The 5 Ways I Make Time for Exercise (with a Toddler + a Baby on the Way!)

The battle for our hearts are fought on the pages of our calendars.
- Bob Goff

It's really hard to make time for exercise when you have a job and a family and hobbies and a life. It's just hard. It's taken me a lot of time to figure out how to implement time for exercise that works for me and my family. Usually by the time I "figure it out", everything changes again. Schedules change, seasons change, work load changes, my husband starts traveling incessantly for his work, and suddenly I'm back to square one. I'm certain I'm not alone in this constant battle for time and the need for more disciplined time management - but in the realm of exercise, it's become a necessity for me to figure out how to make exercise work within the available time frames that I actually have. Creating time for exercise is what has helped me regain my sanity and overall sense of good health since having my son two years ago. Like I said, this has been a loooooong road in figuring out what works, and I'm sure that I will undergo another season of "figuring it out" after I have another baby this winter. Navigating life with two littles is certainly going to be an interesting new challenge!

I wanted to share these few nuggets with you because so many people have reached out and asked me how I make time for exercise, even with a toddler (and even while pregnant!) While I certainly don't have all the answers, I am happy to shed light on what has worked for me over the past few years. I am so passionate about staying active because it's obviously good for my own health, but it's also one of the best examples I can set for my son and baby to be. Showing them that I care about my health, that I care about my well-being, and that those things are a priority will only set them up for a lifetime of good health success, too.

I also want to mention that I am not a registered dietician, nutritionist, nurse, or anything even close -  I'm just a regular ol' mom. This is my own personal experience, and you should consult your doctor before making any changes to your own fitness plan.

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1. Exercise Early.
This is my favorite tip. I have never been a morning person but have discovered a new love for the early hours of the day because I can have "me" time before my son wakes up. I wake up at 5:30am three days a week and exercise, no matter what. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are my days to leave the house early and get to a 6am workout at the gym. Lately I've been incorporating Pure Barre as well, and I'm getting dangerously addicted to those classes.

2. Get Out of the House.
It's really good for me to get out of the house for my early morning workouts, because I am much more motivated by the change of environment. If I try to do a workout DVD at home at 6am, I tend to get lazy and sit on the couch and scroll through my email and think of making a pot of coffee... you get the point. Getting out of the house causes me to focus solely on me and make the most of my time. By the time I get home at 7ish, my husband is ready to get out the door for work and my son may or may not be awake. This is one of the ways that we can tag team the parenting of the morning and it still allows me to get that exercise in. (In case you're wondering, Stevie works out the other two mornings of the week. I didn't want you to think I was stealing all the good days of the week for my work outs :)

3. Mix Up The Routine.
I get bored doing the same thing all the time. In order for me to stay motivated and excited about exercise, I have to do different kinds of workouts throughout the week. While I prefer exercising without my son in tow, sometimes I have to get creative and incorporate exercise into my daily life with him.

I mentioned above that I love my early AM workouts - I usually lift weights 1-2 times per week (my sis-in-law meets me, and we get to catch up with each other while we lift, which is super fun), I like to swim laps (very gently, I never actually put my head in water), and lately I've added Pure Barre to the mix and I've been at the Pure Barre gym 1-3 times per week. Cardio is obviously important, too, but I've been scaling back on super strenuous cardio since getting knocked up. If I have to exercise with Everett, I like to get outside and walk him in the Bob stroller. I also add on some squats and lunges mid-way through the walk, and he just laaaaaaughs and counts them out with me (we are working on counting these days). Between all of these options, I'm averaging about 4 workouts per week.

If it's a rainy day and I need to get a workout in during my son's nap time, I love the Tracy Anderson Pregnancy Project DVDs. I've also heard great things about her Post-Pregnancy Workout and her Method and Metamorphosis series. Plus, she's not an annoying person to watch on a DVD :)

4. Listen to Your Body.
This is a really important one. There are some days that my son is super active and by the time he finally goes down for a nap, I'm exhausted. In these situations, I am often challenged by feeling tired, but also feeling the pressure to "get in my workout" while he's sleeping. I've learned this lesson the hard way, but in these moments it's always better for me to listen to my body and lay down to take a nap. It makes me a better mom and it makes me less likely to injure myself.

On the note of listening to your body, I've had to make major adjustments lately because I am pregnant and my center of gravity keeps shifting. Lately I've been lifting weights a little less, and when I do lift I am doing much less weight. And even though I enjoy running, I don't run at all when I'm pregnant, because it's just too much pressure for me. I know a lot of ladies love to run late into their pregnancy and feel really good doing it, but I'm jut not one of them. I am a big fan of scaling back really intense workouts and using my own body weight for resistance. This is important all the time, but especially when you're pregnant - listen to your body! You know that "good" pain feels like and what bad pain feels like.

5. Create a Motivating Playlist (or Podcast!)
I kid you not - in the fall, I was listening to gardening podcasts at my 6am gym workouts. I'm a granny. But seriously - this was how I learned to take care of my roses and which vines to plant along my fence! I like to rotate between my hip-hop/R&B playlists, gardening podcasts, and church sermon podcasts (I love listening to Bethel Church and Bethel Atlanta :) And sometimes, I like the quiet and I don't listen to anything at all. This kind of goes along with tip #3 above - mix up your routine and you won't get bored.

There you have it! The 5 ways I've incorporated toddler-friendly and toddler-free workouts in my schedule. We all have different time constraints with how and when we can exercise, but I am a big believer in "where there is a will, there is a way". I hope some of these help inspire some creative exercise scheduling for you!

Questions? Words of advice/encouragement for me and other mamas who are reading this? Leave a comment below! I love hearing your feedback and I try my very best to respond to every comment :)