How Working Moms Can Get Into Good Health and Fitness Routines

Today on Corporette we’re talking about what our health and fitness routines are, and I thought it might be a great distinct discussion to have over here, as well, since at least I know that having kids has really affected my health and fitness routines. So let’s discuss — what WERE your health and fitness routines, pre-kids? What are they now? What do you see as the biggest stumbling blocks to getting into good health and fitness routines as a working mom? What are your best tips on how working moms can get into good health and fitness routines? 

I’ve described my own routines over on Corporette, but I have some additional thoughts on how being a working mom affects my heath and fitness routines:

  • My workout routines have been heavily influenced by my kids, in part because my old tricks have been foiled over the years. If I get up at 5 to workout… I end up waking both of the kids up, which often devolves into an “all hands on deck” situation with two grumpy kids. As I’ve described before, our bedtime funnel is pretty busy and often stressful because everyone is tired and the kids often somehow think they can convince us that bedtime isn’t happening (nope), so getting a workout in after the bedtime funnel has completed is, for me at least, almost impossible. This summer I got into a good workout routine with Couch to 5K during mornings or afternoons, and I’m thrilled to get back to it. Maybe if my gym had a better kids’ care option…
  • My health routines haven’t suffered due to the kids per SE, but when I met my husband I had a pretty strict “no carbs at night policy,” at least for the weeknights — and with the kids I always end up making a pasta or bread side dish. This doesn’t mean I have to eat the carbs, I know, but willpower is harder when it’s sitting right in front of you and there are half-finished plates. I also find that my weekends look totally different from my single days in terms of a health perspective, in that I find workouts harder to fit in on the weekends and I find myself snacking a lot more during the weekends. (On the flip side: in those early years of marriage my husband and I often ate dinners out, which often involved drinking during the week — there may have also been a bit of daydrinking during lazy Saturdays and Sundays where all we had to do was binge Netflix. So in theory we are drinking less, which is obviously better for our health.)

How about you, guys — what are your best tips for how working moms can get into good health and fitness routines? What are you doing yourself — and what’s been holding you back? 


  1. CPA Lady says:

    Pre-kid I was the kind of person who had to pay for expensive classes in order to motivate myself to go– hot yoga, barre, private tennis lessons, etc. I have never been a gym rat, I have never had an active lifestyle. I really wish I had more of a desire to exercise but I basically have always had to force my way through it.

    These days, I take my kid swimming a couple times a week, we go on walks after dinner sometimes, and I generally am in terrible shape. I bought a 10 class pass for my yoga studio and I am trying to go once a week. I did about half of bikini body mommy 7.0 (free 20 minute routines on youtube) a couple months ago… I really liked it and could tell a surprising difference in my body but I got off track when I went on vacation and never got back into it. I keep meaning to, and this post is a good kick in the pants. I will start over on day 1 tonight.

  2. My biggest change is that I don’t work out any more. I get up early in the morning as it is, I can’t wake up any earlier. And as you describe, the evenings are a funnel to get to bedtime. If I work out after kids are in bed, then it disrupts my sleep for the night. I have the most luck exercising instead of the bedtime routine – if partner handles it all and I leave to go to the gym. But we only do that once a week at most (for each of us) thanks to work schedules, and oftentimes we eat up that time with errands that are easier to run solo, like grocery shopping or getting the oil changed. I’m more active in my daily life, thanks to bike rides and neighborhood walks and such, but that doesn’t come close to making up for the 3+ hours of cardio that I used to get each week.

    I do eat a lot better thanks to kids. I eat more vegetables in one week now than I did in an entire month pre-kids. I pack my lunch along with theirs during the school year so I’m not picking up food from the cafeteria in my building. I sit down to eat and actually talk through my meal, instead of mindlessly hoovering it while I stand at the counter watching TV.

  3. HRHNYC says:

    Pre-kids I was a big runner and did a long-ish run 3-4 days a week, in addition to lifting weights and yoga. I would work out most mornings before work, and I trained for and ran 3 marathons, including cross-training. Post-kids I can hardly get myself into bed early enough to wake up for work, let alone wake up earlier to work out. My morning starts at basically the same time it did pre-kids, but without the ability to leave the house and go for a run. BUT we moved to the suburbs and my new commute involves a ton of walking – about an hour a day, roundtrip, while wearing a backpack that is often pretty heavy – so that has become my workout. I still try to run 1-2 times/week, mostly on the weekend. Yoga is gone.

