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Monday, March 30, 2009

How to fit it all in

Someone asked me recently, "as a busy mom who works outside the home, how do you fit it all in?" Meaning, how do I find time to exercise, of course! So I thought I'd devote a blog post to this topic.

There's a little motto I like that relates to this topic. It's, "If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it." The point is that busy people use time efficiently because they have no other choice! So if you're a busy person, like I am, take heart! You can find time for your workouts because you know that time is precious, and you can't waste it on tasks that don't help you with your goals.

So now back to me. What does a typical day look like...

Well, I'm generally up at 6:30 am, which is about 30 minutes after my son comes into my room and cuddles with me. I love starting my day with hugs and cuddles from my kids. And, I'm not a morning person, so it certainly helps me wake up with a smile.

I spend the next 90 minutes getting myself and my son ready (my husband is generally in charge of our daughter), packing lunches, and doing any last minute arrangements for the day.

Then it's off to work! I'm at work from 9:00am until 5:30pm, and often just take a quick break at my desk for lunch. Since I pack my lunch, I don't have to waste time going to the cafeteria every day, which is a huge time suck!

So after work, I rush home to relieve the babysitter at 6:00pm. She prepares dinner for the kids, and they are usually sitting down to eat when I walk in the door. I run upstairs and change into workout clothes before she leaves. Then, while the kids eat, I figure out what my husband and I will be eating and start making our dinner.

Then I have about 90 minutes to play with the kids and eat before it's time to start getting the kids ready for bed. They're tucked in at 8:30pm, and if I haven't eaten dinner yet, that's when I do so.

By 9:00pm, I'm ready for my workout. If it's Tuesday or Thursday, I run off to the gym (mine is open 24 hrs during the work week), and spend about 45 minutes doing weights, 10-20 minutes doing HIIT (high intensity interval training), and about 10 minutes before or after working on new moves or chatting with the "regulars." If I'm efficient, I can get home, drink 8oz of chocolate milk, and get to bed by 11:00pm. I often choose to stay up later, because I'm a night owl, but I reasonably could be in bed by then.

On Monday and Wednesday, I do 20 - 40 minutes of light exercise, often a yoga video from ExerciseTV. I just try to do this before I sit down to watch my favorite TV shows (which I record on the DVR for convenience).

Now that's what -I- do. Your mileage may vary! But I do recommend a few things that may help:

1) Know yourself. If you are a morning person, get up early and get your workout in then. Leave the kids (if you have them) to your spouse and take that time for YOU. If you're a night person, follow what I do. If you can work out over lunch, schedule it on your calendar and stick to it.

2) Work out smart! If you're busy, you can't waste hours in the gym. Focusing on low rep, high weight exercises with little rest, and no more than 20 minutes of cardio, in the form of HIIT, should give you an effective workout.

3) If you can work out at home - DO! Cutting out the time spent driving to and from a gym may help you find the time to exercise.

4) Work out alone. Yes, having a workout buddy is great for motivation, but the workout can start become more about hanging out and catching up than exercising. If you already have a workout buddy, make an agreement with them that your exercise time is not social time.

5) Dress the part. If it's your night to work out, put on your workout clothes as early as possible, including your shoes. You will be more likely to exercise.

6) Don't be afraid to ask your spouse to step in with the kids so you can work out. You will be a better role model for your children if you are active, fit, and happy. So the time away from them is important, if it helps you with these goals.

7) Don't sit down on the couch or at the computer until you've gotten your workout in! It's too easy to waste time in front of the TV or computer (oh boy don't I know it), and before you know it you'll be ready for bed and it will be too late to work out.

8) Know your limits. If you're like me, you have a tendency to say "yes" too often, and take on many new responsibilities. So recognize when your volunteering needs to be scaled back in recognition of your priorities, which should include your health!

So now it's your turn! What are your challenges with fitting in exercise, and how do you make it work? What tips have helped you the most?


  1. Thanks Liz. I can see one key is having your kids already fed. I may need to let go of the family-dinner fantasy for a while. It's not working that way now, anyway. So maybe it's something for another time in our life, down the road.

    I am still curious about the timing of dinner--if you're eating at 8, 8:30, does it bother you to start working out at 9?

  2. Hey there Amy! When I was trying to have family dinners, I found my kids were going nuts from 6-7 because they were starving! Then all that time I spent making a nice family dinner was time I wasn't spending with them.

    It was easier to feed them the quick and easy foods they like to eat nice and early, and then worry about DH and me separately. On the weekends, we still try to eat dinner as a family, and that works out a bit better.

    As for the time, no it doesn't bother me to eat at 8:00 or 8:30 and then workout right afterwards, especially since I warm up and start with weights, so by the time I get to HIIT, it's been about 45-50 minutes since I ate at least. But it does bother DH, so on the nights he works out, he throws his dinner in the fridge and eats it right after his workout. Since his body is burning calories from his workout it doesn't seem to be a problem to eat so late.

    Hope that helps, and thanks again for the question!