From Mum-Bod To Fit-Bod

No time to exercise? You’re a busy mum?

I get it; I really do. I remember when each of my girls were young and I felt pulled in every direction, all of the time. But honestly, now that they’re older, nothing much has changed. Life is still as busy as ever; it’s the same challenge, different focus!

Maybe you’ve been told this before (and found it condescending), but we all have the same number of hours in our days. To some degree – more or less – we mostly get to choose how we spend those hours. People are generally best at what they do more of, the implication being that whatever matters most will likely make it’s way to the top of their priority list. That mum you know, who looks ridiculously fit and healthy, doesn’t necessarily have more time on her hands; she may just have a priority list that looks very different to yours.

Part of the problem too, is that mums feel pressured to conform. If they struggle to fit into whatever “mum box” they believe is most socially acceptable, they no longer feel worthy or valued. That’s rubbish though! Whoever you are and choose to be, is of value, and perfectly okay!

Heck, I’m grossly inept as an efficient and organized house-keeper, or disciplinarian, or home-work assistant, and my girls would probably agree. In fact, on my last birthday they gave me a card that said “BE WILD & FREE” and inside was a hand-written message that said, “Not a traditional card, but that’s because you are wild and free!” They accept that I’ve never really been a conventional/logical/practical kind of mum, but they love me just the same.

They accept too that exercise has always mattered to me, and is an integral part of my life (I hope in turn that as they get older it will matter equally as much to them). When they were much younger, keeping fit was only possible via spontaneous and brief, but regular bouts of movement; ten minutes here, ten minutes there, basically wherever, whenever, and however. If I had cleaning to do, I would do it vigorously; if the morning brought clear skies, the jogging stroller was put to use; or if I had to choose between a quick calisthenics workout versus folding the laundry, I’d opt for the former (or do both simultaneously).

As my girls moved through different ages and stages of their lives, and required less hands-on care, I took advantage of their extra-curricular activities. I’d drive them to sports practices and while waiting I’d go run with the dog, instead of engaging in idle chatter with other mums. Or, as a military spouse, frequently encouraged to participate in group-bonding activities, I often chose not to. That meant that I missed out on developing relationships with other mums, but it was more important to me to nurture my own personal needs while participating in ways that at minimum, supported my girls.

In most “mum” situations, I believe it’s a matter of shifting mindset. I’ve listened to many mothers of young kids tell me that it’s impossible to workout, because a workout to them meant having to start and finish a specific exercise routine without interruption. But it doesn’t have to be all or nothing, and once you grasp the idea that anything done counts, you’ll soon get creative and good at fitting in lots of little “anythings!”

Being a mum doesn’t mean you can’t look after you! Granted, it’s not a time when you can expect to train optimally and be in the best shape of your life, but there’s no reason to sabotage your health and fitness goals by giving up altogether. My exercise routine was average at best (during my girls’ younger years), but it was enough to maintain a baseline level of health and fitness, and keep the “happy hormones” activated. That in itself, as any mother well knows, should be motivation enough to make time for exercise!

 

Exercise Tips For Mothers With Young Kids

This morning I ran past a daycare centre and felt bad for a young mum who struggled to carry her crying baby in one arm, and an overloaded day-bag in the other; she looked tired and defeated. I remember those days well, and not too fondly either. Exhaustion was something I hated but got used to, and frustration was frequently experienced but more so when exercise couldn’t find its way into my daily schedule.

These days, with my kids both grown, I have the luxury of exercising with fewer restraints. But thinking back to those years, I do remember working with my limitations and finding ways to at least maintain a reasonable level of fitness. If a mother of young kids were to ask me how they could do the same, these would be my key tips:

  • Invest in a running stroller if you enjoy running!
  • Don’t feel that your workout must be completed in one consecutive session; if exercising daily means 3 lots of 10-minute workouts spread throughout the day, then take it! Some movement is always better than no movement.
  • Opt for HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workouts. Simply put, that means working at an all-out effort in short bursts, with equally short active-recovery periods in between. You’ll keep your heart rate elevated and burn more fat in less time.
  • Don’t focus on just cardio; strength/resistance training is key to promoting fat loss. An increase in lean muscle mass will assist your body in burning fat much more efficiently. You don’t need to go to a gym to do resistance training; all you need is a couple of light dumbbells and/or a resistance band, or even just your own bodyweight. There are plenty of at-home workouts available online that are under 30 minutes and require minimal equipment.

The last, and most important thing I would say, is that there is no greater feeling than the love a mother has for her children. So while lack of time and exercise might be a major source of frustration, realize that there is a time and season for everything and these years will pass so quickly that you’ll wish you could take them back.

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