5 Steps to Better Fitness for Stay at Home Moms
One of the most frustrating things about our job is the stereotype of simply being “home all day.” Modern media gives the impression that we have idle hours of free time to work out and find our passions and live our dreams and be the best moms ever.
We are weary, not just physically, but mentally, too, and emotionally. Motherhood is amazing, but it’s not simple. It is a full time, 24-hour job that drains us in ways we never would have predicted before kids.
Related: 20 Fit Moms That Actually Lift
To add insult to injury, most of the fitness advice for stay-at-home moms comes in shallow, Cosmo-style fluff, like “Blast your booty!” and “Buy sexy new workout gear!” What a load of crap.
There is no bootie blast, cropped legging or Pinterest detox smoothie recipe that can energize you or give you the body you want. Only solid, resistance-training exercise and proper fuel through a balanced diet can do that.
The truth is, to be a healthier mom, you need to make fitness an actual priority, not some far-off luxury for a mom with spare time. There is no secret fix that makes your entire life fall into place.
Success comes when you are able to consistent and that cannot happen until you take care of yourself and get rid of the endless distractions. Then, you must make the most of the precious time you do uncover.
5 Steps to Better Fitness
Step #1 – Automate, Delegate, Let Go
Without a doubt, the biggest obstacle to our success is the pressure to be everything for everyone, all the time. We heap so much stress onto our own backs trying to be the healthy chef, the organic housekeeper, the contingency planner, the thrifty shopper, the chauffer, the patient nurturer, and the still-sexy wife. Parenting culture and modern society implies not only are all of these supermom extremes possible, but they are required.
This is not based in reality. Look, there are only 24 hours in a day. What is an hour better spent, a room that gets cleaned only to be messed up again ten minutes later or a good workout that improves your health, mood and life for long after you finish? You must start looking at your time as valuable. Don’t make fitness an extra thing you fit in if you have time – make it the number one thing you do and something else, like cleaning out that closet, extra credit.
You don’t have to cook every day. In fact, you don’t have to cook much at all. Meal prepping is a great way to have food always at the ready. You can prep meals for yourself, your kids, or the whole family. I’m at the point now, where I only cook on the weekends.
The rest of the week, I waste no time scuttling around in the kitchen, except for breakfasts. This clears up so many hours – and so many dishes. If you can’t cook, consider a meal prep service. The business is booming lately, with many healthy options to choose from.
Stop trying to do it all. Don’t be afraid to delegate or hire help. Automate your bills, organize a carpool share with other moms, hire a tutor, or ask your child’s teacher for free resources to help your kid with those newfangled math problems that make us all feel like dummies. Stop trying to clean the kids’ bedrooms. In fact, give them their own chores – it’s good for them! And most of all, limit the volunteer work to manageable increments. It is okay to say no.
Step #2 – Get Better Sleep
Confession: I used to be afraid to sleep. Going to sleep earlier meant the sooner I’d be waking up and going through the motions of dirty dishes, toys, and spilled juice all over again the following day. I used to subconsciously avoid it, by staying up to watch “just one more episode” or scrolling through my social media feeds hoping someone posted something interesting enough to keep me up, even if it was only for ten more minutes. I’d try anything to make it seem like I had more time until the next morning.
But then I realized that tomorrow morning always comes at the same time, no matter how late I stayed up to fight it. And I had two choices: Do I get out of bed feeling good or slam the snooze button over and over until I have barely enough time to get kids off to school? Do I want to feel human after one cup of coffee or still struggling after two pots?
You have got to get quality sleep.
One way to do that is to send the kids’ to their bedroom an hour earlier. They don’t have to go to sleep, but make it a rule to for them to be in their pajamas and in bed before “lights out.” Quiet activities like reading and drawing are fine, but screens and games are not allowed. This is good for kids and for parents, who can use that time to decompress.
Get all of the tablets, phones and devices out of arm’s reach. Put your devices on a table across the room, and schedule quiet hours on the phones. Not only are all those lights and dings not conducive to our natural sleep cycles, but they only serve to drag us back into a loop of scrolling through the same statuses from earlier, or send us on a click train that ends at 2 AM on some obscure wood whittling tutorial filmed in the backwoods of Russia. Do you really need to watch that kitten in mittens, or do you need to be on point for leg day tomorrow?
I’m not going to lie, these changes will be hard for a week or so. But once the kids get with the program and you start ignoring those distractions, you will sleep a lot better and your mornings (and workouts) will improve by leaps and bounds.
