A year and a half ago, during the early days of the pandemic, my level of fitness was at an all-time high. I was home all day, every day. I was newly working from home, and the eliminated commute allowed a lot more time to hop on the treadmill or complete a workout. In those days, I would run anywhere from 3-7 miles a day, something I would have never thought was possible previously. These days, I still work from home, but have a lot less free time at my disposal. Gone are the two-a-day workouts, and while health is still a priority for me, it’s taken a back seat as other activities have resumed. It’s been necessary to rethink fitness, and come up with new solutions to balance physical activity with a busy family schedule. Here are some tips that have helped me strike this balance.
Use what you have.
Not everyone has the ability to invest in a home gym, or pay monthly gym membership fees. Even when finances aren’t a concern, finding the time to get to a gym can be challenging. Body weight exercises can be incredibly effective and provide the same benefits as using weights. You can search “body weight exercise” on YouTube and be connected to a ton of free workouts varying in length and difficulty levels. You can also modify free weight workouts by using cans of soup, filled water bottles, or squatting with a child in your arms. As a bonus, my two year old thinks it’s hilarious to hold on tightly while mom busts out a few squats.
If you live in a multi-level home like I do, stairs provide a great cardio exercise while helping tone and strengthen your legs. I like to alternate running up the stairs and walking down, or vice versa, while listening to my favorite music or podcast.
Small movements add up.
Some days, the best you’ll be able to do is small 10 minute bursts of movement throughout the day. That’s okay! Those small movements bring a lot of value. Linda Fayad, one of the owners of Pittsburgh Mom Collective says, “Finding a few segments of time throughout the day to be active can still add up. Maybe it’s a 10 minute walk, or doing a few yoga poses and deep breathing.” PMC Contributor Julia Furgiuele adds, “when I dry my hair I always do squats.” Personally, my boys love a good kitchen dance party. I put on some fun music, lately modern sea shanties, and we dance, run, and hop around the kitchen. They beg for turns being picked up and spun around, and I work up a sweat within minutes.
As we start to approach colder weather, it’s tempting to stay inside all day every day rather than facing the cold. Being outside is so important to maintaining good mental health. Bundle your kids up and take a walk around the neighborhood, or challenge your kids to a race in the backyard. The activity will help keep you warm while getting some extra movement and vitamin D. PMC Contributor Madison Stilson says, “I know exercise- outside, especially- helps my mental health during a pandemic.”
Find a group to support your goals.
In the spring of 2020, I was introduced to Lux Fitness. While it started as an in-person, boot camp style gym, it has since transitioned to a mostly virtual format. Here’s where it’s different than other virtual programs I’ve tried. Lux Fitness has an active and supportive Facebook group, where members post anything from workout check-ins, to healthy recipes, to requests for personal support. Posting regularly in the group gives me immediate feedback and helps me to stay on track. Plus, we have twice weekly zoom workouts where we get to work out live and connect with our peers and instructors. This group has been a game changer for me, and prioritizing these workouts has kept me on track with my fitness goals. PMC Contributor Julia Germeyer has had similar success in finding a supportive group. She says, “It’s really helpful that anytime I do go back into my kickboxing studio after two weeks away that they’re always so supportive and welcoming no matter what.”
Utilize gyms with childcare programs.
Many gyms offer childcare within the facility. There are multiple upsides to utilizing these perks. The kids will enjoy playing in an environment outside of their home, and you’ll be able to recharge with physical activity. PMC Contributor Amanda Kirkman says that exercise has been easier for her now that gyms have reopened. “I renewed my gym membership and can utilize the daycare. Those 1-2 hours alone are a sanity-saver for a stay at home mom.”
Above all else, show yourself some love.
At the end of the day, recognize that you’re doing your best in a rapidly changing world. It’s okay if physical fitness isn’t your top priority on a growing list of to-do’s. Pat yourself on the back for the activity you do fit in during the day and give yourself grace when you have a day that’s lacking in activity. You may be a super mom, but super moms need breaks too!
(The opinions and suggestions expressed in this post are my own personal recommendations. I did not receive any payment for advertisement.)