In today’s post, I’m sharing my tips on how to find time to exercise as a mom.
Carving out time to workout can be tricky–for anyone! We live in an incredibly busy time, with the demands of society, work, and our personal lives leaving us minimal time to dedicate to ourselves and our health.
Add a baby (or multiple babies) to that equation, and it can seem impossible to find the time to exercise. Between sleepless nights, early mornings, and all of the running around in between, it can feel overwhelming to think of adding something else into the mix.
I remember having Charlotte at home with me when she was a newborn. Having just quit my job, moved across the state, and given birth to my first baby all within a month’s time, I felt like I was underwater, nearly resigned to the idea that I’d never workout again. Eventually, we found our groove, and I managed to settle into a routine that gave me some time each morning to run out to the garage and get a quick workout in.
Without going too far into a sermon about self care, I’ll say this: you can’t pour from an empty cup. (I’m not sure who said that first but it always stuck with me).
As moms, it is so, so important that we prioritize ourselves in some capacity; if we don’t, our loved ones will suffer. And I say this not to add even more to the “mom guilt” plate but more so as an encouragement. You deserve to invest in yourself, and you will be an even better, more patient mom for it.
In my short career as a mom thus far, I’ve found that finding time to exercise–above anything else–is the most efficient and beneficial form of self care. Getting out of my head and into my body centers me in a way that no mani/pedi or face mask ever could. Taking even 20 minutes to work up a sweat improves my mood and dramatically alters the course of the day, every time, without fail.
I’m passionate about this subject, clearly, so I thought it would be fun to share some tips on finding time to workout as a mom.
I tried to include a wide range of ideas because I know everyone’s situation is different. I’m hoping that there will be at least a little something for everyone, though, maybe even just a tiny tip that you can adjust to work for your schedule and family’s circumstances.
Note: I understand that it’s easier for stay-at-home moms to implement some of these tips, as our schedules are by nature more flexible than those who work 9-5 jobs on top of mothering. And that’s not to say that working moms can’t do these–I’m just explaining that if it seems like these are all geared towards stay-at-home moms, it’s because I am one and that’s what I know how to do.
I’m starting with two rules to keep in mind.
Something strange happens when we become moms: we take on the role of a martyr almost overnight.
Right off the bat, it feels natural to deny ourselves the most basic of needs. It’s silly because we do this even when we know logically that we will be better moms (and humans!) if we took care of ourselves first.
“I don’t have time to shower, brush my teeth, or heat up my coffee–much less exercise!”
What I’ve learned, though, is that this is the easy way out.
Making myself a martyr, while usually well-intentioned, can become an easy way to obtain affirmation from those around me. If I’m honest, I think I sometimes get attached to that part of my identity, the “she’d do anything for her family” persona.
The braver thing to do is to be upfront about what I need, about the things that will set me up for success as a mom. It’s harder to make a conscious choice to “put my own oxygen mask on,” so to speak.
The truth is I’m not going to win any awards for never having gone to the bathroom alone, you know?
It’s taken me a few years to get into the rhythm of asking for what I need and then acting on it.
I think I am just now getting to a place where I don’t feel guilty about taking time for myself or doing things that will, in the end, allow me to do my job in a more wholehearted, peaceful way.
Listen, we aren’t trying to be body builders here. Or, maybe you are, and if that’s the case, I’m going to politely send you elsewhere for tips.
Your workouts don’t need to be crazy long or intense. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in motherhood is that you can fit a lot more in than you think you can–and this applies to workouts and life in general! Mothers are superheroes, so of course we can get it done in 15.
Anyway, the point is: don’t stress if you can only set aside 15-20 minutes each day. Those will be the most impactful minutes of your day. Any workout is better than no workout, trust me!
Okay, let’s get on with the tips:
I’m fortunate in that Tyler is also super into working out. Because we both prioritize fitness, it’s easy to work together to coordinate our morning workouts. Usually, he makes the girls breakfast and feeds them while I workout, and then we’ll switch and I’ll get them dressed and clean up the kitchen. This teamwork keeps us both on track, and most days we can wrap everything up by the time he starts his work day around 8:30-9am.
The takeaway here is to try to get your partner on board. It’s kind of the same idea as a workout buddy making sure you show up to the gym. In this case, you two would switch off caring for your baby/babies will the other gets their workout in.
If you’re both on the same page about exercising, it’s much easier to work together to find the time.
In that same vein, you might find another stay-at-home mom and coordinate your workouts while switching off watching the kids. This is a great “two birds” moment (my favorite kind of moment, as we know): your kids enjoy playing with another kid while you and your friend each get a bit of time to exercise.
My advice would be to do this at one of your houses as opposed to a park–I feel like putting someone else in charge of my kids never works if I am still within eyesight. Better to leave them in a different room (or the backyard, or whatever) with their playmates and the other mom while you focus on your workout.
Having the “plan” on the calendar is great for accountability too.
One of the best decisions we made last year was joining our local YMCA. The monthly fee is shockingly affordable: just $90 a month for the entire family to have full access to the gym, pool, sauna, and splashpad. And we decided to pay a $20 monthly child watch fee on top of that, so now we can drop the girls at “kids’ club” for up to 90 minutes a day (yes, that’s $20 for the whole month of child watch!). It’s miraculously convenient.
The girls LOVE kid’s club: they have all the best toys and craft supplies, and the girls have even grown attached to a few of the regular teachers there. Emmie took some warming up (that’s putting it lightly), but we just kept trying a few times a week. After a month or two, she was fully on board. I think child watch really helped prepare her for preschool, so that was a huge advantage too.
