If you’re a busy parent who can’t stick to regular exercise, I’ve found the perfect six step plan that will make exercise a natural part of your life.
My children are now four and six, so if yours are younger, keep in mind that some of these steps are easier to apply once your baby is off the boob, or when you can have someone look after them for an hour or so.
#1. Work out your main motivating factor
This is not about losing weight. If you think you need to exercise to lose weight, I want you to check out Taryn Brumfitt and her work on body positivity. Using weight loss as a motivator might work for some people, but it doesn’t work for me. It reeks of ‘not-good-enough’. When I’m busy and tired, that’s not the encouragement I need.
The encouragement I need is: how is it going to make me feel? Immediately.
How do you want to feel? Maybe you want to feel energised, and you get that from going to a spin class at the gym. You might want to feel light and carefree – and get that from shaking your butt at a Zumba class.
My motivating factor is peace. There’s not a lot of calm and quiet with small children in the house. The desire for pockets of peace means I love going to yoga, or ducking out for a swim.
Listen to Taryn Brumfitt talk about embracing your body on Kinderling Conversation:
#2. Make sure it’s something you enjoy
This is closely tied to the first point, but it’s slightly different.
Exercise can be painful. You can be hovering in plank, hating on your instructor like they’re your old schoolyard bully. Running might make you feel like every part of your body is about to fall off and roll down the street.
None of that is fun.
Choose something that makes you move your body and enjoy that movement while it’s happening.
Yoga feels like one lovely long big stretch to me. Swimming in the ocean wakes me up on every level. Running can release incredible endorphins, and dancing just feels great all over.
Find something you actually love doing, and you won’t thump the snooze button a thousand times when your alarm goes off in the morning.
#3. Consider the time it takes to do it
Parents are time-poor. Don’t choose something that takes three hours out of your day.
There are plenty of options that mean you can duck out for an hour and a half, and be home before the kids know you’ve even left the building.
In order to do it regularly, it needs to be achievable.
#4. Consider the financial cost
'Achievable' also comes down to budget. Signing up to a yearly membership may be just too much for your early-parenting-years budget to handle. Buying a visitor’s pass (that doesn’t run out in three months’ time) may be more flexible and affordable.
You also might find that it’s cost effective to only do it once a week. Try not to wish yourself back to the ‘good old days’ when you could pop out to exercise twice a week. Doing it once a week, with some less-expensive (but still enjoyable) options, can also work.
#5. Do it with a friend
Back to that time-poor parenting thing. Catching up with friends is as enriching for the soul and mind as exercise is for the body. Combining the two not only means you look forward to your exercise time, but you get some great connection time with buddies you wouldn’t otherwise see.
Knowing you’re meeting up with a friend at 6am to go for a walk also means there’s no retreat under the covers, and you’re much more likely to stick with it.
#6. Prioritise yourself
Finally, you need to put yourself first. There is plenty of evidence that exercise will make you happier, healthier and here for your kids for longer. If you are always putting the needs of your children and partner first, you will never get out the door.
It’s not a lot of time that you’re taking for yourself, but it will make the world of difference.
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