Tag Archive | finding time for yourself

Work it out… Finding Time for Mom

The crescent moon yoga pose stretches arms and side abdominals...

The crescent moon yoga pose stretches arms and side abdominals… Image: Licensed under Creative Commons by Jessmyintyre

By Karen Hendricks

One of the most challenging things nearly all moms face: finding time to exercise. Why is it, that we are all so busy, yet struggle to make time to stay fit and healthy?

It’s hard… I get it! I think the main reason most moms don’t exercise often enough is because we put our family first and ourselves last. Nearly two years ago, when I made radical changes to my professional life, jumping “off the merry-go-round” of 60 hour workweeks meant a commitment to becoming healthier in mind, body and spirit, for my health as well as our overall family’s health. Trimming and toning my professional life translated into the need to trim and tone my body as well. Today, I am happy to say that I am 15 lbs lighter and feeling much healthier, thanks to a (mostly) whole foods diet and regular exercise routine. And because I’m taking better care of myself, I’m better equipped to take care of my family.

Here are 5 tips that I slowly introduced into my daily routines that I hope can help you accomplish your fitness goals too:

1. Walk as often as you can. Think about opportunities throughout your daily routine when you can lace up your sneakers and walk. My town now has a walking path so I will often walk into town for errands rather than drive. Also, while my children are at various sports practices, rather than driving home, I will more often stay at the fields and walk during that time period. It’s a great opportunity to show your children that you enjoy exercise as much as they do. Other benefits: you might learn more about your children’s sports of choice, you will definitely save on gas money driving back and forth to practices by staying put, it’s also a chance to enjoy music—bring along your iPod and ear buds, or you might forge new friendships with other moms by walking together.

2. Define your “wheels” in a new way. Biking is another great way to get around! Along the same lines as walking your regular routes (above), think about your routines and see if you can replace even just one car trip per week with your bike. For example, I have a grocery store just a mile from my home. On those occasions when I only need a handful of items (and they can easily fit into a backpack), I bike to the store and “kill two birds with one stone.” And a little extra weight on the back adds to the workout on the bike ride home! Biking with your family is another great option—you’ll be staying in shape and enjoying family time together.

3. Sign up for a class or join a fitness center. If you make this commitment, you’re more likely to follow through… because you’ll have a set schedule to hold you accountable and because you’ll want to “get your money’s worth.” Quite often, gyms and fitness centers offer special introductory rates. A few years ago, when my daughters were both enrolled in dance classes, I took a pilates class that ran simultaneously—that made it easy to fit into our family routine. I absolutely loved it! Pilates focuses on strengthening your core—your abs and back—through quality movement (not quantity) and proper breathing technique. After trying Jazzercise, Zumba and other more aerobic classes, I found that pilates provided a much more peaceful, refreshed frame of mind, as well as the toning and strengthening my body needed. Another benefit to pilates: It builds long, lean muscles which are more flexible, rather than bulky muscles produced by weight-bearing exercises. Once you have taken classes by a licensed Pilates instructor and have learned most of the essential exercises, you can truly continue on your own at home by devising your own routine or by using DVDs. I located a few beginners’ YouTube clips if you’d like to give it a whirl:

Beginner Pilates Workout – an introductory workout especially helpful if you’ve never done pilates before.

How to Get a Pilates Body in 10 Minutes – a short pilates routine to use when you’re tight on time. Yet, it hits every major muscle group! 

Stretchhhhhh.... Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Stretchhhhhh…. Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

4. Yay for yoga! Many people confuse pilates with yoga, and it’s true that there are similarities. Pilates is defined as “physical conditioning involving low-impact exercises and stretches” while yoga is “a series of postures and breathing exercises practice to achieve control of the body and mind; a school of Hindu philosophy with physical and mental disciplines.” (Dictionary.com) If you take yoga classes, you may need to shop around for a yogi that suits your needs as a leader. Several friends of mine have enjoyed the physical aspects but have clashed with instructors’ religious beliefs. I did not have this issue; my pilates teacher would often switch between the two and mix things up during class. She used yoga primarily as a way to focus, center and truly “listen” to your breathing and meditate before and/or after the hard work of the pilates exercises. The benefits of yoga go far beyond exercise—yoga is said to heal aches and pains, boost immunity and keep illness away, improve sleeping habits and much more. Click here to read “38 Ways Yoga Keeps You Fit.”

5. Step it up! This winter’s miserable, cold weather made it nearly impossible to get outdoors to walk or bike on a regular basis. Feeling “cooped up” indoors, I discovered an easy way to fit exercise right into my morning routine without freezing to death: step aerobics. Again, using a multi-tasking approach, I have found that “stepping” is a great way to start the day when combined with the distraction/enrichment of watching the morning news (I’m partial to the Today Show). I started out with simple step routines for about 20 minutes and gradually increased to 30 and 45 minutes. I keep a water bottle close by, and by the end, I feel energized plus I’m prepped on the news of the day.

Steps do not need to be complicated; you can simply step up and down, across and backwards, or side to side across the step. However if you’d like to graduate to more complicated patterns, there are some great ideas on YouTube, or again, take a step aerobics class at your local gym, and then develop your own routines.

Jamie and Tracey of Breathe Repeat

Jamie and Tracey of Breathe Repeat

A few more resources:

Click here for “Breathe Repeat,” a blog website focused on all things yoga. This is a great resource I subscribed to, after taking yoga classes from Tracey and Jamie at a conference in New York. 

Our blogger Jen shares her advice and inspiration to moms who want to train and run a 5K – Click here for her helpful post.

Stretching throughout the day is a wonderful stress reliever! Click here for our blogger Jennifer’s post “Brain Strain: What We Can Upload to Unload.”

