I asked on my Instagram recently what people struggled with in terms of their health and wellness goals, and the overwhelming answer was getting exercise in, particularly consistent exercise.
I thought I would address some of the issues that you might face, talk about some of the things that work for me, and discuss some options that you could explore to see if it helps you to get a bit more consistent movement in each day, despite having obviously a busy lifestyle with family, perhaps work, and all of the other things that just constantly get in the way. I also completely understand how difficult it is to get moving again after you have had a baby as well, so there’ll be some tips there too!
You can listen to the podcast episode here as well.
Let’s start with a quick disclaimer: if you have recently had a baby, or if you’re trying to exercise and things aren’t feeling right, then please do make sure you get checked out by a medical professional or maybe a Women’s Health Physio, just so that you have been checked to make sure everything’s okay for you to start exercise. After I had Dylan, I was seen by a Women’s Health Physio as well as my six week checkup. It was reassuring to know that I was on the right track for starting my kind of preferred exercise.
Why finding the time for consistent exercise can be difficult
The first thing I want to talk about is consistency, as this is what a lot of women said they were finding particularly challenging.
The thing is, it can be really easy to go to one yoga class or one HIIT class and then not really bother again for another couple of weeks, and then go again. But obviously that’s not going to really make any difference to how you feel or how you look. Consistency is key, and you want to be able to ensure you stay consistent and also really enjoy the movement that you are doing. If you don’t enjoy it, you are not going to make it a priority.
For example, (and this is confession time for me!), I hate HIIT training. So if I thought, “Well, I SHOULD be going to these classes”, I would definitely, after probably not even a week, be finding reasons why I couldn’t go. Maybe there are some things happening at home, or I had a bad night with Dylan. Whereas, if I do something that I enjoy – and I’m sure you all know by now that I love running – I can usually get myself up and out of the door. Yes, if I have a really bad night, I’ll probably try and sleep in and then do something the following day, but usually I can get myself out.
Are you using something as an excuse or is it a genuine reason? If you are doing something you enjoy, more often than not, when something does pop up like that, it’s a genuine reason, and you will appreciate that you needed the rest and will then move forward the next day and continue. Whereas if it’s something you don’t enjoy and you’re creating excuses, you’re probably kind of going to fall out of that habit really, really quickly.
Another thing to consider, if you’re the kind of person who wants to see results straight away, is that you need to be aware that this is probably not going to happen from a physical perspective at least. So instead of focusing on your appearance, focus on how moving made you feel.
Is your mood lifted during and after exercising? Do you feel calmer, or do you maybe feel more energised? It all depends on exactly what you’re doing, but these are the things to focus on at first, because it can be really easy to feel discouraged and give up if you don’t see any kind of physical results straight away.
Remember, it takes at least 21 days to form a habit, so try to make sure you’re moving at the same time each day, if possible, so that you become used to the routine and the endorphin boost . Gradually, the physical results will come.
If you took part in my May challenge this year, you will already know that I prefer to call exercise ‘movement’. This is because I think a lot of us have a negative association with the word ‘exercise’, just as we do with ‘diet’.
Movement is all encompassing. It could be something as simple as sitting down for five minutes on your mat (or the playmat!) and just doing some gentle stretches or a nice flow.
This leads me to the importance of finding something you enjoy. You might find yourself thinking “I should be doing this”, when really what you need to find yourself thinking is, “Oh, I can’t wait for the next session” or looking forward to your movement and not doing something because you think it ‘counts’ as exercise. Similarly, you also should recognise that you don’t need to feel guilty if you do happen to miss the odd day or two, because let’s face it, that’s going to happen.
If you’re getting back into exercise…
Perhaps like me, you exercised before you had children. I used to run marathons and ultra marathons, so my training was really time consuming, especially when I was training for my ultra marathons, because I had to run on hills, and to find hills, I had to drive for an hour and a half each way. I would then run for three or four hours, finish, rest for half an hour and drive the hour and a half back home. I also had the opportunity to just rest and recover between sessions, which I don’t have at all now. Usually, Dylan is about to get up as I finish my run, so most of the time I’m still sweating when I pick him up out of his bed, because I don’t have a chance to shower until 10 minutes later once he’s downstairs and having his breakfast with his Dad.
