I love exercising. I love working out and getting sweaty and physically tired and feeling like I helped jumpstart all of my body’s systems. Through most of my adult life I’ve been a member of a gym and regularly swam, walked, and done aerobics and exercise videos. That is, until I had children.
The desire to work out didn’t go away. The enjoyment of exercise didn’t diminish. I simply didn’t quite make it to my Zumba and Step classes. I just couldn’t find time for an hour long walk. I didn’t want to pay $7.00 each time I went to the gym to have babysitting for my kids, particularly when I had to book the sitter one week in advance. How am I to know that in one week it will be a good time to go run on the treadmill? Is it ever a good time to run on the treadmill?
I’ve tried my hardest to remain active with two small children and being pregnant with a third. When I’m active I simply feel better, retain less water and am more tired. But tired in a good way that helps me sleep instead of tired in a mental way that makes me weary. Here are some of the ways I’ve been able to keep a’ movin’.
(1) Set realistic goals. Don’t be overly enthusiastic to start off. I have friends who go from nothing to “I’m going to run for 30 minutes 5 times a week.” No, honey, you are not. You will run 3 times for 15 minutes each time and then decide it is just too much. The end of fitness. Thinking you’ll be able to train for a marathon in a month when you can barely pee alone and find time to do your hair is just floating in la la land. During and immediately after college I went to the gym at least 6 times a week, for fun. I didn’t have to make myself and I looked forward to it. That is impossible now and if I thought I had to do that to be “successful” at my fitness goals then I’d just be setting myself up to fail. Three walks a week, and a time or two at a DVD workout video is enough for me to feel that I’m doing my best in this season. Don’t set your sights so high that you quit. Set them low enough to meet them and then, if you desire, set the goals higher. It’s far better (mentally and physically) to succeed at small steps faithfully than to fail at large steps and quit.
(2) Make your fitness choices convenient. After my first child was born I had less to do and it was fairly convenient to join the gym. The gym took 15 minutes to get to and, therefore, 15 minutes to get home. So, even if I only worked out for 30 minutes it was at least an hour in the schedule. After my son I tried to keep this up, but I rarely had an hour or two to go to the gym and, because it was such a rushed trip, I often returned home feeling more stressed than when I’d gone. I decided to cancel the membership and join a closer gym (this one I chose because of its selection of group classes) or find ways to exercise at home that didn’t take such a large chunk of time. If you are happy to go to the gym after the children are in bed then time isn’t as important. If your kids are in school then the gym might be carefree. Whatever your season of life, don’t set your ideal exercise regime to be something that is not convenient or you’ll never stick to it. I am not going to go to the gym at 8pm. It will not happen. At 8pm I want to drink a diet coke, cry or read Anne of Green Gables.
(3) Do things that involve the kids. This is a no brainer, but one I’ve found helpful. When I am feeling fat and lazy, I load the kids up in the double stroller and we go walking. Maybe for 15 minutes or maybe for 30 or more (15 minutes is better than nothing, people) and my heart gets pumping. I’m not lying here, that stinking stroller is more effective than any 5 lb weights you may want to strap around your ankles. It’s hard to push, uses the full body, and makes me sweat and pant and be embarrassed anytime someone sees the effort it takes to push it up a hill. But I don’t care because I come home, hot, sweaty and proud of myself. The kids are happy and we spent time outside. I can split the walk up with some time at the park and it’s a complete win win. If your kids are older then you can hike, swim and do any number of things with them that are active.
(4) Fitness and workout DVDs. These are great for busy moms who only find time and energy when kids are asleep. You can get a few and rotate them so you don’t get bored. Also, if you are feeling insecure about your appearance or too low on cash to join the gym then this is an easy way to get some exercise. I have a prenatal video that is 40 minutes long. I do 20 minutes at a time every other day. I am telling you, it isn’t a strenuous pace but I see results! I even do the video with my kids around and I must say, they offer much more resistance and strength training than the two cans of kidney beans I substitute for two pound weights.
(5) Count the things you wouldn’t have counted before. Do you garden, walk up and down your stairs, and move around furniture or boxes? These things can be good exercise too if you take advantage. Do it a little more, faster and with more intensity and you’ll break a sweat. Getting fit, or simply trying to be more physically active – does not have to mean you have to start running 5 miles a day. It just means being active. Moving. Parking farther away from the door than you normally would. Park at the other end of the mall from the store you’re going to. Stand up when you’re reading and do squats instead of laying down eating a chocolate bar.
You can start building up your fitness little by little and it doesn’t have to hurt. You can bring your kids along and actually make exercise fun. Running around and chasing them is a workout. I’ll often get on all fours and chase my kids around and they absolutely love it. Crawling is a far greater workout than walking if you ask me. Make it a point to fit it into your week, but don’t make goals that set you up to fail.
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