How to fit in training around work and family

We’ve been asking the same question for decades – how do you fit in exercise when you have a job and/or childcare responsibilities? Our women’s training expert Lauren Drinkwater has some simple solutions…

Full length side view of mature Hispanic woman in cycling apparel and helmet wheeling bike outside for daily workout.

One of the first things you learn when training to be an exercise instructor or personal trainer is to understand obstacles and barriers to exercise. Why would a person be unable to fit exercise into their lives? And how can you help them to overcome that obstacle or barrier? 

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How do you fit in training when you don’t have time?

We all know there are different life circumstances and scenarios that bring about a range of reasons why a person has to give up, is unable to, or simply doesn’t want to exercise.

But the issue I encounter the most as a personal trainer to women and mums is time, or lack thereof. And with this lack of time comes a lack of energy, which itself leads to a lack of desire or inclination to exercise. 

Having experienced this first hand with a full-time job in the city and a toddler at home, I fully relate. After giving all your time and energy to your job and/or your children, what is there left to give?

It’s like looking at your bank account and seeing which regular outgoings needs to be scrapped in order to save money. 

Sadly, in this case, we choose something that would actually benefit our own mental and physical health, and, ironically, is why we remain so exhausted.

Because of my own experience, I’m not one of those trainers who says, ‘Come on, all you need to do is fit in X amount of minutes into your day!’ I would recommend to these types of trainers that they need to listen to their clients.

They need to understand their clients’ days a bit more and help them instead of heaping even more pressure on. We need to inspire and motivate, not preach and castigate. 

I saw one desperate mum share on a Facebook support group:

“How do people do it? Seriously, how do you work full-time, do childcare, afford holidays and going out, stay fit and healthy, eat decent food and deal with the kids when they’re poorly? Is it just me? Tips welcome on how I can keep going this way.”

One could argue it’s not exactly fair game for women and mums when it comes to time to ‘stay fit’, and there’s more than just anecdotal evidence to back that argument up. Let’s look at the facts.

How to make the time-struggle work for you

 

Here are some examples of how a few of my real-life mum clients manage to juggle the time-struggle in their household…

 

“My husband and I have started going to the gym together and taking turns to watch our daughter while the other does a class/goes for a swim, etc.” Sophie Ellingham, mum of one

 

“Incorporating my baby into a workout with the baby carrier or simply getting out for a walk. And finding a mum and baby workout group!” Nikki Wolstenholme, mum of two

 

“I go to a morning class while my husband looks after the kids. He has his time away from the kids when he goes to football.” Ruth Moody, mum of two

 

“I put workout gear on as soon as I wake up. Committing to and paying for a class helps me prioritise it.” Lyndsey Walton, mum of three

 

“My husband’s parents do the drop-off on Fridays, so we will run together early doors.” Mel, mum of two

 

“The only way I can make it work so far is video classes after the kids have gone to bed.” Hannah, mum of two

 

“Walking the kids to school uphill with the baby in the buggy is a heart-rate raiser! Mum & Baby classes are also timed for after school/nursery drop-offs, which is a great incentive too.” Catherine Kennedy, mum of three

 

“My hubby ran the 100k London 2 Brighton Challenge. There’s been months of me horse riding on a weekend morning, followed by him doing long runs.” Helen Watson, mum of two

Do women sacrifice their training time more than men?

According to a study from the Australian National University (ANU), women sacrifice their workout time when their jobs and families need attention, whereas men might be “borrowing” the time that women sacrifice to squeeze their own workouts in.

The study on heterosexual couples, aged 25-64 in more than 7,000 households, found that 34% of the men reported being physically active (three or more moderately intense bouts of exercise of more than 30mins per week), yet only 28.6% of women reported exercising on a regular basis.

And if their working week increased by 10 hours either by paid work or family commitments, this decreased by a further 6%. 

“This is one of the first studies to show how, hour for hour, women’s time for their health is being squeezed to manage their jobs and the family, whereas men’s time for jobs and health is more protected,” stated Lyndall Strazdins, PhD, study author and ANU professor.

“There’s currently a global exercise drought, and this is pushing huge disease burdens from the cardiovascular to the cognitive,” she said.

“We need to cap work hours on the job, and even the sharing of care hours in the home, for men and women to both have enough time to keep healthy.”

We all know that saying ‘You can’t keep pouring from an empty cup’, and it’s important to see that the power is just as much in our own hands as the cups are.

It was one of the reasons I set up my business to offer achievable and flexible fitness solutions for busy mums, from classes they can bring their little ones along to, evening classes after bedtime, to short and varied online workouts ranging from 15-30mins that can be squeezed in around work lunchtimes and nap times. 

Credit: Getty Images

Take advantage of technology to fit in exercise

Advances in technology since the Covid 19 pandemic can also not be underestimated… and should be taken advantage of at every available opportunity.

It’s enabled us fitness trainers to be more flexible to accommodate time-poor clients. The beauty of exercise now is that it doesn’t have to be restricted to a certain discipline, location or duration.

This also ties in nicely with my mantra – if you don’t enjoy it, don’t do it. Find something else that sparks joy – life, and time, are too short. 

Top tips to fit in fitness

  1. Start with manageable goals – whether that’s training for a run, couch to 5k, triathlon – following a personal training plan, other type of health and fitness plan, or just to be a healthier version of you.
  2. Put your classes or workout time in the diary and stick to a regular routine that works for you and your partner around family and work commitments.
  3. Get your workout kit ready the night before or get dressed in advance so you’re ready to go.
  4. Pay or book for your classes and you’re less likely to give it a miss.
  5. Have a tag team with your partner if you have kids.
  6. Make it something you look forward to by finding an active lifestyle that brings a smile.
  7. Join a workout community to keep you motivated.
  8. Get outside at least once a day and find active options, like taking the stairs, or doing walking lunges to the next room!

 

Top image: Getty Images

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