Finding Time to Exercise When You’re The Mother of 4 Small Kids

The struggle is real

by Kristin Mooney

Just like anything we do in life, exercise takes intentionality.  

As a busy mom of four young children, I rarely have an extra 30 minutes in the middle of my afternoon or evening to exercise, I have to make time to exercise. Don’t mistake my words, exercising is not my top priority, it’s far from the top, but honestly, if I’m not intentional, it doesn’t happen at all.

I am a rule follower, so when I set a plan I do everything I can to accomplish it, and that is how I fit exercise into my day, I create a plan, and decide to stick with it. Every time I’m not on a plan, it’s evident three weeks later when my jeans are too tight. So, I restart, take a look at my schedule, what season of the year it is, and make another plan.

My four kids are very close together, the greatest gap is two years, and the shortest is 13 months. Needless to say, for nearly five years I was either pregnant or nursing, and finding time to exercise was difficult. Going to a local gym wasn’t a reality, nor did I want to spend the time driving back and forth, so I purchased a couple Jillian Michaels 30 minute exercise videos. That was the extent of my commitment, 30 minutes a day, five days a week, always during the week. I rarely did much exercising on the weekends, since that was the time my husband was home and we try prioritize time as a family.

I had never had success with “video-based” exercise before. But being a stay-at-home mom with four young kids, that was my new reality. If I wanted to stay in shape, I had to make some changes. If that meant that I didn’t get to do my favorite exercise, go to my favorite gym, lift weights and work out on the elliptical while watching a movie in the cardio theater, so be it. I had to take what I could get in the limited amount of time I had.

I realized shortly after completing my first video-based exercise plan (Jillian Michael’s 30-day shred) – that this was going to work out perfectly.  I used the first 30 minutes of my children’s nap time to do the workout, and was able to complete all of my housekeeping tasks the rest of the time. I soon realized that I was wasting the first 30 minutes of nap time anyway browsing the Internet, updating my Facebook status on my phone, or just pilfering around the house wondering what to do first. It actually made me more productive with the time I had, by beginning with the exercise.

I have since “graduated” to Beachbody’s T25, my current exercise of choice (find out more about T25 here) and even better, it’s 25 minutes instead of 30. I’ll be honest, after completing the workout schedule for that, I can’t remember a time when my core felt harder, my legs were so strong, and I loved the feeling of running up stairs. When I finished that 10-12 week schedule through the winter, it was spring time, so I started running outside. It was amazing how those DVDs had prepared me for it. I ran three days a week, again for only 30 minutes each time. You may think that sounds like a lot of time when you’re just getting started, but that is easily wasted during transitions. On my running days, I’d be waiting at the end of the driveway for my husband to pull in from work and take off simultaneously. I generally would have supper ready, so he would come in from work and change his clothes, play with the kids a bit and then get them ready and settled at the table for dinner. I would come in soon after and join them. It took almost no time at all.

My runs consisted of an interval run (jogging 3 minutes, sprinting 1 minute), a tempo run (20-25 minutes going harder than I would run 5 miles), and then a 3-5 mile run over the weekend. And if that meant I needed to get up before everyone else on Saturday or Sunday morning, I did it. I didn’t like doing it at 7 in the morning, but I loved it at 8 when I was finished. I did this for about 12 weeks, then switched to something else.

The bottom line is, you have to have a plan. As one of my work out rotations is almost over, I’m already thinking ahead of what I’m going to do next. I do something new every quarter, and then repeat it every year. I finished running outside in October, and the truth is I haven’t started anything new. I always know when I’ve waited too long to get started on my next rotations- my jeans are snug.