Whether you are a brand-new parent, have toddlers and preschoolers, or are flying through carpools as the parent of a school-aged brood, chances are you have had the same dilemma many of us experience. You need a good sweat session or a calming yoga practice, yet have no time, no childcare, and/or no motivation. We all know exercise has physical and mental benefits that can make us better parents, partners, and co-workers; so, let’s figure out how to get that movement in a few times per week!
FIRST: Lose the “All-or-Nothing” Mentality.
Pre-children, I regularly attended Jazzercise or step aerobics classes. After my first was born, I did not have access to a class with childcare. (It wouldn’t have fit it into my schedule, anyway.) Instead of doing nothing, I chose to take walks regularly when my husband was able to watch the little one. I wasn’t raising my heart rate quite as high as before, but those brisk walks kept my legs strong and my lungs stronger. Check out the benefits of walking, especially if you are a hard-core cardio fiend and you don’t think “just a walk” can do you any good. If the choice is no exercise versus a 30-minute walk, the benefit is clear!
NEXT: Fit It In WHEN You Can.
When my children were babies, I would fit in a workout tape (that dates me!) during nap time or go for a walk when my husband returned from work. Nowadays, there are unlimited options for exercise via YouTube, home gym options, and numerous apps to get you moving. Have your partner watch the kids for 30 minutes or try to exercise before the kids wake or after bedtime. I have never been a morning person so I’ve had to find ways to fit in my workout after work or during nap time—and that’s okay! Even if you are wiped out after a long day, you will never regret taking time to rejuvenate before winding down for the evening. Just take the first step!
With school-aged kids, you can usually find a spot for a walk/jog near their activities and get your workout in while they practice. I used to walk at Star Lake in Hoover while my daughter was at gymnastics nearby. I have a friend who walked or ran on the Lakeshore Trail or in the lovely Bluff Park neighborhood while her sons rehearsed with a local choir. Are your kids practicing baseball, softball, or soccer? Walk the perimeter of the field, the parking lot, or stroll around a nearby neighborhood. Pop in some earbuds, enjoy an audiobook or podcast, and boom—you have done something good for yourself physically AND mentally!
And “gym rats”, rejoice! No matter your child’s age, many Birmingham-area facilities have child-care available while you exercise. If you love going to the gym or to group classes, this is a helpful way to get in that movement! Check out The Greater Birmingham YMCA! They have a large variety of classes, equipment galore, and childcare for members, as does the Levite Jewish Community Center on Montclair Road.
Above All, Remember Your WHY
While we often associate exercise and the need to move with weight-loss goals, the benefits are numerous. They go above and beyond losing weight. Movement is beneficial at every age and for every person, not just those trying to drop a few pounds. Replace “I need to get this holiday weight off,” with “I am only one workout away from a better mood.” Reframe your thinking of exercise as something you do for weight loss to something you do for overall well-being. Moving your body is a gift that benefits you mentally, physically AND for the long haul. It’s not a punishment for enjoying your food.
The next time you hesitate to get moving, remember that any exercise is good exercise, you can fit in with some creativity/cooperation, and you are worth the effort!