Sticking with an exercise routine can be a struggle for anyone. But for moms, squeezing in workouts can feel darn near impossible. After all, how are you supposed to find time to work out when you can’t even go to the bathroom undisturbed?
Take Katy Widrick, for example. Before becoming a mom, the TV producer, blogger and group fitness instructor thought she was a master multi-tasker. “I juggled a full-time job with a blog, training for half-marathons and more. Then came my daughter — my perfect, amazing little girl. And boy, did she teach me that everything I thought I knew about managing my time was a joke!” she says.
Between caring for kids, workplace demands, household chores, doctors appointments, school and all the rest, there is often precious little time for moms to sweat. So we asked some of our favorite fitness-minded mom bloggers to share their best tips for making exercise a reality and a priority. (It’s possible. We swear.)
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17 Tricks That Will Make It Easier to Be a Fit Mom
1. First Things First
Work out before the day gets away from you. “If I waited until after work, I’d never get my workout in. There are just too many activities and commitments that come up,” says Angela Bekkala, clinical exercise specialist, mom of twins and creator of Happy Fit Mama. “No one will schedule a meeting at 4:30 a.m. That’s my time to rise and sweat,” she says. Meredith Atwood, author of Triathlon for the Every Woman and blogger at Swim Bike Mom offers another reason to sweat early. “You’re finished before the kids wake up!” she says.
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2. Block It Out
If you have an appointment on your calendar, chances are you show up. That same tactic helps Madeline Glasser, the blogger behind Food, Family and Fitness and a full-time student, find time for her sweat sessions. “If I set aside specific times in my planner, they feel more like an appointment I have to keep,” she says. Each Sunday, Widrick manages her family’s calendar. “I’ll actually block out ‘Katy goes to yoga’ on Thursday nights, so my husband knows it’s his night to pick up our daughter and prepare dinner. I do the same for him,” she says. Schedule it as part of your day and make it non-negotiable.
3. Have a Plan for How You’ll Sweat
Once you’ve penciled in your workout, don’t forget to think about what you’ll actually do once you get to the gym. That’s one strategy Ashley, of Coffee Cake and Cardio, uses to make her 5 a.m. workout a reality. Gia Alvarez of Run Gia Run and mom of twins adds, “It’s one thing to find the motivation to work out. It’s another thing to find the motivation to figure out what to do for a workout. If I know beforehand exactly what I plan to do, I make it happen,” she says.
4. Don’t Worry About Your Outfit
Printed capris or plain black? Tank top or t-shirt? Don’t waste your little free time debating wardrobe choices. To make it to her early morning workout, Ashley lays out her clothes the night before. “Heck, sleep in your workout clothes if that helps!” she advises. Glasser says, “Eliminating that one step of figuring out what to wear helps getting up at 5 a.m. easier.”
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5. Take RUNch
If crack-of-dawn or after-work training sessions aren’t your jam, try taking runch aka “running lunch.” “Since I work full-time, I block out time on my calendar every day from 12 to 1:30 p.m. to workout,” says Nellie Acevedo, creator of Brooklyn Active Mama. Katie McFarland also believes in taking runch. The director of corporate real estate strategy and voice behind Mom’s Little Running Buddies runs in the afternoon at work when possible. “You have half an hour. Do your workout, run, yoga, whatever but you have to create the opportunity and then commit to it,” she says.
6. Include Your Kids
It’s hard to find dedicated “alone time” as a parent — but do you really need it? “I struggled with finding time to work out alone without the kids. I quickly learned that wasn’t always possible,” says Rachel Steffen of Running Rachel, a stay-at-home mom. “I’ve embraced working out with my boys, and they see that Mommy is a strong woman who enjoys working out,” she says. Personal trainer and mom Tamara Grand of FitKnitChick agrees that you should ditch the ‘either-or’ attitude. “Children instinctively love to move. Resistance bands are great for playing ‘hop over’ and Bosu balls make fun mini trampolines,” she says. As your children grow older, workouts can be bonding time. Tracy Morrison of Sellabit Mum has always made a point of introducing her daughters to fitness. “Now my oldest daughter runs with me a few times a week, and we just ran her first 10K together,” she says.
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7. Make the Jungle Gym Your Bootcamp
Who says that you’re too old to play outside? “When I take my kids to the playground, I try to play right along with them. I’ll do triceps dips off a bench, incline push-ups, step ups, and try to do a pull-up on the monkey bars,’ says Bekkala. “Those little bursts of activity do add up quickly!”
8. Run With ‘Em
When her childrens’ increasingly early wake-up times threatened to ruin her early morning jog, Morrison ran with it. “I’d put them in the jogging stroller and take them with me. I’d sing and chat during our run together. Instead of spoiling my run, it just made it a little bit sweeter,” she says. Michele Gonzalez of NYC Running Mama, also relies heavily on a running stroller. “It requires a bit more planning since the kids have to be dressed and I have to pack snacks, books and drinks, but it was a great way to spend time with them while exercising,” she says.
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9. Sweeten the Deal
“I’ve learned to accept the time I do have and make the most of it.”
