Being a mom is hard work. Unfortunately, it’s not the kind of hard work that lowers cholesterol, prevents heart disease, or drops unwanted pounds. Sometimes the daily responsibilities of motherhood can be so hard to manage that just the thought of throwing fitness into the mix can be exhausting.
An early morning walk or run sounds like a great idea, until you’re up all night with a crying baby or a heartbroken teen. Working out while your kids nap seems like the perfect strategy until the moment arrives and you’re plagued with dozens of other “responsible” things you could be doing.
As moms, most of us don’t let our kids skip soccer practice or dance class, but ironically we don’t hold ourselves equally accountable to our own fitness endeavors. Sometimes finding time to exercise requires a new way of thinking. Here are five strategies from my book, Hot (Sweaty) Mamas: Five Secrets to Life as a Fit Mom, that will help you integrate fitness into your busy life.
1. Mix it up
In theory, sneaking in an early morning workout before the rest of your brood gets out of bed is a great idea. But unless you hit the hay as early as your children do, predawn exercise is bound to take its toll. To prevent burnout, mix up when and how you work out by doing some routines alone and others with your kids around, perhaps inviting them to join you for a good sweat.
Prioritizing fitness with and without your kids will teach them that a healthy lifestyle is worth your time and theirs. In fact, you might consider using their active time to sneak in some fitness of your own: Find an open lane for laps during swim practice, go for a walk during dance class, or do some core exercises during the soccer finals.
2. Pinpoint your passion.
Adopt an exploratory attitude and look for a fitness activity that you actually like. With so many options out there, you will find something that motivates you. Consider everything from traditional and team sports to more alternative pursuits like rock climbing, Zumba, and martial arts. If you want to stay committed to your exercise routine it’s important to find an activity that feels authentic to you.
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3. Develop a plan B.
Motherhood is full of the unexpected, and often things don’t go according to plan. When that happens we have to be content with plan B, maybe even develop a plan C on the fly, if we're going to get and feel fit. Any exercise — even if it doesn’t get you hot and sweaty — is worth it in the long run when you consider both the mental and physical benefits. Keep a spare gym bag in your trunk or at the office, or at least never get caught without a comfortable pair of sneakers. Don’t let those unexpected moments of freedom catch you off guard. Be prepared to move.
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4. Count every moment.
In a perfect world, you'd get an hour each day to exercise. Too bad we live in the real world. Remember that fitness isn’t an all-or-nothing pursuit — particularly if you're a new moms who's at the mercy of naps, feedings, and dirty diapers. Take what you can get, even if it’s just a 10-minute walk to the park and back or doing bicep curls with the baby carrier. Five minutes of stretching during “tummy time” counts. The small deposits do add up.
5. Find your sweaty sisters.
You know what it’s like to have other people depend on you. Finding your sweaty sisters is about relying on other women on whom you can depend to get you out the door and sweaty. Sweaty sisters are everywhere you look — next door, at the office, even at your kids’ school. Look around for women’s running or fitness groups. Don’t be afraid to ask another mom to join you. Odds are she’s just searching for a partner in perspiration, just like you.
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