Step 1: Get Rid of the Guilt
“Show me a woman without guilt and I’ll show you a man!”
– Marie Wilson, Founder of the White House Project (excerpted from Lean In)
We all feel it, and maybe especially when it comes to exercise. How can we possibly work all day, pick up our kids from daycare only to bring them to another daycare at the gym? I understand, I do, but you and your kids will be much better off if you get in your workout. Plus, you’re giving them an example of what a strong, fit and healthy parent looks like.
Step 2: Make Excuses
It’s not what you think. Make excuses for how you can squeeze your workout in, not the other way around. It is best to fit in a sweat session first thing in the morning, so as the day progresses it doesn’t slip away, but not everyone has that luxury. However, if you are determined to get/stay fit, you can wake up early and do a great workout either running outside or in, on a treadmill, or any number of ways in your living room.
Remember, you do not need weights to train effectively. Do the following for 30 seconds each (no rest in between, only after you’ve completed one round) and repeat as many times as you can squeeze in before the kids wake-up:
Holding plank or walking planks
Step 3: Utilize the Gym Daycare or Bribe Your Friends
If you have access, and your kids are old enough, the gym daycare is obviously the best bet. Another emerging trend is to have a “fit date” instead of a “play date”. Pick a house where your kids and your friends kids can gather safely, and take turns working out. Either get out of the kid-filled house and go for a run or find another room to get a quick workout in and then switch. Sure you won’t have much time to chat with your friend, but when all the kids get together do you have time to do that anyway?
Step 4: Find Something You Like To Do
The number one question people ask me as a professional trainer is: “What is the best, most effective form of exercise?” The answer is: “The one you’re going to do!” Choose something you enjoy or at least like a little bit and you will be more likely to do it on a regular basis.
Step 5: If You Can’t Beat ‘Em…
Ah yes, the ol’ bring the kids with you to get some exercise. You know from the start that this will not be the most quality workout (depending on the age of your children), but it’s a workout regardless. I know moms who run laps around the soccer field at their kid’s practice or games just to get a run in. If you do this, then you have to get over the “everyone is looking at me” thing. Yes, everyone is looking at you and thinking how awesome you are!
Other useful options are outdoor tracks, school playgrounds or fields (as these are usually fenced in and may ease your mind a bit) or your very own backyard! Some of the toughest workouts I’ve ever done were running while pushing the twins in the double stroller. No need to have a double but if you have a child who will sit in a running stroller – get to it.
Step 6: Eat Off Your Kids’ Plate
I’m sure you’ve heard (as I have) many moms lament “It’s not helping my weight loss to be constantly eating off my kid’s plate”. Why is your kid eating so much crap? You should be able to eat off your kid’s plate without worry. If they’re older and are already used to eating a lot of high sugar or high salt foods you should try to wean them off now. It won’t be easy, but neither is childhood obesity.
If they’re not eating healthy, then start slow with a few fruits and vegetables. Maybe make a game of it or sometimes a reward system works too. It should go without saying that the reward should not be food based. Think books, small toys or fun places they enjoy going.
Step 7: Use the Buddy System
This works well for Step 3 (Utilize the Gym Daycare or Bribe Your Friends) but also for making “fit dates” sans children. Numerous studies have shown that you are more likely to stick with exercise if you have a friend(s) to do it with. It’s much harder to call/text/FB/tweet a friend to say you’re not showing up for your planned workout, then it is to roll over and bail on yourself. Call a friend and set a sweat date. You’ll get the bonus of therapy…assuming you can talk during your workout!
Step 8: Set Attainable Goals
Be honest with yourself about how much you can take on. Mothers play so many different and important roles that we often don’t take the time we need to care for ourselves. However, there’s no negotiating around certain responsibilities.
Do not set yourself up to fail. If you are new to exercise or are coming off maternity leave just set small daily or weekly goals. It always helps to write these down. Get some post-it notes and write motivational messages and then post them where they can be seen – bathroom mirrors, refrigerators, etc. These will serve as gentle reminders to spend some time kicking your own butt, which brings us to step 9.
Step 9: Make an Appointment to Kick Your Own Butt
You wouldn’t miss a doctor appointment for one of your kids, right? Make an exercise appointment in your calendar and then keep it at all costs. Even if you start out with one day a week, it is better then zero days. Book it!
Step 10: Be OK with Where You Are
Throughout our fitness journey there are going to be bad days. There are going to be set- backs and failures and injuries. BFD. It happens to the best of us. Just brush yourself off and move on. Also, try not to compare yourself to anyone else. We all know our own demons. Focus on wrestling your own to the ground and be proud of what you have accomplished.
Step 11: If You Have A Partner – Use Them
Take it from a stay-at-home-mom whose husband owns his own business and works 24/7 – he needs to share the kid care. I used to feel guilty pushing the twins onto him, so I could get in a weekend run or bike but hey, they are half his, and he needs to step up to the plate and support me too.
If author Sheryl Sandberg taught me anything from Lean In it’s to “make your partner a real partner”. So she is a Harvard graduate and CEO of Facebook, and I am a stay-at-home-mom. Whatever.
Step 12: Reward Yourself
This is ultimately why we all do what we do. Whether it’s to live a better, longer, healthier life or to have more ice cream – it’s all about the reward! When it comes to fitness, try to make the rewards non-food based (see Step 6: Eat Off Your Kids Plate) like new workout clothes or that handbag you’ve been eyeing. Give yourself a dollar for every mile you run (or hour you spend at the gym) and then buy yourself something each month with the money you’ve saved. Now get out there and start making some money!
Allie Burdick is happiest when writing or sweating! Her work has appeared in Runner’s World, Women’s Running Magazine, USA Trialathon Magazine and countless other health and fitness publications. Allie is also a competitive athlete on the Oiselle Volée team and has represented Team USA in a duathlon competition. When not updating her blog VITA – Train for Life, she is busy with her twin boys and husband, living a big life in the Northeast. Follow Allie on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.
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