Fitness for Busy Moms: Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That (or Do We?)

No time? Too busy? Fitness for busy moms is tough, but kinesiology professor Dr. Anne Larson has a unique plan that might help you get active.

By Dr. Anne Larson

Here is what I-know-that-you-know: you need to exercise…you don’t have time to exercise…this causes guilt/regret/misgivings because…you need to exercise.

Yuck! It’s an ugly cycle that might seem unbreakable, but take a breath because there is a solution.

First, though, a gut check as to what your “don’t have time” origin is. Actually having no time is one possibility. Up with the sun…morning routine…work…evening routine…down with the sun. Oops, I can’t forget the fine print – get groceries, pick up the dry cleaning, get prescriptions at the drug store, go to doctor/dentist/vet appointments, go back to the grocery store for the milk you forgot or to return the item(s) your toddler grabbed off the shelf.

Yikes! But so be it, no worries. Hold tight for suggestions on fitness for busy moms.

Fear of fitness failure

Another possibility is “no time” as a sort of exercise defense mechanism, a form of self-protection from having to endure the disappointment of failing to achieve outcomes. Relax, you are among friends, it’s not as scary as it sounds and is perfectly treatable. Having “no time” justifies avoidance caused by the underlying frustration of not realizing success — but there is a fundamental flaw in this equation. Without realizing it, we often pursue unrealistic exercise outcomes, specifically, the erroneous promise of realizing whole, radical body transformation, and easily and quickly!

No doubt, some transformation is likely if we engage according to the guidelines that induce physique changes, e.g., weight loss and muscle mass gain, but I can no more acquire Jennifer Aniston’s arms than she mine, and sadly just yesterday I overheard a trainer guaranteeing a female client said arms in 6 weeks. Sheesh! This isn’t going to end well. In 6 weeks she will be disgusted by seeing HER arms looking back at her in the mirror, quit the gym and forever swear off physical activity. Why? Because yet again she will feel she has failed, prompting the declaration of “no time” to prevent further disappointment.

This may sound extreme but even the most cognizant among us can fall prey to the (outrageous) erroneous promises of transformation because at some level we want to believe the hype and (false) hopes messaged by mass media, gym advertising and fitness professionals, and to some degree transformation IS possible, but it’s (typically) not radical, nor easy nor fast as promised. Darn, there we go being human again, what with trusting then feeling somehow inadequate when our results don’t add up!

Humanness and messaging/marketing accuracy aside, the really sad part is “we miss the gains we make by looking for the gains we are not going to find.” It is VERY likely you will realize gains by the end of an exercise program but if you don’t know what to realistically look for you may completely miss all of it. This means (yet another) hit to your motivation and one day missed becomes two become a string of several until you quit altogether.

TOO BUSY? Or “too busy” defending against further disappointment? Only you know, but even with a deep, dark past we can help you find the light, dare say resolution to your fitness revolution. Solving is a big word but I know its aggressiveness doesn’t throw this crowd one bit.

10 minutes at a time

First, research shows compelling evidence those 10-minute bouts of moderate-vigorous cardiovascular activity yield health protective benefit. Think what this means – 10 minutes here and there throughout the day can improve life quality by fostering the exercise gifts of physical, cognitive and emotional vigor. It also means we can get past the ‘all or nothing’ perspective from which many regard engagement. Running a marathon, completing a triathlon, achieving advanced yoga poses, riding a cycling century, holding a sub-10 golf handicap or 4.5 tennis rating all deserve big glitter accomplishment stars, but it’s just as significant to your well being to chunk out the increments of activity time you can during the day.

Create your Iron Footprint

IronFootprint_ProfileSecond, approach activity from a perspective that reveals all the ways you can achieve and shows you how to display all the ways you do achieve. Capture ALL your activity achievement in your Iron Footprint, your portfolio of activity accumulation and success.

Iron stands for its synonymous alignment to physical activity, and Footprint for its accumulation depiction. An Iron Footprint is comprised of three engagement dimensions:

  • Your FitBASE – the daily engagement you do as your workout
  • Your FitBUBBLES – all the activity you do separate from or in addition to your daily workout
  • Your FitBESTS – performance benchmarks for activity events.