Sometimes, you have to grease the wheels in order to fit in your workout. “My best ‘trick’ is to bribe my children,” says Steffen. “Whether the bribe is a fruit snack, park play [time], or something else, my boys are more willing to participate with minimal complaining when there is something in it for them,” she says. No shame in that.
10. Be a Workout Ninja
Stealthy workouts become a must when your schedule is overflowing. “You have to sneak around and get your workouts in wherever you can – and sometimes that means in some curious ways,” says Atwood. “But you can do 10 to 15 minutes of strength training while the kids are eating. Find a show they love and get on the treadmill. You are guaranteed at least 20 minutes of uninterrupted time while they are calm and quiet,” she says. Amanda Tress of Fit Parenting and Pregnancy and work-from-home mom says, “If I have a super busy day, I will break up my workout throughout the day and do some high-intensity interval training (HIIT) at home in 10 to 15 minute spurts. Bethany Meyer of I Love Them Most When They’re Sleeping saves her strength training for the evening. “Getting it done in the family room while catching up with my husband and sons satisfies my need to multitask. Often, somebody will join me for planks and bicycle twists!” she says.
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11. Take to the Streets
Being a soccer mom in a minivan is cliché — so ditch the ride. When weather permits, make your commute an active one. Walk your kids to school or bike to work. “I live about a mile and a half from my daughter’s daycare. When the weather is nice, I push the running stroller to and from school,” says Widrick.
12. Audit Your Schedule
“Regular exercisers don’t find time, they ‘take’ time,” says Grand. “Most of us have unused chunks of time in our day. Those 30-minutes we spend on Facebook or Pinterest. Those 10-minute intervals we spend checking email or cleaning. Pay attention to how you’re spending your time and figure out which activities you could ‘take’ time from,” she says. “If possible, lump them all together and use them for a workout. If not, spread your activity throughout the day.”
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13. Music Class for Them…Gym Class for You
Between soccer practice, ballet or music lessons, kids are sometimes as busy as their parents these days. “Use the time that your kids are in classes,” says Alvarez. “Your kids are getting their fitness in, why shouldn’t you?” While her son is at soccer practice, Meyer squeezes in time on the track. “My kids decompress from their school day, get some exercise, and connect with their friends on the playground. And I get to do the same on the track,” she says. Naptime is another prime time to squeeze in a workout. “As soon as my kids go down for a nap, I leave them with Dad and I go out for a run or to the gym. I am back by the time they wake up and everyone is refreshed,” says Acevedo.
14. Don’t Beat Yourself Up
Let’s face it, life happens in the form of sick days, tantrums and gigantic messes that won’t clean themselves. “There are days when I only have time for a few miles instead of the planned 7 or 8 miles on my training plan,” says Gonzalez. “I’ve learned to accept the time I do have and make the most of it. I might run the miles faster than planned or run a few more miles the next day,” she says. If you do miss a day, don’t stress. “Don’t compare yourself to other moms,” says Laura Peifer, Health and Running Coach, and creator of Mommy Run Fast. “Do your best for you.”
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15. Make Any Space a Home Gym
While not making it to the gym or a class is a convenient excuse, the truth is, you don’t need fitness special equipment, or a gym membership, to work out. “If I’m truly stuck at home…I use what I have at my disposal,” says McFarland. “Sometimes it’s nothing more than a chair, but you’d by surprised at the range of exercises you can do with a chair!” For example, we’re pretty sure you can do these 10 booty-toning chair exercises and the “sexy chair” dance workout anywhere (well, almost anywhere).
16. Build a Support Crew
Juggling the responsibilities of family, work and life can feel overwhelming, but you’re not alone. Like-minded parents are a great support system. “Find a buddy or share your workout on Instagram. It really helps to have others hold you accountable,” says Ashley. Fellow parents can also sympathize when life gets messy. “I was up with a fussy, crying toddler at the wee hours of the morning and sure didn’t feel like working out after that!” says Widrick. She posted her experience in a local mom’s Facebook group. “Not only did I get some good tips on how to ease my daughter’s pain, I got a lot of empathetic comments that reminded me that this too shall pass,” she says. And ask for help when you need it. “A few times a week, I hire a babysitter for a few hours so I can accomplish housework and fit in a workout,” says Tress. “I’ve come to realize that it’s OK for me to ask for help. Then, I’m refreshed and able to focus on quality time with my family.”
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17. Make It Worth It
“I’ve come to realize that it’s OK for me to ask for help.”
At the end of the day, spending more time with your family is always a priority. “Working full-time, traveling, blogging and everything else means less time with my kids. One of the mantras I’ve adopted is: Make it worth it,” says McFarland. “If I’m going to choose to run or go to the gym rather than spend time with my kids, I better make sure I’m pushing myself the entire time.” McFarland incorporates a mix of compound moves and HIIT to maximize her time at the gym.
Fitting fitness into a busy schedule is hard and exercise is often the first thing to get scratched from the calendar. But, with a little forethought and planning, it’s doable. “Make your well-being a priority,” says Widrick. “I just don’t allow myself to think of my health as a secondary priority. When Mommy’s happy and healthy, everyone else has a better shot of following suit.”
What tips and tricks do you use to find time to workout?
Originally posted January 2015. Updated January 2017.