Just about every day, I am asked questions about how is it possible to find time to exercise with “all those kids” – “How do you fit exercise into your schedule?” “How do you get back into shape after pregnancy?” “Oh, you work at a health club, so it’s easy for you, right?” Or, my favorite, “Gosh, you spend hours at the gym, that must be how you stay in shape, right?” And, although I love the variety of questions from my fellow moms (I truly do believe this is how we learn from one another), but the effort it takes to make all the pieces of the puzzle fit together is sometimes masked.
At 43 young years of age, I am a mother of 9 truly amazing children: Konur-16, Maja-15, Annalis-13, Hakon and Erik-11 (identical twins), Thor-8, Kajsa-6, Annika-5, and AnnaKarina-19mo. Are my days busy? Yes! (Just like every other mom. Honestly, that is what I prefer.) Each day may seem like a scheduling nightmare to others, but my husband and I work hard to make each day come together for everyone.
Parenting is a full time job, whether you have one, four or twelve children. You are never ‘off’. In addition to being a mother, I am the Group Fitness Director at Princeton Club West. On top of running a busy household, working outside the home, transporting my children to and from their extracurricular activities, I still have to juggle my schedule to fit in my personal exercise regimen. Whether I am teaching group exercise classes or personal training, those workouts are all about my clients. That time is theirs; not mine!
Over my 16 plus years of parenting, I have learned what works best for me when it comes to prioritizing exercise while raising children. The following key principles will help keep you on track to achieving (and maintaining) your fitness goals:
Time is the Essence: As a trainer, the most common excuse I hear from women about why they can’t exercise is lack of time. When the woman’s child is a baby the reason is usually a result of the baby’s naptime or eating schedule. As the child ages, the a mother’s reasons change to preschool drop off and pick up. Roll forward a few years and moms are volunteering at their children’s elementary school. The list of excuses can go on and on. In order to take good care of your children, a mother needs some time for herself and with all the added benefits that exercise provides, one hour dedicated to yourself brings you back to your children a better mom. Trust me– going about your daily schedule and trying to ‘find’ time isn’t going to happen.
MAKE Time: Create your own daily schedule, and on it is 45-60 minutes for you to do whatever form of exercise you enjoy the most. This slotted exercise time for you does not have to interfere with naptime, or the time you have reserved to volunteer etc, but build a creative schedule.
It is up to YOU to make the time; no one else will do it for you.
Be Creative: Once you begin to carve out a little time in your schedule for a daily dose of exercise, you can be creative in how that may fit into your day. There is no wrong way to get moving, but make it fun and effective.
As the classic Nike slogan says, “Just Do It!” Have a workout plan in mind and stick with it. Are you running a child to an afterschool sport/activity? While your child is busy getting into shape and enjoying a sport they love, use this time to stay in shape yourself! Take a brisk walk, a run, or use the nearby trail or safe area in a parking lot to exercise. Ask some fellow moms at the gymnastics school or soccer club to join you. Does your child have a game or a meet? Most coaches want their players to arrive early prior to a game. Utilize those free moments to get outside and exercise or go to a nearby health club. You can get that 45-minute workout in (and still catch the game).
Respect Goes Both Ways: Each of my children who are active in sports spend anywhere from 3-21 hours per week doing what they love to do. Just as I feel that sense of pride when I see even my 6 year old pull her homework out immediately after school, and informs me, “I have to get this done before I leave for dance,” I have that same feeling when I see each of my children enjoying the time and effort they put into an extra curricular activity The time and effort I put into making this happen is treasured. I wouldn’t change a thing. However, let me point out, that I teach my children from a young age that we respect one another-in all ways. Mom loves caring for you and helping you achieve your goals. When it is my turn, there is a level of understanding…Mom needs her time to stay fit and healthy too.
This level of respect goes beyond the children- it also goes hand-in-hand with your spouse/significant other.
Get Organized: Organization and consistency is of the utmost importance. Every mom needs some time to herself to mentally and physically get organized for the day. If you haven’t already, figure out when that time is for you. Is it first thing in the morning, or the last duty of the night? Personally, that time for me is early in the morning before everyone wakes up. In order to feel set and organized for the day, I get up at 5am (coffee first), to get the first load of laundry going, check emails relating to work, kids’ schools and sports. I organize for what the day holds. This is also my time to review the schedule for the day and make sure everyone understands it before leaving for school. I find that I can get a lot accomplished between 5-7am. Feeling organized is feeling in control.
Set an Example: We all want to be good parents. We want to raise our children to the best of our ability. We love these little people unconditionally. I have always said, “You can’t tell someone how to parent; there is no right or wrong way. You have to do what works for you and your family.” My husband and I both want to raise responsible, respectful, and well-rounded children who can one day function in the world on their own. I feel that setting a good example for our children is beyond beneficial and will help guide them to lead by example themselves. Set the best example by prioritizing family, school, other values you hold dear, and by taking care of yourself physically. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is a way of life. Whether it is taking time to exercise, shopping for nutritious foods, or helping guide your children to make fitness a part of their life, you are laying the groundwork for their future decisions.
*You may also enjoy Prenatal Fitness: An Important Component to Mom & Baby and How Exercise Makes Me a Better Mom.
Priscilla Peterson is a Certified Fitness Professional, with twenty plus years experience, specializing in athletic conditioning, functional training, core strength, and balance technique. Priscilla has worked with various groups and athletes ranging from youth to ‘Boomers’, bringing out the strength, endurance and personal best in each individual.
Priscilla works for Princeton Club West- Group Fitness Director, TRX/Small Group Training Director, Corporate Fitness & Wellness Programs Director, Personal and Group Training, and BOOTCAMP Programs Specialist. For more information contact [email protected]
Additionally, Priscilla is a Sports Performance Trainer for the Madison Capitols AAA Hockey Teams.
For further information on Sports Performance Training & Nutrition Counseling email [email protected].