How to Be a Fit Mom

Megan Dahlman
March 14, 2022

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I had a conversation with some fellow moms of toddlers and babies the other day about trying to exercise. The consensus was that it is just plain hard, if not impossible, to get in a workout with little ones at home. The feelings from the other moms were that you either needed a gym membership that provided childcare (expensive!) or a good jogging stroller to be able to go for a run (time consuming & downright impossible to get a little one bundled up and out the door!). Not to mention the feeling that nap times are holy and sacred and shouldn’t be wasted on pain and sweat. I totally agree!

Should you just resign yourself to being out of shape, overweight, weak and energy deprived for the next 5 years until the kids go off to school? Absolutely not! I’d like to offer you some tips on how you can have babies and toddlers at home, no gym membership, and still be a very strong momma.

It must be a priority.  

If exercising and getting/staying in shape is not in your top five most important things to do, then it just won’t happen, especially when you have kids crawling on you and naptimes to work around. However, if it means enough to you, you will create a way to make it happen.

Cut yourself a little slack…it might not be the perfect workout.  

If you have dreams of your workouts looking like those inspiring Nike commercials with perfectly timed work periods and rest periods, glistening sweat and highly motivating music, think again. In my experience, the majority of my workouts have a Leap Frog or Veggie Tales soundtrack, unexpected rest periods for snacks or disciplinary action, and an extra 25 pound weight added to each exercise in the form of a clinging toddler. Some workouts are frustrating and feel like a waste of time, but there is no such thing as a wasted workout. I did something, and that’s a heck of a lot more than nothing.

Find something to entertain the kids.  

When Calvin was a baby, I put him in a bouncer or the Bumbo chair with a teething toy and he was usually happy for a little while (push-ups performed right in front of a baby are hilarious to an infant). Now that he’s a toddler, he gets to pick out a cartoon DVD to watch, some books to read, and usually a snack. He wanders around all over the place, half the time in my way, and has learned how to entertain himself for about half an hour. In fact, as soon as he sees me go put my workout clothes on, he runs to the workout room to hand me my list of exercises and then pick out a DVD. “I workout mama!” It’s cute.

Look for the highest “bang for your buck” exercises.

You need to be choosing exercises that create the most results in the least amount of time. If you pick one of those “shoulder” circuits I’ve seen on Pinterest that involve eight different exercises for just your shoulders, you’ll be there for hours trying to get a full body workout. Not to mention, you’ll get sick of that routine before you ever see any results.

What you need are total body exercises, like burpees, push-ups, squats, chopping lifts, lunges, and planks. These kinds of exercises target multiple muscle groups at the same time, elevate your heart rate like running, and develop your overall athleticism very quickly so you know you’re making progress.

Go here for a workout that works every muscle on your body, uses zero equipment, and takes very little time. And speaking of time…

Limit your workouts to 40 minutes or less.

This is all about setting realistic expectations, like number two, above. If you try to plan for an hour long workout, most likely at about 35-40 minutes the meltdown will happen. You’ll end up getting frustrated and cutting your workout short, making you less likely to do your workout next time. In about 35 minutes (the running length of Leap Frog’s Letter Factory) I can do a full warm-up, a total body strength routine interspersed with metabolic drills, and a full cool down. Keep it concise and everyone will be happy. (All of the workouts on Strong Mommas are 40 minutes or less...yay!)

Don’t spend too much money or waste too much time.

Your workouts will end up being the first thing you ditch if things get tight. A mom I used to train was determined to always do her workouts at the gym so she could utilize the childcare services. She would spend 20 minutes driving each way, plus the hassle of getting the kids out the door. Her workouts happened only half of the time because of these challenges, and she eventually cancelled her gym membership because it became too expensive. Needless to say, she didn’t reach her fitness goals. If you do your workouts at home in your living room with the equipment you already have, you will be way more consistent.

Treat your exercise time as your sacred “you” time - “Mommy’s Mental Health Moment”.  

The health benefits of exercising three or four times a week are numerous and certainly include psychological benefits, as well. I know that if I feel stressed, strung out, and short tempered, a workout generally helps. Treat your workouts like you treat naptime…a mandatory small chunk of your day that is all yours and nobody can mess with.

A few last minute tips: Don’t try to workout during naptime, if you can help it. As moms, we all need an hour or two out of the day to just relax, read a book, take a nap, whatever. And if you're pregnant, this is more important now than ever. If you don’t take a nap at some point during the day, you probably feel wiped.

If you still don’t like the idea of working out with the kids crawling all over you, wake up early. Seriously. Get up, get your workout done, take a shower, all before the kids wake up. I cannot begin to tell you how awesome your day will feel. And if you’re tired, you have naptime later to take your own nap. This is my own strategy. Call me crazy, but I look forward to my silent 5:30 am workouts!

Forget running for now. Let’s face it, jogging strollers are heavy and they create a really awkward running mechanic that may create some sort of injury. And I’m sure I don’t have to tell you your treadmill is dangerous with a little one crawling around. Keep in mind, running is less effective for getting in really good shape than spending 30 minutes doing burpees, lunges, push-ups, etc.

Every little bit counts. You’d be surprised at how much progress you can make in three, 20 or 30 minute workouts each week. It’s certainly a lot more progress than doing nothing, that’s for sure!

So, go to Target, get yourself a new workout outfit and a Veggie Tales DVD, and get to work! You’ll be proud of yourself!

Hey, guess what? You can start showing up for your body in simple ways, right now.
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Trainer, nutrition coach, and Christian mom — in a culture that’s obsessed with “gym-selfies” and a number on the scale, I’m passionate about helping moms discover what it feels like to actually love their bodies and thrive in them.
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Self-Care Simplified is for Christian moms that want to be equipped and encouraged to take simple steps towards the healthy life you want for yourself and the people you love.
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