Four Ways to Make Workout Time for Mommy
When I was pregnant with my oldest son, the best advice I got from fellow military spouse moms was to carve out “me” time once my baby arrived. My husband was deployed and it was just the two of us so it was easy to find time to hit the gym or go for a jog. He’d snooze in his stroller and I’d knock out a quick workout, both of us feeling better when done.
Fast forward two years: a new duty station and another baby later, finding the time and energy to even put on gym clothes is a struggle and syncing up both kids to get to a gym is a challenge.
I’ve had to be more purposeful in my fitness and self-care planning, learning patience and flexibility along the way. Here are some of the strategies that are helping me work in some time to work out:
1. Invest in a gym membership with childcare.
Making the choice to join a gym with a nursery has been a game-changer for me. Finding a gym that offered a safe and flexible childcare system was the most important investment in my personal health I could make. I love the pretty, clean facility and the friendly staff. Once I did the math, the membership fee and nursery cost worked out to far less than I would pay for childcare alone elsewhere. The fact that I am paying a monthly membership is also motivation to get me to make the effort to take care of myself through fitness.
There are other options to paying for a civilian gym. Here are a few I considered during my research:
- The on-post gym at our previous duty station allowed children restrained in child seats or strollers to chill out in the same room while mom used the weights, cardio room, or went to a group fitness class. Because they had this flexible rule, I was able to workout with our first little guy easily.
- The post gym at our current duty station doesn’t offer the “mommy and me” room but they do have a childcare co-op where during a specific time, other military spouse moms take turns watching the children while the rest of the group works out. All members of the co-op have to become certified through the Child and Youth Services program to watch children and, depending on the size of the group, would have to commit to providing watch care several times a month.
- There’s also the option of paying for hourly care at the Child Development Center or securing a babysitter. It takes pre-planning to secure a space as the hourly care is typically in very high demand. At my post, the cost for both of my children runs $8 per hour and reservations need to be made a few weeks in advance.
2. Have an alternative workout plan for home.
Even the best plans to get to the gym can go awry.
Lately, I’ve been fighting my own battles with sickness in our house and I haven’t been able to go to my favorite gym. It seems that if I’m not sick, one or both of the kids is, making this winter particularly tricky to make it to the gym. No one wants a sick person sneezing on their dumbbells and it’s always a bad idea to bring a sick baby into a nursery to infect everyone else. I’ve had to turn to at-home solutions to catch a workout.
Because I’ve focused my monetary investment into a gym membership, I don’t own a lot of fitness equipment. Finding good bodyweight exercises has been key to being active at home. The InDependent fitness challenges were perfect to get me started with sun salutations, pushups, and squats. Doing some simple cardio like jumping jacks and running in place helped get my heart rate up when it’s been too cold to go outside with the kids. When I’ve been stumped for exercise ideas, I’ve found inspiration at sites like r/bodyweightfitness and Pinterest’s Fitness board.
3. Learn to run with a stroller.
One big exception to my lack of fitness equipment at home is that I own a jogging stroller.
The first time I took my jogging stroller for a trot, I was shocked at how much more difficult it was to run with it. A course that had taken little effort alone just a week before was almost impossible pushing my little one in his new ride. It took several weeks for me to get used to the new weight and form. I almost gave up until a friend who runs like a gazelle told me she had to drop to a walking routine with her jogging stroller to get used to it. I stuck with it and am glad I did.
I highly recommend this Runner’s World article detailing the right way to purchase and adjust to using a jogging stroller. I’m using these guidelines in making my next big gear purchase: a double jogging stroller.
4. Use my time effectively.
Anyone who’s worked in a business atmosphere in the last 10 years has seen a copy of David Allen’s Getting Things Done sitting on an office shelf. For good reason, this book has been one of the leading productivity books in recent years and one of my personal favorites. The core idea this book teaches is to process all of the information in your life into action items prioritized by importance.
Lately, I’ve been working to expand the same time management skills described in this system beyond my work life to my life as a mom to make the time to do the things I think have the most value: playing with my kids, showing my husband love and affection, and taking care of myself. That means that the lunch dishes can wait until I do the things that mean the most to me, like taking a walk with the kids or spending time talking to my husband about his day.
As my friend Kimberly stated in her blog about how to stop the glorification of busy, “This is a call to action, a plea, to military spouses everywhere to let go of the busy and to focus on what you value most, to take care of yourself, and to stop competing with others for the title of busiest.” To me, that’s meant cutting out some of the projects and jobs that don’t make me happy to do or bring meaning to my life and using that finite resource of time in ways that will help me meet my own fitness and life goals.
The balance of making it all fit is worth it to me. It’s a daily challenge but fitting in the time to take care of myself means my kids get a happier, healthier mom in the long run.
How do you make time for yourself with children?