Realistic Workout Goals: Balancing Work, Kids & Fitness

I had four kids within six years. The clothes in my closet range from size 4 to size 14. Over the years and in between pregnancies, I have gone through different stages of fitness goals. There were times I had to do the Couch-to-5K program just to be able to jog again. There was also a time where I entered a mini-Triathlon simply because I knew I could do it… and I won third place. My fitness goals change depending on babies, my job, and deployment cycles. But I know my body, and I know what I am capable of. When I get behind on fitness, the important thing is to set goals that will challenge me without seeming unattainable.

Many of us have met some version of a super-mom who has multiple kids, a slender body, and runs marathons in her spare time. But if that isn’t where you are, then don’t bother trying to be that person. Be yourself. Then strive to be a stronger version of yourself.

Of course we all want to lose baby weight, look great for Homecoming, or be able to run faster than our kids. But the most important thing is that your fitness goals are realistic. If you aim for something out of reach, it will be discouraging. Then you may give up and not make any progress at all. If you set smaller goals, you can crush them in a shorter amount of time. Then establish new goals.

Be yourself. Then strive to be a stronger version of yourself.
— Lizann Lightfoot

Start with Baby Steps

Everyone is at a different place in their fitness journey, but almost everyone can do some of these things:

  • Run a mile on the treadmill comfortably

  • Lose five pounds in the next month

  • Sign up for a gym membership or a class with a friend

  • Complete a 5K race

  • Decrease by one clothing size

  • Tone up arms or abs

  • Feel more confident in a bathing suit

  • Complete 2-3 strength workouts per week

Choose the goal that is most realistic for you. Then ask yourself what it will take for that to happen. Will you change your diet and eating habits? Get up earlier? Do an evening workout instead of watching TV? You have to create specific, measurable ways to achieve your goals.

How to Find the Time

Whether or not you have a job, no matter how many kids you have, you will always struggle to find time to exercise. You have to be intentional about your fitness routine. One motto I live by is that “you always have time for what you put first.” When you are planning out your work load for the week, schedule in your fitness time. That may mean writing it in the planner, entering it into your phone calendar, or setting up text alerts to remind you. For me, it also means getting dressed in activewear on the days I plan to work out. If I go straight to jeans and a t-shirt, I may not make it to the gym. But if I start the day in a sports bra, that is a physical reminder that I need to work out first and change later.

When my kids were little, I could only work out during their naps or in the evening. I quickly learned that strength training is much quicker than running. You can run for ten hours per week and still feel plump. But a few 20-minute strength workouts weekly will give you progress you can see and feel. If you don’t know where to squeeze fitness into your schedule, start your day with a 20 minute workout, and see what a difference it makes in your energy levels and your attitude!

Good Workout Options for Working Parents

Whether you work from home or an office, you probably have your kids with you during most of your ‘free time.’ Try these fitness routines that you can do with your kids.

Use a jogging stroller.

I’ve been using one for nine years now! Infants and toddlers can be taught to enjoy the ride, while older kids can bike ahead of you. 

Take a bike ride.

Little ones can sit in a seat on the bike or ride in a trailer behind. Stop at a playground halfway through to make it fun for them.

Join a gym with childcare.

On military bases, the gyms are free, but not all of them have childcare. The YMCA provides two hours of childcare per day for members. Some private gyms have child watch programs, too. You can join a class, complete a workout from an app, or just walk on the treadmill while you watch TV.

Get a Mommy and Me video program.

Do your workout in your home. There are hundreds of workout videos, apps, or shows to choose from. If your kids are too old for naps, let them join you. Kids enjoy mimicking different workout moves, yoga poses, or cardio jumps.

So there you have it: anyone can achieve fitness goals if they start small with reasonable expectations, and then stick with it!

If you have kids and a job, what is your fitness routine?


Lizann is the military spouse behind Seasoned Spouse, "[a] place where new military girlfriends, fiancees, or spouses can get tips and perspective about military challenges like deployments, PCSing, raising children alone, and just missing your spouse." Her writing has been featured on Military One Click, Military OneSource and several other military spouse blogs. She is the assistant editor and a staff writer for Military One Click.