    I had given up on weights for 5 years, but recently I started trying to lift some weights in my living room in the morning while the kids play – maybe 20-30 minutes for a decent full-body workout. That routine went out the window this summer because my older child has to be on the camp bus early, which screwed up the timing, but I’m hoping that once the summer is over I can get back into the weights.

    Honestly this change in exercise hasn’t affected my weight at all, and I am probably healthier overall now than I was back when I was working out so hard, because my exercise is more consistent and easier on my body, but still great cardio.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Pre-kids (so, until 6 years ago), my husband and I had a climbing gym membership and went 4+ times per week. I also did one or two 10-13 mile races or sprint distance triathlons per year, and rotated through various group exercise classes with friends, yoga, recreational crew team, and long bike rides both for fun and as transportation. It’s fair to say that exercise was a major hobby, and at some points earlier in my career, part of my job. Plus my commute was public transportation, and included about half mile walk and one of the longest continuous escalators in the world worth of stair climbing.

    Now, I ride my bike to work when the weather is nice, go to on-site yoga class 1-2 times/week, walk during my lunch break if I miss the yoga class, and try to get in at least 3 dedicated workouts per week. The dedicated workouts are Saturday morning, when I can take advantage of the babysitting service at my gym, or on week nights after the kids go to bed. They tend to be a long walk or jog in my neighborhood, weightlifting, swimming laps, or occasionally a yoga DVD or some calisthenics at home. The major limiting factors for me right now are time and energy. I’m reluctant to use time during the weekdays that I would otherwise spend with my family to do real workouts, but waking up early enough to get a workout in before the morning scramble starts is hard, y’all. And sometimes after a long day, I just want to put on PJs instead of workout clothes at 8pm. Energy is a vicious or virtuous cycle for me. I know I would feel better and have more energy if I exercised more, but some days, weeks, months it’s just impossible to get started.

  5. Lana Del Raygun says:

    I am determined to keep working out after my first is born this fall because I’ve discovered that it’s crucial to feeling like a real human* for me, and my husband has promised to support me in this. We will see how it goes. :)

    Any stories or anecdata about getting back into exercising after birth?

    *Not that people who don’t work out aren’t real humans! You’re all real humans, and I support you all in your personal practices that keep you emotionally in touch with that reality. :)

    • Anonymous says:

      That’s how I feel about workouts, too, and it was no trouble at all for me to get back into a consistent workout schedule with a baby, because it was something I wanted to do. If I’d been trying to tear myself away from the baby to do something I didn’t enjoy, that may have been a different story, but I was perfectly happy to leave him at gym babysitting or with my husband in the evening and go do my thing. If your pregnancy and delivery are uneventful, your doctor will probably clear you for all your normal activities at your 6 week pp appointment.

      On maternity leave, I walked for hours almost every day pushing baby in a stroller. It was May-June and the weather was perfect, I had nothing better to do, and it put him right to sleep. That was an easy, safe way to get moving again, and by the time baby was old enough for gym babysitting at 3 months, I was ready for real workouts. I’ve subsequently learned that no one actually takes their 3 month old baby to babysitting, but oh well.

      • Anonymous says:

        I should add that that only applies to one baby, and it only applies to infants. I’ve found it exponentially harder to leave a toddler or preschooler, and to leave more than one child, because 1. older kids know you’re leaving and can express outrage better, and 2. it’s a bigger imposition on my husband to have him handle bedtime, solo, for two or more children. However, toddlers and preschoolers give you more opportunities to exercise with them (playground obstacle courses are hokey, but effective), so it evens out a little bit.

      • Betty says:

        This is pretty much what I did too, and I feel the same way about exercising. I will say that my second was an easy baby, who was happy to chill in her stroller, hang with my mom while I ran or watch me do barre at home, or whatever. My oldest…. was not a laid back baby. He was happy in a carrier, so I walked with him in the carrier, but the additional weight was tough on my knees in the first 6-8 weeks postpartum. Because he was a more high needs baby, I was not able to get back into exercising as quickly (because no one was sleeping, I was to tired to think about healthy food, and thus the vicious cycle). This is all to say: keep it a priority but also understand that sometimes priorities change, and that’s ok.

