I’m on my own this week, and I have to admit that the only reason I got in a workout yesterday is because after work I decided to prepare the kiddos a snack and it went terribly wrong. We participated in a CSA this growing season and we’ve received popcorn (on the cob) in our veggie share for the last two weeks. A kind volunteer at the CSA told me that to pop it, I could just put a whole cob in a brown paper bag, fold down the top, and microwave for 4 minutes. Brilliant!
2 minutes in I notice a strange flicker of light coming from the kitchen so I rush over. OMG – the popcorn is on fire!! I rip open the microwave. Flames! And smoke! My first instinct (not the appropriate response) is to blow on it. Smoke and ashes fly. Somehow, this ill conceived response worked. The fire is out! But the apartment seems to be filling with smoke. Both kids are watching semi-horrified and crying while I dash around our small apartment opening windows and fanning the smoke detector with a pillow. The dog is barking at me and crying in response to my pillow waving. If the smoke detector goes off, all heck will break loose. By this time, of course, I am dripping in sweat.
And that, my friends, is the ONLY reason I rallied to exercise after putting the babes to bed. I was already sweaty and gross. I might as well exercise before I shower.
That was sort of a one-time (I hope), crazy thing that happened. So let me bring it up a level and get into more general tactics for squeezing in a workout when you’re parenting solo.
As you might have guessed, my ‘+1’ travels a fair bit for work. This week he’s in London. Being an introvert, I usually enjoy some alone time and I don’t mind too much when he travels, but now that we have twin toddlers managing the household by myself is not my favorite thing. We also have a dog that requires a walk on a leash 3-4x a day… and a cat who requires very little, but still… life is hectic. Fitting in a workout on days he’s traveling can be a challenge, but not one that can’t be overcome with some careful planning and energy management.
Our current schedule when I’m alone with the kids looks something like this:
|6:00am||wakey, wakey, dash out the door with the kids in the stroller to walk the dog|
|6:15am||make breakfast, feed pets, unload dishwasher, get everyone dressed for the day & play|
|8:30am||wash my face, brush my teeth, commute|
|5:30pm||make dinner for kids, play, feed dog & cat, give baths, dress kids in pajamas, take everyone outside to walk the dog, storytime & bedtime routine|
|7:30pm||dishes, cleaning up from dinner, tidy up apartment, empty trash, check work emails|
|8:30pm||ahhh, time to myself, shower|
|10:00pm||prepare for bed|
It’s pretty full-on for 14-15 hours, which often leaves me feel feeling a little flat for my workout.
From a scheduling perspective, my options for working out are as follows:
- 5-6 am – this used to be my preferred time to work out, but my DS doesn’t always get the memo that he should still be sleeping. This morning, for example, he was wide awake and all but demanding attention at 5am. Ack!
- 6:30 am stroller jog – while I love the idea of getting out, this leaves me with too little time to shower before work. It can work if the weather is good and I have the nanny come 30 minutes earlier.
- 8:30-9:30pm – ding, ding, ding! This is the winning time slot for either a strength workout or a bike ride.
To ensure I have enough energy at 8:30pm when it’s time to start my workout, I have to consciously manage myself throughout the day. Here are some ways to do just that:
- Schedule the workout in advance. Put it in the calendar, write it down, verbalize it to yourself. Whatever works.
- Actively manage hydration throughout the day – it’s amazing how much this impacts my motivation level. When I’m dehydrated, I feel slow, tired and off, none of which leave me amped for a workout.
- Time your meals – I eat a snack or light dinner around 5pm to stave off hunger until post-workout.
- Connect with the workout’s importance – don’t be afraid to remind yourself of your “why”… are you training for a race? or a specific goal? is good healthy and exercise a core value of yours? does it make you feel good? Remind yourself.
- Don’t sit down – From when I put the kids to bed until I finish my workout, no sitting is allowed. Sitting, even momentarily on our very comfy couch, is literally the kiss of death for evening workouts!
- Keep learning – Everything I know about what motivates me is the result of several missed workouts, a little bit of beating myself up, and lots of experimentation and analysis. I finally understand that instilling habits like these is a process. For most of us, it doesn’t happen overnight, but we can improve at it over time. Plus, we certainly owe it to ourselves to exhibit self-compassion on days when we just don’t have it in us.
On that note, since becoming a mom, I’ve had to make a few mindset shifts in order to stay sane and love myself:
#1. We ARE working hard.
SAHMs, working moms – this applies to all of the moms I know.
Since my return to work in July, I have been working just 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Easy peasy, right? Well, it differs dramatically from the 12-16 hour days I was used to (circa 2014). As a result, battled some really negative feelings in the first few months back to work.
“I should do more.”… “Why are my projects at work taking longer to complete?” … “I really should log back on after the kids go to sleep to do a few hours of work.”
I felt tired, and I couldn’t figure out why since I was only working 8 hours a day. Had I become soft?
Duh. I wasn’t counting the time with my children as work. It is a joy, of course, to be a parent, but it is also real work. How do I know? Because I can pay someone to do it. That means it’s work. Once I came to terms with that idea, I let myself off the hook just a little bit.
#2. We cannot live with out sleep. And momxhaustion is real.
ok, it’s not really real. I just made it up (I know, I’m a big dork).
Something you used to hear around our apartment is, “I can sleep when I’m dead!” Post-twins, the message is closer to, “If I don’t sleep, I might die.” Truly.
There have been times, even at the peak of marathon training, that I traded working out for an extra hour of sleep. Yes, I made that trade and I didn’t beat myself up too much for it.
So there you have it! If training is a priority, there is usually time in our schedules for a quick workout, even when we’re the adult on duty and we feel chained to our homes. The real challenge is managing our energy so that we have some left for the workout.
Please share!! What are some tactics that you use to motivate for a workout when you're parenting solo?