Wishing you all the best with your workouts! Feel free to share your tips, advice and ideas below. What works for you? 🙂

“Brain Strain: What We Can Unload to Upload”

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

Stock photo credit of dreamstime.com

Stock photo credit of dreamstime.com

I’m on overload right now … although my son’s first year of preschool has come to an end, I am now shuffling him between summer camps, play dates, and various other community happenings. Since the latter part of this school year I have been coordinating the discernment, enrollment, and admission process for private preschool where my son will attend through 12th grade. Then there’s the organizing and packing for our summer travel and vacation plans…running our household…squeezing in a hair cut for myself…and on and on.

Something’s gotta give and soon – I simply need to unload! However, I have found this isn’t easily done. I can’t let go of any of these responsibilities, and I don’t have time to make any big changes in my life right now or incorporate “strategies” I read in magazines that are supposed to make things simpler and slow things down. So I need easy and fast ways to unload so I can upload with immediate results! How about you? It seems as though many of us speed along through our days with barely enough time to catch our breath. It is becoming more commonplace among my circle of friends for us to text each other to say – I’ll have to catch you later; I’m crazy-busy right now. Then, we don’t get back in touch for another week or two!

Rather than offer you suggestions for letting go of the things you do now that keep you so busy, I have something else in mind. Just check out the few simple ideas below that you can easily incorporate into your daily life and routine. They might just help you catch your breath – before going on to the next thing!

Battle That Brain Strain!

* Begin your day with a few simple stretches and a hot shower. Now, if I can do this with a busy 4 year old who is more than enthusiastic to start the day (and who seems to think he is my morning rooster), so can you. When I hear my son crawl out of bed and use the potty, I take that time to slowly awaken while he pads (okay – stomps) his way to my bedside. I have “trained” him to play next door in our master suite’s living area while I do a few simple, quick stretches – right from my bed! I concentrate on my upper and lower back so I can get mobile enough to find my way into the shower. There, I let the hot water and steam do its work with a few additional standing stretches so I don’t start off my day feeling stiff. It makes a big difference most days to be loosened up before jumping into all I have to accomplish!

* Stretch throughout the day. I call this “Stop, Drop, and Stretch!” As we go through our day, we tend to lose our posture and proper walking stance. We begin to hunch our shoulders forward and round our backs, and continue to stiffen up as the day goes on due to our often busy, stressed lives. Taking just a few moments to loosen your tightened muscles offers a quick break and is surprisingly refreshing after sitting at your computer too long or handling several tasks in a row.

* Take a break during the day to exercise if you can. My life has changed so much since having a child that I find I usually don’t have the time for an elaborate workout routine. However, research coming from the fitness world tells us that exercising in “spurts” can be just as effective at relieving stress; loosing weight; and keeping our bodies strong, minds sound, and emotions in check. And, any form of exercise counts, no matter how brief. Just 10 minutes 3 times a day can still make a difference. You don’t even need a structured or regimented exercise program. A simple stroll around your neighborhood or backyard, or a brief walk on your treadmill will do the trick!

* Eat well and drink plenty of water. I will spare a lecture on the health benefits of this one – especially since I find it difficult to do! However, it is so much better for our bodies and minds to eat nutritious foods and stay hydrated. And, a healthy body is a far happier and less stressed body!

* Set specific times to check email and return telephone calls. So many aspects of technology really can make things easier and us more productive when applied well to our lives. It is important to set boundaries for how you want to handle your technological devices before you begin using them for professional or personal use. Adhere to the times you set during the day to use those devices for checking email, voice or text messages, and returning telephone calls. It doesn’t take long for people to figure out that you are “glued” to your iphone, or to learn what times of day (or night!) you are likely “online.” Set precedence up front that your technological devices are turned off and put away during dinner, family time, and before bedtime. Keep them out of your bedroom or anywhere else that is designated for sleeping or resting. Many studies suggest that having electronics on continuously disrupts sleep patterns, and some experts recommend you dim lamps and avoid checking your e-mail or watching late-night TV at least an hour before bedtime.

Decide when you will plug-in and when you will unplug!

Decide when you will plug-in and when you will unplug!

* Choose not to answer the telephone sometimes. The “I’m on my deathbed” call is likely not the one coming in.

* Say ‘no’ sometimes. The world will not come to an end if you decline to lead a project for your child’s scout troop, make your homemade chili for the church cook-off fundraiser, serve as president of your home association, or anything else. Change the thought pattern that says the project, event, or meeting will fall apart without you! This is not to say that you don’t make valuable and worthy contributions to your workplace, home life, church, and community. It’s just that the show will go on. Choose your activities carefully and don’t allow them to overwhelm your life.

* Avoid stressful situations and toxic people as much as possible. These two things can be a real drain on your life. Instead, embrace positive energy and uplifting people! Set your emotional boundaries and stick with them.

* Make excuses. Look for periods throughout the day when you can snatch a moment of quiet time for yourself. Even if it means telling your family you simply must go to the laundry room for awhile to catch up. There’s your solitude and an item crossed off your to-do list in one!

* Take “me time” any way you can claim it. Whether you splurge on a spa service or hide in your closet to finish the next chapter in your book, time for you is important! You can’t help your colleagues, family, or community if you don’t take care of yourself first.

One summer I used the excuse that our deck could use a few pretty flowers and fresh potted plants to snatch some quiet gardening time to myself.

One summer I used the excuse that our deck could use a few pretty flowers and freshly potted plants to snatch some quiet gardening time to myself.

Do you have another idea to help us regain our sanity? Let us know what you do to unload!