      • This works LOVELY if you have a spring or summer baby. I was inside November-March through a particularly long, cold winter and I attribute this to PPA. Making up for it by being outside a ridiculous amount (even on the hottest days!) this summer!

    • HRHNYC says:

      I found it relatively easy to exercise when I had one kid – I would put child in jogging stroller and we would go out for a run before I went to work. It wasn’t quite as good as a run without kids, because I spent a lot of time stopping to check on her, giving her snacks, entertaining her, etc., but it was enough to feel like real exercise. It was our special time because we would often stop at a playground for a bit on our way back, when the weather was good. This was possible with one kid, but feels impossible with two. I suppose if I really really wanted to I could get both kids up and dressed and into a double jogger, or have the bigger one scooter while I jogged, but this doesn’t feel very do-able to me right now. I do make a point to exercise one or both days of the weekend, and almost always succeed, because my husband also supports me and knows I need this for my mental (and physical) health.

      As far as exercising after birth, I was running 2.5 weeks after my first was born. It wasn’t fast or glamorous, but it felt great. After my second, I waited closer to 4 weeks because I found that I bled more if I did too much after the second. I walked a ton shortly after both were born though, often wearing the baby.

      • Betty says:

        I’m going to guess that you’re in NYC, so this may not be practical. However, some of the best advice I received was to get a treadmill. Running with a jogging stroller is fun with an infant, challenging with an infant and preschooler and impossible once the youngest is in preschool (easily pushing 70 lbs). We purchased a treadmill when our kids were (2 and 4), and it has been a great investment (not a super fancy one). The treadmill allows me (or my husband) to go for a run when we are solo-parenting at home, or when the weather is bad and we don’t want to drive to the gym. I view this as the perfect opportunity for an episode of Daniel Tiger or whatever.

        • HRHNYC says:

          Totally agree. I’m in the suburbs now and we have a treatmill in our basement, and it was fabulous for the winter. I need to get up the motivation to use it in the summer, I guess. My biggest problem is my children are inconsistent sleepers, so I never know if they will be up at 5 or 8. If they are sleeping I can and should work out (ok, you may be shaming me into doing it again). If they are awake, they are ridiculously clingy and even with my buddy Daniel on the TV there is no chance of them letting me run. The weights in the living room is a good option for those mornings though. Just gotta get through the awful early camp pickups and then I can pick all this up again. Thanks for the motivation!!!

    • Jill CPA says:

      Lana Del Raygun,
      I have an 18 month old. It’s all about the naps! I found it much easier to work out in the early days than now! So yes, enjoy that time starting at 6-8 weeks when you can start really walking and getting back to yourself. When they are taking 3-4 naps a day, it’s much easier to squeeze in a workout during ONE of those naps. I trained for a half marathon this past spring – and it was only possible because he was still taking 2 naps/day at that time!

      As the naps have decreased, my weekend workouts are suffering. Now we have 1 nap per day, and its usually starting at 12pm. If I’ve been up since 6am – I usually am also ready for a rest at 12pm and not a workout! OR i have to use that time to catch up on paying bills, meal prep, taking a shower, or whatever else I can’t do with a toddler awake!

    • Anonymous says:

      I had a C-section. When baby was ~2 months old, an hour-long walk was still difficult for me – I felt the scar at the end of it. So, keep that in mind also – your ability to get back into exercising will partly depend on how delivery goes.

  6. shortperson says:

    in biglaw with a 3yo and a baby, i determined that i will not have time to dedicate to exercise in the near future. actually it’s freeing, and i weigh less than i have in years (after gaining 45 pounds in pregnancy). i switched to a treadmill desk and am aggressive about filling up on healthy food before i get ravenous. i eat dinner w kids around 6 and almost never have any calories afterward. i could stand to tone up but that will need to wait.

  7. Betty says:

    Pre-kids, my evenings were about running and Sundays were focused on my long-runs (and eating and sleeping….). I’ve never been able to get up and run because my body and mind both seem to hate it. Pre-kids, I ran full and half-marathons.

