Staying active as a busy mom

I read a great quote the other day from Bridget Miller that said “How I respond as a mother usually has more to do with how I’m FEELING than what my child is DOING“. That really resonated with me because it is so true in 99% of cases in my house! It reminded me that in order to be the best mom I can be, I myself have to be happy and feeling good and one thing that does that for me is working out. 

I feel this way because I have been active my whole life. My parents put me in swim lessons when I was just months old and from there I swam competitively until high school. After that I taught and coached swimming for 3 years, followed by 4 years of coaching gymnastics. My passion for living a healthy lifestyle motivated me to get a Bachelor of Science Degree in Kinesiology (the study of the human body) and once I graduated I moved to Calgary where I got a job in a Recreation department of a large organization. I worked there for six years and during that time got other certifications like my AFLCA and MOC barre.  Also during that time, I had two kids, 19 months apart and a husband who kept moving up in his career (aka he got busier and busier!). By the time I got pregnant with my second, I felt like maintaining my active lifestyle was nearly impossible. I had to get creative because I couldn’t leave for 3 hours to go to my favourite yoga class on the other side of the city anymore! I knew I couldn’t be the only one who felt this way, so I decided to share my experiences from over the years and how I apply them now as a busy mom.

So here it goes! 

Working out. Those two words can mean something totally different to each of us. Some may associate the word with alone time, fun or friendly competition and others many associate the word with intimidating, boring and maybe even hard. Like I mentioned before, it is something that makes me feel good and something I think is fun, but for those of you who feel different it could be from a number of reasons.

One being because you assume working out has to be done in a gym and gyms can be intimidating. Heck, I worked in a gym environment for SIX YEARS and I still get intimidated by it. But even more so now that I am a mom and I haven’t been as involved as I once was. “I’m not fit enough”, “I don’t fit in here”, “I wish I looked like her in my outfit”, “Am I doing this right?”, “People are probably watching me thinking that my work out makes no sense” are all thoughts that pop into my head.

Another reason could be that going to the gym feels like a big time commitment. As a mom I have very little time for myself so any chance I do have to work out, I’d usually rather be relaxing or getting something productive done like cleaning or prepping a meal. Which ties into the last reason, Guilt. There are a million things to do as a mom (add a million more with each extra kid) and it is hard to put yourself first. Sometimes cleaning the kitchen seems like more of a priority then working out. I would feel guilty if I chose the cleaning and I would feel guilty if I chose the work out. It feels lose lose. Then there is also the guilt I feel when I leave my husband to ‘fend for himself’. Is he fully capable with the 2 kids? Yes. Does he care that I go? No. But I still can’t help the feeling that I should be there spending time as a family and helping out. Who can relate to that!? ‍🙋‍♀️

To combat all these feelings, I have found other ways of working out, I have redefined WHY I work out and I have figured out HOW to work out in my new busy life.  I have also changed my language from WORKING OUT to just BEING ACTIVE. To me, changing the term made it feel more achievable and feeling like you can do something is a big part of being successful.

Ways to work out/ be active other than at the gym:

