I’m a working mum, and like all of you out there, I know a thing or two about juggling responsibilities. There’s work (or running a business), children, family, pets, food, shopping, laundry, admin… The list goes on and on. And we all know how stressful it can get. So really, how does exercise come into play? When do we ever find the time? For me, the key is to think about movement rather than formal exercise. It’s a subtle difference, but it changes everything. So how can you fit more movement into your everyday life as a working mum?
It’s not about exercise – it’s about movement!
First things first, I’d like us to let go of this idea that we have to find time to go to the gym, join a class, or do x amount of weekly workouts in our living room. We don’t. We don’t unless we want to. And if we don’t want to, there’s plenty more we can do instead.
So let’s do this right now – let’s move away from this idea of formal exercise and think about movement instead. I give you full permission, from now on, to stop obsessing about having to do a workout every day.
Because as a working mum you already have a lot on your plate. You are juggling enough as it is, and that’s immensely stressful. So the last thing you want is to add another stress factor into your already busy life.
Great. Because all activity and movement are good. And the more little bits of movement we can add throughout the day, the better it is for our overall health. Moving helps us avoid stiffness, back pain, and postural problems amongst other things, especially if we sit at a desk for the best part of our days.
Now, I’m not saying that, as mums, there aren’t certain ‘boxes to tick’. Strength and bone density are important factors for us to consider, and I’ll soon be sharing my thoughts on how to create a balanced and effective exercise plan that ticks all these boxes without adding stress to your busy life, so watch this space.
But for now, let’s focus on movement…
Let’s get planning, Mum!
You and I both know what mums are awesome at. Planning. Thinking ahead. Being organised and prepping in advance. Sure, we’re all different, and some of us do this more naturally than others, but the truth is, when you’re a mum, planning comes with the territory! We all know how having the kids’ school clothes, bags, and shoes laid out the night before saves time, avoids the I-can’t-find-my-shoes chaos, and makes the morning routine a lot easier! (Okay, we might not always plan so well, but we know it makes a difference when we do!)
When it comes to our children and family or home life (and even work), we plan all the time. We do this every day, whether we’re aware of it or not. So now it’s time to turn that skill to our own benefit. Because when it comes to health and fitness (like in other areas of life), planning is key.
So let’s try this. At the weekend, make yourself a nice cup of tea, grab your diary, and take 10 minutes to look at the week ahead. This is your chance to identify your windows of opportunity for movement. I recommend you aim to move for 30 minutes every day – if you have longer, that’s great. But if you don’t, 30 minutes is absolutely fine. And the great news is that it doesn’t even have to be all at once. So where are those potential movement windows in your week? Find them and highlight them – plan them in.
Perhaps you’ll find this is a lot easier to do on the days you’re working from home, but even if you’re stuck in the office all day a few days a week, don’t fret. You really don’t need to put yourself under pressure to find time for more on those days that already feel packed to the brim with work or other responsibilities. You can break down your 30 minutes of movement into 10-minute chunks. And aren’t 10 minutes a lot easier to find, even when you’re in the office?
Some ideas to fit movement into your everyday life as a working mum
So what are some of the things you can do to make movement integral to your day?
Ideas for movement when you work from home
On the days you work from home, can you…
- Tag some movement onto the back of the school run? If you normally drive to school, can you perhaps walk or jog instead while the children take a scooter? Or maybe only drive part of the way and walk the rest?
- Head straight to the park after drop-off for a brisk walk, a jog, or a run? It’s even better if you can take some other mums with you for company!
- Can you take the dog for a walk?
- On these days, you might even have time and energy for a workout at home. And if you do and want some inspiration and ideas, you can find a variety of 20 and 30 minute workout videos on my YouTube channel.
Doing something straight off the back of the school run is a great idea because it also acts as ‘transition time’. It gives you a little time and space to transition from ‘mum mode’ into ‘work mode’. On the days you commute to the office, that window does that for you, but when you work from home, you might not have that luxury, so these are good ideas to create that time for yourself.
Want a super quick tip that taps into all that planning we talked about? Lay your kit out the night before. That way in the morning you don’t have to think about what to wear. You just pull it on without wasting time deciding what to wear, you set your intention to move, and you’re ready for action whenever the window of opportunity presents itself. I personally use this simple trick daily, and it works every time!
Ideas for movement when you’re in the office
On the days you’re in the office, let’s just acknowledge that hybrid working is stressful enough without trying to wedge in some fitness pre- or post-commute. So to keep stress levels under control, you want to plan your movement into your working day rather than as an ‘add-on’ after you finish work. Chances are you’ll be too tired to do it (or pulled into too many other directions), and no one could blame you for not getting it done!
So what can you do instead?
- Could you go for a lunchtime walk?
- Perhaps you can grab a colleague you need to speak to and have a walk-and-talk meeting rather than a sit-down one?
- Can you use part of your commute to or from work to move your body? Maybe by getting off the bus or tube a stop earlier?
- Can you use the loo on a different floor or take the stairs instead of the lift throughout the day?
Here’s a tip. Why not talk to your colleagues about wanting to move more during the day? Brainstorm ideas and I’m sure that together you’ll come up with some brilliant ways to move more in the day. You can also become accountability partners for each other and remind and encourage each other to move. I find that sharing my intention with people around me makes it easier to stick to. And if they join in with me, it’s so much more fun!
It’s not just about how to fit movement into your everyday life as a working mum though. Hybrid working is stressful enough! So for more information on how to deal with those super busy days, head over to my blog post, How to lower stress while hybrid working.
Ideas for movement on the weekend
At the weekend, why not get the kids involved? Again, don’t be too hung up on what activity you are doing. Kicking a ball around in the park, playing French cricket, or jumping in puddles will do wonders for your and your kids’ wellbeing. Plus, you’ll be spending quality time together as a family too. So don’t put yourself under too much pressure!
And if you do get the chance to get some time for yourself to do a workout (perhaps because your partner is also at home for the weekend) grab that opportunity without guilt. If it makes you a better, happier, more relaxed person and a role model for your children, what’s not to like?
In fact, there’s a lot to like about this as according to research conducted by Sport England, while “Six in ten (61%) mums reveal they would feel guilty about taking time to exercise”, it appears that “mothers have a greater influence on their children’s activity levels compared to fathers and seven in ten (69%) mums think it is important for their children to see them exercising”. So embrace it. Because by making movement visible to your children, you’re not only becoming a role model for them but also encouraging them to move more.
Whatever movement you choose to do, I would always encourage you to do things you enjoy. This is key, because you’re more likely to stick at it, to turn up regularly and to continue for the long-term. Why make things harder for yourself by forcing yourself to do something you don’t enjoy? Life’s too short!
Would you like some help to fit more movement into your everyday life as a working mum?
If you’d like to join my upcoming workshop on How to create a stress-free movement plan that fits in your life, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out the details. I will help you create a movement plan that’s achievable for you and your fitness levels, and that fits effortlessly into your busy life.