Net/net, activity achievement is completing a workout, doing activity different from or in addition to your daily workout, and setting a personal benchmark in an event…much different from seeking the arms of a celebrity, no disrespect to the celebrity, or feeling like you have to run a marathon to earn “success.” We ought to seek the deepest, densest, Footprint possible, because in general, the more activity we engage in the better our life quality and it can have a profound impact on engagement motivation.

Seeing your achievement by notching your Footprint after each session of activity feeds your motivation to sustain engagement because past experience is its strongest source. Success begets success, which begets success, and so on. Before long, you will be so motivated to engage you will have NO TIME — for anything other than activity.

Getting started

Whatever your situation, carve out 10 minutes as many times as you can throughout your day and then notch your segments accordingly in your Iron Footprint.

  • 10 minutes of moderate-vigorous cardio – add that to your FitBASE section
  • 10 minutes where you did as many push-ups as you could – add that to your FitBEST section (then in a couple of weeks repeat the trial and I bet you will be able to do more)
  • 10 minutes of walking the dog around the block – add that as a FitBUBBLE (literally draw a circle and write in what you did), activity separate from and in addition to your FitBASE workout.

Fitness, family-style

Kids at home? No interest in leaving them with a sitter while you exercise? No problem. Simply involve your family as you “Footprint.” Put young kids in their stroller/jogger or wagon and walk/jog around the neighborhood. This could count as both a FitBASE and FitBEST – time yourself to see how fast you can cover the set distance (then do a retrial a week or so later).

It’s never too early to model activity and message its importance to your kids, and their friends, and anyone else who sees you. Start them on their KidPRINT as they become mobile to establish a solid, lifelong engagement habit. It’s the same concept as Iron Footprint but with developmentally appropriate modification to the dimensions.

For example, as a rule of thumb, grade-school kids ought to accrue 60 minutes a day of activity play, during and after school. Notch this according to the FitBASE dimension. FitBUBBLES ought to focus upon introducing them to as many different forms of activity possible – and no, you don’t need to be a versatile, highly skilled athlete to expose your kids to a variety of activity. FitBESTs ought to focus upon helping them develop motor skills – jumping, catching, kicking, skipping, throwing, etc. – even if born with a propensity to run fast or throw far or catch from the oddest of angles, without practice skills do not automatically develop.

And same as mentioned above, it’s OK if your skill proficiency isn’t quite (what it will be after you practice with them). That’s right – you and your kid(s) practicing dribbling at the park’s basketball court! Finally, at the same time notch all the activity you do together as a family in your FamilyPRINT, including family benchmarks like total push-ups or a timed relay around the block. Now that can add cost-free excitement to family night!

anne-larson-headshotAs a solution to no time, chunk 10-minute activity increments and use Iron Footprint (and KidPRINT and FamilyPRINT) to foster resilient motivation (yours and that of your family). Just don’t forget to wave at the neighbors watching you cruise on the sidewalk with your toddler sitting in the stroller, hair streaming backward cheering mama to set a new “1-block” time trial record, or be surprised if they join you for tomorrow’s trial…

Anne Larson is a Kinesiology professor/author/blogger/website founder. She started Iron Footprint Fitness to help people develop resilient engagement motivation by revealing all the ways one can achieve in physical activity, then showing all the ways one does achieve in their growing Iron Footprint, or portfolio of physical activity. Anne says her earliest memories of her mom are of her getting ready for work, which she did all through Anne’s and her siblings’ upbringing. They all survived just fine. 



6 thoughts on “Fitness for Busy Moms: Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That (or Do We?)

  1. Team Activities says:

    Excellent post–I think you’re right on the money about the ten-minute workout. I used to run 5Ks and 10Ks, but lately I’ve been superbusy and can only fit in 10-minute cardio workouts. The amazing thing is that—with the 10-minute workouts, I have been so much more consistent! I used to train for a race, and then reward myself with a week or two off, and then start the cycle again. Now, limiting myself to ten minutes a day actually keeps me from taking time off! I’m actually much more fit on this system than the old one.

    Thank you for posting!

    1. you are very welcome! love your comment and keep chunking those 10-minutes!

  2. I’m a former Division 1 athlete and after a kid and a full time job I’ve had to come to the realization I just can’t do it on my own. Now I pay more than a regular gym membership but less than private training to work out 3x a week at 6am in a small group environment. Yes it sucks waking up that early but there is just no other way it’s going to get done and now I have a trainer to help keep me accountable if I skip a workout.

  3. Great tips to read on! Thank you for sharing this fitness ideas.

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