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Most of us, at some point, will find ourselves in that mental place where we realize we are not in shape like we want to be. Whether it’s a major life event that precipitates this change (like having a baby or surgery) or something more subtle (gradual weight gain, new job, less time to exercise, you get the drift), where you end up is not where you started. I was reminded exactly what this feels like recently when back and knee problems forced me to the sidelines of a running routine I’ve relied on for years to keep the squirrels out of my head. I will fast forward through the frustration and pity party that followed (Yep, I admit I have been a little whiny) to a conversation I had with Carrie Ward, owner of The Bar Method Nashville, where I take classes. Carrie had a baby in December, and in the process of working to reclaim her strength and shape, she’s discovered some encouraging truths that have helped me a lot:

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Carrie Ward, owner of Bar Method Nashville, before her baby arrived.

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Here she is again, a couple of months after her baby was born. (Don’t be envious of her quick bounce back – be inspired!)

Mindset is important.

Getting back in shape is a physical, emotional and mental process. Nutrition and exercise are important, but so is your mental attitude and outlook. Carrie says it’s important to make yourself a priority: Allow yourself space each day to be important, and spend that time doing something that makes you feel good.

It’s important not to return to a workout with preconceived expectations from the past. “Begin with a fresh start,” she says. “I realized in coming back to Bar Method after the baby, that segments of class that weren’t hard before are harder now, and visa versa. But I’ve also realized my body is capable of a lot, and I’m encouraged to see some strength returning to parts of my body, like my abs and thighs, that shifted and softened during pregnancy and after delivery. With many days filled with diaper changing and spit-up, not to mention lack of sleep, the emotional boost of being in the studio and taking classes helps me feel reenergized and reconnected to the world.”

Community is key.

Choose a community that is positive and encouraging. It matters not if it’s Bar Method, cross fit, or a hiking group, but being in a place that is supportive is important as you begin your journey to reclaim your body. Feeling a sense of belonging matters, too. Knowing that people will be looking for you and helping you stay accountable makes staying on track easier.

Remember that everyone has a first time back in the studio.

Going back to class after a long hiatus or going for the first time is the hardest step you’ll take. This is true whether you’ve never done a pushup, or whether you’re a professional dancer coming back from an injury. Carries notes that “it’s normal to feel intimidated, but don’t let that fear keep you from reclaiming your health, strength and flexibility. Though I took class up until the day before Jack was born, I was home for 5 weeks or so before I went back, and it was hard to leave the house and go for that first class. John asked me, ‘What are you afraid of? Leaving the baby, being out of shape? Just go!’ Point being, encourage your loved ones to encourage you to go!”

Set realistic goals.

When returning to an exercise routine (or beginning one), it’s easy to set lofty goals, stumble out of the starting gate and quit, so make a pact with yourself: recognize your physical limitations, and move forward knowing you can accomplish great things, regardless. As she says, “I’m not trying to look 25 again. I want to be realistic about what I can achieve, which is actually a lot!” Personally, I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I can’t do everything like I used to, but I can still do a lot, too. At Bar Method, for example, I can’t do “Pretzel” or “Arabesque” for the seat segment of class anymore, but I can do just about everything else. 

Now of course, there are myriad options for classes and exercise in Nashville that will help you get back on track; Bar Method just happens to be what’s on my weekly orbit. On the advice of my orthopedic doc, I’m adding in some Swell Studio reformer pilates classes to my routine that I’m liking a lot and finding beneficial. Last week, I noticed that I didn’t poop out during “Clam” — the hardest ab exercise at Bar Method in my opinion — and it seems that doing some different moves at pilates is helping me be better at bar. (Mixing it up a little maybe makes me miss running a little less, too.) I have friends, as well as a spouse, who have experienced total transformations at Iron Tribe Fitness, and still other friends who had to give up walking and discovered a love for yoga as a result. The point is, we all have to change what we’re doing periodically to move forward with fitness. My advice? Keep at it until you find what works for YOU now, right where you are!

 

Thanks for your insight and inspiration, Carrie! 

 

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