Over the past 15 years as a Personal Trainer, I have seen the fitness industry evolve in crazy ways. When I tried out to be a Fitness Instructor in college my chosen audition piece was Step Aerobics. Helloooooo, Jane Fonda. By the way – Jane is one of my idols. If you haven’t read her latest book I definitely recommend it. She has had an insanely tragic life yet has persevered to be such an inspiration! Anyhow, after watching the other ladies who were auditioning with a Yoga routine I thought to myself, why on earth would I pick something that required so much energy (and not to mention wearing a headset)! I was also 18 years old. At 18 the self-confidence is not even close to what it is after some life experience and earned wisdom so to get up in front of my future boss and all the other senior fitness instructors to teach was, needless to say, an anxiety fest. However, after that day I was hooked and I have never looked back.
A career in fitness
I chose to make exercise my job because I did not want to gain the dreaded “Freshmen 15”. Little did I know I was creating a habit that would be ingrained in me for a lifetime. I began teaching yoga, aqua, boot camp, Zumba, spin, and more! Over time I have watched fitness trends change from 1-hour step aerobics, floor based cardio, and Tae Bo to high-intensity interval training and boot camp type classes. I think this is great because both types of programs offer ways to hit the body hard with less time. Also, studies have proven high-intensity interval training is better for your mitochondria, boosts Brain-derived Neurotrophic Factor in the brain (keeps your brain young), and gives you power.
The problem is, as these programs because more popular, so has the “all or nothing” mindset. I see women not do anything at all because they cannot afford or don’t have the time to attend an hour-long boot camp class three times a week. Not to mention these classes can be intimidating to a beginner. This does not have to be the case! Classes can be such a fun time. You can meet other women at classes who have similar interests as you and the social aspect in a group fitness setting cannot be beat. However, there are SO many options for shorter, easier, and less expensive at-home workouts and even yoga classes online for minimal cost and time investment. This is my very favorite part of how the fitness industry has evolved, accessibility!
To reach your fitness goals you have to discover what is holding you back. I have seen a trend with clients over the years in regards to common (but fixable) reasons why their fitness goals are not reached. Here are a few of the biggest ones I hear, and ideas for what you can do about it.
ACTIONABLE STEP #1: Make The Time
As I have aged, so have the clients I work with. I love this because I relate to clients in real time. In college, I had 2-3 hours a day to be active. Now, if I ever get an hour workout it is mind-blowing! Where I feel most satisfied in my career is helping other moms find the time and realize they can see huge progress without dedicating hours at the gym. More often than not my workout for the entire day is 15-20 minutes tops, with an additional 15-minute walk at night to get my 12 old poochon Larry to go to the bathroom.
Moms are superheroes. When I became a mom my life took on a whole new meaning of busy that has not let up since the day those doctors put that little girl on my chest. 4 kids later and I REALLY have an insane schedule. I know you know what it is like because time is the number one barrier to exercise I hear from moms.
Fitness equals Focus
Whether you have little babies, kids in middle school, or teens in high school, your time seems to be evolved around them, leaving you little to no time for yourself. As hard as it may be, this is NOT the time to skimp out on exercise. Keeping up with your fitness levels will leave you with more energy and more focus to stay on task and manage your busy schedule. It will also help you reach and maintain the body you want. Who doesn’t want that? Plus, we went through hell and back to have these little humans, they don’t get to take our bodies away forever! They owe us the time to workout. Right?
If you leave this post with one important piece of advice from me, it is this. You have time. You have to make time. Anytime you tell yourself you don’t have time, say out loud “I have to make the time”. It could mean getting up 20 minutes earlier at the start of your day, doing lunges while you wash your hands at work (yes, I do this), a 2 minute squat challenge after a meeting, jumping jacks and high knees while you watch your kid play soccer, planks during commercials of your favorite show, or calf raises while you are standing in line at Kohl’s. Every bit of exercise you do matters.
Let me repeat that.
Every bit of exercise you do matters. Please don’t forget this!
Start today. Start now actually. Heck, you can even do Kegels while you read this! Hey, it’s exercise! Throw out your old mindset and fit it in where you can!
