, and become more aware of my goals and what I am aiming for. As we are about to cross over the one-year mark, I can use the foundations that I have set to be able to get back into a workout routine, knowing also that my daughters routines are becoming less erratic (let’s hope I don’t eat these words one-year from now!)
So go easy on yourself, your first baby is a shock to the system and you’re still figuring it all out. So take your time to focus on the good habits that won’t take up much time, so when you are ready to workout it won’t be so difficult. If you have better willpower than me, you could probably start getting back into a solid routine at around 6 months, but if you are more like me, then see the goal as a journey, and make sure each step you’re taking is one step closer to your exercise goals.
Did you try to get back into exercise in the first 12 months of having a baby? What did you try? Let us know your experience in the comments below!
Any advice in this post is general in nature. Please seek professional advice if you require support specific to your needs