Here’s the thing: I’m 40 and a mother of three. Let me say that again so I actually believe it. I’M 40 YEARS OLD AND A MOTHER OF THREE (gulp!). I haven’t enjoyed a hot meal in years, used the bathroom without some little grubby tiny person barging in to examine what I’m doing, or completely finished blow drying my hair in over a decade. In fact, just last week after a long day at the office, I came home to find myself unexpectedly cooking three different types of pasta for dinner, because one will only eat spaghetti, one cried for ravioli, and of course the third had to up them all and request penne! Don’t get me wrong, motherhood is absolutely magical. There is nothing better. But sprinkle in a full-time career that I live for, a calendar stacked with commitments, and to put it simply, there is too much to do and too little time!
Sadly, this seems to be the norm these days. I’m just one of millions of parents who struggle to miraculously fit in all the commitments we have in a 24-hour period, while still hoping to somehow get those beautiful, sought-after eight hours of sleep in each night (yeah right). And let’s be real, after a long day at the office, followed by cooking dinner, family time, soccer practice, baths, etc., the quickest thing I drop off my list is from my “health and fitness” bucket. Whomp whomp.
I’ve always been a fan of fitness. Shoot, as a youngster I was involved in #allthesports! And now as a mother, you can find me at the fields (soccer and baseball) up to 5 days a week, cheering on one of my littles. But there’s still the question of how to find the time to work on my own health and fitness after I’ve given my all to work and family each day. Here’s what I know and how it’s worked for me (so far):
1. Find Like-minded People
There’s a group of #TMXFamily members in my department who carve out 30 minutes during lunch to hit the gym (Shout out to Erin Vernon, Kate Andersen, and Caitlin Buttimer!). Whether it’s a step class, weight training, or 30 minutes on the treadmill, these peeps make it happen! Find that group of likeminded people and join in! When you have others to help hold you accountable, your chances for success are significantly higher! Not to mention, it’s fun to exercise with other people. Also worth mentioning, it’s fun to make fun of each other when you try new things and look goofy doing them (ahem, Eric Sullivan).
2. Be Realistic
You are not Superwoman (or man). Yes, we like to think we are superheroes, and some days it may feel that way! Hey, earlier this year I had one of those days where everything went perfectly, I mean, just the BEST day ever. I was really floating on cloud nine that day thinking, “wowza, I’m really going places!” Just to get home and realize I had forgotten to give one kid their daily dose of “focus” medicine (ADHD) and another kid’s lunch box never made it to their backpack. So, while I was in Superwoman mode in the office, one little was running around like a crazy person driving his teacher bonkers and the other was wondering where her ham and cheese was. My point is, we all have a lot going on. If you can’t fit in some kind of health and fitness every single day, that’s ok! Don’t beat yourself up. Set realistic, small goals to start, and build from there.
3. Make it a Family Affair
Lately, my 8-year-old daughter has been on a fitness kick. It started when she decided to try out for a travel soccer team, and she was nervous about her ability to run for long periods of time. She even made ME exercise with her on our most recent vacation. Come on, we all know vacations are only for laying on the beach and drinking margaritas! Nonetheless, I complied. It wasn’t always this way, I promise. In fact, my kids are so addicted to their iPads; it’s shameful on my parenting skills. But I quickly realized, that spending quality time with my babe by doing physical activity was actually fun! We bonded; we sweat; we laughed (I cried in pain) and afterwards we both felt amazing. I also felt slightly redeemed as a parent for all the hours I allow them on their devices. So, think of your extended family as your own little fitness pack. Grab Grandma and go for a walk! Make Auntie Pat do a YouTube yoga workout with you! Heck, I bet Cousin Irv would like to go on a bike ride! Your family is your fitness pack, and one little healthy habit can steamroll into a daily routine.
4. 10 Minutes is Better Than No Minutes
A 10-minute walk is better than no walk at all. Go ahead, try to disprove me. You won’t win because it’s true! 10 squats are better than no squats. 10 jumping jacks are better than no jumping jacks. 10 beers are better than no beers. Wait, I digress. But you get my point. If you only have 10 minutes to devote to fitness every day, that’s OK! 10 minutes each day adds up and by the end of the week, that’s 70 minutes spent on your health that would have been spent on the couch with a box of twinkies (trust me, I’ve bonded with the twinkies).
5. Be Kind to Yourself
You are your toughest critic, so let me say it again: BE KIND TO YOURSELF. My stomach will never be as flat as it was in my younger years before kids (and all those tacos). Those wrinkles that showed up when I turned 40 will remain right where they are. And that weird looking vein that appeared on my left leg? Yeah, it’s of the varicose variety and apparently it came to say, “Hey! You’re getting old, lady!” But it’s OK. Fitness isn’t just about what you look like on the outside. Sure, buns of steel and a six pack would be nice, but it’s also about how you feel. Be kind to yourself, be respectful to your body, and if you FEEL good on the inside you will LOOK good on the outside.
There isn’t a one size fits all approach to family health and fitness. Whether you have a Kardashian sized clan or it’s just you and your cat, Fluffy, it’s all about finding solutions that create habits and work for you. Embrace friends who prioritize health and fitness. Make them your “fitness family” and rely on each other for accountability. Be realistic. We are not superheroes so stop beating yourself up! Grab a family member (any family member, don’t forget about Grandpa!) and ask them to join you. One healthy habit can steamroll into a daily routine. If you only have 5 minutes, use it! 5 push-ups are better than no push-ups. And lastly, be kind to yourself. Life is short, if you really want that cheeseburger, have the darn cheeseburger!