Ok moms. Whether you have one child or five, you know that time for exercise can feel like a time in the past between work, school, homework, meetings, grocery shopping… and the list goes on. Even if you’re a stay at home mom like myself, exercise isn’t really at the top of our priorities, even though it should be. As a mother, I think it’s important for us to get exercise in our schedules at least once or twice a week. The better shape we’re in, the better we’ll feel and the better we can keep up with our growing children and be in a better mood. Here are some tips just to help get you started.
1. Stop the Excuses – Yes, it’s much easier said than done, but when you think about why your tired or why your stressed to a certain level, it all comes back to your overall physical and mental health. When you don’t exercise at all besides walking up and down the stairs in your house, it lessens the ability of your body’s immune system to fighting off the cold, flu, or any other illness that may have you laying on the couch for a few days. Muscles that aren’t used become weak, and you’ll have less mental clarity because of the lack of blood circulation from being non active. Make the decision that you want to be happy, healthy, and live long enough to see your grandkids, or even great grandkids, even if your workout is only for ten minutes a day.
2. Make the Time – Say you’ve been at work all day, still have to fix supper, help with homework, and read through your emails. The last thing on your mind is going for a run. If you don’t have the time or energy to get on the treadmill or go running outdoors, just jog in place while you’re waiting for the water to boil on the stove or even while your on the phone, instead of sitting at the desk or on the couch. Five minutes is five minutes, plus you just did to chores at once. Mission accomplished.
3. Start Out Slow – Even if you have the determination and have decided that you’re going to start jogging/running, don’t set your goals too high in the early stages. When I first started using our treadmill, I started my running pace at 2, which is basically walking at a fast pace, because that’s all I could handle without running out of breath. Do this for five to ten minutes a couple times a week until your body adjusts, then slowly increase your speed, not the incline though. This also applies to running outdoors. It’s important to get your endurance built up before you start using the incline or running up and down hills. If you try too much, too soon, you’ll end up with an unnecessary injury and possibly back on the couch.
Once your body adjusts to this new thing called jogging/running, increase the length of time first, not the speed. An example of this would be to run at a set speed (like 2 as mentioned before), two nights a week for twenty minutes. Stay at this pace for about three weeks. That’s six sessions of jogging for a total of two hours. This gives all the muscles you’re now using a chance to build up the flexibility they need without getting injured. The last thing we need as moms is to be sick or injured, so always start out gentle and stop before you’re exhausted.
If your sessions start feeling “easy” before three weeks, you can definitely add on another five or ten minutes. The same rule applies if at three weeks, you’re still not ready to increase. Keep going at the rate you are and try again at four weeks, or five. You’ll know when you’re ready. If you don’t have the time for twenty minutes of running/jogging, just increase the speed, but only by .01 or .02. A very subtle increase will trick your body and before you know it, you’ll be running faster than you expected.
As mentioned before, don’t increase the incline. Being the impatient person I can be, I tried doing this too quickly just after we purchased our treadmill and of course pulled a muscle. The incline should actually come much, much later. Even if you feel like you could, test yourself first. Try walking up a steep hill or stair case. If you’re sore or out of breath afterwards, wait on the incline.
4. Don’t Start Until You’re Ready – If you have an infant or small children, your body may not be ready yet. After child birth, studies have shown that it can take up to a year for your body to actually get back to the condition it was in before pregnancy, if then. Give your body time to heal and start when you’re ready. Plus, if your child/children aren’t sleeping through the night yet, trying to exercise can be more exhausting then it’s worth and do more harm than good. Try doing some simple yoga stretches instead. No running involved and it’s a great stress reliever.
5. Don’t Worry About Other Workouts – Of course there are all forms of exercise such as step aerobics, kick-boxing, zumba, dance videos, and the list goes on. The only difference though is not that they aren’t as beneficial and not that running is better, it’s simply that running or jogging is easier. All you need are a pair of tennis shoes, a t-shirt, and shorts or sweats. You don’t have to buy any videos or follow an instructor. You simply change clothes, grab your headphones, and go at your own pace. If you have a treadmill though, I would suggest alternating your workout for a couple reasons. One being that just from personal experience, running or jogging too often on an unnatural surface like a treadmill can possibly cause knee, ankle, or back problems because of the constant pounding, especially if your body isn’t used to using these muscles yet. Run outside on sidewalks if you can or jog in front of the TV while you’re watching Dance with the Stars. Plus, make sure your shoes are cushioned for support.
Yoga can be a good alternative to stretch your muscles on days you don’t feel like running or you’re too overwhelmed with other demands. As mentioned before, listen to your body and go at your own pace. As the kids get older, you’ll find more available time in the evenings when there is less physical demands needed from mommy such as bottle feeding and diaper changing, just to name a few. Now that our three girls are all in school, it’s much easier (at least for me) to take twenty, even thirty minutes in the evening after they are all in bed. A late evening workout is better than no workout at all.
6. Why a Treadmill May be Better than Running Outdoors – If you have a treadmill already, that’s great. If not, consider buying a used one. You’ll only have to make a purchase once. I realize you can go jogging or walking outside completely free, especially if you live in a neighborhood with many sidewalks. However, there are a couple draw backs and precautions to this, especially if you have small children. Weather conditions are one. If it’s too hot, too cold, or raining, you don’t want to take a chance of either of you getting sick. It’s better to be safe, stay inside, and do some yoga with your little one. The other draw back to running or jogging outside is for those who live in the country or in a neighborhood where there are no sidewalks. Jogging on the road is permitted but can be dangerous, especially if there are a lot of sharp curves or hills where cars don’t always slow down or watch out for pedestrians. There also is the fact that there are typically no lights. Even with the appropriate clothing gear for night time running, it’s best to stay inside and run on the treadmill. Exercising in the space of your own home is much easier to manage and won’t cost you anything, especially if you already have a treadmill. If you do have one, use it ladies. Don’t let it be another place to hang your clothes on. If you don’t have one though, you can simply jog/run in place on the living room while watching TV, as mentioned earlier. You’ll feel so much better afterword with a great energy high, and your body will thank you.
7. Have a Good Pair of Shoes – Another key, and highly important factor in any running/jogging program are shoes. Whether you have flat feet like me, normal, or high arch, if you don’t have the right shoes, you can end up with permanent injury from repeatedly hitting the pavement or treadmill with the wrong posture and spinal alignment. You don’t need to buy a hundred dollar pair of Nike shoes for a good fit, especially when you’re first starting out and don’t know for certain the time and dedication you can put into it. Shop around and you can usually find a good pair of shoes, for whatever your foot type is, ranging from thirty to fifty dollars. DO NOT start jogging/running until you find just the right shoe that’s both fit and comfortable. They don’t have to be Nike or Reebok, but you can still purchase either brand for a descent price at their outlet stores directly as opposed to purchasing them at your local department store, where usually, they’ll cost more. Then, once you decide if you really want to invest the time, money and reward into jogging/running, you can spend a little extra for the higher quality. It’s so well worth it. We’ve tried other generic brand shoes from the local dollar store, but the quality is usually terrible and they start falling apart after a couple months. Basically, you end up getting what you pay for. Any good quality pair of running shoes should last for about six months even if your workout is more frequent than twice a week.
8. Other Tips – As with any other physical activity, always check with your doctor to make sure you’re ready and what program is right for you speciffically, try to drink more water and less caffeine to avoid dehydration, and try to make simple changes in your eating habits. Any little change is better than staying put or feeling blah all the time. As moms, we want to be around for quite a while to see the grandkids and give our children the love and attention they deserve.