Physical activity secrets of busy moms

I have yet to meet a mom who feels like there are enough hours in the day to fit in everything she needs to do, including some active time for herself. With this in mind, I asked around to discover other moms’ go-to strategies for making physical activity part of their day. Here is their real-life advice:

BE AN EARLY BIRD.

According to my informal poll, the crack of dawn is a popular workout time for moms. “I go to the gym first thing in the morning, before the kids are even awake. I think it’s important for me to have that time,” says Gail Kipfer. Another morning exerciser, Kristie Kimmett, relishes the fact that “by getting a workout in first thing, I can spend the rest of the day knowing that it’s checked off my list.”

Jannine Coburn credits the format of her gym membership for keeping her accountable. “I have a pre-set number of classes I can do each week, and I have to sign up online in advance,” she explains. “If I don’t attend, it still counts as using one of my allotted classes, so I make sure I get up and get there.”

Tavia Weber, a regular at 6:00 am spin classes, shares the secret of her success: “This may sound silly, but I go to bed in my gym clothes the night before. It’s easier to make it to an early morning class when you’re already dressed for it.”

BE ACTIVE WITH YOUR KIDS.

Especially for moms with younger children, a scheduled workout at the gym is not always feasible. Kim Straus describes her creative at-home solution: “I printed out photos with instructions for yoga poses and taped them up around the playroom to inspire me to do more stretching while I’m in there with the kids. They became so interested in the signs that we ended up doing the poses together.”

Mom of four Julie Island relies on high intensity interval training to get the most out of her home-based exercise efforts. “I use BodyRock videos on YouTube, and I can get a really great workout in 15 to 30 minutes,” she says. “My boys, even as babies, have always been part of my workouts. They love to watch, cheer, or try the exercises with me.”

During her maternity leave, Lauren King-Mieske enjoyed taking a mom-and-baby yoga class, but her best workout partner has been her stroller. “My baby routinely decides that he doesn’t like naps, and going for walks is the only cure,” she says. “We invested in a high-quality stroller and accessories that allow us to get outside in any weather. We walk a lot!”

Laura Govanis is also a believer in inviting kids along for the ride. “When the weather permits, my kids ride their bikes alongside me while I run,” she says. “We add little games or challenges, like making it to a certain landmark for a pit stop, or seeing who can get to the top of the hill first.”

MAKE THE KIDS’ ACTIVE TIME YOUR ACTIVE TIME.

These moms don’t just sit in the stands at their children’s sports and activities. Liz Hastings has three daughters in competitive swimming, and the team’s parents like to take a hike when they can. “During warm-ups, a group walk gives us some fresh air and exercise, plus it helps shake off any nerves we may feel about watching our kids compete,” she says. “Sometimes we will look up a coffee shop that is a couple of kilometres away, walk there, get a beverage, and walk back.”

For Meghan Tracy, an arena-based workout is in the cards. “We have a couple of ringette players in our family, which means some early morning weekday practices,” she says. “I wear workout clothes to the rink and encourage as many parents as possible join in on a ‘Deck of Cards’ workout in the empty hallway or waiting area.”

For this card trick, Meghan explains that a specific exercise is chosen for each suit – for example, hearts are jumping jacks, diamonds are lunges, and so on. As you turn over each card, you perform the corresponding exercise the number of times shown on the card (Ace equals one). Face cards represent 10 of the designated exercise plus running a pre-determined distance (or set of stairs) one time (Jack), two times (Queen), or three times (King). In Meghan’s view, “this type of workout allows for people with varying levels of fitness to participate, either as a group or at their own pace.” There are many variations online, as well as a Deck of Cards app if you prefer to view the cards on your phone.

WORK IT INTO YOUR WORK DAY.

Lyndsay Woodard collaborated with a co-worker to add short walk breaks to her day at the office. Their plan goes as follows: “We set her phone alarm to beep every hour, and that signals us to go down the stairs to the ground floor, walk across to the other end of the building, climb the set of stairs on that side, and return to our desks. It only takes a few minutes, but repeating it every hour makes it beneficial.”

“With three kids in sports, it is hard to find time for fitness,” says Liz Richardson, who leaves work on her lunch hour to do a quick weight workout at the gym. “Since I started doing that, I feel I am doing something for myself in a whirlwind of doing stuff for everyone else.”

Single mom Wendy Scurfield knows all about multi-tasking and making every minute count. “My son’s school starts early, leaving me 20 minutes between dropping him off and leaving for work,” she explains. “I organize my time so I can use the whole 20 minutes to power walk with my dog around the neighbourhood. It’s not much, but it is something. I also always keep my yoga mat and a set of workout clothes in my car, just in case the opportunity arises to squeeze in a class.”

Whatever your schedule or routine may be, seek out an active option that is do-able for you. Some moms walk their kids to and from school daily, while others play on a team in an evening sports league. Most importantly, on days where things don’t align for you to formally “work out,” look for innovative ways to “work in” some activity however you can.