Staying fit when you are a mother is all about prioritisation, multi-tasking and being time savvy! When I was pregnant, one of my ridiculously selfish concerns was ‘how am I going to find the time to exercise once the baby arrives’! I was a self-confessed gym addict, I loved my early morning spin classes and it wasn’t unusual for me to pop to another class or do some weights in the evening too! Exercise and fitness was ‘me’ and with no dependents to worry about, I had all the time in the world to do it! I knew that routine would have to adjust once my daughter arrived, but with a bit of determination and encouragement from others I’ve made fitness part of my life again and becoming a mother has changed what being ‘fit’ actually means to me. Whilst coaching and working with clients – time, child care restraints and lack of energy are the biggest barriers to exercise and as a fellow parent I completely empathise! Though I also know that as a mum of a young toddler, you need to be fit – toddlers are energiser bunnies and they will have you up and down and running around from morning till the bed time hour (thank god for Cbeebies!)
So with this in mind, I thought I’d share my top 5 tips for being (and staying) a ‘fit’ mamma (and this doesn’t have to be exclusive to mums, it really applies to anyone)
- Work out what ‘being fit’ means to you – we all have our own goals and they should be personal. It might be to run a half marathon or complete a triathlon, but it may also be a health related or functional goal such as loosing half a stone, running around with your children in the park or pushing a trolley load of food and nappies around the supermarket (don’t underestimate the weight of a full shopping trolley!). We often set high expectations for ourselves and compare our abilities/ achievements to what we could do before babies, and if you are of a competitive nature this can be quite an adjustment to make. I know, I personally struggled with this and it’s taken me nearly 3 years to work out what leaves me feeling fit rather than exhausted. I don’t recover like I used to, so now a 5km run and some yoga stretches leaves me feeling energised, whereas a 10km run whips me out for the rest of the day. Listen to your body and work out what ‘fit’ means to you before you set any goals.
- Look at your diary and plan ahead – finding the time is one of the biggest hurdles to exercise so schedule it into your day and don’t be afraid to be protective of this time. We have 24 hours and just 30 minutes each day is enough to maintain our fitness. If you have a gym at work, book onto some lunchtime classes 1-2 weeks in advance and put them in your diary, if you work from home set an alarm that will remind you to go out for a power walk rather than working through what should be your lunch break. Work as team too, sit down with your partner and look at when they can support you and watch the children whilst you go to a class or an early morning run (and visa versa). If they can get the children ready for school a couple of mornings a week, that will give you the opportunity to have your 30 minutes done before you’ve even started your day. There is a lot to be said for tag team parenting!
- Invest in a multi-terrain running buggy and/or a bike seat – My husband still jokes that I spent more time researching and choosing our buggy than I did my wedding dress! If you have the funds, invest in a buggy that will allow you to go for runs, country walks and can be taken off road. The 3 wheeler buggy that we chose was my life line whilst on maternity leave; my baby wasn’t very compliant with nap times, so going for a run with the buggy would send her to sleep, but also give me a chance to fit in some exercise. 3 years on we are still using the same buggy and although she doesn’t sleep anymore, she still loves going out for a run and constantly reminds me to ‘run faster mummy’! A child’s seat for your bike is also a great way to include some exercise into your routine. Second hand selling sites and Ebay are a great place to pick up running buggies, often for a little as £30.
- Incorporate it into your day – now I’m very conscious that not all of us enjoy exercise. The thought of actively going out and getting hot and sweaty isn’t very appealing to some and finding a form of exercise that is enjoyable (as well as affordable) can be a chore, so incorporating it into your daily routine can be more achievable. If you walk the kids to school, take a longer route home and power walk/ jog back and rather than using the car for short journeys, walk or even cycle there. If you struggle with childcare constraints try and include the children in your exercise. Set up a mini circuit at home or in the garden, get the music playing and get them to join in, or alternatively choose a time when they are the least demanding (maybe first thing in the morning or just after dinner) and do a quick 20-30 minute YouTube video or exercise DVD (there are some great HIIT, conditioning, Yoga and Pilates sessions on-line for home exercise). You’ll be setting a great example to them and if you can get it in before they go to bed, you can still relax on the sofa in the evening and unwind.
- Exercise the mind as well as the body – when we talk about being ‘fit’ we are usually referring to our physical fitness, however it’s important to keep a healthy mind too. Our lives are very busy and we have a lot of additional stresses and pressures that can be a drain on our energy and resilience. If your day is completely chocka block and you are so stressed and exhausted then take a break and don’t add to it. Whilst exercise is important for our cardiovascular health, it can still be a stress for the body, so try and support the body (as well as the mind) by doing more restorative activities, such as deep heart focused breathing, mindfulness or meditation. Practising Yoga, Pilates or Thai Chi can have similar restorative effects as you encourage the recovery pathway of the body. Allowing the body to recover, reducing stress and improving the quality of sleep will all contribute towards higher energy levels and optimal fitness.
If you have any tips or advise that you’d like to share on ways to incorporate exercise into your routine or tips that you find helpful, please leave a comment below 🙂