    Post-Kids: I run three days a week over lunch, and this has been my routine since returning to work after my second was born (she’s 5). There is a gym in my building. It takes me about an hour to change, run, take a quick shower and redo my makeup. I take longer if I can, but frequently I only have an hour. Like so many things, I had to make peace, post-kids, with the idea that something is better than nothing and that it doesn’t have to be the perfect work-out to be good and beneficial for me. I also decided that it is worth being at work for a longer day in order to have time to run. I am calmer in general and definitely with my kids when I run. There are a bunch of runners in my office but not in my department. I have found that I am more productive on the days that I run over lunch because I am more focused in the morning and have energy after I run. I try and go for a longer run on the weekends. My husband is also a runner, which helps on the support front. I don’t run full or half marathons anymore, but I’m happy with my 5K and 10K races.

  8. Clementine says:

    Pre-kids, I was running/going to the gym at least 5 days per week and running marathons and half marathons.

    Post-kids and with a more demanding job, I try to squeeze in exercise however I can. I bike commute with a toddler because then I’m guaranteed 40 minutes of surprisingly decent cardio (lots of hills!). I’ve started signing up for races/events again because then I force myself to train for them. I make plans to meet up with friends to run because then I get my socializing and my exercise in one.

    When all else fails, I have a cheap used treadmill in my basement and I go down there and watch shows on my computer while I power walk or jog. I’m currently watching ER from the beginning and it’s surprisingly excellent. It’s exactly what I would want to be doing on the couch, but exercise-y.

  9. Tfor22 says:

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this since I just started a new running training program this week. I’ll skip the details but what I have noticed is that life is full of seasons. Sometimes it is easy to fit exercise in (like when the gym was 5 minutes from the preschool near my work and the boy loved hanging out in the gym’s childcare) and sometimes finding the time is a challenge. The hubs has noticed that I am in a better mood when I exercise regularly (especially if I go to boxing and get to hit things) and has tried to make it easier for me to exercise. That is a huge help.

    I also like working with pals and plans. Hence my new running program, which involves running almost every day (yay) and a facebook group that has a lot of activity.

    • Anonymous says:

      *sigh* I loved boxing and martial arts. I could really use some hitting-things in my life right now. I can’t wait for my kids to be old enough that I can look for a gym with kid and adult classes that run concurrently, or at least back-to-back, and they can do their homework during my class, or something.

    • govtattymom says:

      I completely agree with your statement that “life is full of seasons,” and my husband has also noticed that I am in a better mood when I exercise regularly. When my daughter first started the toddler class at day care, she was getting sick ALL THE TIME, which resulted in me getting sick ALL THE TIME. Between taking care of her, getting sick myself, and trying to catch up on work, working out was just not happening. It was just one of those not working out seasons. Fortunately, her immune system seems to have adjusted, and I’m getting to the barre studio several times a week. I recently hit my 100 classes, and I’m hoping to hit 250 by this time next year!

  10. Tfor22 says:

    The kiddo is 12 so there have been a lot of seasons in my fitness journey. This week I just started a mom-oriented running program that involves training by heart rate and lets me run almost every day, which I am enjoying. The plan has a lively Facebook community too. The most fitness fun I had in years was the Runners’ World streak, where you run 1 mile per day between Thanksgiving and New Years.

  11. My kiddo is 1, a terrible sleeper, and I work in BigLaw where a 55 hour work week is a good week and 60-70 tends to be more average. I just decided to say no to worrying about exercise as sleep is more important to me and there is only so much time in the day. I can walk the mile each way to the park pushing kiddo in the stroller at a steady clip comfortably and I can bench press, swing, carry, lift, etc. her all evening long at 25 pounds, so in terms of what I need to be able to do in my daily life, I am pretty happy (and I am 25 pounds down from my pre-pregnancy weight, yay BFing). I do try to fit in activity when it is convenient – take the baby for a walk in the stroller, play with her in the pool once a week, etc., but I’ve just given myself permission to be happy with where I am in terms of functional fitness.

  12. Ugh, I worked out a fair amount (4x/wk) pre kid, and even pregnant. But after a pretty traumatic delivery and procedures after, I have had pelvic floor problems. I was good about doing a pelvic floor routine until I got discouraged that it wasn’t helping. Now I’ve basically stopped working out. Very frustrating.

  13. CLMom says:

    I never worked out pre-kiddo. Now that she is 2.5 and over 30 pounds, I realized my lack of exercise was starting to limit my ability to play with and hold her for extended periods of time. I also realized that, after bedtime, I was just sitting on the couch being exhausted from 7:30pm to 10:30pm. So, I found a gym that offers a 8:15pm HITT class with a weight lifting component, and I’ve been going on average of 5 times a week (11 weeks so far). Since the class is after bedtime, I don’t feel guilty leaving hubby to kid duties. I am more fit now than the past 10 years, although that isn’t saying much.

