As a busy working mum, you have enough on your plate. You’re pressed for time, stressed, and taking care of lots of responsibilities as it is. But if you want to make time for movement or exercise, I’ve got great news for you. It doesn’t have to be complicated! And it doesn’t have to take a lot of time! Read on to find out what a low-stress and effective exercise plan for working mums looks like?
Move for 30 minutes every day
The key to staying healthy and fit is this simple. Move for 30 minutes every day. If you feel frazzled right now and don’t have any headspace, or if you feel you there’s no way you can squeeze anything more than 30 minutes in, then that’s enough to keep you strong in body and mind.
All you have to do is:
- Walk outside for 30 minutes.
- Move little and often in the day.
- And make it fun. Choose something you enjoy or bring a friend or two with you.
The way I like to think of exercise is that it needs to fit in with your life – your children, your family, your work commitments, and your other responsibilities. It must not add stress to your existing routine or life.
Incorporate movement into your day
So when should you exercise or move? As long as you don’t exercise vigorously late at night before bedtime (when you could do some stretching instead), there’s no right answer.
The best time to exercise is whenever suits you best – it’s whatever will work for you in the long term. And I find that the key to a sustainable exercise plan for working mums is to incorporate movement into your day. If you’re looking for more ideas on how to do that, head over to the blog post, How to fit movement into your everyday life as a working mum.
But I know that finding time is the tricky part. And I also know it might take some trial and error before you find exactly what works. It’s definitely a process. And whatever you come up with might need some tweaking. But the overall aim is to find windows of opportunity within your week so that movement fits into your day without adding any stress.
So how do you do this?
Do an Energy Audit
I’m a big fan of sitting down with a cuppa and doing some planning ahead of my week. And when I coach working mums through my programme Fit From Within, one of the first exercises we do together is this Energy Audit.
This is effectively an Energy Diary, and I’d like you to look at a whole week (including the weekend) because typically you’ll do different activities with different pulls on your time and energy.
When tracking your energy, I’d like you to focus on times and situations where you feel:
- most productive
- tired, lacking concentration, or going through lapses of energy
- sore or stiff
- stressed, fed up, bored, or just full of negative energy
This audit allows you to identify the best and worst times for movement, both in your day and in your week. And if, like me, your weeks are always changing, then sit down with that cuppa again at the end of the week and review. That way you can make sure that whatever you come up with still fits with your life.
How to use your Energy Audit
Now you’ve identified the times where you feel the most productive, I’d suggest you protect those. Those slots are working for you right now – you’re focused and getting stuff done, so capitalise on them.
But where you’ve identified times in your day when you experience a lull or a dip, that’s when you might benefit from adding some movement to change things up.
For example, if you know you have this Monday morning meeting that always fills you with dread on a Sunday evening, then maybe you’ll want to go out for a run then. Or do a workout to release some of that negative energy.
Or, the reverse. If that Monday morning meeting always leaves you buzzing and full of great energy, then you might benefit from taking a movement break after your meeting, to give yourself a chance to calm down, process your thoughts and help those exciting ideas settle.
What matters is that you start to notice patterns and become more in tune with how and when your body functions. It’s a simple tool, but it’ll go a long way towards giving you the self-awareness to manage yourself in the best way.
That’s another great reason to review your diary regularly. So you can make sure you’ve identified the right windows of time and slotted in the right type of movement that serves you. Because the last thing you want to do is do anything that works against you and your energy levels.
So look to keep it all within positive levels, and be realistic! If it adds more stress to your life, it could be that you’re trying to do too much. If waking up at 5 am to go to the gym before work makes you feel shattered by 3 pm when you’re mid-way through that planning meeting with your boss, then your exercise schedule is playing against you. You might be better off going out for a brisk lunchtime walk that day instead. Remember that just because other people are doing that, you don’t have to! It’s about figuring out what works for you.
What is balanced and effective exercise for working mums?
There are certain boxes us working mums need to tick with our exercise. In an ideal world, your week will include:
- Weight-bearing exercise – 2-3 times a week, for bone health/density. This could be a walk, a jog, or a run – working on your feet.
- Cardiovascular exercise – 2-3 times a week. This is a rhythmic activity like a fast walk, cycle, jog, a swim, or even a kitchen boogie. Anything that raises your heart-rate and makes you puff.
- Strength training – 2-3 times a week, for muscle strength and tone, either through bodyweight exercises or lifting weights.
Now, if that feels like a lot, it’s really not. Because the great news is that you can combine a few things together.
Where I say “2-3 times a week”, I don’t mean that you need to find 6-9 x 30-minute slots in your week. That would be completely un-realistic! Think strategically about what you do. For example, one half an hour jog ticks two of your boxes – your weight-bearing and your cardiovascular exercise. And you can break up your 30 minutes too – say into 3 x 10 minute chunks. If you walk the children to and from school before work, you’ll soon tick that weight-bearing box. And if you jump off the bus one stop early on your commute to and from work, same. You get the idea.
Why these different types of exercise?
As women, we need specific types of activities to keep us fit and strong. Both weight-bearing and strength training are important to help us increase our bone density. They are also vital in the fight against age-related muscle wastage (sag!), and those pesky perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms. And, of course, we all need cardiovascular exercise to keep our hearts and lungs healthy, and our heads clear.
Wherever possible, I recommend multi-joint (or compound) exercises for your strength training. A squat into an overhead press, for example. They’re more useful in real life eg. lifting shopping or the baby (or both!), or putting stuff away in cupboards etc. Plus, they save time too. working every muscle in isolation takes forever! I definitely don’t have time for this, and I’m sure you don’t either!
If you’re looking for some inspiration, you can find plenty of exercises in my workout videos on my YouTube channel.
Would you like some help?
When looking at your week and planning out your windows of opportunity for movement, it’s important to be realistic. Try and focus on things you enjoy. And if it all feels too overwhelming to work out on your own and you’d like help, let’s do it together! This is exactly where I help best – by doing the thinking with you, and taking the stress out of it all.
If you’re a complete beginner to exercise, my Fit From Within coaching programme is a 5-session package where I help you get started, look at the blocks and obstacles (both in your mindset and in your life) that have been getting in your way, and help you figure out the practical steps that will help you build good habits. And then we move forward with accountability and nudges. It’s fun and empowering!
If you’ve already got some exercise in your life but find that actually your routine chafes and needs a rethink, check out my Rethink movement strategy session.
Finally, if you’ve got a good handle already on your health and fitness but need a regular kick up the bum to keep you going, then perhaps my Keep on Moving coaching and accountability package is right for you.
If any of my coaching services appeal, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we can have a pre-coaching call to see how I can help you.