Fitness Doesn’t Have To Be Formal

For many of us parents, he daily to-do list is so long that some things are bound to go undone. The things that end up getting scratched from the list are often what we so desperately need for ourselves, for our own well-being. Talking to parents, especially those with young children at home, I find that one of the first things to get ignored from that ever-present list is fitness. 

There is just no time for yourself when you are doing everything for everyone else, and there is certainly not time for an hour or two at the gym, right? The truth is that while a 5k run or bootcamp classes certainly have their merit and value, fitness doesn’t always have to be structured or formal. There are many ways to include activity into your day on those days when spare minutes feel about as impossible as finding those matching baby socks. 

There is plenty of pressure to have the perfect workout or spend an hour on your Peleton, but reality is a different story. Sometimes all we can muster are 5 minutes at a time in between house chores, distance learning, and outdoor play time. Those 5 minutes at a time can add up throughout the day. If you allow yourself the grace to let your fitness get a little bit messy, a little bit chaotic sometimes, we can lift that stress that builds up around working out and help ourselves make the most out of the limited time we have. Let’s figure out how to fit fitness into your life without it becoming a burden. Here are some easy suggestions we can follow to help fitness turn more into self-care and less into an added stressor. 

Make moving the priority, not working out. 

The most important thing to remember about physical movement is that it is an essential part of self-care, even during the busiest of times. Note that I used the term physical movement here instead of fitness, because sometimes just moving is enough. Focusing on “moving” instead of “working out” can decrease the stress of it all just by a mindset change.  It can be a walk with the kids, running around in the yard with them for 10 minutes, or just staying on your feet and moving when at the playground, instead of sitting on a bench. (Of course, sometimes as parents, we do need that time to just sit on the bench too!). The point is, when life gets so hectic that the structured workouts simply aren’t going to happen, just finding ways to move must be a conscious decision. 

Small bursts add up. 

When it comes to fitness, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. All of your physical activity doesn’t have to come at the same time in the day. Ideally get 30 minutes to yourself for some exercise, but we all know that that can’t happen every day. Intentionally taking 5 minutes, 5 times during the day adds up to 25 minutes of physical movement that you wouldn’t otherwise have had. And you truly can do a lot in 5 minutes. Try making yourself a plan at the beginning of each day. You can spend 5 minutes alternating between squats and lunges, another 5 minutes working on your core. 5 more doing some push ups and plank holds, and there you have 15 minutes of full body exercise. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than nothing. And some days that’s all we can hope for. 

Give yourself grace. 

It is so easy to get caught up in the mindset that you have to have the best work out every time you exercise. But life often has other plans, especially for parents of young children. I often don’t even have time to change into workout clothes, let alone plan and execute a killer fitness session. But forgiving myself for that is a huge part of being successful with fitness in this crazy season of life. If you get one or two quality workouts per week and the rest have to be “on the fly”, that is enough. 

Physical movement is a stress reliever. Its a gift to your kids and a great way to take care of your mind and your body in one shot. The key is to find ways to keep it from being yet another stressor in your life. Let your toddler “lead” you in a workout, forget about the routines and just run like crazy around the backyard. Play leapfrog in the driveway or do sets of squats and lunges while your little one colors a picture. However you can fit it in, it’s the right way. Fitness doesn’t have to be formal to be physically and mentally beneficial.