If having a baby wasn’t enough of a shock to your workout routine, it’s a whole new ballgame trying to find time for exercise once you’re back to work. Gone are your 6AM pre-work runs, fresh from a full night’s sleep. And swapping your heels for runners for an after-work Zumba class? A rare luxury now that you’re a parent.
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But it’s not all doom and gloom. For new back-to-work moms and seasoned veterans alike, these six quick and easy tips can help you incorporate exercise into your already jam-packed day…
1. Work Out With Your Child
I know it sounds like a special form of torture. Cranking out squats to the tune of a baby crying or while answering the endless streams of “What are you doing, Mama?” “Can I help?” and the inevitable, “Mama, I fell down!” from your toddler? It doesn’t exactly sound motivating and is probably the last thing you want to try to do at the end of a long day.
But some workouts go hand-in-hand with kids and can actually feel more like bonding time for the two of you than a chore. Mommy and Me yoga classes or yoga at home are beneficial for both you and your child and can give you a chance to wind down together after a busy day. If you want something more intense, design a circuit of 1-minute interval exercises for yourself. Burpees and mountain climbers are great cardio, while body weight exercises like planks and push ups are easy for children to experiment alongside you. While you’re paying attention to good form, they’ll love trying to mimic your moves. And by keeping your sets of each exercise short, they won’t have a chance to get bored before you’re ready to move to the next one.
2. Follow Your Child’s Workout Plan
Ever notice that kids are always on the move? Just following their lead can be enough to get a cardio burn in and work your muscles. The park or playground are perfect places to test this theory. Parks are full of benches and bars for tricep dips, pull ups, crunches and other easy-to-master moves that you can work on while they play (in between the shouts of “Mom, look at me!” and “Watch this!”).
If you’re not up for a trip to the park, you don’t have to go any further than your backyard for a child-led workout. Strike up a game of soccer or t-ball. If you are feeling creative you can design your own homemade obstacle course with exercise stations to harness their energy and ramp up yours—push ups on a tree, jumping over rocks and high-knee marching or jumping jack stations are just a few examples of moves that will work for both you and your child.
3. Maximize Your Lunch Break at Work
You’re probably already thinking about this one, now it’s time to motivate yourself. If you’ve got an hour for lunch, dedicate half of it to a workout. There’s no need to break a heavy sweat that leaves you feeling uncomfortable for the rest of the day—a brisk walk alone can do wonders for getting your body back into the routine of physical activity. If your lunch break is shorter, a 15-minute break is all it takes to do a few laps around the building and get your heart pumping.
Does your office have a shower? Or better yet, an onsite gym? Even better. Take full advantage with an outdoor run, 30-minute treadmill session, or some time on the weight machines. There’s plenty of time to clean up and report back to your desk. You’ll be amazed at how refreshed you feel for the afternoon when you’ve taken time to sweat out the stressors of the morning.
4. Fly Solo
It might be tempting to motivate yourself with a workout buddy, but it’s harder to coordinate than it seems. Non-parent buddies often run on totally different schedules than parents (and oh, how we envy those schedules!). But what about other moms? Sadly, while you know they’ll always have your back in spirit, trying to get two kids’ schedules to jive is like trying to keep track of matching baby socks.
But it’s okay! Believe it or not, the only person you need to stick to a workout plan is you. You juggle your job, family, emergency cupcakes for a daycare fundraiser and so much more on a daily basis. You owe it to yourself to carve out a half hour of time every day to focus on your goals…and in fact, it might be the most important piece of your day when it comes to keeping you going.
5. Be Accountable
This one might feel like someone’s shaking a finger at you (and you certainly don’t need that with all you do in a day), but it’s actually really important. It takes discipline to carve out time for working out, and there are certainly days where you’re not going to want to do it. So make yourself a plan and stick to it—write it down, share it with your spouse or your friends. Seeing it on paper or knowing you’ve got people in your life who want to see you succeed can do wonders when those nagging thoughts of being too busy or too tired kick in.
Being accountable may also mean cutting out a few of the micro time-stealers you don’t even know exist in your day. Like that extra cup of coffee you indulge in before the kids wake up in the morning or the 15-minutes of Facebook time you sometimes get when they’re blissfully occupied with a favorite game. It might feel like punishment, but if you can eliminate those little fragments of time and dedicate them to blasting through your must-do tasks, you might find yourself with a good chunk of overall time savings that you can use for your workout.
6. Cut Yourself Some Slack
Even though being accountable is important, you’re still only human. And being a working mom is tough. When you put too much pressure on yourself to get back to your pre-baby size—or even just your pre-baby workout routine—chances are, you’re setting yourself up to fail. Your whole life has changed, so it’s okay to change the way you think about exercise.
When you’re busy and stressed, all you want to do is put your feet up and relax, but try to keep in mind that doing anything is always better than doing nothing. There are going to be days where you feel like you can’t take on one more thing, but even just adding an extra run or two up the stairs or a quick walk around the block will definitely count for something. And if a sick kid, messy house, or big assignment at work does manage to derail you altogether on occasion? Forgive yourself. Tomorrow is another day to make the most of the time you can find.