Life Hacks: Finding Time To Exercise as a Working Mom

Key Points

  • Finding time to exercise as a working mom takes creativity, persistence, and flexibility.

  • The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate weekly exercise.

  • Workouts that integrate well with your current environment are key to finding time to exercise as a working mom.

Do you fantasize about finding time to exercise as a working mom? Do you feel guilty every time you leave your kids to do a workout?

You deserve to invest in your health and fitness. Exercise enables you to be more loving, patient, and present with your family. Finding time to exercise as a working mom requires effort, sacrifice, commitment, and abounding grace. 

Keep reading for life hacks that help you successfully balance your demanding workload, your family, and your health. 

Mom exercising and watching child

Why Is Exercise Important?

No matter what season of life you’re in, exercise is extremely important for your long-term mental, emotional, and physical health. 

Regular exercise reduces anxiety and depression, puts you in a happier mood, improves your sleep, enhances your quality of life, and lowers your risk of chronic diseases. Curious about why your memory is constantly all over the place? “Mom brain” happens to all mothers and exercise remedies that, as well.

Quality workouts induce healthy weight loss, pump up your self-esteem, and build endurance. Wash the laundry, clean the bathroom, run errands, play with your kids, and say goodbye to mandatory midday naps.

Committing to a workout routine encourages your kids to become more active. How so? You are their entire world; they observe everything you do. Demonstrating the value of fitness gets your little ones to develop a healthy attitude about exercise. 

Smile: Your self-care also functions as daycare. Exercising in front of – or with – your kids teaches them how to prioritize their health and have fun doing it!

How Much Exercise Do You Need?

Disclaimer: There’s absolutely no rush to get your “pre-pregnancy body” back. Biological moms, you grew and birthed a mini human! Let yourself be immensely empowered by that. Your body is beautiful, strong, and deserves serious grace.

Exercise simply because it feels good to work on you. 

With that said, the CDC recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, per week for adults. This includes pregnant and postpartum women who are cleared by their doctors.

At first, 150 minutes of weekly exercise sounds absurd. How does anyone pull that off, let alone a busy, working mom? Breaking it into five 30-minute sessions per week makes it doable. Strategically reduce the amount further by doing two 15-minute sessions or three 10-minute workouts per day. 

What about the flip side? Imagine grandma taking your kids for the week. The house is weirdly quiet and empty, your to-do list gets finished early each day, and you have more time than you know what to do with. Your first thought? Make up for lost time in the exercise department!

This is understandably tempting but dangerous for your overall well-being. It's not necessary — or healthy — to work out more than 13 hours per week.

Excessive exercise leads to harmful effects known as “overtraining syndrome.” Training beyond your body’s ability to recover causes fatigue, decreased performance, altered hormonal states, insomnia, lowered immunity, loss of appetite, and irritability.

American anesthesiologist, award-winning author, and Cleveland Clinic’s chief wellness officer Dr. Michael Roizen warns:

“If you burn more than 6,500 calories a week with exercise, which is roughly 13 hours, or if you do more than two hours of straight cardiovascular training, the overuse traumatizes your joints and induces too much oxidative stress in your body, which decreases your longevity.”

How Do Busy, Working Moms Get in Shape?

Whether you’re working from home, putting in hours at the office, tackling motherhood alone, or receiving help from a partner to raise your kids, getting in shape as a busy mom seems impossible. You want it, you need it — but how in the world do you work out with an eight-to-five job and kids? 

While the convenience, duration, and frequency of your workouts fluctuate after having babies, there are still creative ways to squeeze in that much-needed “you time.” 

Pregnant mom doing work out

Design a Realistic Workout Schedule

Start by evaluating your current schedule. Write everything down from morning to evening, hour by hour. Get as detailed as possible. Figure out where you can be more intentional with small windows of free time. 

If you don’t currently have such windows, try your best to make adjustments. Finding a daily task to move or strictly blocking off time allows you to prioritize consistent exercise.

Factor in your family's morning routine, commute time, meals, meetings, and appointments, along with any additional daily work requirements. 

Perhaps waking up 20 to 30 minutes earlier to sweat is your solution. Maybe you need to exercise while the kids are napping, delegate certain tasks to a different time of day, or hire a babysitter so you have time to hit the gym immediately after work. 

Slight, intentional changes set you up for success in the long run. 

Get Specific With Your Plan

Decide where, when, and how you intend to exercise. If you’re a gym goer, commit to a certain number of weekly Pilates, yoga, spin, or strength training classes. Prefer to sweat at home? Download a fitness app and let it guide you through quick, effective workouts at a suitable time.

Avoid setting yourself up to fail. Record specific, measurable, attainable, and relevant goals with a timestamp. Assign each goal actionable steps that push you forward and hold you accountable. Be as consistent as possible, but allow room for flexibility.

Expect the Unexpected

Throw adorable munchkins into the mix of life and everything becomes wildly unpredictable. It’s simultaneously stressful and exciting.

Your family grows, you earn a promotion, your partner changes jobs, you move to another city, your baby gets sick, or your kid’s basketball tournament gets rescheduled. Unforeseen events affect your ability to adhere to a set schedule. It happens to everyone.

Woman exercising with baby

Sometimes you have to cancel the exercise class, cut your workout short, or push it to later in the day. Trial and error moments are guaranteed. Anticipate potential last-minute changes, make adjustments as you go, and remember that these seasons don’t last forever. Cherish the mundane moments and utilize backup plans. 

