I used to think I was busy, and then I had two children. Now I wonder what in the heck I did with all of that free time! To keep active during my busy day, personally, I turned exercise into my job, however that is not the answer for everybody. In fact there is no one best solution to the age-old problem of “not enough time.”
That’s why, instead of answering from just my perspective, I reached out to thousands of active parents who shared what worked for them when it came to squeezing workouts into their busy lives of working and parenting.
WORKOUT WHILE THE KIDS SLEEP
“On days that I can, I will head into the gym for a 5 a.m. class. It gives me a reason to have to get up with no excuses, and I’m back home before anyone else is even up!” – Erin P.
“When our baby goes to sleep, we go to our garage gym. We have to bring the monitor to watch him.” – Jessica S.
“I get up before the kids on weekdays and get it done in my garage or living room. By the time I pick up the kids after school, I have so many distractions and am too tired to go to the gym or work out at home. The activities and sports have me running a million directions. Let’s not forget the housework and errands. So up an hour earlier than the rest of the house is the best way for me.” – Lauren M.
“I have one almost 2 year old and usually get to classes after bedtime. Bedtime is early right now so that’s really the only time I can with me and my partner’s work schedules.” – Kristine N.
DIVIDE AND CONQUER
“We take turns doing bedtime so I get the chance to take a run in the evenings.” – Jen D.
“I’m a stay-at-home mom in Thailand. So for my last figure contest prep, my husband and I would take early shifts before he went to work to get our workouts in. Our condo was equipped with a full gym and indoor soccer field. So my husband would work out 6:30 a.m.–7:30 a.m. I would immediately go lift from 7:45 a.m.–8:45 a.m.” – Donyell J.
“My wife was my collaborator. We worked out a schedule where she would watch/engage the kids while I worked out. A supportive spouse can be key.” – Michael K.
“I took bike rides when he was snuggling with Dad after I fed him.” – Jenny A.
SNEAK IT IN DURING WORK
“My husband gets his workouts in with a run throughout downtown or in the gym at his office during lunch. Since he is bald, he doesn’t take too much time to shower afterwards!” – Ann C.
“I run and weight train on my lunch break!” – Abigail T.
MAKE YOUR COMMUTE ACTIVE
“I park 4 miles from my office and take a bike share to and from work, about a 25-minute ride one way. Surprisingly, that’s about 1,200 miles of riding between March–December!” – Luke W.
“I bike from the park and ride to work (and back) each day instead of taking the bus. I would be spending the time commuting anyways, but I get a 30ish minute (total) workout in without taking any extra time out of my day.” – Emily L.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF FREE CHILDCARE
“I specifically joined a gym that has a daycare, my kids love going to play, and I have a guilt-free workout!” – Rebecca S.
“When my daughter was a baby I joined a gym that had multiple locations in Denver. I work from home, and I’m self-employed. In the morning we would go to the gym (with 2 free hours of childcare) and I would workout and then sit in the cafe and work for an hour. Then in the afternoon (after nap time) we would go to the other gym (with free childcare) and I would sit in the cafe and get 2 hours of work done with free childcare. It was win-win! I was able to get my workout done plus 3-hours of uninterrupted work done. The kiddo was interacting and playing with the other kids in the childcare center.” – Anne P.
“Perspective from a single mom: I just can’t get myself to work out at home, so for me it’s any gym that has childcare. The key is to start going early so they are familiar with it and don’t have separation anxiety when they get older.” – Emma R.
WORK OUT TOGETHER!
“I run while my kids bike next to me. Also the pool is a great place to get in some resistance training while you swim with the kids.” – Beth G.
“I take taekwondo with my daughter. It sure beats standing around watching your kid’s soccer game while doing nothing.” – John K.
“The key for me is figuring out workouts we can do as a family (it helps to have a spouse who’s willing to do them with you). This way, working out doesn’t feel like it also cuts into family time. With a baby, I try to stretch while he plays on the floor or do some quick pushups or planks, and tummy time is for both of us!” – Abby D.
“I love taking my kid on bike rides. Burley carrier, then tag-a-long, now mountain biking together.” – Ed M.
“The jogging stroller was great for us. The kids would talk about all the amazing things they saw during the run — stuff I didn’t even notice!” – John H.
“When he was about 5 or 6 we did ice skating lessons where we both had separate lessons but at the same time slot. The temptation to watch him was real, but it worked pretty well.” – Kelly S.
“When schedules get mixed up, the kids just join! It is so much fun, even when they count my reps wrong.” – Gretchen V.
MAKE EXERCISE A PRIORITY
“I don’t view it as a part of the day that might happen, but a part of the day that will happen. An appointment with myself like you would keep with any other person (client, doctor, teacher, etc.) Treating it as a maybe let’s you set yourself aside too easily. More logistically, I do it during nap time, while they watch their show, with a baby in a bouncy chair who watches me run and make goofy faces at them … that kind of thing. No matter how tired I am, putting the energy into my workout gives me three times the energy back that I can then give to the rest of my day.” – Kaitlyn K.
“I schedule my workout class in Outlook like a meeting. The time is protected and other things get worked around it.” – Emily L.
“I meet my sister for 5 a.m. runs every week, rain or shine or snow or wind. It’s a date set in stone! We also do a weights or a yoga workout another morning each week. Having a workout buddy who never flakes on you is key!” – Kelsey V.
SMALLER WORKOUTS THROUGHOUT THE DAY
“Lately I’ve had to cut my workout in half. Half in the morning between cluster feedings and half at night. It’s really a win-win in this season of life. I get the endorphins twice in a day.” – Ashley W.
“I started to do two shorter workouts out of necessity, then started to notice how much easier it was to concentrate. Reading up I discovered you get a 2-hour window of improved concentration and focus after. I will most likely keep an a.m. and p.m. workout now as it has improved my quality of life that much.” – Mandy T.
“Mom of four, business owner and I sprinkle it in throughout my day and include the kids. Bear crawl to the bathroom. Pushups while we wait for tea to heat up. Take it to playground and squat jumps while pushing them on the swing! I have to sprinkle it because finding an hour to myself just doesn’t happen unless it’s 5 a.m. like the other mamas … but I like my sleep too much! “ – Amy C.
EXERCISE AT HOME
“Being in a small community, there were zero options for going somewhere to work out, so the living room was my gym. I look back sometimes and wonder how we ever did it, but honestly it was just normal, and I guess if you want to get it done you just do it. And it worked!” – Heather B.
“I do, on occasion, decide while working at home, that when I can feel myself getting super frustrated on a call, to bring my laptop into our home gym (aka the garage) and finish the call while working out. Keeps me more grounded, focused and less frustrated.” – Emily CP.
THE PLAN CHANGES OVER TIME
“Parents of three boys and we both work full-time. Fitting in our workouts has not been the same from year to year! When my twins were tiny it was getting a nice stroller and running or walking with them every day. Today, we have a basement home gym and my husband has a gym at his work that he utilizes during his lunch hour. Yesterday my workout was running around with my boys at a waterpark!” – Amber E.
“When my daughter was a baby I used to strap her to me (in a baby carrier/wrap) and go for long walks or do squats. When she got older I would work out while she was at her swim lessons. Now she is a teen and we often enjoy working out together!” – Becky S.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The important thing to remember as a parent is to be kind to yourself. Include exercise in your daily life as much as possible, but as mama Meaghan C. told me, “I’ve learned to do what I can and not get upset with myself over having to skip a day at the gym.”