By Brittany Carlson
I’m not going to lie: finding time to work out is hard for me. It’s not just because my boys are 1 and 3.5 and constantly moving from the time they wake up until they shut their eyes at night (although that’s a big part of it). It’s also hard because if I don’t schedule my workouts, the little free time I have gets taken over by other tasks, like cleaning, cooking, or just collapsing on the couch in exhaustion.
But I also know that I need to make time for what’s important for me now, and not wait until it’s convenient.
Mandy Hale, author of The Single Woman, puts it this way: “People make time for the things that are really important to them.”
I like working out because it helps me gain energy, feel strong enough to keep up with my boys, and helps me feel better about myself. I also think making time for workouts sets a good example for my children by showing them that exercise and fitness are important.
Since I had my first child 3.5 years ago, I’ve tried a variety of methods:
- Working out with the kids. When my oldest son was a baby, I would put him in the doorway jumper or play-mat next to me and rotate his positions during my water breaks. When he got a little older, I would give him snacks and toys to play with. The obvious drawbacks to this situation are that this only works when your child is in a good mood. There comes a point when the work involved in placating a child or children during a workout is just too much. Now, I’ll workout with my 3.5-year-old by giving him toy weights (wood blocks) or letting him use a kid version of the equipment I’m using. (I love working out with the Swiss ball while he pretends to do the same with a soft soccer ball).
- Working out while the kids are napping/resting. Lately, I’ve been working out when my one-year-old naps and my 3.5-year-old watches TV. I try to time it so that we don’t watch a lot of TV, so my son is ready to settle down and watch a couple of episodes while I work out. Drawbacks to this include the fact that I can’t use the TV to watch a workout DVD, but I’ve been using a workout app (Trainerize) that allows me to track my workouts, reps and rounds on my phone. Also, there is never a guarantee as to how long my baby will nap. Many days, I have to choose between using this brief, golden period to work out or accomplish other tasks. And working out doesn’t always win.
- Working out just before/after the kids’ bedtime. Lately, I’ve been squeezing in a workout after I put my baby to bed at 7 and before I put my preschooler to bed at 8. Adam* usually watches a TV show right before bed, so this is a good time for me to fit in a 30-minute workout, if I have any energy left in my reserves. And that’s a big if. Sometimes I end up working out after he’s in bed. The nice thing about a post-bedtime workout time is that I know (for the most part) that my kids won’t wake up or suddenly need me during the workout. However, I try to time it so I have some time between finishing my workout and going to bed; otherwise I’m too wound up to sleep.
- My favorite: hiring a babysitter so I can work out during the day. This past year, I hired a personal trainer to come over and train me at home once a week. In order for me to be able to train, I also hired a “mommy’s helper” babysitter during that time to watch the kids while I’m home. This has become one of my favorite parts of the week. The kids are calm because they know I’m nearby, and I don’t have to use naptime as my only time to work out. (This is only once a week, so I do have to figure out how to squeeze in workouts on other days). I ended up paying about $25 per week for my trainer, plus $16 a week for my mommy’s helper, so I spend around $164 per month on this. To me, it’s worth the cost because it’s about what I would pay for a gym membership and trainer, plus a babysitter if I did the same thing outside of my home, and I love getting to work on my fitness at home. That said, I have many friends who love getting out and going to the gym away from home, which is another great option.
It isn’t easy to fit exercise into a daily routine with young children at home, but it isn’t impossible. For me, it means making fitness a priority and working hard to make it happen. Some days, that means exercising with a toddler crawling all over me and wondering if it’s worth the effort. Some days, I’m so tired that I don’t exercise at all. And that’s okay. Over time, though, I feel good about investing in myself and making time for something important to me.
How do you fit exercise into your routine? What does prioritizing fitness look like for you?
Brittany Carlson is a lifelong lover of words and all things chocolate. She is an Army wife and now has two sons, Adam (3) and James (7 months). She has written for several Army community newspapers, including the Stuttgart Citizen (Germany), Fort Leonard Wood Guidon (Missouri) and Fort Belvoir Eagle (Virginia). Brittany holds a Master of Arts in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She and her family live in upstate NY.
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