  14. In terms of physical activity, I’m not that bad (could be better!) — mostly because we have a Peloton in our basement and I actually enjoy using it. I don’t workout as frequently as I like, I’d prefer 5-6 days a week, but I’m averaging more like 2-3 days most weeks.

    My weakness is eating, especially at night. It’s mostly ’emotional’ eating, rather than hunger, and I tend to make carb-heavy choices. Cutting that out is really the only thing that will help me shed the extra 15-20 lbs I have. This was also a pre-kid problem, but now that I’m over 40 it’s even worse.

    • Anonymous says:

      Oh I hear you on the night eating. I never used to do that, but have gotten into the habit over the last year and now that the weight gain is undeniable, I’m on a mission to cut it out. Just in case it helps you, here’s what’s worked well for me so far:

      – replacing snacks with hot tea. If I put honey in it, it still feels like a treat.
      – I literally talk to myself out loud if I grab some food, ask if I’m hungry, declare that I’m not, I’m just tired/stressed/bored, and put the food back.
      – Not keeping easy snacks in the house (husband’s help is crucial with this one, he likes to buy giant Costco boxes of individually portioned snacks). My main downfalls are crackers and cheese sticks, which we buy “for the kids.” My kids are just as happy to have a banana or apple for a snack, and fruit is not nearly as tempting to me at 9pm.
      – Going for a quick walk around the block a soon as the kids are in bed. I realized some of my eating was a “phew, kids are finally in bed, time to relax” reaction, and this is a better way for me to reset for the rest of the night.

  15. Anonanonanon says:

    I don’t work out at all. It’s awful. Part of the reason is because I have a chronic illness with a fatigue component so sometimes making it through the day is all I can manage, but I suspect some exercise would help with that. I’ve been trying to get out for walks in the evening with the new baby, so that’s a start.
    I’m the type that has to do classes though, I’m not self-motivated enough to use equipment at the gym, but my schedule isn’t reliable enough to make classes worth a gym membership.

    Has anyone tried orange theory? it seems to be all the rage in this area.

    • Anonymous says:

      I love Orangetheory. While I consider myself a runner and had done a marathon pre-kids, I had gotten fairly out of shape post-kids before I started OT. And the person that talked me into trying it was someone (a co-worker) who never worked out at all. My studio is busy, but generally not so busy during the week that I can’t get into any class I want with fairly little notice (so if I decide at noon that I can sneak out early and go to the 5pm class, I register and do it). The classes run between 50-55 minutes and are a great total body workout. I also do hot yoga and spinning now, but OT is by far the best bang for your buck timewise.

    • govtattymom says:

      I’m so sorry to hear that you have a chronic illness. As a fellow chronic illness sufferer (mine is lupus), I can say that working out seems to help with fatigue (for me at least). I don’t know if you have joint pain, but I have to pick low impact workouts. I particularly love barre. Good luck finding the exercise program that works for you! Hope it makes you feel better!

  16. Katharine says:

    I have a FT job and 4 young children (!). Totally understand 100% earlier posters who find it hard to workout in the morning or even due to kiddos interruptions, having no energy, cooking carb-heavy family dinners or the kids get too hungry. My youngest is 1 and I’m still 30lbs bigger than pre-kids, I had severe pregnancy nausea and could only keep down sweet foods. But several times a week I ride my bike to work on dedicated bike lanes, but it’s in another city so it’s 45 minutes each way with an elestric assist cargo bike. It’s actually must faster than going by car or public transport plus a moderate 20-30 minute workout. Other days I carpool with hubs and put my makeup on in the passenger seat, esp. when I need to take a break. The electric assist means I go fast enough to drop off/pick up kids and make my working hours, without breaking a sweat. Big tip: two big salad bowls, one to pack, one to prep – help me organize lunch every day. I put in quinoa and/or some beans for staying power, and fill to the brim with fresh veggies. My other big tip: kettlebells, a collection of workout camis with thin straps, and (drum roll) velcro sponge rollers. Say what? But really, if you workout at home fast with kettlebells, you can keep your hair out of the way with rollers and take them out later for a lovely ‘do. Otherwise I try to do weights at my office’s small gym but tend to have to work part of my lunch hour to make my hours.

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