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Mia Freedman: "How I've kept exercising while having three kids."

Image: Mia (Instagram).

This is the kind of post that would make me want to punch someone in the boobs if I had a newborn. Or if I had several small children. Or if I was a single Mum. Or if I was really sleep deprived. I apologise in advance if you are one of those people. I don’t want to make you feel bad. Or angry.

But when the subject of exercise comes up, one of the things I hear most from new mothers is that they just can’t find the time. And very often this is true. I’m not writing this in the spirit of shaming. I’m trying to help.

Wow. That’s a lot of disclaimers. Are you even still reading or have you forgotten why you clicked here in the first place?

EXERCISE. And how I’ve managed to keep doing it over the sixteen years since I first became a mother. I’m a firm believer in the oxygen mask theory. You know when the flight attendant is doing the safety demo and say that if oxygen is required and you are travelling with children that you need to put your own mask first before you help your child put on theirs?

That.

Mia Freedman: How I stay fit as a mum
Mia at one of many Saturday sport matches (oh, joy)
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I apply this to parenting. I think that mothers are often inclined to leave their oxygen mask until last and that's a very bad idea. Because if you pass out, everyone is screwed. For me, exercise is my oxygen mask. That sounds ridiculously melodramatic, I know but I think when you become a mother, you are thrown from your axis as the centre of the universe.

AS YOU SHOULD BE. But I think it's really important to work out what it takes to help you be a good mother. Maybe it's a cup of coffee in the morning. Maybe it's watching The Bachelor uninterrupted. Maybe it's having a chocolate biscuit, a cup of tea and 15 minutes to mess around on Facebook once a day.

For me, exercise is incredibly important. As someone who suffers from anxiety, I use it partly to help manage that and partly perhaps for the endorphins (I don't drink coffee so endorphins are helpful, especially when I'm sleep deprived). (Watch Mia on how exercise helps her manage anxiety. Post continues after video.)

So, enough of the why. Let's talk about the HOW. How do I exercise?

Early on, I worked out that I needed a form of exercise that didn't involve me leaving the house. As soon as you have a baby, your time and your life is no longer just your own. I've been fortunate enough to be raising my kids side by side with my husband but I didn't want to have to rely on him being home and available to mind the baby while I exercised. That's a recipe for trouble and resentment.

The other key for me has always been doing the same thing every day. No negotiations. That's just how my brain works. If I give myself wriggle room, it ain't gonna happen. I can mount a very effective argument against myself and there are always reasons not to work out.

Mia Freedman: How I stay fit as a mum
Mia and the Mamamia team at the City to Surf run
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So it needed to be something that didn't depend on anyone else. Something that didn't involve needing anyone to mind the baby. Something that wasn't weather dependant. That meant no classes, nothing outdoors.

The answer for me was a treadmill. Later, I added an eliptical trainer and some exercise videos. This ticked a lot of boxes. I could do my exercise without leaving my house. It saved me masses of time because I didn't have to drive to a gym or a park or a walking track. If my workout had to be abandoned, I could stop immediately. I didn't have to make my way home from wherever I was. It was free (after the initial outlay), it could be done at any time of day regardless of the weather and I didn't have to appear in public. I could exercise in my pyjamas with my trainers on or with my maternity bra flapping in the breeze.

"Couldn’t find my sportsbra. Ouch.". Image: Supplied.

When my kids were tiny, I could put them in the pram or the capsule on the floor near me so I could watch them. As they got older, I could plonk them down with the ipad or in front of the TV for the 20-40 minutes I exercised.

I could adapt the length of my workout to the time I had available.

And for me, this has worked for 16 years. My kids still come and go and interrupt me (they're older now so I don't need to watch them while I work out) but mostly, I get to put on my headphones and listen to podcasts or music or catch up on TV or the news.

Mia Freedman: How I stay fit as a mum
Mia's three kids at the City to Surf

It's the closest I get to me-time and it keeps me sane.

So if you're reading this and you're feeling hopeless and helpless, desperate to get some exercise but overwhelmed by how you can possibly achieve it, try renting a treadmill or an eliptical trainer for a month. See if it works for you.

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