Step #3 – See Your Doctor
When your kids are inexplicably ill or having a chronic issue, what do you do? You take them in to the doctor and get the problem checked out. Why don’t we do this when we have chronic issues and symptoms that impair our day to day lives? Ladies, we have to stop putting ourselves on the backburner of things to do.
If you have cleared stressful distractions and are getting to bed on time, but still don’t feel well most days, the problem might go beyond typical mommy blues. Thyroid problems aren’t uncommon among women as well as mild cases of anemia and vitamin deficiencies brought on by improper dieting. These can be causing symptoms of feeling exhausted when you shouldn’t be.
The way to rule out an underlying medical condition is to see your doctor. Get a full blood work up and a pap smear. Tell your doctor about migraines, digestion problems, new moles, or anything else you may be concerned about. Discuss options for birth control or becoming pregnant. Make sure your vaccinations and screenings are up to date. In other words, make sure you have no hidden enemies keeping you from your goals!
Step #4 – Weights Before Cardio
Once you have laid the groundwork to prioritize your fitness, you want to make the most out of your time. Women are too often steered towards things like yoga and treadmill jogging, with promises of a “lean, toned body” and a tight butt. While stretching and light calisthenics help you stay flexible and keep you moving, they take hours to do and do not provide the results most women are hoping for.
Worse yet are the insanely low-calorie plans and arbitrary diet restrictions targeted at women. If you are eating low calories, you are priming your metabolism to be too efficient and it will slow down. If you omit entire food groups, you run the risk of missing out on some of the nutrition your body needs, not only to work out, but to handle all the requirements of your 24/7 job. It’s this endless wrong-headed cycle of low calories and running it off, like a hamster on a wheel, that has women locked into a permanent loop of false promise and despair. You’ll never get anywhere doing that.
Lifting weights not only creates the shapely muscles women want, but having more muscle mass also burns calories long after the workout is over. When you do steady-state cardio and aerobics, the calorie burn is equivalent to the workout. However, when you build muscle, you burn calories during the workout and throughout the rest of the day, even at rest, because it takes more calories to simply sustain lean muscle tissue.
So, while an hour of cardio after a hearty breakfast of lettuce and a rice cake may help you lose some weight in the short-term, it will not give you the tight, sexy curves that you are looking for. That road only ends at being “skinny fat” and primed to fall off the wagon in spectacular fashion. You will most likely binge and balloon right back to where you started, or worse. Instead, lift heavy weights for an hour, eat a balanced meal of nutritious foods and reap the benefits of a prolonged metabolic boost and a MILF-worthy shape.
Step #5 – Have a Home Workout Option
Every mom knows the moment we set a goal, one of our sweet little children will wake us up in the middle of the night to vomit all over it. Murphy’s Law never fails. We say, “I am going to the gym tomorrow!” They say, “Ha ha, that’s cute. Wipe my butt.” Whether it be a sick child, a sudden freelance deadline, appointments, volunteer work, or a snow day, you need something you can do at home to keep the momentum going.
You don’t have to make a huge investment for a great home workout. Some bare-bones equipment like: a jump rope, a kettlebell, or a set of adjustable dumbbells can provide a great challenge in under an hour. Warm up with a few 2 minute jump rope rounds, then go for a full-body circuit, three to five times.
Exercises like goblet squats, dumbbell clean and press, stiff-legged dumbbell deadlifts, pushups and bicycle abs are just an example of excellent movements that hit all of your major muscle groups. You will get the strength exercises of weight training in, coupled with the fat burning goodness of circuit training. Keep a planned routine and some equipment at the ready, always.
We all know that once you start letting distractions get in the way, it becomes harder and harder to get back into the groove. That’s why you need to put your health first. Sure, the baby needs to be fed and the dishes don’t do themselves. But there are things we do, under the pressure of perfection, that each of us can sacrifice in order to work out every day, even if just for a half hour. Me? I live with a messy house. We eat meals out of plastic containers.
My kids do their homework next to a jiu jitsu mat while their dad and I roll. Sometimes we eat dinner at 8PM. It’s not a “traditional” schedule we keep, but it’s healthy and I am setting a strong example for a fit and flexible lifestyle. Already, my kids are rolling jiu jitsu, and picking out their protein, carbs and fat for their lunch preps.
As long as I can get to the gym, I can live with the toys on my living room floor. That’s my secret, being real and making the time by sacrificing things that are unnecessary. It’s how I succeed at staying in shape while running a household for my husband and three kids.