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No Time to Run? 11 Strategies to Bust Barriers to Exercise

Community Contributor: Whitney Heins, Founder of Mother Runners, Knoxville, TN

Whitney Heins, Founder of @themotherrunners

Us Mother Runners know that none of the barriers to exercise have been as steep as the ones present in parenthood—demanding schedules, sleepless nights, illness, feedings, separation anxiety, the list goes on.

Before becoming a mom, it was just me and my willpower. But now, other human beings are in the equation and it requires a network of people, intense schedule coordination, and some sacrifice to get out the door. I’m still getting the hang of it, but here are some strategies that have worked for me—and hopefully they may help you, too.

1.     Get it on the calendar. My husband is a runner, too, so for both of us to get our exercise in, we have to coordinate. One of us may have to run before dawn, or forgo dinner. With busy schedules and young kids, it’s something we discuss daily to ensure it happens. Gone are the days of the spontaneous jaunts. 

2.     Go early. For a lot of people, getting up early to exercise is a bitter pill to swallow. But that cup of coffee in the quiet hours of the morning is absolute bliss, and quite the motivator—so is meeting up with a friend to get in a few miles. Also motivating? Knowing that you started the day off right before anyone else in the house is awake. 

3.     Work it in. Sometimes there just isn’t enough time in the day—so you have to multi-task. I’ll do barre moves while I hold my son up on the counter to play in the kitchen sink; or take work calls while running (with the disclaimer that I may be heavily breathing while talking).

4.     Get equipped. If you’re home with the kids and they’re napping or otherwise occupied, harness that free time at home by investing in a treadmill or elliptical, or whatever. This also comes in handy during treacherous weather.

5.     Make it a family affair. We go on “family adventures” where the kids get a morning full of hikes by the river, playtime at the park and muffins at the local bakery. They aren’t ones to sit in the stroller long, so stops along the way entice them to join us while we get some exercise in. Obviously, this run isn’t the type for workout—but it can suffice for an easy training day.

6.     Tack it on. The attachment with our kiddos is strong—like cry for hours after we leave strong. So instead of doing the “duck and run” to get out the door, only to do it again when we want to exercise, it’s much easier to tack a workout on to whatever we left the house for in the first place. Have a meeting or a lunch break from work? Bring your gear and save some tears!

7.     Ask for help. We’re all busy and sometimes you just need a little help from a friend—or family member—to watch the kids while you get a workout in. Ask for it. I used to feel selfish asking for someone to watch my kids while I ran but now I realize the benefit running has for not just me—but my whole family!—a healthier, happier mama.

8.     Tell yourself, it’s okay. Confession. I have serious mom guilt and almost always used to feel bad when I’d take time to run. But, I know I need it like I need food and water. And, I know I am a way better mom, wife, and person if I get to run. And, I know it’s good for me—in the long and short run.

9.     Hit up child care. I know many Mother Runners who have found great workout facilities that offer child care while they exercise. For these moms, it is a win/win. The kids have fun and they get movin’.

10.  Make it nonnegotiable. Making an appointment for yourself to go running and don’t let other things stand in its way. Treat this time as if it is a doctor’s appointment or work meeting. Put it on the calendar, and have it stay there.

11.  Throw in the towel. Hey, some days it’s just not possible (and if you’re dealing with pretty bad illness, it’s not smart). It’s okay! Tomorrow is another day.

Happy running!

Whitney Heins is the founder of The Mother Runners, a place where moms who run or want to run can find information and inspiration to chase their dreams. Whitney is a former journalist who works from home with her two small children. She is currently training to qualify for the Olympic trials in the marathon this fall. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook at @themotherrunners

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