Q: Dear Coach Abby,
I am a mother of three kids--ages 4, 6, and 7. I always feel like I have something to do for them. When I'm not packing school lunches or helping them with their homework, I am driving them to and from their extracurricular activities. Even when I fulfilled those tasks, I find myself fishing around for what else I can do to pitch in just a little bit more. Review flash cards with my son for his upcoming quiz. Prepare a healthy dinner.
All of this has left me feeling stressed, frazzled, and sitting in the car for much longer than I'd like to. I am weighed down both mentally and physically. My real wake-up call was a visit to the doctor for my annual check-up last week, during which I learned that I have gained 10 pounds over the past year. This places me at fifteen pounds above where I desire to be.
Something has got to give, Coach. I feel ashamed of my fall from fitness and out of touch with my body. I used to go for daily walks and runs and lift weights at the gym three times a week. I was fit! The only workout that I get now is from chasing my kids around and yanking my hair out! I eat healthfully, but I want that empowering feeling that my workouts used to evoke in me back!
I need to make exercise a regular part of my routine again. If anything, just to stay sane, and know that I should be doing at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day for my health in the long run--you know, to meet the recommended quota.
But I don't see how I can. With my days dedicated to motherly responsibilities, I don't have the time to exercise. I also feel a pang of guilt every time I am about to step out the door to go for a workout, because a voice inside my head tells me that I am somehow neglecting my kids or the upkeep of my house by leaving.
Frankly, I feel completely stuck.
Tell me, Coach Abby, how can I make sure that I exercise regularly when I have a full schedule of things to do for my kids and I always want to be doing something to help them out?
Weigh down and out,
A: Hey Conflicted Mom,
Don't be so hard on yourself. We all get out of shape sometimes. Also know that you are not alone. I hear the concerns of not having enough time while being a full-time mother from many of my clients.
While you are obviously dissatisfied with your weight, you might not be as far from fit as you have been led to believe! Stay keen on the activity you are doing. Being a busy mom and chasing your kids around the house can entail a workout in itself, and yanking your hair out provides a nice forearm and bicep workout (only (partially) kidding). Eating nutritiously also gives you a head start on your fitness, as you will have clean energy to move and fewer toxins to fight and flush out.
You will be happy to learn that your quandary is not an unsolvable situation. You absolutely can be a mom and exercise daily. In fact, exercising daily will make you a better mom! I created the following list to help you reach peak performance in your unique sport of raising kids! Rest assured, with a little reworking of your mindset and implementing some simple strategies, you will be on your way to receiving Most Valuable Mom.
1. Recognize that a fit mom is a better mom.
I can sense your great intentions to be the best mom that you can possibly be, but your actions are currently causing you to misfire. You see, if you don't exercise on a regular basis, you will heighten your chances of a decreased lifespan and minimize your ability to do things for your kids, none of which you intend to achieve.
Contrary to your fear that you will detract from your job as a mom, working out will increase your performance as a mother! Not only will you look and feel better, you will:
-Gain more energy, returning to your kids reinvigorated.
-Increase your strength, stamina, and flexibility, allowing you to keep up with you kids during play.
-Release excess energy from stress, restoring your calm.
-Increase your patience.
-Boost your cognition.
-Heighten your probability of extending your lifespan.
These benefits allow you to better serve your children and maximize the time you spend with them as well as your chances of being around to care for them longer, as a mobile mother!
You also set an example of doing physical activity for your kids. At their ripe, impressionable age, they are more likely to mimic your behavior. Starting to exercise at their age will allow them to bypass the struggle of trying to form a habit of exercise later in life, because they will be wired to move. They also will dodge many diseases attributable to a sedentary lifestyle--especially obesity, which is on the rise in the youth population and set an example for their peers to model their behavior after.
2. Treat motherhood as your job.
In your tough line of work called mothering, maintaining your physical fitness is a job requirement. Your boss – your body and mind, keeps a close watch on your attendance to work--your daily exercise. Show up, and your kids' lives will be promoted and you will receive a raise in endorphins and your self-esteem. Play hooky and you risk losing out. For you, that decreasing the amount of time you will be around for your children, as a mobile mother!
At a job, you make to-do lists of tasks that need to get done. Make exercise an item on your daily to-do list and ensure that you do the work to be able to check it off each day.
Also, if you want to excel at work, you cannot just show up, you have to put forth your best effort as well. So apply the same passion and sense of commitment that you do to reviewing flash cards with your son to your daily exercise.
3. Make your health your top priority.
You just need to put yourself at the top of the totem pole once a day. If you don't, your health will suffer. You already have experienced this. If you keep choosing your kids over your workout, helping you with your health could become their striking top priority one day.
In order to psych yourself into doing this, you will need to stop viewing your decision as choosing between your kids and yourself. This is a trap that will leave you feeling selfish for working out.
