Getting exercise as a parent is probably the most difficult and most beneficial thing I do in a day. It’s a love-hate relationship and it’s something I have to convince myself to do on a daily basis.
If I could have one wish, I would wish for the brain of an athlete. I definitely consider myself a focused person. It’s fairly easy for me to put together a plan for reaching my goals but, I have to do some mental trickery to get myself to stick to those goals.
I’ve never been really driven or competitive. In fact, in high school, I tried out for and made the volleyball, softball, and basketball teams. But, I always quit after one or two practices because I just didn’t care about winning.
If I could have the brain of an athlete, a brain that fixates on a goal and then just drives towards that thing like a damn freight train, the things I could accomplish would be limitless.
Exercise is one of those things that I would LOVE to be driven to do. Like, I would love to wake up in the morning just itching to get to the gym and work hard for two hours.
But, it doesn’t work for my schedule to go to the gym until about 5 pm and, by then, I’ve had hours to make up all kinds of excuses NOT to go. I love how much better I feel when I’m exercising regularly but, actually doing it is like scheduling a dentist appointment.
What are some benefits of exercise as a parent?
Just because I fantasize about being a 40-year old hard body (circa Demi Moore in Charlie’s Angels), doesn’t mean that when I finally do get to the gym I’m amped and high on endorphins.
It’s completely the opposite, actually.
I *try* to workout at least four times a week but, I hate every second of it. It hurts, I’m tired, I would rather be sitting in the sauna or hot tub, etc. But, I know that if I don’t do it, I’m going to be bitchy and create all kinds of tension and fighting with my kids and hubs (except every fight we have is his fault).
There are three major areas of my life where suffering through the exercise is totally worth it:
Mental benefits of exercise
It has been scientifically proven that exercise is actually a mood booster. For me, this is definitely NOT true during the act itself. But, after I drop the boys at the daycare, go do Barre for an hour, and then stretch and hit the sauna for a bit, I’m in a way better mood than I was when I got there. Exercise is also a great way to help your body process stress, which is EXTREMELY important for avoiding mom burn out and overwhelm.
Emotional benefits of exercise
I don’t know about you but, I can get to a really dark place sometimes. Not to the point of hurting myself or anything but, just feeling completely unappreciated and unloved. It’s really easy for me to sit and wallow in those feelings too if I’m just curled up in the corner of the couch streaming old episodes of Grey’s Anatomy on my phone. But, if I push myself out of that comfort zone and take a walk, I feel better after just a few minutes.
Exercising as a family
Or, at least with my kids. Hubs avoids physical activity like it’s going to give him cancer. But, it’s amazing how quickly my kids can go from arguing and bickering with one another to laughing and creating something with just a little physical activity. I think the boys are just hyperactive and need an outlet. But, for my daughter, doing an hour of yoga or swimming can completely change her shitty tweenage attitude into a really happy mood.
How much does it cost to go to a gym?
One of the easiest excuses to use for not exercising is the cost. As moms, we will buy everyone in the house a new whatever it is while we are still wearing the same bra from eight years ago.
The good news is, there are a ton of options for different ways to get exercise. There are gyms that are basically just a big room with cardio equipment and free weights, gyms that also have a daycare, sauna and tanning, and even online gyms where you workout in your home.
And, no matter which gym situation you decide is going to work for you, there are also different levels of membership so you only have to pay for what you’re going to use.
Family gym membership
Usually, a family gym membership will be for one adult over 18 and their minor children. But, sometimes, the membership will specify how many adults and children the membership is limited to and then you have to pay to add people to it.
If you’re looking to get a membership for your family, I would highly recommend you check your local YMCA. But, you can also check with Costco (if you’re a member) and see if they have any partnerships with local gyms. Also, your medical insurance carrier might offer a gym membership discount.
Regardless of where you get a membership, make sure you use the free trial or day pass that they offer (and they better offer one). You want to make sure that you feel comfortable with the daycare staff and that the gym offers classes or has hours during times that are convenient for you.
Plus, compare the cost of the daycare hours. Sometimes you have to pay per hour and sometimes you can buy an unlimited package for the month (better deal).
Gym enrollment fees
So, you’ve done some Google mapping and you’ve found a few gyms that are within a reasonable distance from work and your house. They have a daycare for your kids and you can get about a 30-minute workout on your lunch break too.
