Gym memberships get wasted more than beet tops. Start getting in shape & staying in shape with these tips for busy mamas. No gym required.
If there ever was a business — well, a business other than insurance — that flourished on the assumption its clients will NOT use their paid services, it’s a brick-&-mortar gym. Even those of us who enjoy going to the gym have overpaid for memberships we think we’ll use.
‘But it’s only $60 per month…” That’s great if you make it there a couple of times each week. And, by all means, hang onto that membership if it helps you mix up your routine with even the occasional fitness class or lifting session.
But carrying around a key card does not make you fitter. Getting active once or twice per week is not enough to ward off disease, keep you lean, and teach your little ones that physical activity is as vital as brushing your teeth.
Plus, now that you’re a mom, you’ve probably got even fewer chances to get in that 1-2 hour gym visit.
So you’re not making it into the gym — or you’re just the kind of gal who never again wants to see a shared shower or stairmill as long as you live?
Stop shelling out money to carry around a never-swiped key card. Here are 10 ways every mama can get fit & healthy. No gym required.
Embrace the 10-minute workout.
You probably saw this one coming. We’re big on regular, short workouts for our BB clients and we’ve got all sorts of 10 minute workouts on the BB site you can get started with. Why? Because 10 minute workouts actually. get. done. Stop looking for the unicorn of motherhood, the “free hour” to do a mega workout. Pull out your daytimer and choose a time of the day you can commit to just 10-20 minutes of exercise. Before breakfast? After school while the little ones have a cartoon or play in the backyard? After dinner while your partner does bath time? Everyone has 10 minutes.
Get off your butt.
It can be really easy to sit for hours at your desk, or on your phone/laptop for your self-employed types. Enter the standing desk. Dedicate even half of your typical workday to standing and you can burn about 150 more calories than you would if you sat the whole day plus help align your spine & pelvis better for less pain, better posture and a healthy core. Work from home? This $22 homemade IKEA hack will get you set up with a standing desk today.
Try to do more than just stand! If you’re on mat leave or have a flexible schedule, set an “appointment” in your calendar for certain times that work for you, like a 10:30 a.m. & 4:00 p.m. walk “date” with yourself. If you’re at the office, set an hourly alarm or an app to remind yourself to stand up & walk around, or even to go downstairs to take a few breaths of fresh air, then back up the stairs to get your heart pumping in less than 5 minutes.
Pressure a friend to join you.
Come on! It’s good for them, too! Find a friend & make a weekly date, then hold yourself — and your friend — to the same no-bail rules you would if you had plans to hit a party together or for girls’ night. Someone who lives near you is the best bet, so you can simply meet at a local yoga studio or even right on the street to head out for a walk or jog. Workout partners are a fantastic strategy for early morning and evening workouts, especially in the winter, when the idea of leaving your cozy house can feel like cruel & unusual punishment. If you’ve got more than one friend you can co-opt, plan a walk/jog morning with one and an after-dinner yoga class with another.
Run evening errands.
The time of day most of us lose our self-control? Between late afternoon & bedtime, of course, when we’re tired and lazy. We crave carbs & couches because both help our energy stores: carbs give us a boost of energy when we really should be getting ready for bed, and couches help us conserve energy while we shut down most of our muscles save the ones required to operate the remote control.
After dinner, take a quick walk over to the grocery store to grab a few odds & ends you need for the rest of your week. Return some library books — or go borrow some. Walk some mail to the nearest post office box. Even if you end up driving to Home Depot to pick up that paint/lightbulb/garden hose you’ve been meaning to get, you’ll do some standing and break your evening Netflix-&-snacks routine. That’s a definite win when you’re trying to stay lean.
Clean your own house.
Thank goodness for professional house cleaners. I know many a mama who swears she would not get by without professional help; after all, our grandmothers didn’t usually have full time jobs AND hobbies AND workout schedules AND keep a pristine house with 3 homemade meals per day. Something has got to give.
