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Important: This advice in this article is general in nature and is not based on your specific health profile. Please consult your doctor before starting any new exercise program.
Let’s start with a little quiz:
You have a spare 30 mins. Do you:
- Check social media
- Call your mum
- Catch up on Netflix
- Do the laundry
- Cook dinner
- Brush your hair and put on some makeup
- None of the above, because this would NEVER happen.
You might already be in your active wear, but would exercise be your first choice?
We’ve all heard that we should exercise (not that I like ‘shoulds’) but in reality, so many mums struggle to incorporate exercise into their life.
The things that stop us
What’s stopping you from exercising?
I want to introduce you to someone who definitely knows a lot about the relationship women have with exercise. I was fortunate to chat to her when I was preparing this post for you.
Lizzy Williamson, has spent 15 years a personal trainer, speaker, presenter and more recently author. Through helping many women change their relationship with exercise, she’s found that the number 1 reason given for not exercising is that they don’t have the time.
Is that your reason too?
If our children needed to do something to be more mentally, emotionally or physically healthy, we would make time for it. We know how to find time for things that we believe are a priority.
So, is time really the issue?
We’ll come back to this in a moment.
Here are some other common barriers to exercise for mums:
I’m too tired
When you’re exhausted and you have the choice between extra sleep and exercise, sleep often wins. In some cases, sleep might actually be the better choice. However, remember that although it seems counterintuitive, exercise will actually give you energy that can last for hours!
I don’t have the money
What can I say – exercise for free! There are plenty of options that don’t involve membership fees or any fancy equipment at all.
I have no one to look after my kids (or my child wants to be with me ALL the time)
You might have little available family support and no formal childcare. Or you have a child that is stuck to you like glue. My son is still mostly like this at 3 and a half, although it’s getting easier and I’m finally able to exercise properly when my husband is around.
This one requires a bit of creativity – exercise with the kids, swap child minding and exercising time with another mum, get up earlier to exercise while your partner’s still at home, or find an activity that you can take your kids to. There are more kid friendly fitness classes these days than ever!
I’m scared of being judged
Mums are often worried about being judged for how they look, whether they’re good at the exercise they’ve chosen and for spending time and money on themselves.
Studies have found that modern mothers are working more AND spending more time with their children, than previous generations. And they’re achieving this by sacrificing sleep, personal grooming and time for personal recreation.
You know what? Most people are too worried about themselves, to be paying too much attention to you. And even if they did notice you, you can’t let anyone else stop you from doing what’s best for you. Ignore them! The more you exercise, the more comfortable you’ll feel and the less this one will worry you.
It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Try 2 minutes.
Do you have an all or nothing mindset about exercise?
Lizzy told me that many women she has spoken believe that exercise has to last for a certain amount of time to count.
When you’re a mum, this belief can sabotage your efforts before you even get started. If you can’t find an uninterrupted 60 mins, you won’t even try to exercise.
When women tell her they don’t have time for exercise, Lizzy asks: “Do you have 2 minutes?”
It’s pretty hard to give an answer other than “yes”.
And Lizzy firmly believes that is enough. She’s proven it through her own experience.
Lizzy was more shocked than anyone when she was diagnosed with postnatal depression after the birth of her second child. She had recurring suicidal thoughts and couldn’t recognise herself.
She made a commitment to herself to take action every day to make herself feel a bit better. At her lowest point, she realised she needed to MOVE.
Ignoring all the excuses that flooded her mind, she decided to just start with 2 minutes.
The first 2 minutes of movement were ballet barre moves she hadn’t practiced in a long time. Her children needed something after that, but the 2 minutes was enough to bring a sense of achievement and motivate her to do it again the following day. Some days she did more, and some days she didn’t but it started a powerful habit that helped her reclaim her wellbeing. All the little moments of exercise were actually working.
The thing is, once you get started, your body feels better, your mind feels better, your emotions feel better and you want to do more.
Plus, 2 minutes feels so much more achievable, and there’s a much greater likelihood you’ll actually do it!
Nourishing not punishing
Why do you exercise?
To fix those post baby body issues that you’re not happy with?
To make up for that burger and fries, or block of chocolate you ate yesterday?
Because your mum mentioned that your pants were a bit tight?
Or do you feel ashamed of yourself when you’re scrolling through your social media feed seeing all those celebrities who ‘snapped back’? (gosh, we’re not rubber bands!)
I asked Lizzy what she wished all women believed about exercise.
“I wish that all women believed that exercise was about nourishing and loving your body, not about punishment or fixing your body. It’s about celebrating what your body can and wants to do. Exercise is a vehicle for joy, sanity and vitality.”
Too many of us see exercise as a burden, an expectation that we have to live up to or something that we do when we’ve let ourselves go or been ‘bad’.
It can actually be much more positive and empowering than that.
Start with your mindset and ask yourself what’s really underneath all those excuses you use?
If you say you don’t have the time, but you do have 2 minutes. So, what’s the real reason you don’t want to exercise?
It’s worth it
I know you know this, so I’ll be brief. Exercise provides so many benefits:
- Reduced stress
- Improved energy levels, mood and confidence
- A break from your responsibilities
- Thinking time for your brain (I get loads of ideas while running)
- Improved sleep
- An opportunity to socialise with adults (if you’re exercising with others)
- Stamina and strength to look after your children
- An example for your children, of how to look after their wellbeing.
Let’s get down to the details of how to make it happen.
Of course, there’s the gym, various classes and personal training. There’s always activities like running, walking and YouTube workouts which don’t need to adhere to a schedule or incur a cost.
There are also lots of opportunities for incidental exercise, which is simply physical activity that is built up in small amounts throughout your daily activities.
- Walking to the shops instead of driving, or parking further away
- Taking the stairs instead of the lift
- Washing the car
- Running around after your children
- Lifting or carrying your children (this is my main arm toner!)
- Walking around the house or anywhere at all (you can track your steps with a pedometer)
- Playing active games with your children
- Carrying the groceries from the car into the house.
You can also add some deliberate exercises into your daily routine. For example:
- Squats when you get the washing out of the basket
- Lunges while you wait for the kettle to boil
- Have a high intensity dance session with the kids.
If you need something more to guide you, then check out Lizzy’s Two Minute Moves! Lizzy actually took her powerful personal experience and made it her work. She creates joyful, inspiring 2 minute exercise videos you can do at home, so you can experience how possible it is to incorporate exercise into your day and feel good!
I love using these videos to exercise and also enjoy just watching them because she’s so fun! Check these out for a sneak peak:
Lizzy also recently published a book, Two Minute Moves, which doesn’t only contain 2 minute moves, but also meditations, recipes and mindset tips, to help us deal with the biggest excuses we use to avoid exercising. I LOVE this book!
Self-Compassion and Persistence
No matter what exercise you choose, don’t become too rigid, lovely mum.
It’s ok if you miss a day. It’s ok if you don’t get to exercise for as long as you would like because your children need you.
Just let it go and move onto the next opportunity.
Your health is a long game, so you can’t afford to give up just after you leave the starting blocks.
Every day is a new day and one with enormous potential for change. Momentum will build.
Action Plan to Get Moving:
Want to get started right away?
- Check your motivation for exercising. Are you exercising to nourish your body?
- Commit to moving, despite the excuses.
- Make a start, even with just 2 minutes a day.