You look into taking the next step for signing up for one of them and find out there is a $180 one-time, non-refundable ‘joining fee’. Um, no. Bullshit. Game over. No deal. I get it.
On the one hand, that’s a lot of money to spend on something that you’re not even totally sure you WANT. On the other hand, the gym has to protect itself and that joining fee is basically them recouping the amount that it costs them to “convert” a lead to a member.
The good news is, if you keep your eyes peeled, most gyms will have a “no joining fee” promo a couple of times per year. Look at their Facebook page, website, Groupon, etc for information about when those promos are happening – especially at the end of the month. And, don’t underestimate how quickly the joining fee can be dropped from the conversation when you mention, “I’d love to join but that initiation fee is really steep”.
Gym membership for low income
If you’re on a really tight budget but, you know how much exercise will benefit you and your family, check out programs for low income. For instance, the YMCA offers a scholarship based on income that can dramatically reduce your monthly fee and includes child watch.
Also, call your local health and welfare department and ask if there are any programs in your city or town for low-income activity centers or gyms.
And, don’t discredit working out at home. Clear a section of your garage and put down a rubber mat and hook up a television. YouTube, DailyBurn, FitnessBlender, and other websites offer workout videos for free or very inexpensive.
Finding time to exercise as a working mom
Working mom, work at home mom or stay at home mom … I don’t care what you call it, we’re all moms who are doing some damn hard work. And, finding the time to do MORE work, as-in exercise, is not easy.
Especially, when exercise is not fun, inviting, or indulgent. I could easily find time to sit at a cafe for coffee and chocolate cake with my best friend. But, “finding time” to exercise is WAY more of a struggle … because I don’t WANT to exercise. I just know I SHOULD.
Busy mom workout schedule
I think the first step to “finding time” to exercise is to get a clear idea of what exercise is. Just because you can’t make it to the 4 am bodyrock booty bootcamp doesn’t mean that your day is shot and you can’t get any exercise that day.
In fact, there are a few times a day when you’re just standing still that you could use to do a few squats or lunges. For instance, when you’re brushing your teeth, waiting for the water on the stove to boil, defrosting anything in the microwave, folding the laundry, etc.
One thing that Pinterest is REALLY good for is finding “no equipment WOD” – that’s “no equipment workout of the day”. Basically, when you do that search you’re going to get a list of pins that have daily workouts that don’t require gym equipment. Do the daily workout on your lunch break or, break up the exercises and do them throughout the day.
Workout for moms with toddlers
So, if you can, I highly recommend putting your kids in the child watch at the gym that you go to. If you can’t do that, the next best thing is naptime. But, if you’re like me, your toddlers scream at the top of their lungs in child watch and stopped taking naps at 26-months.
In that case, get a jogging stroller and take them for a walk every day. Until they are big enough that they unbuckle themselves from their stroller strap and standup to turnaround and ask if you’ll hold them.
Then, you’ll need to do a couple of 10-minute workouts throughout the day while they’re in the bath, watching PJ Masks, or in the baby swing at the park. Another option is to have two kids within 16-months of each other so that you’re constantly chasing them in opposite directions – but, I really would advise against that.
The point is, you have to be creative and exercise when and where you can.
Eating Healthy (or, at all): The mom diet
The number one thing that will help you to eat regularly and healthy is BEING PREPARED. I’m sorry if you don’t want to hear it but, you HAVE to meal plan & prep. That’s just the cold hard facts, ma’am. If you don’t have healthy food choices prepared and ready to grab at a moment’s notice, you’re just not going to eat healthily.
The food that is bad for us is bad for us because it is convenient. The ingredients in it that make it unhealthy are the SAME ingredients that make it convenient. Use services like Weight Watchers to get a clear idea of what you should eat and when. Get your shopping list written out and make a special section on the list for just YOUR food. Head over to Target and get a big stack of food storage containers so you can put together meals & snacks for the fridge.
To keep your metabolism healthy, you have to balance your blood sugar. And, to balance your blood sugar, you have to eat protein, carbs & fat every two to three hours. There’s no way to accomplish that without being prepared. And, don’t forget to take your Juice Plus to give you that extra foundation of fruits & veggies.
Exercise is a necessary evil in our lives. If you’re like me, and you’re just not built to enjoy it, I’m sorry! But, I don’t enjoy parenting all the time either and I still have to do it.