  • First just know that working out and being active doesn’t mean driving somewhere to do something in specific clothes for 1+ hours. It can be 10 min. It can be in your office at work. It can be whatever you make it. They key is that you are thinking about it and TRYING. 
    • After I had Yael I found that bouncing on an exercise ball would calm her down right away. I felt like I spent half my day bouncing her so I decided to turn it into a work out and kill 2 birds with one stone. As I bounced I would focus on my posture and engaging my core, sometimes I would hold her a bit away from my body to act like a weight and sometimes, when I gave up on the ball and retired to the rocking chair, I would put my feet on the ball like a foot rest, dig my heels in and pull/roll the ball towards the chair to do a little leg work out. It wasn’t much, but it was something and I felt good about that. 
  • Get outside! Run, walk, jog or hike. Go at any pace. Run then walk, then run then walk. Do whatever! Just get out there. Take your dog, take your kids, a friend or your significant other. There are so many options! Plus it’s free. 
    • This was a big one for me after I had kids. I always wanted to be a runner, but it was always SO hard for me. I tried for years but it wasn’t until after I had Yael that I really got into it. Now I’ve done TWO half marathons! 😯 (A post will be coming later about my postpartum journey to becoming a runner, but before you read that just trust me that if I can do it, so can you!)Walking was also a huge way that I stayed active when I was pregnant with Grae. After breakfast I would put Yael in the stroller and go first thing in the morning. I’d time it so that Yael wasn’t too sleepy that she’d fall asleep but sleepy enough that she’d sit nicely. We would take our dog, Harvey and be out there for about 45 min. Calgary has a great pathway system so you can find nice trails to walk on. The weather was always so nice in the morning as well.  Then, once I had Grae we kept with this same routine, Grae in the carrier and Yael in the stroller, but now she wanted to walk more and discover all the fun things on the paths. It was so fun for both of us. 
  • Go to a fitness class. These days there are sooo many to choose from. Bootcamp, Yoga (hot or not), Pilates, Dance, Barre, HIIT, Step, Strength training, Zumba, Boxing, Lagree, Spin, Rowing, Martial Arts, Intramural sports (no you don’t just have to be in university to play), Beach volleyball…. The list goes on. Living in Calgary is a blessing because we have so many options. 
    • My personal fav’s are Hot Yoga, Barre, Spin and Bootcamp. I love that you don’t have to think, you just have to show up. Classes are also great because you can pick ones where no one can tell how hard you are working. In these types of classes, there is no way of comparing yourself to others. Ex. Spin. You can control your speed and your resistance and as long as you a pedalling, no one knows how fast or what your specific stats are. I loved that when I was pregnant. I was using the motivation of the class to keep me going, but no one knew that I wasn’t doing the work out the way it was supposed to. I’d do this on my lunch break with a co-worker and sometimes she’d look over to me with an “I’m dying” face and I’d be like “What?! Oh ya… So hard… ” LOL! Something to keep in mind with fitness class’ is that they aren’t all the same. If you don’t like 1 class at 1 studio, there will be other classes, other instructors or other studios to try. It is also worth giving the class a few tries before decided yay or nay. I went to a yoga class one time and the instructor was this rough looking guy who used to play football. I thought it was a joke. What is he doing teaching this class? He swore and called people out and that turned me off. But I went back because now I had bought these passes and the time worked so well with my schedule. Then eventually I learned his style and actually started to appreciate it! It even got to the point where I WANTED him to call me out because I wanted to improve and be challenged. I took that Monday night class with him for TWO YEARS and the only reason I stopped was because I got pregnant and couldn’t handle the heat (literally! lol). 
  • Go Swimming! This was my favorite exercise to do while pregnant with Yael. It is also so good if aches and pains limit you from working out. There is no stress on your joints so it feels good! I would only do it for about 30 min and go very easy, but it still felt like a good work out. 
    • You can do your own swims or you can register for adult swim lessons. There are also master swim clubs to join! (I plan on doing that one day!) Plus, the hot tub at the end is such a nice treat! 
  • Work out AT HOME! This is one of my favourites since becoming a mom because it doesn’t matter what you wear or what you look like, it is FREE (unless you purchase any equipment) and you can do it with your kids, with your husband or while you watch TV (Real Housewives is always on when I’m working out at home 🙊 ). You also have so many different time options. Before the kids wake up, with the kids, when they are napping or after they go to bed. 
    • These days there are also so many online trainers or online workouts specifically targeting busy moms who want to work out at home, so you can easily find a program that works for you.To be honest, I never really liked the idea of online fitness programs because I thought I had enough education to make my own work outs and I didn’t want to invest the money (I mean a 4yr degree was enough of an investment!). But after having my second baby, we planned a trip to Mexico and I was going be 5 months postpartum. The thought of being in a bathing suit was nerve wracking and I wasn’t sure how I’d find the time with 2 under 2 to get to the gym or get to a class. That’s when I decided to try an online fitness program. It was about $75 for 8 weeks (I think that is cheap!) and I could do all the work outs from home, I just needed a few hand weights. As soon as the kids went to bed, I would work out. I’d finish about 8:30 and still had time to wind down or do “chores” before bed. I didn’t have to think, I didn’t have to go anywhere and IT WORKED. I saw results which honestly surprised me. I didn’t think I could get as good of a work out at home vs at the gym but turns out I could! Finding an online program isn’t your only option at home though! You could also try and find a 30 day challenge (plank, push up, squat, etc) where you start slowly and increase as the month goes on. It doesn’t take a lot of time to do 5 push ups a day and seeing small progress could give you that bump of confidence you need. 

So now you some ideas of WHAT you can do to be active and something that could work for you, but now I need to tell you WHY it is so important that you do.

WHY you should WANT to work out:

  • It is proven to improve your mood and decrease feelings of depression, anxiety and stress. I never experienced anxiety until I had kids and some days when I feel like pulling my hair out because of them, my husband sends me to the gym. Even when I don’t want to or I have dinner to make, I know that just getting out by myself to be active (even a 10 min dog walk) will change my mood. It ‘cures’ me almost every time. 
  • It has also been proven to reduce feelings of fatigue and help with sleep quality. I know it is hard to find the energy to work out as a mom, but it will actually help with your tired feelings in the long run. It sounds hard to believe, but it’s true! 
  • It improves brain health and memory. Working out can help with your performance at work (if you work), increase your grades (if you are in school) and help with “mom brain” (if you have it…. which I’m sure you do, lol). 
  • You are setting a good example for your kids. My hope from being active and incorporating my kids into my activities is that they will learn good habits and want to live a healthy and active life as well. One day, I want to run a race or do a triathlon with my kids. Something that we can turn into a tradition, where we are having fun and being active together. 
  • And last but not least (even though there are a lot more benefits that I didn’t mention)… Weight Loss. I personally don’t think this should be your #1 motivation to working out though. It should be an amazing result but not the purpose. I believe more in focusing on how you FEEL vs how you look. We all have insecurities and if we focus on how we look, we will always find something we don’t like. If my clothes aren’t fitting right, I know I need to up my game. If I’m feeling confident and energetic, I know I can keep doing what I’m doing. 

