Because foam rolling isn’t painful enough on its own …

This past Tuesday, I attended an event through my alma mater, Northwestern University, about balancing work and family life. The nine women in the group ranged from not yet having children to having children who are in their 20s. Interestingly enough, one of the first remarks of the night, made by a woman whose children are now in college, was that she wished she had made fitness more of a priority when she was younger.

This topic took a backseat, as our discussion broadened to include other work/family challenges. But as we wrapped things up, fitness was mentioned once again. This time, someone brought up the idea of prioritizing tasks of importance over tasks of urgency—with taking care of your body being one of these important tasks.

As a personal trainer and busy mom, I was thrilled that even the tiniest bit of our conversation involved fitness.  While I have a lot to learn when it comes to work/family balance (don’t we all?!), one thing I believe I do well is find time to work out.

You’re probably thinking “PUH-LEEZ! You’re a trainer—of course you have time to work out.” What most people don’t realize about trainers is that we do not spend all day exercising. Unless you count handing weights to a client or stretching someone at the end of a session, the energy demand of personal training is pretty low.

Trainers (especially those who are moms) also do not have endless amounts of energy or motivation. Just like any other mom, I deal with children who refuse to sleep and temper tantrums that test every ounce of patience I have. I’m not always able to work out the way I’d like to, and since my fitness goals are basically just to stay in the game, I am less motivated than if I had the time and resources to actually train for something.

On top of this, my schedule really does not allow for me-time. I work at least 40 hours a week training and writing (not counting all the tasks I manage to sneak in at random times, like emailing my editor today while waiting in the carpool line to pick up my son), and when I’m not working, I’m mommying.

That said, fitness is a priority for me. It is a priority before updating my wardrobe, before meeting with friends, before watching TV and before styling my hair in any way other than a ponytail. Often it is a priority before cleaning my house or even before finishing a work assignment. It is not a matter of urgency, but it is among the most important things I do.

I do not get a solid, hour-long workout every day. I can’t afford to pay a sitter for that, and I don’t feel right working all morning and then dropping my kids at the gym’s childcare. I also can’t afford to wake up at 5am. My kids are terrible sleepers and if I don’t get enough sleep, my productivity for the entire day sucks.

So how do I fit in my workouts? Below is my strategy. I’ve been doing this since my second child was born in June, and I believe it is absolutely foolproof.

As a mom, your workouts can be broken down into three categories:

  1. Real, 45-60-minute, focused workouts: These are workouts during which you can devote 100 percent of your attention toward your training goals, without the distraction of your kids or anyone else.
  2. Play or work: This includes any physical activity that you can do with your kids present, such as taking a walk to the park or raking leaves in the yard.
  3. 10-20-minute HIT sessions: These are high-intensity workouts that you sneak in at opportune times.

During a typical week, you should be able to complete two workouts from each of these categories.

  • For the real, 45-6-minute workouts, you’ll need to set a specific time and mark it on your calendar, as if it were a doctor’s appointment. When you do these depends on your personal schedule, childcare availability and workout preferences. (If you think this is impossible for you, let me know, and I’ll give you some more advice.)
  • For the play or work, these can just happen naturally. However, continually be aware of opportunities to be active with your kids. Sometimes we opt to sit and watch a kid running with a soccer ball, when we could be out there playing, too.
  • The HIT sessions can be scheduled or you can just squeeze them into your day. I will often do a quick HIT workout right after I put my boys to bed or even while they’re playing contently on their own. There’s nothing wrong with working out in front of your kids—in fact, you might find that they’ll join you!

I know how hard it is to find time for working out, when you’re already balancing so many different commitments. Whether you are a stay-at-home mom, working mom or somewhere in between, I promise that if you stick to this schedule, you will be able to make fitness a consistent part of your life.

Stay tuned for my next blog, on incorporating your kids (of any ages!) into your workouts.