Have you ever heard older mothers say that they’ve put on a bit of weight since they had kids, but that’s just what happens? Have you watched friends who used to be in great shape turn into women who never go anywhere without their car and rely on men for every strength-based household task? Life doesn’t need to be like that. You may have gained a few pounds during pregnancy; you may have struggled to fit in exercise during those first exhausting months with each kid; but you can get back in shape, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be fit and healthy at 40 just as you were at 20. What you need to do is establish a workout plan that fits in with your life.
Structuring a workout
What do you actually need from a good basic workout? There are three things that you should be focusing on here: strength, stamina, and agility. To maintain good muscle tone, you should do strength-based exercise – anything from push-ups to lifting weights – for 30 minutes, three times a week. To build up your muscles, double the length of each session, and remember to work separately on each muscle group that you want to improve. For stamina, you should do exercise that raises your heart rate over 120bpm for 45 to 60 minutes, twice a week. For flexibility, you should stretch off your muscles before and after each workout, and at the start and end of each day. You can gradually scale up each part of this in order to keep your workout challenging, and you can also push yourself by switching to heavier weights or running uphill instead of on level ground.
What you need
Working out doesn’t have to involve a lot of equipment, but there are some things that are well worth investing in. A wristband that can monitor your pulse is useful for keeping an eye on both your progress and your health during every kind of workout. Good shoes, T-shirts, and shorts should be a part of any workout plan, and it’s worth investing in good gear generally, from compression shorts to sports bras, if you’re going to get the most out of what you do. A simple soccer ball, exercise ball, and skipping rope will give you all that you need for lots of independent exercise at a very low cost.
Working out at home
It’s quite possible to fit in all the elements of a healthy workout without leaving your home. Exercising when your children are present can be a great way to show them that it’s fun, and can get them to take an interest in healthy living. Simple, low-cost additions to your home, such as a pull-up bar fitted in a doorway, can help with your workout. While you might choose to purchase a treadmill, old-fashioned alternatives such as running on the spot, skipping, or dancing can be just as effective at building up your fitness.
Working out in the gym
Getting out to the gym can be difficult if you’re juggling kids and other responsibilities, but there are ways to do it. Find a gym that’s close to your kids’ school or kindergarten so that you can pop in for a short workout after dropping them off, helping you to feel refreshed in the morning. If you’re working, try to find a gym close by so that you can work out during your lunch hour – many people say that this makes them feel much more alert in the afternoon – and have mini meals in your morning and afternoon breaks, which will better supply you with energy over the course of the day.
Working out as you go
If scheduling workouts simply proves impossible, there are still things that you can do by building the elements of a workout into your day-to-day routine. Walk instead of driving whenever possible, and run if you can. Scrub floors, walls, and windows the traditional way, using muscle power rather than letting synthetic chemicals do the work for you. Do Pilates exercises while sitting at your desk. Work on your yard – something children love to help with – and discover how digging can toughen you up. There’s a reason why our grandparents’ generation was leaner than we are today, and it wasn’t all about diet.
Few things in life are perfect when you’re a busy mom, but your workout is something that you can still keep up, and you’ll really feel the benefit. Even if it seems exhausting to begin with, you’ll soon find that you’re more energetic and better able to do all the things that you want to do.