10 Survival Tips for the #FITFAM

July 15, 2018

Photocredit: Reebok Crossfit Bare Cove - Cole Family

Being a mom or dad who loves to workout is more than just a social media trend...it’s healthy, motivating, and necessary. As we age, we need to be able to keep up with our kids and equally important, don’t we want our children to see us exercise, eat healthily, and do good things for our minds and bodies?

Parents need to be healthy role models for their children because due to the modern advances in technology and food processing (lazier people coupled with faster food), it’s actually expected that our children will live shorter lives than we, the parents will. And this makes me sick-to-my-stomach sad.

But being a parent, holding a job--whether it’s full or part-time, and trying to get to the gym each day is really tough on the to-do list. Or should I say the “stress” list? Many parents actually skip out on gym time so that they can spend those few precious minutes at the end of the day with their littles. Work guilt often creeps in on full-time working parents and many just aren’t willing to sacrifice even more time away from their tugging heart-strings.

And even the work-from-home/stay-at-home/part-time working parents can have a hard time prioritizing fitness. Sometimes the baby doesn’t nap and you can’t squeeze that workout in, and often times the gym’s childcare is only open at certain times of day, or heck, sometimes you’re just too flippin’ exhausted to pick up a kettlebell or drive to the gym when you’ve been trying to teach a two-year-old his ABCs, to potty-train, to not color on the walls, to stop pulling the cat’s tail...all day long!

I run a bootcamp gym six days a week all while it feels as if my 18-month old runs me. I understand exhaustion. While my job revolves around motivating others, some days I feel as if my own motivation is at an all-time low. But this is where I say that I owe it to myself, and I owe it to my family to prioritize my health. Exercise will energize me and the endorphins will make me a happier mom/wife. I want to live a long, healthy life and I know you do too! Besides, I want to be strong for my daughter. I want to feel proud of my accomplishments, confident in my skin (and my clothes!), and heck, I’d really like to look even better than I did before this kid came along! So we do what must be done, right?!

When life feels a little too overwhelming, try some of these tips that I use to help keep from feeling stressed and anxious while simultaneously improving my fitness, energy, and overall mood.

1. Keep Your Workouts Short...But Exercise Harder

Did you know that just adding six minutes of HIIT training to your routine can burn an extra 200 calories each day? Imagine what 10 or 20 minutes will do! Maybe you don’t have time to get to the gym--no one said you have to plug in an hour+ of training each day. If you’ve got a few minutes to spare--even if you’re at home with no equipment--set a timer up for intervals (30 seconds on 30 off, 20 on 10 off, 60 on 40 off...whatever you want!) and go HARD. The harder you push during the interval, the better the results. Focus on pushing yourself a little further each and every day. Can you do 20 burpees in one minute? Not today, but maybe tomorrow? Next week can you reach 21? 22? Bringing yourself to push towards an intensity that is often hard to reach will leave you feeling accomplished and in a very short time. And best of all, you can burn just as many calories this way, if not more, than lifting or jogging for an hour or more. So push harder than you’ve ever pushed, and you don’t need to spend a lot of time getting fit. You know what they say-- “Embrace the suck,” and you’ll get fit faster, I promise. And if you need any extra HIIT workout ideas, check out my interval training book on Amazon: 365 Metcons. That’s 365 interval training / metabolic conditioning workouts!

2. Get Up a Few Minutes Earlier...or go to bed a few minutes later.

If you can’t workout during a “traditional” workout time because of your job or the kiddos, you may just have to find your own time that works for you. It’ll take a little persistence, consistency, and more embracing of the suck, but you may find that getting up 30 minutes earlier or staying up 30 minutes later to get that HIIT workout it may be your best bet for hitting your fitness goals. It’s ok if you don’t have a lot of time--go back and read number 1--you just need the will and determination to succeed. I know from experience that if I can get into the habit of waking up earlier, it gets easier and easier each day. And while I’m basically worthless past 8 pm, I have some friends who bust out rounds of body-weight Tabata before hitting the sack. (I know this because they post those sweaty selfies all over social media--which can be very motivating!) So get up or stay up, put in the work, and post your selfie when it’s done. ;)

