I think it’s safe to say by now that we’ve heard about the benefits of regular exercise, which are undeniable. Even a little bit of exercise can make a big impact on our health and well-being. Check. We’ve got it.
But knowledge doesn’t always equal action. I was inspired by some of my really cool mom friends to compile a few collections of thoughts on exercise: How to squeeze it in, how to be motivated (how to care and want to try to squeeze it in) and a few fun little resources to make exercise a bit more fun.
I thought I’d showcase a few everyday moms and indicate how they squeeze exercise in and how they get motivated to even do it in the first place. I’m always inspired by hearing how people like me make something work, despite life “happening.” I also thought I’d compile some fun apps, links and gadgets related to fitness for fun.
What I think is incredibly interesting is that we’re all different. I like running, while some friends would rather clean drains than run. We each have our own physical activity preferences and limitations — and that’s okay. We all take exercise to a slightly different level, too. It’s what makes this world interesting and what gives us fun stories to share when we meet up with friends and family.
I don’t meet the national exercise recommendations all of the time and I don’t expect other parents to, either. Take it easy on yourself and do the best you can do. Period.
HOW THESE MOMS DO IT – VARIOUS AGES & STAGES
Pregnancy & Preschoolers
I have a 3-year-old, I’m married and my husband and I both work full-time. Before getting pregnant with my second child (I’m due at the end of March), I ran about 4 times a week and tried to go to Yoga during my “me” night as many weeks as possible. My husband and I had been occasionally signing up for small little 5k races that support causes we care about or that are in our local area or another fun location. When we can, we also sign my daughter up for a little 100-yard dash or other fun activity the same day as the race. It’s a fun little family affair … while keeping us slightly more accountable before races and keeping things new. I also relish my Yoga time. Every few weeks, I take a break and take a Yoga class (now prenatal). To me, there’s nothing like the blissed-out feeling I get after an hour or so of Yoga.
I’ve also had luck pushing my wee little one in a jogging stroller, whether running or walking.
I personally like that I show my daughter that it’s not all-or-none – I’m not either a good mom or someone who exercises fanatically, but someone who can be both a mom and someone who is in moderately decent shape.
I’m now pregnant with my second child and, phew, I miss the energy I didn’t know I had. I don’t seem to have that internal desire to exercise that I had before getting pregnant. I usually (pre-pregnancy) get inspired by how much better I feel when I run 3-4 times per week, but my pregnancy brain makes me literally forget about exercising sometimes and other times I’m feeling too beat or overwhelmed by the huge ratio of To Dos vs. time when I’m actually awake. I’ve been deciding to make more of an effort to do simple everyday activities like walking more often. I try to do more walking, especially since running during pregnancy is kind of painful for me. I have been trying to walk and play more with my daughter during nights and weekends – walk down the street, take walks, go to playgrounds, run around in our backyard. I’m not perfect, but am getting better each week.
A friend, Jodi, has four young children between the ages of eight and two. She’s a stay-at-home mom with lots of hobbies and pastimes, including creatively baking and gardening like no one’s business. She runs every other day, does Yoga at home and gives herself a new strength challenge every month or two. She suffers from a handful of autoimmune diseases, which she says motivates her to stay in the best shape possible and eat well and that if she feels better, she’s better able to manage her illness. Her kids join her at home for Yoga and they even want their own Yoga mats!
The past month she gave herself a running, plank (core workout) and squat challenge where she boosted her time every day and worked towards goal numbers for the end of the month.
She says her best success has been making exercise part of her routine so she doesn’t even have to think about it, and it is essential for her sanity. She likes showing her kids that if you set a goal and work hard at it, you can reach it and she feels amazing whenever she reaches one of her goals!
Wide Age Ranges/Blended Families
A close friend, Quinn, has a 1-year-old, a 4-year-old and step kids who are in middle school and high school. She and her husband both work full-time. She fixed a cool arrangement with her husband where she has him pick the kids up twice a week (sometimes more, sometimes less) so she can run home and sneak in a 20-30 minute workout before the kids get home and dinner time/taxi time hits. She also tries to be active with her kids when she can – go to the park, play in the backyard, run around, etc. Quinn does what she can for exercise and leaves it at that.
A colleague, Robin, has two teenage kids and is a full-time working single mom, who also has insulin-dependent diabetes. The benefit of her kids being older is that her kids are very self-sufficient, but the downside is that they’re involved in so many activities. She swears by exercising (walking) first thing in the morning, even if it means getting up a bit earlier than she’d like to. During her daughter’s soccer practice or after she’s dropped her off for something, she sometimes walks, too. Walking most days of the week helps her manage her blood sugar more easily.
HOW TO ENCOURAGE YOURSELF & HOW YOU DO IT … TIPS FROM MY MOM FRIENDS
- Consider exercise “me” time
- Think about how great you’ll feel after: Happier, less stressed, healthier, more alive
- If you have health issues, it can help lessen your symptoms
- Make it part of your routine so you don’t think about it … it may take 3 weeks or so, but once it’s become a habit, it’ll be much easier to get yourself to do it
- You will show kids that if you set a goal and work hard at it, you can reach it
- Kids learn to make exercise a regular part of their lives, without being too extreme about it
- You feel great when you make progress
- Tell people. If you tell your family, Facebook friends or coworkers that you’re going to work out or have exercise goals, or if you sign up for a class, you feel more obligated to follow through
Quick tips for how to squeeze it in:
- Don’t discriminate. Even 10 minutes at a time makes a difference and many research studies have shown this.
- If you share parenting responsibilities, make an agreement with your significant other or helper. Split up duties/tasks so you can either share workout time during the same timeslot or cover the other one during his or her peak exercise time.
- Sign up for an event that’s kid-friendly and sign your child up for kid-related activities.
- Work harder at things you already do. Last night I used my arms instead of an electric mixer when making cupcakes. Park farther out in parking lots and walk. Take the longer route somewhere.
- Mix play time with workout time. Walking, playing and the park and doing little activities or chores can count.
- Consider on-demand workout videos at home (computer, TV, DVD). Your kids can join in, too!
- Check your local area for classes that allow you to bring kids. For example, my local Yoga studio has “mommy and me” classes. Or use videos at home.
- Make the time. It comes down to this. Schedule it, get up a few minutes earlier, let something else go, but make yourself a priority a few minutes a day.
FUN EXERCISE GADGETS & TECH
These offer fun new ways to think about exercise and fitness:
- Active.com’s Top 10 List 2013 Apps for iPhone: Their favorite apps include one that has you dodging zombies while you run, one for pocket Yoga and other that uses photos of you to track your fitness progress
- American Heart Association’s Walking Paths Information Center and App: This site and sister app lists walking paths near you, helps you generate a walking plan and gives motivation to keep moving
- Exercise On-Demand: If you have cable or satellite TV, many on-demand options have free exercise videos or series
- FitBit: These wireless tracking devices can connect to your computer, mobile tools and even weight scales to track your sleep, activity, eating and weight management and see how you’re doing against your goals
- MyFitnessPal’s List of Top Fitness Apps: This list, which stays up-to-date, includes a list of top apps and brief explanations. There are apps for many different activities and intensities, most of which track your progress
- Wii: This well-known movement-tracking video game option offers a wide range of fitness games that assess how you’re doing compared with the example, track your progress and allows you to work out without going anywhere
Do you have any key motivators or tips for squeezing in exercise? I’d love to hear your ideas!