8 Keys to Back-to-School Fitness Success
Summer draws to a close and school is right around the corner for many children and parents. In one sense, it’s a relief. The kids will be in school and there will be quiet around the house again (unless you have toddlers and babies at home like I do).
But we all know it’s not that easy. With the school year comes the added stress of homework, extracurricular activities, waking up early, and carpooling. I’m cringing as I type.
As a mom, it’s hard enough to keep up with exercise without all the added stress thrown in. Here are eight ways to maintain your fitness and your sanity throughout the craziness of back-to-school season.
1. Manage Your Stress
I’ve found doing an activity every day, just for the sake of enjoyment, is one of the best ways to minimize stress. Before the school year starts, sit down and make a list of ten activities you enjoy. Don’t put too much thought into it; just let the thoughts come. Here’s my list so you see some examples:
- Reading a novel
- Working in the garden
- Doing yoga
- Writing poetry
- Playing piano
- Taking a hot bath with essential oils and magnesium salts
Every day, do at least one of these things for a minimum of thirty minutes. If you find yourself thinking, “I don’t have time for that,” take a step back and think about what this means. If you don’t have thirty minutes a day to do something you enjoy, you need to re-think your life.
2. Eat Food You Like
A healthy diet won't be sustainable if you don’t enjoy the food you eat. During this busy time of year, it can become even easier to slip into bad eating patterns. Imagine you’ve had a busy day at work and and now it’s time to go pick up your kids from school. You have a salad you brought to work with you, but honestly, you can’t stand salad. In your mind, you might start to justify fast food, telling yourself it's for the sake of convenience. In reality, the truth is a burger and fries just sounds a lot tastier than a salad.
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against salad. And if you happen to prefer salad to In-N-Out, I admire you. My point is, if your healthy food is also food you enjoy, you’ll be more likely to eat it. There are plenty of delicious and nutritious foods out there, so don’t settle for bland and boring just because it’s good for you.
3. Play With Your Kids
It shouldn’t be hard to play with your kids, but sometimes it can be difficult to go from get-things-done mode to play mode. Challenge yourself to make that transition once a day. Losing yourself in play and forgetting about all the things that need to be done will go a long way in easing anxieties and worries you might have. I also find taking breaks throughout the day to play with my kids brings a new and refreshing perspective when I come back to my work.
Physical play presents some opportunities to get in a few exercises with your kids as well. For example, create obstacle courses that involve movements like crawling, carrying, balancing, and hanging. When your kids get home from school, run the course with them a few times to get in play time and a short workout as a bonus.
4. Move Some Weight
I am amazed at how many moms I come across who don’t engage in some type of resistance training. That can mean anything – bodyweight exercise, kettlebells, or Olympic lifts. Not only is moving weight around regularly good for your health – bone and joint health in particular – but it also relieves stress. It doesn’t have to complicated and require a lot of equipment, either. Bodyweight exercises like pull ups, muscle ups, dips, and pistols are challenging and fun to progress as well.
5. Stock Your Home Gym
You might intend to make it to the gym three days a week once the kids are in school, but that’s often easier said than done. Set yourself up for success by investing in equipment for use at home. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but I can guarantee you will find more time to exercise if you have some equipment lying around the house.
6. Walk Every Day
Walking is an easy activity to do every day. Walking helps balance the pelvis and relieve stress. It’s also something you can do anywhere, with or without your children. Aim to walk briskly for at least thirty minutes every day.
I work at the computer for a good portion of the day, and one thing I’ve started doing is the pelvic walk outlined by the Feldenkrais Institute. It’s a good way to keep the blood flowing in your legs and pelvic region, and you can even type while you do it.
7. Sleep Whenever Possible
I read an article lately about sleep deprivation in new mothers. The title of the article was, Sleep Study Shows New Moms Are Dangerously Exhausted for Months. Well, you don’t say.
Even eighteen weeks postpartum, fifty percent of the subjects still reported significant daytime sleepiness. The study group was small – only 33 mothers participated – but another larger study also found parents of babies and young children are likely to be sleep deprived. The researchers estimated that for every child a parent has under age two, the parents lose thirteen minutes of sleep per night.
My point is, if you’re a mom, particularly one with young children at home, sleep needs to be a priority. If possible, take naps during the day with your younger children. Go to bed at least eight hours before you need to wake up. That way, even if your kids keep you up for two hours at night, you’ll still get in a minimum of six hours of sleep.
8. Set Goals and Reward Yourself
Some people say goal setting isn’t effective, and I would agree to some degree and in certain contexts. But during hectic times, having small-scale goals that fit into a big-picture scheme is a helpful way to make sure you accomplish the things that are most important to you.
This applies to all aspects of life, but here’s an example of how it might play out with fitness. After my son was born eleven months ago, I discovered my kettlebell press had suffered. I’m not going to even say how badly because it’s embarrassing. So my long-term goal was to get the 16kg kettlebell overhead by his first birthday.
The short-term goal was simple – each week, complete three sets of ladder workouts. Basically, that boiled down to three workouts a week – a heavy day, a medium day, and a light day – with presses and pull ups as the key exercises. Sometimes I did assistance work and sometimes I didn’t. I have a month left to go before my son turns one and have already pressed the 16kg on my right side.
And don’t forget to reward yourself when you achieve your goals. When your children work hard to make progress, you reward them, right? The same should apply to you.
Remember, don’t let Facebook status updates and viral photos of perfect moms fool you. Taking care of kids and keeping up with exercise is not always easy or glamorous. There will be days when the last thing you want to do is pick up something heavy because you’ve been dragging around toddlers all day. Then there will be days you’re on fire and can’t wait to get in the gym.
The key is to remember fitness isn’t just about fitness. There are other aspects at play that are just as important – if not more important – than grinding it out in the gym. So when the going gets tough and you find yourself grimacing at the thought of exercise, think outside the box and evaluate other lifestyle factors first.
Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.