3. Workout When Baby Naps or is In School

When my baby naps, I know it’s the only uninterrupted time of the day that I have to get something important done. Sometimes that’s business work, and sometimes it’s a workout. Heck, sometimes it’s lunch and a shower--we parents do what we can when we can, right?! But I’d say almost 75% or more of my work from home/stay at home mom friends will try to squeeze in a workout when the baby sleeps. And setting up a home gym doesn’t have to be expensive--all you really need is your own body weight (burpees, squats, lunges, push-ups, ab work), a kettlebell or two, and maybe a jump rope for that extra cardio burn. If you’re lucky enough to have a basement or garage with a squat rack and a barbell (I’d kill for this!), there’s no reason you can’t bust out a metcon of some squat clean and jerks, pull-ups, and wall balls! If you’re the type of person who doesn’t need to be in a gym to get a good workout done, the minute your kid goes down for a nap or gets on that school bus, get your sweat on! The minute the workout is over you can then start tackling the rest of that to-do list.

4. Squeeze Something in When the Kiddos are Distracted.

This is similar to the above tip, but your workout isn’t going to be as “well-planned” as working out when your kids are sleeping or in school. What I mean with this tip is that if you’re in the kitchen cooking and the kids are playing in the next room, bust out a set of squats every few minutes. Do some push-ups during commercials when you’re watching TV, or do a few lunges while your kids are running through the park. It’s all about squeezing in that little bit of added activity whenever you can. If you can do 100 burpees over the course of an 8-hour day, that’s still 100 burpees you did--even if you break them up into sets of five at random times. Aim for 100 burpees on Monday, 100 squats on Tuesday, 100 push-ups on Wednesday, 100 Lunges on Thursday and 100 sit-ups on Friday. And then whenever you have 60 seconds to spare, see what you can squeeze in! You never know--you may be able to up the numbers each week!

5. Workout With Your Baby

Brielle thinks that push-up kisses are hilarious. She squeals when I put her on my lap and rock back and forth on the floor with her (hollow rocks anyone?). When I squat and press her--sometimes tossing her a couple inches into the air--she squeals with excitement and I must keep repeating these baby thrusters until my legs or shoulders give out. Sure, she isn’t a barbell. She moves, and twists, and turns, and gets heavier and trickier to hold every day. That’s an incredible challenge! All you have to do is Google “mom and baby workout ideas” and you’ll be inundated with inspiring workout ideas to do with the little one. And what if your kids are too big for push-up kisses and thrusters? Call ‘em crazy, but I bet they would LOVE to race you to see who could do the most burpees in a minute, or push-ups, or sit-ups, or ANY exercise you want to do. Kids are FULL of energy and I bet they’d make the BEST workout partner. And isn’t this what you want them to see you doing? Something healthy for yourself? Habits they’ll pick up and do too? Then maybe when they’re 15 they’ll hit the gym with you instead of lounging around playing video games on the couch. That’s a healthy-family win!

6. Bring Your Child to Workout With You

I know you can’t do this at every gym, but at most CrossFit gyms, you can bring that kiddo, put her in a pack-and-play or an exersaucer and keep your eye on her while you get your sweat on. That’s one of the reasons I love CrossFit so much. After having my baby, I had some pretty bad postpartum anxiety and I didn’t want to leave my baby while I worked out so I just took her with me to CrossFit! She sat in the stroller when she was really little and I ran with her for my 400m runs. When she got bigger, I packed a travel-exersaucer and she bounced (her own workout!) while I worked out with the class. I know this isn’t an option everywhere, but it’s one of the great things about many CrossFit facilities!

7. Swing a Kettlebell 8 Times a Day

Back in January, my bootcamp classes took on a 10,000 kettlebell swing challenge--swinging 10k swings by the end of the month. As the bootcamp owner and coach of almost all the classes, I couldn’t let my members do this without me, right?! So throughout the month, there were a couple (or a few) crazy days with the baby, and I didn’t get my swings in. As it got closer to the end of the month, I realized I wasn’t going to finish the 10k challenge if I didn’t do 1000 swings each day for the last few days. Now, doing 1000 swings in one setting is ridiculous. But 100 swings on the hour every hour for 10 hours? Ok, that kind of sucked too, but I got it done. And it was way easier than trying to do 1000 at a time. Of course, I’m not saying you need to swing a kettlebell 1000 times a day to get into shape, but could you do 25 swings every hour for eight hours? That’s 200 swings a day. Or 50 swings every hour for 10 hours? That’s 500 kettlebell swings each day! Imagine your level of fitness if you did this on your off days or days you couldn’t get to the gym...even on vacation days! Kettlebell swings are one of the greatest fat burning and strength building exercises. They work your heart, your muscles, and your mental stamina! Grab one and start swinging!