One of the reasons Grandma didn’t have a workout schedule? She cleaned her own house. She swept, mopped, scrubbed, washed, folded. Add to that list raking leaves, washing cars, and shovelling snow for us strong, modern mamas and you’ve got a built in gym right there at home. Try scheduling chores during times of weakness — late afternoon when you’re feeling a bit weary and tend to binge on chocolate chips, throw some loud music on and clean a bathroom or two! — or after dinner when you can’t seem to kill the munchies, try ironing or organizing papers in front of the TV instead of reclining. Not only do daily chores burn essential non-exercise calories & keep our bodies moving, they prevent idle hands from delivering ice cream to our faces out of sheer boredom.
Join a team.
If you used to play volleyball or softball, ask around and see who might already have a team you can join, or search online for local recreational sports clubs. In the GTA, try the Toronto Sport & Social Club. Even if high school sports weren’t your thing, you might fall in love with something fun like Dodgeball or “Inner Tube Water Polo.” Feeling a little competitive about next week’s match will also motivate you to get out for that jog or walk, or practice shooting some hoops with your kids on the weekend. A body in motion tends to stay in motion.
Not a team sports kinda girl? Join a local Meetup.com group for hikes, nature walks, and other adventures that don’t require a referee but still combine socializing + movement into one fun & motivating package.
Implement an exercise happy (half-)hour.
Make exercise a daily part of your family’s routine. Add a 30 minute window to your daily calendar at the same time, such as 7:00 a.m. before or after breakfast, or 5:00 p.m. right before dinner & bath and dedicate it exclusively to movement. Not only will you be officially #winning at healthy parenting, you can’t help but get in better shape when you exercise daily.
You don’t have to get all drill sergeant on everyone. Youtube a yoga video together. Go for a walk or a jog. Have a dance party or try some of these silly active games that are fun for the whole family. And if you can squeeze in 30 minutes at your nearest playground to do some step ups & pushups on the bench, hang from the monkey bars and play some family soccer, you’ve basically discovered the ultimate fitness hack — a playground IS a gym. And it’s free!
Sign up for a race.
Nothing puts a fire under your butt like a deadline. In a big city like ours there are near constant opportunities to join a charity walk or run, whether you’re a speed demon or just want to walk 5K with your kids. Officially signing up gives you a timeline to plan workouts that actually mean something, because a deadline is attached to them. Knowing your registration fees go to charity is just the icing on the cake — and so much easier to swallow than paying monthly fees to a big box gym.
If you’re afraid you’ll be the only one who can’t run the whole 5K or the only size 14 or the only first-timer, know this: the reality of these events is that they’re attended by a HUGE variety of ages, fitness levels & body types. There’s always someone else just like you. Lots of someone elses.
The truth about exercise is it’s much easier to increase your non-exercise activity (and eat a few less TV snacks in the process) than it is to get to bootcamp every day. At least, that’s the truth about exercise when you’re juggling work, kids, friends, family, pets and just generally being a good human being.
That couch is going to call your name in the evening & on weekends, so having appointments is key to staying on track, even if the appointment is more soup kitchen than spin class. The less you sit and snack, the better. When you can’t handle one more pushup or yoga class, add something active to your schedule by coaching a kids’ sport team, volunteering to walk dogs at a shelter, or helping out at a soup kitchen or hospital. You’ll move your body, get off the couch, and do some good, which is also proven to improve your mood & longevity.
Sure, you can pay for online streaming subscriptions like DailyBurn if you want the best variety, video quality & workout tracking…but if you never log in & use it, that’s money wasted. You can YouTube more free workouts than you’ll ever need and squeeze in anything from a 5-minute leg workout before you head out for a walk to a full 45 minute yoga class…and everything in between. You’ll never get bored. That’s one excuse zapped, right there.
Plus, while you’re on YouTube, try cooling down with a few funny videos. Clumsy puppies and news bloopers can actually help to lower your blood pressure, relax your muscles and regulate your hormones.