Why Starting To Exercise is Alot Like Breastfeeding

The other day I was talking to my sister about the upcoming arrival of her first baby (yay! Auntie status= cute baby that I don’t have to wake up with every hour! ) We talked about all the fun stuff, the sleep deprivation,the wtf moments and then the one topic that everyone feels like is just a wild card- breastfeeding. She started to ask me questions about how it all went when I had Natalie. “Was it easy, did you just know what to do? I mean it is the most natural thing in the world, right? We are literally built to do this.”  I paused to think about how I wanted to answer her.


In my mind I thought- well, the short answer is no. It can be freaking hard. It can be exhausting to pay attention to the clock, to figure out the latch, am I doing this right? How often do I do this? I have to do this everyday, how many times a day?!  It can feel a little awkward in the beginning, I remember thinking “Am I holding the baby right?” You just sort of feel like a floppy octopus with arms and limbs all over the place.

Not only are you tired mentally, but your nipples hurt and I don’t know about you, but I sort of shuddered at the moment just before it was time to start again. Like “here we go, brace yourself, we’re going in.” The pain would always dissipate, but for the first moment it was a battle of wills.


My point here is- just because something is ‘supposed’ to come naturally – doesn’t mean it comes easy for everyone.


So as I breathed and began to answer my sister, I told her it just takes time and a strong mindset, but every day gets a little bit easier.


After we hung up the phone,  I started to think about my own experience with things that have come natural and things that well, just don’t.


For me, breastfeeding was painful for about three weeks until my body figured out what the heck was going on. I had never asked it to become a food factory before and it needed a minute to catch its breath. But eventually, after showing up day in and day out, my body figured out the rhythm. Things didn’t hurt anymore and we weren’t a floppy octopus anymore. We got into a groove. It became effortless. But it took work, mental and physical work.


I realized my experience of “hard” was a lot like some of the early experiences the moms I work with have when we first start introducing exercise to their lifestyle


Some things mama’s say to me on the very first few days:

  • I feel so awkward, am I doing this right?
  • I have no idea what I am doing (laughing and sometimes crying)
  • Omg I am so sore, I can’t do this again tomorrow
  • I don’t think I can do this
  • I have to stop, it’s too hard
  • I am tired today- I just need a break
  • How long do I have to do this for?
  • I just can’t, I’m not like you


(sounds a lot like the early days of breastfeeding, huh)


The last one always gets me thinking the most because we are more alike than you know. I am one of those people who has to work my butt off to learn a new skill regardless of how easy or hard it is- including exercise! I have never been the type of person to just ‘naturally’ pick something up and start rocking it- you can ask every single one of my math teachers (yes I count on my fingers still), and my own coaches who will just laugh at my floppy uncoordinated moves. When I first started exercising, I cried a lot and walked out of the gym so many times. I quit, I had trainers even quit on me. It was uncomfortable and hard, I complained. Why couldn’t I do it better?! I wanted it to be easier, and I wanted it right now.


But what I realized over the years of having to be a constant hard worker vs natural born doer, was that I had to create the mindset that this is something I have to do because it serves a bigger purpose. When I learned to breastfeed, for me, I knew I had to try 150% because it wasn’t about me. It was about feeding my baby and giving her the powerful milk I make.  If I wasn’t able to ultimately do it, I would know I gave it my all and that was Okay (I am not hating on formula either ladies- no judgement here by me). If I succeeded, it was because of a ton of work and dedication. And I can tell you, the work is always worth it- even if the outcome isn’t what you expected it to be.


The same thing applies to moving our bodies


Starting at day one can be really tough and even overwhelming at first. Those first moments of walking into a group class or gym floor still sends a mini panic attack through my body. You know the feeling, you pull your shirt down a little more over your waist, you avoid eye contact in the mirror, and you just feel like an awkward Sally. This is me in Zumba by the way.


After your first class, you are probably sore as hell. Wobbly, tired, and mentally feeling like “whoa”. You think “why was that so hard? Everyone else is doing it right, but me”. Shouldn’t moving my body come naturally? How can I be so weak? Why can’t I keep up? Why does this hurt so bad?! I can’t possibly do this all the time! oh my God, I have to come back and do this in two days!?


A lot of people stop at this point, because it is easier to stop feeling bad in the moment then to push through. But this is when you have to think about your why. Why have you decided to start. I don’t even mean to lose a few pounds or feel better. Because a lot of times that isn’t big enough when life is crazy busy, you’re stressed, your to-do list is never ending and you haven’t slept in a week. Your why, just like the why of breastfeeding for many, is something bigger than your own self. It is Bigger than day to day stuff that can keep you believing it is ‘too hard’. Your why needs to make you go “eff it- I will push through this pain for the rewards because they are too good to miss out on.”


And here is the thing. When you push through the early days of starting to move your body, imperfect skill and all- you eventually stop feeling the pain and newness. You notice your body doesn’t hurt so much. Your energy increases. You don’t dread walking into class anymore because you trust your body to perform the job you put in front of it. You don’t feel so awkward in the mirror anymore and you might even realize you ENJOY the time you are spending getting stronger.  Suddenly, this once overwhelming experience is just part of your day to day life. I even bet that you find you NEED it more than you ever realized.


The outcome was worth the struggle.


So how can you start when you feel like you are standing at the bottom of a huge mountain?


  1. Think about your WHY- think deep here, beyond the surface. Usually when we talk about your “why” we mean “why” you want to start working out- lose weight, your kids, etc. But I have found that this is not BIG enough to make you change your habits. Not because you don’t love the reason, but because your mindset isn’t solid yet. So,  I want you to think about WHY you are holding yourself back from seeing yourself as a ‘fit’ person. Why do you think you can’t lose weight? Why do you hate exercising? What fears are you experiencing? What is getting in the way of you being brave enough to start something new, hard, and out of your comfort zone? When you uncover that, THAT is when we can start making incredible, life changing progress.


  1. Make exercise more FUN- change things up- break out of the idea that there is only one way to move. Get off the treadmill, break free of the gym.  Go outside, take a new class, ask me for a quick home or gym workout I’m happy to share! Whatever is, just ask yourself what you like to do or can tolerate doing more days than not.


If you still feel stuck here, which is so common and you are not alone in these feelings then

I want you to think what the hardest thing about starting or even sticking to exercise is for you.  Can I ask you to share that with me? You can comment or even email me with your biggest roadblock you experience when starting. 

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