How I adjust to this is by thinking if the next major finish line I’ll cross. I visualise Dylan being there and know that that finish line is going to be all the more sweeter for having him there. And also, hopefully one day, he’s gonna maybe think I’m kinda cool or look up to me and it will be worth all the sacrifices. Although I’m not going to get the time to rest and relax like I used to do. It’s kind of worth it to me.
Can you shift your focus slightly, but still do what you love?
For me, my focus, especially with events being canceled this year, is that I am now looking at trying to get better times in my shorter distances. So 5km, 10km, and possibly up to a half marathon, rather than focusing on the marathon training. For me, it’s great because it’s a new challenge, it’s something I’ve never focused on before, but it is not as time consuming, even though the sessions are going to be harder because they’re more intense. I also know that in the long term, it’s going to benefit me for when I get back into my longer distance running.
What can I do to try and fit it into my day?
Maybe your child has a lunch nap, or maybe you could even do a short session at home while the baby plays. When I first had Dylan, I used to have to go running in the evenings at first. I really didn’t like it, but because our nights were so disrupted and we were up multiple times, it was the only way I could fit anything in.
Tell people at home and see if you can get their support. Explain why you want to exercise, when you want to do it and how they can help. This may include looking after the children, preparing breakfast and doing the wake up and so on. You could also, if you’re a runner, look into getting a running buggy so that you can take your child with you.
As always, being accountable also helps a lot. Maybe you could agree to meet friends to exercise, or join a fitness group where you can actually take your baby.
When Dylan was first born, I used to go to pilates and that was amazing because it was at a nice time of the day. When he was really small, he would just sleep, and then when he was a bit bigger he would maybe just play on his mat. He couldn’t crawl or anything so he would just stay in one place and I would do pilates for an hour. There were times of course where he would maybe have a bit of a screaming fit or I would have to stop to feed him or change him, in fact, I think we had every scenario going on, but it was still really nice just to have the opportunity, once or twice a week, to go out and get some exercise.
If you have maybe been regularly exercising for a while, like I was, think about setting a goal that’s a medium or long term goal that’s kind of achievable, but may require some work. Then, work with a coach who understands the demands on your time. My running coach is amazing. She’s a mother herself so she knows that things happen, that things have to be switched around and that plans change. That sometimes you might not have a great workout because you’re tired or run down or stressed. I don’t feel the pressure of having to justify myself; I can just go out, and if some days all I can manage is a 20 minutes walk/run, then that’s fine.
Little and often = consistency
The thing with movement and getting in consistent exercise is not feeling like you have to have these mammoth one hour sessions every day. Just 20 minutes a day can really help. And if you think about it, let’s say you do 20 minutes, five times a week, that’s an hour and 40 minutes of movement a week. If you’re trying to fit in an hour each time and are not bothering if you don’t have an hour available, you might only have the chance for one hour during the week. And so therefore by doing the 20 minutes consistently, you’re already getting more time in. Have a look at your daily routine and see where you can find that 20 minutes. What can you maybe do without and replace with movement?
Really consider why you want to exercise
What’s your motivation? Why are you doing it? Do you feel better afterwards? How do you feel better? Maybe you feel more flexible and less tight if you’re doing yoga, perhaps you feel invigorated if you’re doing something slightly more intense. Maybe you enjoy being outdoors and getting some fresh air. It’s not only the physical side of things, but the mental health side of things as well. Time to yourself. It could help you start the day with a positive mindset if you do it in the morning. You could feel good about yourself, or just clearer. Maybe you’re more likely to eat in a more optimal way.
If you really are struggling to get into things, maybe just try a 15 minute walk, listening to a podcast or some music, or silence if you prefer, just to take in your surroundings, listen to the birds, nosy on the neighbours, or get out in nature. It still counts and it’s a great way to start. And by starting, you can always kind of build upon it when and if you feel the need.
It’s also important to understand that there are periods of your life when exercise might not be a priority and that’s okay. There might be so many other things to focus on, that all you can do is incorporate some gentle movement and ensure you nourish yourself with good food and be kind to yourself.
And that’s absolutely key with so many things, isn’t it? When it comes to being a Mum, especially regarding exercise, there’s so much pressure on us. Find what you enjoy and have the motivation from within. Get support from friends, family, possibly a coach, and understand that even a little bit each day or every other day is better than just trying to do one big session a week. The main thing I find is just enjoying what you do, and once you’ve found what you enjoy, it becomes a lot easier to fit it into your life.
As always, if you need any support with the things I’ve mentioned above, please get in touch or send me a DM – I’m more than happy to chat things through with you!