Make Exercise a Priority

Think of daily exercise as a mandatory appointment with yourself. If you wouldn’t cancel on a friend or client; don’t cancel on yourself. 

Further, make workouts a priority by identifying your why. What are your health and fitness goals? How does exercise improve your family life?

Use your answers as continual motivation to do the hard stuff. Are you a visual person? Write your reasons on sticky notes and plaster them all over your bathroom mirror. Label your smartphone alarms with your goals so that you’re less tempted to press snooze in the morning.

Discipline makes you work hard. Passion makes you work harder. Choose an activity you’re passionate about and the discipline happens organically. 

Find a Work-Life Balance

Work-life balances look different for everyone. Each job has specific hours, expectations, and deadlines that must be equally managed with the unique demands of family life. 

Is your job clashing with your personal life on the regular? If you don’t have time to do things you enjoy or unwind after a long day, something has to change. 

Letting go of perfectionism, finding a job you truly love, unplugging from your phone, establishing reasonable work hours, and exercising are all ways to create an ideal work-life balance. They also prevent burnout, reduce stress, and improve time management. 

Woman working out at home

How Do You Fit the Gym Into a 12-Hour Workday?

Nurses, veterinarians, and customer service reps: Your full schedule gives the term “struggle bus” a whole new meaning. By the time you get home, you’re utterly drained. In between shifts, you hardly have time to eat, sleep, clean, and look after your kids. Exercising feels entirely out of the question. 

Squeezing in that coveted workout is challenging, but not impossible. With the right mindset, structure, and follow-through, it's entirely possible to hit the gym as a 12-hour shift employee.

Determine whether you intend to exercise before or after your shift. Working out beforehand motivates and energizes you to power through your workday, but sometimes leads to a hard crash halfway into your shift.

Exercising after work is the better option for some. Beware that many folks are more prone to develop excuses for skipping the workout after a long workday – especially when you’re physically and emotionally tapped. 

Do both choices sound downright miserable? Try exercising on your off days and resting on all but one of your work days. Work out right before your first 12-hour shift, then take the next two days off. Get a full night’s rest after your final shift and exercise when you wake up!

Start with 15 to 20-minute sessions and keep your workouts simple to gradually build the lifestyle you desire. Down a pre-workout or coffee for an energy boost, maintain a strict bedtime, and choose an exhilarating activity you're eager to come back to.

How Do Stay-at-Home Moms Find Time To Exercise?

Being a stay-at-home mom is a full-time job. You spend approximately 14 hours per day completing parenting tasks (that’s a 98-hour work week!). 

Now that you know how awesomely capable you are, pursue your fitness ambitions with confidence. Find time to exercise by getting creative with your approach and not being scared to ask for help when needed.

Does your toddler cry and scream for you when you leave the room? Invite your kids to join your workouts by making it feel like a fun game. Have the older ones count your reps and high-five them after with phrases like “We did it!” and “Go, team!” 

If your kid has stubborn tendencies, promise a candy or ice cream reward after. Take them on outdoor walks, go for bike rides, or purchase a jogging stroller to chase longer distances and burn a bunch of calories.

Turn chores into an “exercise” contest! See who folds clothes or puts away toys the fastest. Make all participants feel successful when it’s over so that they look forward to next time. 

Mom doing exercise next to baby

Become the queen of multitasking and spice up your daily movement. Run up and down the stairs, do squats while brushing your teeth, and perform lunges as you cook and clean. Short bouts of exercise are incredibly beneficial, especially when you add them all together at the end of the day.

Don't feel pressured to do everything alone — you were never meant to. Accept support from people who genuinely care without feeling guilty about it later. Breathe and allow space for imperfection and unfinished tasks. 

Co-create a workout schedule with your partner and trade off exercise days (one stays with the kiddos while the other hits the gym). Single mom life? Do the same with a neighbor or mom-friend! 

Let a responsible loved one babysit for a few hours while you take your favorite instructor’s class. You return home renewed and recharged for your babies!

At-Home Workouts for Busy Moms

Between packing school lunches, getting the kids dressed for daycare, and documenting precious Kodak moments, motherhood depletes most of your energy and brainpower. Driving to a gym class is another task added to your never-ending to-do list.

Ready to ditch that stress? Try these quick circuits that target the upper body, lower body, and core:

Full-Body Circuit

  • Squats, 15 reps

  • Push-ups, 10 reps

  • Alternating or jumping lunges, 20 reps

  • High or low plank, 30 seconds

Aim for two to four sets depending on how your body responds. 

Arms Circuit

  • Bicep curls, 15 reps

  • Bent-over row, 10 reps

  • Triceps kick-backs, 15 reps

  • Shoulder press, 10 reps

Use lightweight dumbbells or soup cans from your pantry. Shoot for three to five rounds.

Pro tip: Play music that gets you hyped. Workouts are instantly more fun and bearable. Are your kids nearby? Dance party!

Mom and daughter doing exercise

Embrace Your Unique Journey

Yoga instructor Jennifer White says, “Being in your best shape does not mean looking like someone else!” 

Avoid comparing yourself to other moms. Don’t let their unsolicited criticism taint the joys of motherhood, either. Every home situation is uniquely different, and that’s okay. Always do what’s best for you and your family. 

Some days are easier than others. Remember that your kids won’t be this tiny or dependent forever. Be patient and gracious not only towards them but also with yourself. 

You are doing meaningful work as a mother and setting valuable goals for your health. Be proud of that!

By progressively implementing the above tips, life hacks, and workouts into your daily routine, you stand to gain the health, fitness results, joy, and confidence you deserve.

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