For the fall season, we’re introducing Fitness Focus, a series of blog posts written by Omada Health Coaches on various topics pertaining to exercise and physical activity. We hope this series can complement the knowledge you are building about fitness and inspire you to keep pushing down the path of healthy living.
Part 3 of Fitness Focus is written with busy parents in mind, providing strategies for taking care of yourself without compromising your family.
Ask any parent what they want more of, and you’ll probably hear answers like “more time” and “more energy”. Having kids often means busier schedules and less time for yourself, and despite our best intentions, exercise is often one of the first things to fall to the bottom of the priority list when life gets busy.
But having a family doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice your health for the sake of everyone else. The long-term benefits you’ll reap are worth balancing your health with errands, housework, chauffeuring, and the many other responsibilities that come with being a parent. We’ve put together a combination of practical and creative strategies to help tackle some common roadblocks that parents run into when trying to maintain a regular fitness routine. Consider which obstacles you’re up against and utilize some of the strategies below to create your own fitness game plan.
ROADBLOCK: “I DON’T HAVE TIME.”
Strategy #1: Carve out the time and make it a priority.
With a little creativity, even busy people can find time for exercise. The key is to plan ahead and put it on your calendar. Making it a priority means thinking of your scheduled workouts as an important appointment that can’t be cancelled. Your new schedule might surprise your family at first, but once you start to make it a regular habit and create new expectations, you’ll start to see yourself differently, and your family will too.
Strategy #2: Sprinkle in micro-workouts.
Don’t have an hour? No worries– it only takes 10 minutes to make a difference. Sneak in movement wherever and whenever you can throughout your day. While picking up toys from the floor, work in a few sets of squats or lunges. How about a few sets of pushups on a park bench while your kids are playing close by?
Find activities you can do together like bike rides and family hikes. Soccer and playing tag are both great ways to get your heart rate up. And as kids grow older, we’re often waiting on the sidelines during their sports practices so those precious hours can be utilized for walking the perimeter of the gym or sports field.
Strategy #3: Think outside the box if your kids are really young.
When the temperatures are too cold (or hot) outdoors, push the little ones in a stroller around your local mall or community center. You can also look for a local fitness center that offers child care and find a class that appeals to you. The kiddos will enjoy time playing with other kids their own age, and having a scheduled class will help keep you going back consistently.
The Internet is also a great source of inspiration, where a multitude of free and subscription-based fitness and yoga classes are available. Schedule your workouts early in the morning before your kids are awake, during nap time, or get them busy with an activity so you can get busy taking care of yourself.
ROADBLOCK: “I DON’T HAVE THE ENERGY.”
Strategy #1: Remind yourself of the benefits beyond weight loss.
Skipping workouts may feel like the path of least resistance temporarily, but the energy return you’ll get from exercise is always worth it. Exercise can improve your mood, boost energy, invigorate your state of mind, and help build resiliency to stress, just to name a few.
Strategy #2: Reward yourself.
Tracking your habits and rewarding yourself for your accomplishments will help keep you motivated. Here are some ideas to spark your creativity:
– Every time you workout, track your accomplishment by marking it on a calendar where you can see it. The reward comes from the satisfaction of seeing the growing number of days you’ve filled in.
– Put a coin in a jar every time you exercise for 30 minutes and treat yourself when you’ve saved enough for a reward of your choice (a massage, new workout gear, etc.).
– Use small “mini” rewards for daily exercise. For example, save certain podcasts for walks outside and favorite tv shows for the treadmill.
ROADBLOCK: “I FEEL GUILTY TAKING TIME FOR MYSELF.”
Top Strategy: Shift your perspective.
As a parent myself, I sometimes feel guilty about the amount of time I’m away from my kids, but when I exercise regularly, I’m more patient and better able to manage day-to-day stress. It doesn’t mean that I forget I’m part of a family and need to make choices that are best for everyone, but here’s the thing: I am part of the equation too. When I’m happier, my family is happier, and I’m showing my kids what it looks like to be a grown-up who takes ownership of their own health and well-being.
Let go of guilt and consider what a great example of health you are setting for your kids! Another bonus is they’ll benefit from a more energized and happier version of you.