Fitness in Five
The time barrier is also one of the reasons I created the FVE A Day program, which involves only 5-10 minutes of focused exercise a day. You can download the 7-day program for free here. The full 28-day plan (with bonus recipes from my kitchen) is available for purchase here. I promise you, you will see results with consistent 5 minute daily exercises. You just have to stick with it!
ACTIONABLE STEP #2: Schedule Exercise Into Your Day
I have a reminder set at work to get to the gym at 10:30 am every day. I don’t snooze it until after I get back from the gym. This makes it impossible to ignore it when I get busy. I spend about 15 minutes in the gym even if I really don’t feel like doing anything. Sometimes I just foam roll (which feels amazing by the way). The important thing is I add it to my schedule. If I have a meeting at that time, I move my gym session to another time slot that is open. Rarely do I miss the opportunity to get down for a quickie workout session.
If you feel like you have too much to do at work to take this time for yourself, please please please try it for 2 weeks! I can almost guarantee you will perform better at work! Time away from your desk to get moving, get the blood flowing, and give your eyes a break from your computer screen will ultimately make you more productive when you return. Trust me, I hear this from so many of the other gym-goers I work with and I can attest to this myself. Some of my greatest ideas come to me when I take time for myself. It is a mini-reset for your body. It is counter-productive (you will actually get less done and feel groggy) if you sit at your desk all day without getting up to move.
I’m not allowed to leave my desk
As a corporate wellness professional, this is one of the things I emphasize in the workplace. That said, I know upper management at some companies is harder to convince and some of you may not be able to leave your desk. What can you do? You can still stretch! Commit to 5 stretches every 2 hours. Why? This will keep your body limber and encourage a fitness mindset – making it more likely that you will get moving later. Also, this is where seated calf raises and washing lunges come in. Make it happen. You can do it!
Make sure you tell your partner you need time to exercise. Exercise to me is like duck hunting to my husband. If he wants to leave for 4 hours to go duck hunting, I better get my time to exercise first. Marriages are give and take, but you can’t take if your spouse doesn’t know what is important to you. Communicate! Your time is just as important as theirs.
ACTIONABLE STEP #3: Get Quality Sleep
When a client I have been working with for a while comes to me because they have hit a plateau in their training program, I go over a few things with them first. First, we go over their workouts to make sure they are challenging their body appropriately and giving themselves adequate rest. Next, I look at nutrition to make sure they are fueling their body appropriately.
I also look at sleep, and guess what? 90% of the time I pinpoint their plateau to not enough, or poor quality sleep. I hear “my kid has had me up the past week”, or “I’m super busy with such and such, so I have been staying up until 11:00 pm”. Yes. That, right there is what is holding you back. I know it is because I have been there and have learned to force sleep upon myself when I am reaching a physical (or mental) plateau.
Quality over Quantity
I am not saying your sleep needs to be perfect (if only), but women especially are very sensitive to a lack of sleep. You NEED quality sleep for muscle recovery and repair. Lack of sleep is also often the sneaky culprit of what makes you crave sugary carbs at night when you should be going to bed.
Do not skimp on sleep, even if you have to force yourself to walk to bed against your will.
Multiple studies have shown a lack of sleep is linked to being overweight and worse, diabetes. In fact, studies have shown getting less than 5 quality hours of sleep on average leads to at least a 3-pound weight increase over time versus 7-8 hour sleeps. 3 pounds may not seem like a lot but considering an 11 pound weight gain nearly doubles the risk of developing diabetes, it matters! Not to mention, age blesses us with a slower metabolism.
Don’t let this discourage you! There are things you can do to get better quality sleep to make the hours on your pillow count.
- Wash your sheets and make your bed. Getting into a clean, well-made bed is a great habit to get you in the mood for sleep.
- Stop looking at your phone at least 1 hour before you go to bed. I would really like to say 2-3 hours before bed, but realistically I know that is not likely to happen right away. I am guilty of it too, but more nights than not I turn my phone on airplane mode at least an hour before bed and I refuse to look at it until my alarm goes off. Turn off the notifications so you don’t feel the urge to look to see what is going on. Give your eyes and brain a rest from the scrolling. Cell phones also emit blue light, which is extremely disruptive to your circadian rhythms.
