My mother-in-law called me a while back and said, "I am so grateful for the gift you are giving Addi by working out with her and showing her fitness as a way of life. In my family, no one prioritizes exercise or works out for fun. That is something that is so valuable to begin the habit of so early in life and she is so lucky that you are modeling that in her life."
I was flattered. And I reflected on what she said. Although playing sports was a part of their upbringing, most of the adults in my husband's family do not have any kind of fitness as a ritual in their life. Most have a slough of health problems, from thyroid issues to struggling with weight gain to chronic pain. My side of the family, in general, doesn't need to go to the doctor.
Growing up, my mom took her morning daily runs and attended yoga classes. It was a way of life that was passed down to me. At 16, I started going to yoga with her after soccer and haven't stopped expanding my practice since. Fitness is a way of life for me, and I do think I owe that to my mom for setting that example. That's not to say I haven't had periods in my life when regular exercise ceased completely. Reflecting on those times, I was more stressed, unhappy with my weight, lethargic and craved all sorts of trashy food.
One of those times was when my daughter was a newborn. I thought breastfeeding would magically shed my pregnancy pounds, so I didn't even try to lose the weight until she was 5 months old. At this point I had gained weight from my merciless breastfeeding appetite. It could have continued that way for a long time. I joined a gym but felt directionless, I ran with the stroller but saw no results. Honestly, if my upcoming wedding hadn't pushed me to figure out what it took to lose the weight, I could easily still be 180 pounds and uncomfortable in my body.
What it took for me was to join a mom's workout group that kicked my ass and held me accountable. My stress level decreased by being around other moms and hearing their stories. My endorphins kicked up with each sweaty workout. To really cut the weight right before my wedding, I cut out sugar, upped my water intake and signed up for a month unlimited of hot yoga. I saw results, although true sustainable progress takes much time and patience. I lost 20 pounds by my wedding and another 30 by now, three years postpartum.
I have always been slightly resistant to the general feeling from moms with young kids that they need to wait until naptime to squeeze in a workout. While this can be very true at extremely needy periods of our kid's lives, I have seen firsthand that incorporating fitness as a regular routine while my daughter is either in the stroller, on my yoga mat or in a carrier is a very do-able activity. She has been coming to workout with me since she was 5 months old and sees it as a very regular thing. She mimics my incline pushups and chair dips on the coffee table quite regularly. She helps me count my sets. She climbs on my back for an extra challenge during plank (gee, thanks!). She helps sing songs/read books that I link to workouts.
I'm not saying it's easy to workout with your kids present. What I am saying is that it's totally do-able and the more you do it, the more they get used to that necessary "mommy-time".
I like to use naptime to nap, relax, read a book/catch up on a show, meditate or do a uninterrupted relaxing yoga practice. If waiting until naptime to workout feels in alignment to you (no stress or a feeling of "I need to squeeze this in now or I won't have the time to") then by all means keep that routine. If you have time to go to the gym and do so happily, then keep it up!
If you are constantly in a grudging state of feeling obligated to workout at times when you'd rather be relaxing, I urge you to try out some of my kid friendly home exercises in our facebook group, The Mighty Mamas.