This is a guest post from Neil from Neil Welsh Nutrition
Living a healthy lifestyle is tough enough whether you’re young or old, male or female, experienced at training… or training to train. It is difficult to find an activity that can help improve your physical health and fitness and more importantly that you can continue to sustain for weeks, months, and years to come.
For mums with young kids, the challenge is even greater. This demographic has huge demands on their time from sunup to sundown. Children require their attention. Every task becomes more of a challenge. Even leaving the house…. “put your shoes on!”. “Shoes!!”. Parenting is incredibly rewarding, but can also be exhausting. Apart from stealing our time, kids also have a huge impact on the food that we eat. Young children put huge demands on the time we spend in the kitchen and the food that we produce.
Their preferences are often not the healthiest and they still dictate what we cook when we cook it and often how we cook it. But a healthy lifestyle is still achievable and desirable even when it feels like at the end of the day, we have nothing left to give and just collapse on the sofa and watch television. How can we be expected to add an exercise routine to this schedule. It feels impossible to squeeze in anything that would have any worthwhile results, so why bother!?
We’ve all heard the benefits of exercise, but there are more specific ones when it comes to mums with young kids. Not enough time and not enough sleep; two of the main things that many parents of young kids struggle with, however, finding time to exercise can improve both energy and sleep. The physical implications of exercise can be significant and a big benefit to day to day life and longer term health.
Exercise and a healthy lifestyle can help you get your body back, stop you gaining weight or help you lose weight. And the more body confident we are, the happier we are. Exercise could also improve mood in general, decrease feelings of depression and reduces stress. For many of us, this is not new news, but exercising is difficult as we lack the time. Not having enough time is essentially the same as saying it’s not a priority and that actually seems totally fair. For many of us, our kids are our priorities, but for us to be the best parents we can be to our kids, we need to prioritize ourselves. When we are healthy, we are happy, we are strong, we have energy, and we can be the best parents we can be. So finding the time to exercise pays off for both us and our kids.
This is all well and good in theory, but in practice it is much more difficult to achieve. Many of us would have tried different exercise routines. Many of us might have stuck with them for a while, but failed to form a long lasting exercise habit. The key to making lasting change is to find exercise that works for you, not exercise that works for other people and not exercise that is the current latest fad. Again, it has to be exercise that works for you. What does “work for you” mean? It means what works in your environment, that works for your body, what works for your time and most importantly something that you like. If you don’t like it, you won’t do it. Humans are very good at finding reasons not to exercise; any barrier can derail the train so finding an activity that you actually like is crucial.
If you hate running and the last time you ran was for a hockey ball in a PE lesson, then maybe don’t choose running as your exercise of choice. Your activity of choice can be anything as simple as walking. Walking for 30 minutes, three times a week is much better than planning to run four times a week and not running at all. A good plan that is executed is better than a perfect plan which isn’t ignored. Be realistic with your targets and the exercises that you choose and don’t rush it; literally don’t run before you can walk. If the thought of putting your kit on and shuffling the pavements of your neighbourhood fills you with dread then don’t do it.
Find something that appeals
If hit sessions at home work better for you then do those, but don’t rush it. Start easy. Start at a level you can maintain and build from there. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
If you struggled to find the time away from your kids, exercise with your kids, walk with the younger kids in buggies or ride with them in bike seats. Older kids can ride by themselves or can go swimming as a family. Most local leisure centres have crèches and allow for parents who drop their kids and go and enjoy some exercise and perhaps more importantly, some time away from their loved ones, which is just as important. If you can’t find an activity locally that suits your timings and budgets, Google it. Once you start to dig, you’ll find a wealth of activities going on around you from Zumba in village halls to boot camps in parks, to running clubs, to rambling societies. If you can’t find anything, email me and I’ll find something for you that suits your budget, your time, and something that you will love (seriously, I will find you something, I am really good at it!).
But once you’ve found something, how do you stick to it? First things first. If you need kit, invest in some good kit. If exercise involves some kind of financial outlay you are more likely to stick with it. If you’re running, buy good supporting shoes and even if you’re just working out at home, make sure you have kit that is comfortable and supportive in all the right areas. If you want to cycle at home once the children are in bed, research the best exercise bike for your needs.
Have achievable goals
Don’t aim for a marathon straight away. Don’t even aim for an event. Just aim to complete your chosen activity six times. After repeating an activity for six times, you will start to form a habit and iron out a lot of those uncomfortable creases when you first do any new activity. Starting sport can be a pain, not just physically. When you start swimming, you find that you forget your goggles you’re not sure where the changing rooms are or you don’t have change for the locker. All these things get ironed out over six visits and you start developing a habit and it becomes natural.
Track your exercises
It will help sustain your motivation, develop healthy habits, and as you progress it will help you measure your progress. If you can find someone to exercise with that will help you stay on track too.
With a little thought and planning it is possible to start a sustainable active lifestyle right now. Bear in mind though that you can’t out train a bad diet. 80% of your health results will come from your diet and this should complement (and provide the fuel) for your new found active lifestyle.
Neil has a little something for you! He has written an Ultimate Guide to Nutrition for mums with young kids. It contains more info on losing weight through getting your calorie balance right, eating in a way that fits your lifestyle and designing a diet that can work for you and your family for the long term. Check it out at www.neilwelshnutrition.com/ultimate-guide/