Am I the only one who completely dreads the thought of working up a sweat? And because I dislike it so much, it is easy to convince myself that I am just too busy to worry about working out. Fitness is for people who don’t have anything better to do, right?
But the sad reality is that as I get older and the big 4-0 looms ever closer, I am noticing more and more that it is just not as easy to manage my weight as it used to be. Furthermore, when I get stressed out, I tend to be more susceptible to illness. And I don’t think I’m alone here! The reality is that stress damages the immune system, causing us to feel somewhere between crummy and awful.
But the antidote to stress? Movement. Getting physical exercise and fitting in extra fitness when you can keeps you mentally and physically fit.
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Plus, even if you don’t think exercise makes a huge difference in your weight loss endeavors, sometimes just the effort of getting in some physical activity can help you get into “fitness mode.” You’re more likely to make healthier choices and stay in the mindset if you’re already “being good.”
So, what’s a busy mom to do? How do we fit a little more fitness into our busy lives? The thought of finding a gym class, finding a sitter for two hours, getting dressed in gym clothes, driving there and back…it’s laughable for most of us. It’s just not realistic.
I read a book a few months ago that completely changed my perspective on exercise. It was called No Sweat by Michele Segar, and it talked about the science of motivation when it comes to exercise. There were two lessons in the book that changed everything for me.
First, Segar explained that if we want to make exercise a part of our life, there has to be an immediate reward. Thus, if it feels good and we are enjoying ourselves, do it, and if it doesn’t feel good, stop and do something else.
Second–and this lesson was huge–EVERYTHING COUNTS.
In my own life, these two lessons were completely transformative! You see, I had it in my head that in order for a workout to “count,” it had to be painful and I had to work up a sweat. Thus, I would try to force myself to run in the morning, but then end up dreading it and somehow always find a reason to not go. (Usually–I have too much work to do!)
So how can we fit in more fitness to our already busy lives? Try these tips:
Figure out what exercise will give you the most bang for your fitness buck. For example, while an hour-long yoga class across town might sound heavenly, a 30-minute sweat session with a DVD might be more realistic and burn more calories to boot. HIIT workouts (High Intensity Interval Training) are quite popular and it’s easy to fit in an interval or two when you have a small window of time. Check out HIIT Interval Training Timer or another HIIT app to help guide you.
Bonus: studies have now shown that just a few minutes of intense exercise can outweigh or equal longer periods of moderate exercise. So don’t be afraid to fit in ten minutes here and there throughout the day!
Do What You Love
Some of us are born to run, while others prefer to dance the night away. Find an exercise you love to do and it won’t feel like drudgery. If there’s something you were interested in as a child—like softball—sign up for a community league. If you enjoy the solace of running or walking, then make it your go-to exercise. Adventurers might enjoy hiking, kayaking or even just yardwork. As long as you do it with intention and a mindful approach, you can make almost any “work” or “play” beneficial to your fitness.
After reading Segar’s book, I realized that while I don’t at all enjoy running, I do enjoy walking, especially when I can listen to audiobooks along the way. Now my morning walk is my absolutely favorite part of the day, and I almost never miss it. In fact, I usually can’t wait to get out of bed so I can get going!
Make It Easy
Here’s the deal: Nike, Reebok, Spaulding…all these exercise clothing and equipment companies would like you to believe you need an entire wardrobe of active wear, a different pair of shoes for each activity, and cutting edge equipment tailored to your body type.
In reality, this just complicates things and gives us another excuse to put it off. Lace up your good ol’ sneakers and go. Throw on a t-shirt and your husband’s basketball shorts and hit the pavement, treadmill or gym. Yes, it can be motivating to have cute workout gear, but most of it’s not necessary. If there’s something you’d like to try, consider renting equipment until you find out if the sport floats your boat.
Go to the Park
Not only is the playground great for your kids, but it can be great for adults as well. Climb on the monkey bars, walk up and down the equipment, and push your kiddos in the swings. Do some squats as you lift your kids onto the toys and get interactive. Going to the park should be about playing, not about sitting on a bench and watching. Not only will your kids love it, but you just might have fun, too!
Find a Friend
Enlist an accountability buddy to help you stay on track with your fitness goals. It’s even better if that friend also likes to work out with you or is willing to sign up for a class or two. It’s much harder to bail when you know your girlfriend is depending on you to be there. If you prefer to work out alone, consider signing up for an occasional race or event that you can do together to mark your progress.
Just like any goal, making your fitness time-bound helps you stay on track. If you don’t put your activities on your calendar and take control of your schedule, you’ll end up shoving them off and onto the bottom of your to-do list. Just like an important meeting or something you’d do for your spouse or kids, put your exercise right there on your schedule and stick to it! If something comes up, move it to another time, but don’t skip it.
Keep it Interesting
One reason people quit making fitness a priority? Boredom. If you’re doing the same thing over and over, running the same route and doing the same activities, it doesn’t feel like a challenge. Instead, mix things up! Try a different route (use MapMyRun for ideas), set goals, and try to push yourself a little farther, faster or harder. Add some more weight to your lifting, more time to your planking, or new moves to your yoga routine.
