Michelle Collins lives with her husband Matt and daughters, Jacqueline, age 11, and Michaela, age 6, in Westchester County, New York. She is certified as an American Council on Exercise (ACE) personal fitness trainer and owner of Fit and Happier, a fitness service specializing in one-on-one and small-group home-based training for women. Learn more at www.fitandhappier.com or find a certified fitness professional near you at www.acefitness.org and enter your zip code under ACE GetFit.
Dear Jacqueline and Michaela,
After your births, my mission expanded. I would present a model for you to follow that made fitness less than a choice to make than the norm. That’s turned out to be difficult. New mothers face heavy time demands. I occasionally strained to carve out the time to exercise and prepare healthy food.
But I soon learned that there was nothing selfish about taking care of myself. I ate a wide array of proteins, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables in proper portions, the better to benefit from a variety of vitamins, minerals and nutrients. All our meals and snacks involve lean protein (lean beef, pork, poultry, fish, eggs and legumes); whole grains (minimally processed and as close as possible to fresh from the farm), whole fruits and vegetables, all prepared with or containing small amounts of healthy fats such as olive, canola or nut oils.
Exercise should be varied, too: it’s best to combine cardio, strength and flexibility training. I do a cardiovascular workout four days a week — a 30-minute jog one day, for example, with a 30-minute step routine on another and a 60-minute power walk on yet another. I also do interval training that brings into play a stationary bike and rowing macine. On other days, I use free weights and do Pilates-style strength training. Exercise boosted my stamina, relieved stress, strengthened me physically and recharged me body and soul, all of which has contributed to shaping me into a better mother.
You are fortunate to live in a time and place where you will have far more choices available to you than most women in the world, and more than women before you. Whether you choose to be full-time mothers, powerful career women, or throw yourselves into a cause that barely pays the bills, please take my word for this much: You should balance your life’s calling with your dedication to fitness. It’s important. You’ll be at your healthiest in all your endeavors. You’ll also be happier. A better recipe for a successful life I’m hard-pressed to imagine.