Being a mom is a FULL TIME JOB. I never really understood that until I became a mom myself. We give, give, give all day long and it becomes very easy to put our own needs on the back burner. Actually, most of the time, our needs don’t even make it on the stove! Going from a full time corporate job and 5 days/week of gym time to a full time stay at home mom was a tough transition for me. Being consistent with workouts felt impossible and took close to a year to figure out with each kid (a YEAR! So if you’re newly postpartum and feel like you’ll never find time for yourself…I am telling you, YOU WILL)!
For me, exercise is non-negotiable. It HAS to be a part of my life because it’s my therapy. It helps me clear my head, instantly puts me in a better mood and makes me a better mom and wife. So how do I prioritize exercise with two kids under 4?
Sacrifice. There has to be SOME type of sacrifice. Whether that’s sacrificing your TV time during a nap to get in a workout or sacrificing an hour of sleep to get up before your kids and head to the gym. Maybe right now you’re rolling your eyes “Ya right… I barely get to bed by midnight, there’s no way I can get up at 5:00am.” Or you may be thinking “I am NOT a morning person. This won’t work for me.” It’s time you shift your mindset and BECOME a morning person.
Before kids I woke up at 5:00am, got to the gym by 6:00am and got my lift in for about an hour before showering and heading to work. I loved this routine. But after having my first child, morning workouts seemed SO daunting. My husband was leaving for work around 6:30 and I had a kid who was still nursing in the middle of the night. Last thing I felt like I could handle was a 4:30am gym session. Once I was pregnant with my second (yes, it took THAT long – a year and a half!), I was able to get back on that early morning gym routine and I finally felt like I had some consistency back in my life.
Here are my best tips for prioritizing exercise as a busy mom.
1) Wake before your kids to get your workout in (and maybe even some reading AND HOT COFFEE)! If you’re a late sleeper, slowly start to adjust your bedtime. Ideal bedtime is between 9-10pm. That way, you’ll be fully rested for a 5:00am wake. It won’t happen overnight. Be patient.
2) Lay out your clothes; down to your underwear. This means your exercise pants, exercise shirt, sports bra, underwear and socks are laid out and ready for you to put on the next day. I even put out my contact lenses and hair tie on the bathroom counter. I make it as easy as possible to wake up in the morning, get dressed and go.
3) If you plan to exercise from home, have your workout planned so you can have the equipment you need already set up the night before. Have your water, your music player, and a towel ready. If you plan to go to the gym, have your shoes, gym bag (with your water, headphones, and towel) by the door so you can just grab and go.
4) Plan one thing that you love to do (ex: read a book, do your nails, wash your hair, eat a cookie, watch TV) and tell yourself you can only do it if you exercise first. There are times when I really want a certain snack and I tell myself I’ll have it when I come back from the gym. It works!
5) If you’re planning on midday home workouts, put your workout clothes on in the morning when you change out of your pajamas. Now you’re ready to start a nap time workout. Kids no longer napping? Set them up with a snack and a TV show.
6) Have an exercise plan. For ex: today – low body workout. Tomorrow – rest day. The following day – chest and shoulder workout, etc.
7) Start small. Tell yourself you’ll do 10 minutes. If after the 10 minutes you feel good about it, continue. Chances are, more likely than not, you will want to continue. Telling ourselves we’ll start with just 10 minutes feels less daunting then looking at an hour-long workout.
8) Start with daily walks. If a weight training routine is overwhelming at this stage of your life, put it aside for now. Walking is really manageable and something almost all of us can handle (and is especially great for newly postpartum mamas). Wake up before your kid(s) and go for an outdoor walk. Can’t do that? Put the kids in a stroller and take them with you! Tell yourself you’ll do one mile. Downloading a tracker app will help keep you motivated. I like the Runkeeper and Steps apps. Work up to 2 miles, then 3, etc. Just simply walking will help you feel more energetic and will boost your mood. Take it from me, I haven’t missed a day getting up before 6:00am to go for a walk in over 3 months and I’ve never felt better!
9) Make exercise a HABIT. Something you’ve scheduled into your daily life just like washing the dishes, brushing your teeth, making the bed, etc. It needs to have a permanent place in your routine otherwise you won’t stay consistent. I don’t mean exercise every single day. For most of us, 4 days a week is plenty. If that seems like a lot for you now, start with a commitment of twice a week. Then work up to 4x a week (that may take you weeks or months – there is no right or wrong way).
If you need help with finding workouts, the internet is the best (free) resource you have! I also have a ton of workouts on my Instagram page (anniepfit). They require minimal equipment and you can modify them according to your fitness level.
Above all else, give yourself some grace. Be self-forgiving. This season of life is temporary. Let the guilt go. You matter. You are worthy. Make yourself a priority. Remember, we need to put our oxygen masks on first, before we can help others with theirs.
Stay connected with Annie on Instagram at @anniepfit