Walk the Kids to School
Mornings can be a challenge, but if your kids walk to school, try walking with them. If you want to avoid the chaos of the drop-off line of cars, park a few buildings over or down the street and get a little walk in with your children before they go to class. You won’t feel as frustrated as you would when you’re waiting behind another mom on her cell phone, plus, you’ll have a moment to connect with your kids before they start their day. Chances are, it won’t even add much extra time to your routine, since you’d already spend it in the carpool lane.
Pace During the Game
If you’re a soccer mom (or a dance, swimming, or piano mom), try to fit in some steps and exercise during lessons or games. Rather than sitting on Pinterest in the parking lot or watching from the sidelines, walk around the field or building and get in some extra movement. You’ll be close enough to cheer and be supportive, but you’ll still fit in your exercise!
Use a Fitness Tracker
Fitness trackers are all the rage these days and for good reason: they help us measure our progress and goals. If you have a step goal each day, it can be immensely satisfying to look at your tracker and see you’ve hit your target. Fitness trackers can be as simple as an analogue pedometer or as complex as the latest smartwatch. Some track your heart rate, pace, distance, sleep, and calories burned, while others simply count your steps. Either way, find one that works for you and get tracking your way to your goals!
I have been using the Jawbone UP for about 3 months now, and I absolutely love it! It has made me so much more aware of how little I move each day, and that subtle reminder encourages me to be more intentional about getting extra steps in wherever I can. (Note–the Amazon reviews on this particular tracker are pretty mixed, but I have had nothing but a good experience!)
Try an App
There are a slew of fitness apps available, from Charity Miles (where corporate sponsors give a few cents to charity each time you work out) to MyFitnessPal to Fit Radio (which creates kick-butt music playlists for your workout). If you’re looking for something really different, there’s Zombies, Run!, an app that puts you in the middle of a “zombie attack” story. There’s also Pact, which allows you to wager money on whether or not you’ll keep your fitness goals (pretty darned motivating), and there’s 7-Minute Workout from Johnson & Johnson, which provides great, short workouts you can fit in any time.
Say Yes to Play
The next time you hear, “Mommy, will you play with me?”—say yes. Get down on the floor and play. Run around, chase your kids, play tag and hide-and-go-seek, go for a bike ride, or climb up to the treehouse. If your kids want to go to the trampoline park or the rock climbing wall, give it a whirl! Try the batting cages or mini-golf on family night and don’t stand still in between turns. Play can be one of the simplest and most fun ways to fit in exercise, and your children will be absolutely delighted to have mommy join in on the fun!
The next time you have a few errands to run around town, park the car and literally RUN the errands (or power walk). Plan your route so you can hit all of your destinations (the bank, the pharmacy, the library) and then walk it out. Forgoing the turmoil of finding parking and driving around in traffic can actually save you time and stress. Enjoy the sites and sounds of your town as you run your various errands and cross items off of your to-do list.
Walk with Friends
Next time a friend wants to meet for coffee or lunch, ask them if you can meet at a park and walk around. Even walking through the mall or a museum can be a great way to fit in some more steps. You’ll probably feel more productive and engaged in your conversation than you would simply sitting around at California Pizza Kitchen again. After you’ve done some walking, you’re both more likely to make good choices when it comes to food and drinks. After all, you don’t want to undo your healthy choices!
Go for a Bike Ride
Have fun with your family and go for a bike ride or a hike along some trails. Yes, it can feel a tad dorky when you’re all in helmets, riding along a path, but it’s a great way to instill the value of fitness and health in our children by showing them their parents make exercise and movement a priority. Plus, there’s something really fun about riding a bike. It takes you back to your childhood—feeling the wind on your face and the sun at your back—it hardly feels like exercise at all.
Exercise Between Commercials
When you’re watching your favorite show, commit to exercising in between commercials. If you have a DVR or if you’re watching on Netflix, make it a goal to do five minutes of exercise in between each episode. You can even play a game where you mix up what you do according to what the characters on the show are doing. For example, every time Law & Order transitions to the courtroom or each time a contestant is eliminated on Dancing with the Stars, you have to do 25 crunches or ten reps on each arm with your free weights.
Work out at Work
Redecorating your office is no small task, but if you plan on upgrading your desk, consider switching to a standing or treadmill desk, as opposed to sitting. If the option of a new desk isn’t in the cards, make it a goal to get up every hour and walk for five minutes, even if it’s just to the water cooler. Similarly, if you need to get up to talk to a coworker, walk to their office, rather than calling or IMing. If you work from home, stand up every time you take a phone call. Spend your lunch hour taking a walk around the block and try to focus on ways to add movement throughout your workday.
Don’t Go for Convenience
The next time you’re at the grocery store, go for a basket rather than a cart (if at all possible). Park away from the entrance and walk a little farther. Try to keep up a good pace while you shop and focus on deliberate steps and lifting as you go.
Similarly, when you’re cleaning your house, push the furniture out of the way, stretch and climb, and make multiple trips up and down the stairs. Rather than carrying all your groceries in at once, go back and forth to the car several times to get in some more steps.
Fitness is a lifelong goal and focus. It’s important that all of us make our bodies and health a priority. Part of living well is being healthy enough to enjoy it. Fit in fitness wherever you can and make long-term fitness your goal!
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