As a busy parent, it can feel like every hour of every day is packed with things to do. From carpools and grocery shopping to cooking, cleaning, and just making it into work every day, there’s little time for you. And that means little time for fitness — often the first thing to go when your schedule fills up.
Letting your schedule rule you, however, (instead of the other way around), is not the way you should organize your life. If working out is important to you — and it should be — you can take charge right now and create a fitness plan that works for you instead of against you.
Here are some key tips for doing just that:
1. Create identifiable, specific goals.
For all moms, maintaining overall health will be a core reason for working out. Moms know that even basic, consistent exercise like walking for 30 minutes a day will reduce the likelihood of disease and illness, improve cholesterol levels and your metabolism, and reduce stress by a significant margin.
But there are other reasons to workout, and a workout plan for someone with 50 lbs. to lose looks much different than a plan for someone who wants to tone her upper arms. If additional benefits interest you, it’s important to know a) what they are, and b) how to attain them because they’ll guide the plan you create.
For example, you may have the goal of:
- Losing excess weight
- Training for a physical endeavor (5k, marathon, hiking trip, etc.)
- Preparing for an event you want to look great for (wedding, vacation, award ceremony, etc.)
- Reducing stress
- Spending time outdoors
- Socializing with friends without always “going out for drinks” or “grabbing lunch”
2. Take the time to plan a plan — and don’t forget the details.
You’re busy nearly every day, all the time, so it’s probably tempting to “think up a workout plan in the shower” and “try to do it every day.”
This is too vague.
You need to set aside at least a one-time, 30-minute time period to sit down with a pad of paper and pencil and write out your plan. Start with the goals you identified in tip #1. Here’s an example:
- Exercise 5x / week for overall health and to:
- Lose 15 lbs. over next 3-4 months
WEEKLY WORKOUT PLAN:
- Exercise 5 days/week: 20 min. cardio for fat loss & 10 min. strength training every day
- Lose 1 lb. (Will weigh myself every Saturday morning)
- Mon, Wed, Fri, I will walk/jog in the park while kids are at soccer practice and do 10 min. of weights when I get home while kids are eating their snack.
- Tues, Thurs, I will get up 45 min. earlier than usual and do the stationary bike for 20 min. plus floor weights for 10 min. during the morning show.
- Mon, Wed, Fri:
- Prepare after-soccer snack in the morning so I can get right to my weights after their practice.
- Pack running clothes in the car for the park
- Tues, Thurs:
- Get my workout clothes ready the night before and move the bike in front of the TV so it’s easy to get started.
- Buy set of weights
- Clean my yoga mat
- Find running shoes downstairs
3. Keep it simple. Keep it easy.
Notice that the plan above is pretty basic. This mom is not asking herself to wake up at 5am seven days a week to go for a snowy 45-minute run before the sun’s up, only to head back home and do a half hour of weights and stretches.
Keep your goals simple and attainable. You’ll be more likely to achieve them, and that will feel good, propelling you to continue.
4. Walk through the steps in your mind.
Having trouble figuring out what you’ll actually be willing to do for a workout? Not sure what steps you’ll need to take to get there?
Do a simulation. Imagine yourself just getting home from work. You’re tired and your kids are running around saying they’re hungry: Do you think you’ll be able to get your workout clothes on and head to the gym?
If not, you need a new plan. Run through a couple of simulations to find the one you’d be least resistant to.
5. Treat working out like a job.
Your workout plan — if planned simply and prepared for — should be nonnegotiable. Your husband or children may ask you if you can “skip it and go to the movies.” Your friends might urge you to “make it up tomorrow” and go shopping with them. A co-worker might ask if you’re busy or if you can “stay late to help her with something.”
When your workout plan is up against cancellation for other plans, the answer should always be no — just as it would be if someone asked you to cancel a doctor’s appointment to do something else. You put your workout into your schedule, and you treat it like a bona fide appointment.
6. Don’t try to make up for missed workouts.
Accidentally slept through your morning workout time? Sick child keeping you from going on your evening run?
If an opportunity presents itself later in the day to make up a missed workout, sure, go for it.
But don’t try to make up for your missed workout the next day or on an off day. This may work for you once or twice, but you’ll soon notice that these makeups add up, and you’ll begin to resent them — then ditch the whole plan.
Stick to your schedule. Try earnestly not to miss a single workout, but don’t weigh yourself down if you do. Just do better the next day.
Being a working mom is stressful and challenging, to say the least, and it may seem like adding fitness to the mix is pure madness! But remember that following a weekly workout plan comes with awesome benefits: Better health and weight management, more energy, improved mood, and reduced stress — to name a few!
Remember that you’re not doing this as a form of self-torture. You’re doing it for you — so that you can be the best possible version of yourself and the best possible mother and caregiver for your family.