8. Take the Kids on a Walk

Some days are overwhelming and before I know it, it’s 7 pm and I’m left wondering, “What in the world just happened?” I didn’t get to the gym much less do anything else for fitness so what do we do? We grab the stroller, the kid, the dogs, and go for a walk. At least it’s something. If you’ve got a weight vest by chance, throw it on for an extra upper body workout and bonus calorie burn. On vacation? Walk as much as possible. Those hotel gyms kind be kind of crappy so why not change up your routine for a few days? The last time I went to the beach, instead of trying to do a wod every day, I went for a walk on the beach. I’m not sure how many miles it was, but I averaged about 6000 steps on my sandy walk each morning. And nothing felt better than that beautiful sunrise, ocean wave, the sound of seagulls morning march. Some days the hubs tagged along and a couple times I wore my baby in her carrier. No matter what, I got that little bit of exercise I needed to make me feel accomplished and assured.

9. Food Prep One Meal at a Time

The thought of food prepping for an entire family seems overwhelming when you know it’s likely to take the bulk of an entire day. I mean, it’s hard enough to food prep for yourself, much less the rest of the house! Yet you want your family to eat healthy and make smart food choices, right? Of course! So you do what you can when you can. Try to make a menu and a grocery list on Thursday or Friday so you’re not overwhelmed on the weekend trying to figure out what you’re going to eat. On Friday or Saturday go to the store. Then on Sunday just focus on getting one meal out of the way. Make an egg and veggie casserole that you can throw in the oven and eat off of for the week. I make a lot of hard-boiled eggs (boiling eggs is pretty much the easiest thing you can do) and I stick them in the fridge while keeping smoothie ingredients on hand. In the mornings I can throw some spinach, banana, mango, and coconut milk into a blender; peel a couple of eggs, and we’re all set. Buy snacks that are easy to grab so that you don’t have to prepare a ton of food--cheese sticks, nuts, fruit, yogurt. Just pack one or two lunches so that you’re set for Monday and then Monday night fix a big dinner that will last a few more days, and during clean-up, pack a couple more lunches. One of my favorite lunch ideas is what I call the “lunch-pack.” I put some deli meats, cheese, apple slices, carrots, celery, peppers, hummus, almonds, and whole grain crackers together and it’s a fun lunch that you can easily throw together. And the best thing about this lunch is that you can keep it simple yet change the fruit and/or veggies each week.

10. Get Some Equipment to Keep at Home When Busy Schedules Don’t Let You Get to the Gym

Some days you’re not going to make it to the gym. When you’ve got kids, that’s a given. But can you keep a stash of equipment on hand when life gets rough? Maybe finances are rough and you need to save up some cash or maybe you’re working from home while taking care of three littles and packing up three kiddos with three different nap times just so you can go to a gym has you feeling defeated before you even start. If you’ve got 30-45 minutes a day with a few pieces of equipment, you should check out my online bootcamp programming. It’s $5 per month, you get most of the same programming we do in our bootcamp class, tailored to be able to be completed anywhere--especially at home. You just need a kettlebell, some bands, a jump rope, and a slamball! Take the thinking and the planning out of your workout and if you can find some time to yourself in your day, you can get that workout done.

Good luck to all my fit-fams out there--no matter what you’re facing in life, there’s always time to squeeze in some sweaty hard work! Whether you have 10 minutes or 30, know that there’s always something you can do. And never forget--it’s not just good for you--it’s good for your whole family! Time to get movin’ mommas and daddies'...you’ve got this!

This is a guest post from Stephanie Walker, a CrossFit and Health Coach who believes everyone deserves to be fitter, healthier, and happier. Stephanie is the author of The Total Health and Fitness Makeover, and is passionate about helping others transform their lives through fitness and good foods--just as she did her own! You can follow Steph on InstagramFacebook or Strongfigure.com.