- Cover all blue light in your room. Blue light is very harmful to your sleep routine, your hormonal system, and your mood. Turn off blue lights from all sources at night, especially in your bedroom. This means no T.V. either. Turn the cable box off, and any other blue lights from devices. Instead, you can journal, read a book, have your partner give you a massage (which could lead to some other sleep-inducing fun), stretch, foam roll, lay on an acupressure mat, the list goes on. Get creative. Remember when we were 15? We didn’t have access to the internet on our phone and the lights were not as harsh. What did you do back then? Do that! If you haven’t read the book “Sleep Smarter“, by Shawn Stevenson, I highly recommend it. He goes over a ton of great tips. I listened to this book last year on my Audible account, and I have to say his voice is really silky and nice to listen to. If you absolutely have to look at blue light, wear some blue blocking lenses like these. Wearing blue blockers for 2 hours before bed has significant improvements on sleep in individuals with insomnia symptoms.
ACTIONABLE STEP #4: Start Your Day Off With The Proper Fuel
The first meal you eat is going to set you up for your day. Aim for 20 grams of protein, some healthy fat, and complex carbohydrates (fruits and veggies are great)! Let’s say you start your day off with a bagel and cream cheese, or a muffin. These types of carbs break down quickly in the body because they are what we call simple carbs. Once these are broken down, glucose from them is released into your bloodstream giving you energy. The problem is this energy is released all at once, leaving you hungry again an hour or two later. Also, the simple sugars in these types of breakfasts actually cause you to crave more sugar.
Follow the protein + healthy fat + complex carb rule to make a better breakfast.
I have a few ideas written down in my recipe book for busy moms. You can get this with the purchase of the 28 day FVE A Day plan.
To get you started try a better breakfast instead:
- Greek yogurt (protein) + hemp, flax, and chia seeds (healthy fats and protein) + fresh fruit (complex carbs).
- 2 scrambled eggs (protein) cooked in avocado oil (healthy fat) + red pepper, asparagus, and chopped spinach (complex carbs).
- Breakfast smoothie with spinach, frozen banana (complex carbs), a serving of protein powder, coconut milk, and almond butter (protein + healthy fats).
See what I am doing here? Write every meal down if it helps. Assess each meal you eat to see if you are hitting these goals, versus mindlessly eating without knowing what you are providing your body. This is much different than calorie counting, which I do not suggest for anyone, ever. This is simply being mindful that you are eating from each category of what we call macronutrients (protein, fat, carbohydrates). Your body needs all of the macros to fuel cellular health.
ACTIONABLE STEP #5: Recover Properly
Lastly, I really want to touch on the importance of rest. Moms are so busy. We are often exhausted, lack quality sleep (hello 4 year old standing next to the bed at 2am creepishly staring at you), stressed and running around for everyone else but ourselves, fueled on coffee. You need to make fitness a priority in your life to maintain your energy levels but you don’t need to overdo it or let working out interfere with your sleep.
Listen closely to what your body is telling you.
Too often we push through, putting more stress on our bodies which creates a vicious cycle of exhaustion, cortisol imbalances, joint pain, back pain, headaches, and brain fog. If you are tired, sleep! Get your partner to watch the kids for you, or put them to bed earlier (no electronics at least 2 hours before bed is a must for them too). If you are feeling groggy midweek and under a lot of stress, choose a yoga class or brisk walking with a friend (bonus for social wellness)! If you get a good night’s sleep and have energy, choose HIIT training the next day and go at it with full intensity!
Overtraining will keep you from building muscle. I know this is sometimes a hard one for people to wrap their head around because we are in a society of more is better, but I promise you if you work your muscles too hard, you will not show any gains. You have to let your body recover properly.
I will leave you with this…
In a world full of asking others how to do everything, I think sometimes we forget that we already have the answers in us. Remover yourself form the Q&A groups for a few weeks, put your phone away, and listen to what your own body needs. It will tell you.
If you do this, you will without a doubt see results in your fitness levels.
Leave a comment below with one thing you are going to work on this week. I choose sleep.