Instead, view your health and your kids as one common devotion. Each time that you exercise, increasing the strength of your heart, improving your memory, and building stronger bones, your kids also reap benefits. They get a mom who can keep up with them during play. They also get a mom with a clear head post-workout and more patience to listen to them with your full attention. That sliver of time you spend exercising--temporarily zoning in on your body and mind--will allow you to return to your kids and treat them as your top priority every second that you spend with them.
4. Include your kids in your workouts.
With summer just around the corner, now is the perfect time to get sweaty with your kids. They will be out of school soon with more free time and eager to get outside and move!
So be extremely time-efficient and pack a one-two punch by including your kids in your workouts. This can mean doing something as simple as bringing your kids along with you for one of your old-time walks or runs, or have them tag along with you the gym where you teach them how to do beginner exercises like sit-ups, planks, and push-ups. Indoors or outdoors, it doesn't matter! You will get natural vitamin D and fresh air outside, though!
As a bonus tip, ignite the fire to push hard your kids by challenging them in a race of a few sprints. This family-friendly form of competition will bring the family closer, tying everyone together with a stronger sense of camradaerie and helping to instill a fierce work ethic in your kids. Talk about worrying about not being able to serve them as a mother while working out!
And if you want to go beyond getting outside the gym box, use these suggestions to go outside of your mental box:
-Play games like tag and Red Rover or create your own games. A bigngathering like a holiday picnic or barbecue are perfect opportunities to play these games.
-Use inexpensive equipment like jump ropes and hula hoops.
-Go rollerblading. This activity seems so underrated and underdone. Pick a smooth path for safety and get rolling!
-Use your kids as equipment. Yes, seriously! Your little ones are just the right size and length to use as a bar like you would at the gym. They are also energizer bunnies by nature, so have them channel some of that energy into getting their mom fit! They will get exercise out of it, too! Try these exercises, the primal form of what have been adapted into gym-equipment exercises today:
Place your hands on the ground and have them hold your feet up. Crawl forward with your legs elevated, as you hear ", Mom, your legs are so heavy!" behind you. This is a next-level plank!
Lay down on the grass or a mat at the gym with your palms upright across your chest and have one of your kids climb aboard your palms (his/her chest facing you). Push your tot up as you extend your arms and bring him/her back to you as you lower your arms. Now that's the way to uplift your kids!
-->Piggy Back Rides:
This one will probably require you to be the carrier! Again, have you child climb aboard, this time your back, and take him or her for a journey across the field or driveway. It's like wearing one of those crazy weighted vests to amp up the resistance to your exercise, except your kids are the ones wrapped around you with all their love!
Invite the whole family--your spouse or partner; aunts; uncles; cousins--and friends to play. You'll exercise, bond, and share laughs and smiles! That's ultimate workout experience!
5. Choose to enroll your kids in activities at places where you, too, can be active.
Take some time to scope out the different venue options for your kids' extracurricular activities. Then you will be able to strategically pick places where you can pack in your exercise. Here are some specific pointers:
-Consider getting a membership to a health club where your kids can do activities, too. Some health clubs offer tennis, gymnastics, and swimming. While they are in session, you can get your workout on. And if you want to watch your kids practice, no worries. Some of these activities last up to two hours, so you will have time to fit in both joys.
-Instead of sitting in the car while you wait for your kids to finish up, get out of the drivers sit and steer your fitness forward. Try these simple ways:
-->Do a quick circuit of squats, jumping jacks, and push-ups.
-->Take a few laps around the parking lot or up and down the sidelines of a sport field.
-->Park farther away from the entrance so you have to take a hike inside up gather your kids.
Whether your kids are involved in sports or art classes, you can find somewhere and somehow to be active while they are in session. Don't use a scanty block of time as an excuse to skip out. Even if you only have five minutes to move, use it. Five minutes of exercise is infinitely better than none!
6. Schedule your workouts.
If being a mom is your job, you are going to have appointments to attend. Trick yourself into being obliged to workout by doing the following:
-Write your workouts in your calendar. This is similar to the to-do list tactic, but you have a specific time and date to adhere to.
If simply writing down a workout in your calendar is not convincing enough for you, then make it even more mandatory by committing yourself to someone else in the following ways:
-Schedule workouts with a friend.
-Hire a personal trainer.
This employs guilt in a healthy way. You won't want to disappoint other people by not showing up, and I certainly hope you won't want to waste the money you invest in hiring a personal trainer, so you will have extra motivation to make your workouts happen.
So, previously maddened mom, I hope you are now gladdened. As you can see, you have avenues to work out without even temporarily stepping away from your kids. And you know that you do not have zero time to exercise, but you have zero time to not exercise. Your life and your kids' lives depend on it. Remember, we all have the same 24 hours in a day. There is no magical time to be found and added. It is just how we use that time that will determine our success.
Utilize this toolbox of strategies I've placed at your fingertips to spend your time more efficiently and to feel good, not guilty, about spending some of it on you! Doing so will be one giant step forward; and that's what my work is all about--helping you take simple steps to your better health. While you might not see results right away, I remind you to be patient. Every step counts.