Ok, WHAT to do ✅, WHY you should do it ✅, now HOW to do it….

How to get your a$$ off the couch:

  • My number 1 tip is to create a routine. Pick 1 day a week to do it and keep it the same from week to week to week. 
    • For me this was that Hot Yoga class on Mondays. I would pack my stuff in the AM, bring it to work and then drive there right after. It was closer to my job anyways so doing the class made for a shorter drive home, with less traffic. Driving there after work became something that I just naturally did, even when I didn’t feel like it.  I did this with my runs, too. I would run 3x a week on the same days; Tuesdays would be on the treadmill with the kids at the gym daycare, Thursdays would be during the week after the kids went to bed and the other would be on Sunday. We all knew what to expect so it was never a shock to our routine.
      • I also loved dropping the kids off at the gym daycare because “going to the gym” (I always said they were going to the gym instead of calling it daycare) was becoming something Yael was getting use to and it was becoming normal and fun for her.  
    • I created a routine with my home workouts before Mexico too. As I mentioned, they would happened once the kids were in bed and I always did them on the same nights (because I had to align them around my tv shows lol). No matter what you do, just talk to your husband or get a babysitter and find ONE HOUR (that’s all it takes) that works for both of you. Keeping consistent to the same time and the same day will help you create a routine and eventually your husband or babysitter will get used to it too. They will know on Mondays they have to cook for the kids because mommy goes to her class (or to the basement for a home work out, or whatever…) and if they make the kids soup and grill cheese, or they have cheerios for dinner, WHO CARES. The kids will probably love that anyways lol. 
  • My second tip is to put your workout clothes on as soon as you can. Even if you plan on working out at home. They will be a constant reminder of what you said you were going to do and it eliminates the excuse of “I won’t have time, by time I get ready”. I do this all the time. 
  • Reward yourself (this is scientifically proven to work!). For me, it was always a glass of wine. Working out at home after the kids went to bed was usually when I was THE MOST tired. But I told myself that if I worked out I could have a glass of wine to wind down. Keep in mind this wasn’t every night or every time, but it did help motivate me on days I didn’t want to. “3 more sets and then you can have wine” often went through my head lol. 
    • Another reward could be buying yourself something. Give yourself a $ amount for every work out and only allow yourself to buy something new once you’ve reached the price of the item. Ex. Each work out is $5, the sweater or pedicure you want is $50, meaning you have to do 10 work outs before you can buy it. Even if your work outs are only 10 min, this will motivate you and get you use to it being a part of your weekly routine. You could also reward yourself with having your favourite smoothie or putting on your favourite sweat pants after. Doing something you love AFTER working out keeps a positive association going and will reinforce your success. 
  • Find a friend who is interested in the same things you are! At the start I had a friend always go with me to my Monday Yoga class. We kept each other accountable. Then once I created the routine I didn’t depend on her as much. I would go with or without her. It became “my” thing instead of “our” thing, but of course if she was there that was always a bonus! Some of my favourite memories of this friend happened in those yoga classes. Lol.
  • REGISTER for a class or sign up for something NON REFUNDABLE. Chances are if you have put money into it before hand, you will do it. Who wants to waste their hard earned money? If I do, it will be on clothes. Not working out!
  • Tell yourself you ONLY have to work out for 20 min. 20 min doesn’t seem like a long time or too big of a commitment so it seems more in your reach. If 20 min is all you end up doing, that’s great! It is better than nothing. But what also might end up happening is you start feeling good and you keep going and end up doing a full work out! Either option is win win. 
  • And whether you are someone who works out already or are brand new my tip is always to switch up your work outs and start back at the basics, where you just focus on your posture and on your form.
    • Anytime I’ve come back to working out after having a baby (I didn’t work out for 3 months after both kids. That was when I started feeling ok and found a groove where it could fit it into our routine), I’d do the most basic exercises with the lightest weights. Do I know that I can do more? Yup! But I don’t want to push myself too hard too fast. I don’t need or want to put that pressure on myself. I’m not competing against anyone so there is no rush to be back where I was. I will get there. Slow and steady.So many times when I’m in a class or at the gym, I see people pushing themselves SO hard but in the meantime they are sacrificing their form. This is not good! Don’t worry about what your friends or the other gym goers think. Honour your body and make sure you are doing your exercises properly. This will pay off more in the long run anyways! Ex. If you and a friend went to the same class one night, and your friend is so sore and you aren’t, chances are it’s because of your form. 

Phew, that was a lot of info! Thanks for sticking with me.

To wrap up I want to say that being active won’t always come easy and you will hit road blocks. But just remember that there is no end in your fitness journey. It shouldn’t end when you hit a certain weight, or look a certain way or get to a certain age. It is something that you should work on forever. Always try to remember WHY you are being active and WHY it is important.

So whether this is you taking the first step in your fitness journey, or the 500th, go get em! You DESERVE this. 

😘 Michelle

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