How to Find Time to Work Out As a Mom

Ladies, what are your best tips for how to find time to work out as a mom? In our survey I noticed that a lot of women, like me, were struggling to find time to work out. For my $.02, I know that I tend to have an all-or-nothing approach to exercise, and it isn’t doing me any favors! In addition to it being a bad idea from a calorie/consistency/crazy perspective (I like to do cardio to “keep the crazies away”), it turns out my mom body really does not like to do nothing for weeks and then try to do a kickboxing workout or a dead lift. I have a few ideas on how to find time to work out as a mom (below), but I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

In just the past few weeks, I’ve made a huge shift in my thinking. I’ve always thought of exercise as something to do to help my mood and to look better in clothes — I liked high intensity things like running, kickboxing, spinning, swinging kettlebells, lifting heavy weights, and more. Since getting pregnant with my second son I’ve been in and out of PT for years — first to mitigate my SPD pain while pregnant with H, then postpartum PT for my hip flexors, then PT again after my ACL surgery for general knee rehabilitation. I’ve now found myself back in PT because of lower back pain, which turned out to be because of weak transverse abs. (I also kept making my hip flexors angry after I tried to go running, possibly because one knee is still weaker than the other.)

how to find time to work out as a mom - the shortest workouts!I’m now realizing my core, trunk, and back are huge priorities for me just for general health and happiness — not something to think about as a “last 10 pounds bikini body push” — and I’m making sure I do exercises every day to support those. (I’m also hoping it will help improve my posture.) I know that as I get older, weight-bearing exercises like walking are more important (and, dare to dream, maybe one day I can get back to running), and I also know that strong muscles are very important, so I’m going to be trying to work in bodyweight exercises like squats and pushups since I don’t trust myself with weights right now. In theory, I have time for all this, but forming the habits (like planking after I brush my teeth, or doing wall squats while I’m waiting for water to boil) is tricky.

If you’re already feeling great postpartum (or you have older kids) and are just struggling with a timing issue, know that there are a ton of short but GREAT workouts you can do in under 20 minutes. I know readers have noted that even Peloton has classes that are 5–20 minutes! (Just be careful not to overdo it as a newbie.)

Some of the short workouts that I’ve looked into include:

Seven: This app (iOS and Android) gives you a seven-minute workout that only requires a chair, a wall, and your own body weight — and incorporates gamification to motivate you. Based on high-intensity circuit training (HICT), Seven says it’s “based on scientific studies to provide the maximum benefit of working out regularly in the shortest time possible.” As you use the app, you can track your progress, unlock achievements, earn rewards, connect with the Health app or Google Fit, and more. Seven tells you how to perform each exercise and switches between 30 seconds of intense exercise and 10 seconds of rest. You can play your chosen music from another app in the background, too. In-app purchases ($2.99 each) include a core workout, upper and lower body workouts, stretching routine, etc. For more features, you can sign up for the 7 Club (at least, you can for iOS), which costs $14.99/month or $99.99/year. 
StrongLifts 5×5 App This app (iOS and Android) will keep track of your lifting workouts and show your progression, tell you how long to rest between sets, and give you the exercises/weights for the next workout. It’s designed to be quick and easy to use; StrongLifts’ website says that it only takes “a single tap to enter your reps or change the weight.” The app will advise you on when to add weight, what to do if you can’t complete an exercise, etc. That’s the free version, and for $9.99 you can add the Power Pack, which gives you extra features, including the ability to link with the Health App or Google Fit, to export workouts to .csv, etc.
Royal Canadian Air Force Exercise Plan: Helen Mirren is a fan of this 12-minute routine (she’s done it “off and on [her] whole life”) as is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who learned about the workout when she was 29. (She says she still does the “warm-up and stretching routine” daily.) The exercise plan involves four charts of 10 exercises that are always done in the same order for 12 minutes a day. This guide tells you how many days to spend on each chart (I, II, III, and IV), according to your age, and this is the men’s plan that the women’s plan was based on. (That’s the website The Cut linked to in their article; apologies for the circa-1998-style web design.) It’s hard to find good YouTube videos demonstrating this workout, for some reason, but here’s the original manual, available on Archive.org. (Picture credit: Wikipedia.)
Guided aerobic workouts! Of course we rounded up a ton of my favorite DVDs in our previous post on quick workouts for busy moms — I still like these 20-minute videos from The Firm (pictured). There are obviously much more intense ones, though, like T25 (“get it done in 25 minutes”), P90X3 (“16 extreme 30-minute workouts”), and INSANITY Fast & Furious. I’ve also heard good things about Bikini Body Guide and other on-demand videos such as those from Daily Burn. Readers who like to do videos, which are your favorites? Do you have any YouTubers you follow for workouts? Anyone have a Beachbody On Demand subscription? Any shorter guided workouts for barre or Pilates you’d recommend once I get the form locked down?