Even if you don’t have a YMCA near you, there are plenty of gyms that offer child watch (it’s worth it to look at studios too–the Bar Method I worked at in the Bay Area offered child watch for all of their morning classes!).
I like this method because it makes the whole ordeal a big event (and stay-at-home moms everywhere know how important it is to have PLANS). It’s also a great way for your kids/babies to go play with new toys, hang out with other kids, and have a chance to build some resilience in being away from you for a little while.
Don’t underestimate the power of a good old fashioned stroller walk. Bonus points if you can hit some hills on your way. When Charlotte was a baby, I took her up this massive hill in our neighborhood every single morning basically until Emmie was born. And then once Emmie’s sleep schedule was more consistent, I started doing the same thing during Emmie’s first nap: Tyler would be working at home while she slept, and Char and I would set out for a nice long walk to the park.
Someone told me once that long walks are great for babies and small kids because it gives them a chance to learn how to just *chill* and enjoy some fresh air. It’s a great way to pass the time and get everyone out in nature.
It might be worth it to invest in a good jogging stroller for this, but I’ve been rocking the Uppababy Vista since Char was born and it works just fine.
We’ve oscillated a lot on screen time with the girls over the years, and I think every kid is different in terms of how screen time should be handled. For example, Emmie could take it or leave it–she loves to watch but doesn’t really care when we turn it off. Charlotte, on the other hand, becomes addicted to shows very easily. We have to be very mindful of how much we let her watch.
That being said, if you are okay with letting your kid watch a little bit each day, consider using your precious screen time as your workout time. Set your kid up with an iPad in a cozy corner of the garage or make a workout station for yourself behind the couch. Set expectations with your child that they are allowed to watch for 30 minutes while you exercise. I’m certainly not above this tactic and think it’s a great way to let your child chill out for a little bit while you lift some weights.
This is kind of genius because your child will inevitably ask for the show each day and you can kind of get into a routine that you both look forward to.
It took me a LONG time to get used to the morning workout lifestyle (the mere mention of a 7am run used to nauseate me), but now I’ll never go back.
I heard recently that if you work out consistently at the same time each day, your body adapts and begins to produce a bit of “anticipatory adrenaline” right before your usual workout time. This makes total sense because I have found working out first thing in the morning to be MUCH easier this last year. Now, I even look forward to it. If I have to miss a morning because of a scheduling conflict, I feel out of sorts the rest of the day.
Let’s face it: chasing after a toddler or caring for a baby (or both!) is exhausting. Personally, the chances of me working out in the afternoon or evening after a long day with the kids are slim to none, so I just forced myself to rework my mindset and schedule to allow for morning workouts. Get it over with and move on, you know? Your hormones and energy levels will thank you.
I used to do this when Charlotte was a baby. During her first wake window, I’d let her play and entertain herself while I cleaned the kitchen and got dressed for my workout. I’d get everything completely ready while she was playing. Then, I’d lay her down for her nap and SPRINT out to the garage to start my workout within 2 minutes of her falling asleep.
The key here is to just make the plan and stick to it. Even if you don’t have time to pick up the kitchen, make the bed, etc, the important thing is to just start working out the SECOND that baby’s eyes close.
This little routine helped me so much, and eventually it felt natural to use that first nap as my time for exercise each day. I’d use any spare time after my workout to get ready for the day, rest, and work on my computer until she woke up. Sometimes, I’d only have a few minutes to spare, but it was always worth it.
Now, if none of the above ideas will work for whatever reason–maybe your baby has major separation issues (been there) or you have to work during naptime or you don’t have anyone to help during the day–then you know what they say: if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Although in this case, the baby is going to be joining US.
Get your kiddo involved! Order some toy weights or something for them to play with and feel like they are part of it too, and have fun with it. Put on some fun music or a workout video and just try to make the most of it. This is a great way to model an active lifestyle too.
If you’re a brand new mom (first of all, congrats!!!), I recommend starting super slow–for example, maybe focus on light resistance training just 2 times a week at first. And, of course, discuss all of this with a doctor before you jump in.
There are tons of great workout programs out there that center around postnatal fitness. These programs focus on postpartum exercises that help rebuild your abdominal muscles and strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. Many new moms deal with ab separation (diastasis recti) which can affect women who have had either a c-section or a vaginal delivery. And carrying and birthing a child can take a toll on the pelvic floor (something that I didn’t even know existed until I carried and birthed a child, lol).
I LOVE The Bar Method for both pre and postnatal fitness. The Bar Method focuses heavily on form and alignment which is crucial when you are pregnant or recovering from birth.
Pilates is amazing too. If you can get to an in-person class at least a few times to really get the form right, this can make an enormous difference in building those important connections deep in your core.
This is a team effort, so I went ahead and asked for recommendations on Instagram for postpartum programs that people have loved.
Here are some ideas that I received:
At the end of the day, this is about longevity, our energy levels, and showing up each day for our kids in a wholehearted, centered way. Prioritizing fitness matters for reasons FAR beyond aesthetics. Taking time to move my body each day makes me a better mom and person.
Moms, how do you find time to workout? Would LOVE to hear any and all tips and tricks for maintaining an active lifestyle in the comments section!
It’s a pre-weekend pick me up: just a little note with links to the latest blog posts, what I’m reading lately, and products I’m obsessed with. Think of it as a friend dropping off a surprise latte in the morning--you know?