Believe it or not, balancing a healthy lifestyle with family life is relatively easy, once you get into the swing of it. I have first hand experience there! The hardest part is certainly getting started. We seem to live in a time, where people find themselves caught up in cycles of unhealthy habits, which can be tough to break. But keeping active and remaining an active member of your family is doable!
Furthermore, not only is it achievable, but in a world where childhood obesity rates are on the rise, it’s crucial that we as parents lead by example, and prioritise our own physical and mental wellbeing as role models for the younger generations.
During my first pregnancy I remember people telling me all the things I’d never be able to do again, ‘I’d never sleep again’, ‘never run as fast’, ‘never wear a bikini’, ‘never be as confident’…etc and as a person who has always embraced fitness, this wasn’t encouraging to hear. Of course I understand that once you have children they become your priority and I support this entirely, however, when I heard these comments I began to wonder whether becoming a parent meant I had to loose a part of myself in the process?
I am happy to confirm, two children in, that this in fact, false! PHEW! Contrary to what the fear-mungers would have you believe, you can still regain a sense of self and be a good parent!
So, how to find this balance? Whether it’s fitness, work or relationships… finding a balance of time for yourself and time with your family can seem tricky, but here’s my 5 top tips to make it work!
1. Be Flexible
This is possibly the most important factor when planning in a workout routine around family life. Gone are the days when you can guarantee a solid few hours for a gym session. If you’re a stay at home parent and have children with you most of the time, know that fitness can be flexible. Every little really does help, so even a workout split into 3x 10 minute sections is great!
The key to making fitness effective in small chunks, is PLANNING AHEAD! Write down your targets for your session. I start by splitting my training into three sections, ‘upper body, lower body and core’. Often my children need something in between sets, meaning I have to stop and pick up where I left off a few minutes later. THAT’S OK! When it comes to exercise there are no hard and fast rules. In fact, interval training is a great approach for weight-loss, so aim to raise your heart rate a little during each section. Remember, if you need to stop completely whether it’s due to a nappy over-flow, waking baby or toddler tantrum, don’t worry. Stop the workout completely and try again the next day.
2. Get cReative
If you’ve been following me for a while you’ll know I’m a huge fan of at-home workouts. If you don’t have the time to head to the gym, you can get an equally effective workout at home! I’ve been known to use chairs, skipping ropes, benches, footballs, even water bottles to add variety to my home fitness programmes. Exercise doesn't need to mean standard press ups and burpees. Mix it up, get creative and most importantly have fun!
3. Early starts
This one is personal and perhaps you’re reading this right now shouting at your computer screen, but for me, early morning workouts really are the best! Exercising early is a great way to kick start your metabolism and boost your energy throughout the day. For parents with very young babies, the morning nap is a great time to exercise (roughly 9.30-10.30am). Personally, I get up even earlier then this. If you have a partner at home early morning, try alternating days for exercise. In my house we wake up at 6.30am and with my husband leaving for work at 7.30am, we have a good hour/ 45 minutes to fit in a quick run and stretch to start the day!
4. Schedule It In
We’ve covered how to split your session but when it comes to finding the right time, I tend to look at a schedule on a weekly basis. As most parents can attest, a ‘routine’ is something rarely associated with family life. Every day is different and certainly the weeks tend to change constantly! I use Sunday evenings to look at the week ahead and find 3 times where I can schedule in a session, plus an additional ‘plan B’ option. This makes it much easier moving forwards to stick to my goals.
5. start small
There’s a famous saying to ‘start as you mean to go on’ and while this is good advise for a positive mental approach to fitness, when it comes to individual goals, make sure you give yourself a realistic target and enough time to achieve your aim. This is not to say you should lower your expectations. You are capable of what you set your mind to, so by all means have a big end goal, however be sure to have smaller targets along the way. CELEBRATE those successes, no matter how ‘small’ they may seem. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else and be proud of your achievements! Success is a brilliant motivator, so allow yourself the chance to be proud of your work and appreciate your progress.