Social media picture credit via Shutterstock / mimagephotography.finding time to work out as a busy mom

What are your best tips on how to find time to work out as a mom? We rounded up some super short workouts you can do, and we're talking in general about how to find time to work out as a mom (and, if you're like Kat, to ditch the all-or-nothing approach to exercise).

Comments

  1. Potty training woes says:

    Whatever you choose, I think you have to make it as easy for yourself as possible because it’s too hard to put it on the backburner. For me, that’s been getting up at 5 a.m. and pounding it out in the morning. I’ve never been a morning workout person, but it’s the only thing keeping me on track because nothing else interferes at that hour. (Besides wanting sleep.) I also will not go to the gym during the week because of the time and hassle required. I’ll do it on the weekend, but everything on a weekday has to be done close to home.

    When life is really nuts or you’re sleeping never because of having an infant, commit to walking during the noon hour. Even if that’s all you do, it’s better than nothing.

  2. NewMomAnon says:

    I love running, but have been having a hard time justifying the time I have to take away from work to do it (plus my knees don’t love it as much as they did pre-baby). So I started walking to and from work instead. It’s about 1.5 miles each way, and I can walk it in about 20 minutes – driving and parking and walking from the garage can easily take 15 minutes, so it’s a wash. Plus I can check e-mails and take phone calls while walking, so I can actually bill hours on my commute. I don’t get very sweaty so I don’t need a second shower, and my hair dries while I walk, so I can skip the blow dry step too.

    On days I can’t walk to work (bad weather or need to drive mid-day), I try to get to work a bit early and take a 20 minute walk before going to the office.

  3. Anon in NYC says:

    I think my overarching recommendation would be to know what type of exercise you enjoy and do that. I hate running, so I don’t make myself do that. I prefer exercise classes, so I try to do those. I like spin, pilates, yoga, and lifting weights/bodyweight exercises.

    Right now I sign up for early morning (like 6:30am) exercise classes; I don’t have to think and I’ll lose money if I cancel. I’m hoping that I can start incorporating an early morning at-home yoga / strength training workouts at some point, but it’s hard dragging myself out of bed so early!

    • Macademia says:

      I agree, doing whatever exercise you really enjoy is the key. I love going to boxing class, and my husband sometimes shoves me out the door at 5:30 a.m. since he knows I’ll be in a great mood afterward.

  4. Macademia says:

    When my boy was little he liked playing video games in the gym’s childcare. That was before we had any kind of gaming system, or even an iPad, at our house. It was a glorious time in my mom fitness journey.

    The whole “short workouts you can do at home” thing doesn’t work for me. What works best is getting up early and going for a run before anyone needs me. Runners’ World had a streak where you ran a mile every day between Thanksgiving and New Year’s (and recently, Memorial Day and 4th of July), and I loved it. It removed the decision about whether to run and just left the question of how long. I enter races every now and then so I have a training goal but I mostly run for fun.

  5. Sara C. says:

    I cannot recommend “MommaStrong” enough. It’s an online platform geared primarily at pelvic floor and core strength for moms (though the exercises also strengthen arms and legs incidentally). I *love* her approach and accessibility, and it’s the one thing that got me from not being able to run for more than 30 seconds due to pelvic floor issues to completing a half-marathon. It also takes 15 minutes a day, costs $2/month, and supports women in need.

    I’m also a big fan of the Foundation book, which focuses on lower back pain.

    • how does this compare to Mutu and Restore Your Core?

      • I have no idea how it compares, but I have Mutu and Restore Your Core and I love Restore Your Core. Mutu is okay/good, but Restore Your Core is really excellent! Plus, the facebook group that she has is really great too!

    • TXTwinMama says:

      I signed up for MommaStrong based on this recommendation, and I’m IN LOVE! Thank you so much for sharing! I’ve done three workouts and followed along with several other videos, and I already feel stronger and more powerful. I want all my mama friends to join!

