Having a 13-month-old son has helped legitimize my "I don't have time to work out" excuse, but in all honestly, I'm just choosing not to. It's a choice that used to make me feel guilty. "I should go to the gym" is what I'd tell myself during the rare mornings I woke before my alarm or during those early evening hours while my son slept. My stomach isn't nearly as toned as it was pre-baby, when my motivation for attending barre class was a bikini-ready body, but I'm OK with that. I'm proud that I can lift him in his car seat with ease and multitask with him on my hip. My arms are pretty damn buff. These days when I wake up before my alarm, I'm too busy feeling grateful for the uninterrupted REM cycle than guilty for blowing off exercise. And when my son falls asleep, I practically swan dive onto the sofa to assume my off-duty position: feet up and remote (or glass of wine) in hand.
It's not that I've abandoned my health. It's just that my framework for being healthy has shifted and so have my priorities. I'm not swearing off exercise forever. The package of classes I purchased from the fitness studio near my home doesn't expire until the end of the year and I've been eyeing this awesome bucket bike for families. But for now, taking the expectation to work out off the table feels liberating as my definition of wellness is expanding. Here are the small but impactful ways I take care of myself these days.
I Set an Alarm For Bed
It sounds freakishly regimented, I know. But think of it this way: most adults with full-time jobs are accustomed to setting an alarm to wake up, but our self-discipline goes out the window when it comes to getting a good night's sleep. After having a baby and surviving long bouts of torturous sleep deprivation, I realized that the kindest thing I can do for myself is get sleep while I can. For me, this means developing an early bedtime routine. Setting a 9 p.m. alarm is an easy reminder to step away from late-night traps of Netflix binging and online shopping. When the alarm goes off, I know I have an hour or so to shower, brush my teeth, slip into PJs, and settle into bed with a book, something that always puts me to sleep. Now I enjoy eight hours of sleep during weeknights and it's made me feel more vibrant, more productive, and happier during my workday.
I Embrace Meditation Hacks
I could pay $3 a day to park in the lot right next to my morning commuter train, dashing from my car to the train in a matter of seconds, but I don't. Instead, I pocket the money and park for free in the surrounding residential neighborhood and walk to the train station. Sure, it tacks on an extra 10 minutes to my morning commute, but I relish those minutes. I take in the beauty of the morning sky, listen to the birds, breathe in the brisk air, and just slow the f*ck down. No headphones, no email. I save that for the train ride. It's the closest thing I have to a meditation practice. When I'm at work, I use the Breathe app on my Apple Watch as a reminder to take one minute between emails and meetings to just breathe deeply. I know this sounds ridiculous, but have you ever stopped to just breathe when you feel stress creeping up on you? If you have, you know it's shockingly effective.
I Drink More Water — With Reusable Straws
There was a time when the sound of a colleague opening a can of Diet Coke sent me running to the kitchen to follow suit. I'd try to drink water but couldn't get through a glass of it as easily as I could a soda. While cans of LaCroix have satiated my Diet Coke cravings, nothing quenches my thirst like still water. I've discovered that by adding a straw to my glass of water, I can suck the entire glass down without thinking. A miracle! These reusable metal straws are dishwasher-safe and keep water cool with each sip.
I Make Cooking Easy
I'm more mindful about what I eat, but I don't diet. I discovered that a flavorful, protein-packed salad can be delicious and satisfying, not to mention lightning fast to prep and crazy cheap. I eat healthy fats that give me energy, like whole-milk yogurts, avocados, nuts, and cheese, and don't skimp on the cream in my coffee. My husband and I cook almost every day, even if we're relying on simple Trader Joe's meal hacks or dumping things into an Instant Pot. On Sundays, I like to chop up a variety of veggies, drizzle them with olive oil, sprinkle salt and pepper, and roast them for ready-made vegetables that can be thrown into salads and pasta all week. Cooking larger portions and freezing half is another time-saving hack that saves us from picking up a pizza on nights neither of us have time to cook.
I Walk as Much as Possible
Aside from parking farther away from my train station and taking the stairs whenever I can, I realized that I enjoy walking more than I do driving — to an extent, of course. Pushing my son in his stroller as we head to the park or to a nearby grocery store is an instant mood-booster. Spending more time walking, whether it's on a scenic park trail or my neighborhood streets, is a fun way to slow my mind while increasing my heart rate. It forces me to pay attention to my surroundings in a way that I can't while I'm driving. Hitting my mileage goal for the day is icing on the cake, but the real reward comes from everything else.
Product Credit: On him: Citizens of humanity khaki chino, Vince white t-shirt / On her: Pari Desai knit top and skirt, Gabriela Artigas gold ring, 2bandits square shape ring