  6. I find the only way that I make time for it is if I do it on my lunch during my work day. Once I get home I have a very small window of time to make dinner, clean up, and spend quality time with DS which I don’t want to miss out on since I’m away from him all day. Maybe once he’s older and more independent with sleep I will switch to doing some stuff at night; but currently doing a class at the gym on campus (I work at a teaching hospital) or an eliptical/weight training combo seems to serve me best. I’m having motivation issues with it currently but I still recommend this set up!

  7. Sour Candy, Esq. says:

    On evenings when my husband works late AND I don’t have work to do after our daughter goes to bed (or shows to watch or meals to prepare or birthday parties to plan or thank you notes to write, etc.), I love many of the classes on Yoga Today. Really good. That said, despite paying for the membership to motivate myself, it happens a handful of times a year.

  8. P90x3!!! says:

    Highly recommend P90x3. 30 min workouts. Lots of variety – strength, cardio, agility, flexibility, core – plus Tony Horton is fun and self-effacing. Just requires a set of dumbbells and maybe a pull-up bar. Love it. Do it in the morning first thing and my day is made

  9. The thing that works for me is to exercise for 30 min in the morning before work, and not usually on weekends – if I work out on a weekend, I’m too tired to play with my son and do all my chores and generally run around all day. I can manage sitting at my desk all day. I get up about 30-45 minutes earlier and either go for a 30 min run, or do a FitnessBlender.com workout in my living room. I started doing this when my son was 2 and have maintained it for 3 years now.

    When I first started and couldn’t run, I did one of their FB 30 plans, which are 8 weeks of scheduled workouts, all about 30 minutes or less. (See https://www.fitnessblender.com/plans/fb30-8-week-fat-loss-for-busy-people-lose-weight-tone-up-build-lean-muscle). Highly recommended! Their videos are all free on YouTube, you pay a one time fee of $14.99 for the schedule if you want it and you can recycle it indefinitely.

    If you want to try it out, they have a free 5 day version here: http://www.fitnessblender.com/videos/day-1-fitness-blenders-free-5-day-workout-challenge-for-busy-people

    I often watch the workout video on my phone in the living/dining area while my husband and son are eating breakfast and watching TV- I had to give up on privacy, motivating music, and/or a serene environment. I sometimes get interrupted and have to take breaks to refill Cheerios, etc. It is definitely more pleasant to do alone but I am not willing to sacrifice the sleep I would have to wake up early enough for that to happen. Now that I can run again I love to do that outside and escape!

    If I have to stay up late for work and need to catch up on sleep in the morning, I occasionally substitute a long walk at lunch for my morning workout, and I take breaks if I am sick or just really not feeling it, but I love how it makes me feel. I try to ask myself, will I regret exercising? The answer is almost never “yes.”

    • PS – I wear the same disgusting workout clothes every day all week. Less laundry = more happy.

      • EB0220 says:

        Haha I do this too. Thanks for making me feel better! In my defense, I wear them to lift and I don’t get that sweaty!

  10. Not Thin But Strong says:

    I do “slow lifting,” also called “Power of 10.” You lift super heavy weights, super slowly. It is a 20 minute workout once a week. I do it with a trainer and that means there is accountability (it costs $$) and progress (because they push me instead of letting me give up halfway through). Because of the emphasis on form, there’s very little risk of injury and no stress on joints. It’s expensive but after kid #2 it’s the only thing I’ve stuck with. Plus, I’m freaking strong now. Not thin, but strong.

    • Not Thin But Strong says:

      by the way, I started this workout 2 mos after having my second kid — I’d broken my foot while pregnant and was basically in a wheelchair for 4 weeks before giving birth. So I was in pretty bad shape. I loved that this workout met me where I was. I could not have dropped into even a beginner yoga class or cardio at that point – my core was totally shot.

      • ThatGirl says:

        Once a week?! I’m sold. I love this because you’re actually focusing on improving yourself, not just looking better. Lifting weights has so many benefits for women (improves bone density, etc) so I’m really glad it’s becoming more maintstream. Go you!

  11. FTMinFL says:

    I can totally relate to the “all or nothing” mindset. I was a relatively accomplished athlete pre-kids and even finished an Ironman triathlon two months before conceiving my first. Adjusting my mindset from “every workout should have a specific purpose and last x amount of time and leave you spent” to “something is better than nothing” was hard and so worth it. Sometimes just committing to a walk around the block every day is enough to start better habits.

    I have a Beachbody on Demand subscription and really enjoy it. I try to get up before the rest of the house to work out at home, but if it doesn’t happen I can stream a body weight strength workout on my phone at lunch. I would highly recommend it for the variety of workouts and the range of intensity (restorative yoga to InsanityMax) available.

    • Cornellian says:

      That’s where I am. I do physical activity intensely for a period, and then often move on. I went through a marathoning era, did an ultra and a couple marathons, and haven’t run more than 10 miles since, for example. I am very bad at exercising in moderation.

      Thankfully in NYC I hit 10K walking steps most days without trying, but I don’t like feeling weak and out of shape.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Our nanny stays late three times a week so DH and I can go to the gym. We’re lucky that the gym is a ten-minute walk from our home, so she only ends up staying 75 minutes late those days and we are home around 7ish.

  13. Zerodoll says:

    Morning workouts are the only way it happens. I’m up at 5 to get in my workout, get showered and be ready when the kids start waking (anywhere from 630-7a). We do have a treadmill and an elliptical now so there is no driving to a gym time, and I do occasionally run outdoors too. It also means that I get to “sleep in” on the weekends my off days and that makes it all the better.

  14. Fitness Blender! says:

    I have a one year old that goes to bed at 8 so I work out after she goes to bed three times a week and maybe once on the weekend. I use Fitness Blender (fitness blender dot com) which has hundreds of free videos that incorporate lifting, HIIT, kickboxing, kettlebell, stretching, etc. Work outs are all different lengths but they have ton that are in the half hour range which I love. They have paid workout plans as well. They are a cute married couple who are down to earth and fun to workout with. Can’t recommend them enough!

    • Ashley says:

      I can’t agree more! I love fitness blender. I just love that you can search by time limits, type of workout, even body part and they are all free. The videos also have calories-burned estimates and level of difficulty ratings. I recently bought a package where they tell you exactly what workout videos to do each day and put them on a calendar. That way, I didn’t even have to make a decision what I was going to do.

      I also run on my non-FB days, so my workouts are pretty set. I occasionally do a class like CorePower Yoga or OrangeTheory, especially if I can sign up with a friend.

      I do get up at 5:30am to get my workout in early though – otherwise, it will not happen as I’m exhausted by the end of the day. I am still nursing my son, so if I’m doing something high impact like running or HIIT, I have to wake him up to nurse before I exercise, otherwise I’m too engorged and in pain.

      Does anyone else have this issue? I’m only nursing 4x per day – he’s 8 months old – but I am still so engorged in the mornings.

  15. SEDC Mom says:

    AM workouts, at a gym you love. I am someone that needs someone telling me what to do (I have seriously left the gym without a workout if my class is cancelled at the last minute because I don’t want to try to think one up for myself). My classes are the ONLY thing that motivates me to get up and go in the morning- plus having all of my clothes and bag ready so I can just zombie my way out the door. Also highly recommend a gym as close to your house as possible- mine is a bike/walk away.

    As tough as it was in the beginning, after I had my baby it was sooo nice getting time to myself, for myself.

  16. Anonymous says:

    This is super super petty, but does any other runner out there really hate the photo with this post? Who runs in high top sneakers? That makes my knees and ankles hurt just thinking about it.

  17. Tired Mommy says:

    So timely as I have been struggling lately to get motivated to work out. I am slowly accepting that 30 minutes that I will actually accomplish is better than the 1 hour that I put off/procrastinate because I don’t want to get up that early. Does anyone know of a good yoga app. I could use to guide me on a short workout in my office? I already walk during lunch but would like to get in some generally movement/stretching during breaks on days I can’t get a workout in due to lazy/tired/early wake-up for baby….

    • I love YogaGlo – I believe they have a free trial period, and routines that start at 5 or 10 minutes long that are meant for desk workers.

  18. I really want to work out in the morning, but I can’t make myself get up, so I do various things in the evening after my kid goes to bed or just after work when my husband has pick-up duty, or during naptime on the weekend. We have a treadmill at home, so I run or walk while catching up on TV. I have flirted with the BBG workouts (you can find them for free via Google) and recently re-discovered Fitness Blender. The only class I go to right now is spin.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Daily Burn app on Apple TV

  20. +1 DailyBurn – lots of varied workouts, and they suggest a “program” for you based on your preferences so it’s easy to know the cadence of videos. Great trainers.

    Also, I am motivating myself right now by creating an incentive – if I accomplish working out X times a week for X weeks, I get something that I *really* want but wouldn’t normally splurge on otherwise (i.e. a nice bag, cute shoes, etc…). It is helping.

    Finally, I find that working from home really helps me find time. I work out in the morning, typically before I would have started working in the office but after I’ve dropped of my kid at daycare.

Speak Your Mind