By Steph Irwin, RTC Fitness Co.

Any busy parent is familiar with this typical morning scenario:  After spending an hour or so haggling with the kids to get out of bed, wear the agreed upon outfit, eat breakfast, find the bookbag that is nowhere to be found, and race to the bus stop, it’s about 8a.m., and you’re off to work.  And the responsibilities waiting at the end of a long day at work seem interminable.  There are after school activities/sports, dinner, homework, chores, and the list goes on and the day is over before it can all get done.  It’s no wonder that many parents with even the healthiest intentions decide that they are too busy and/or too tired to work out.  While it may seem like this default decision is the only option, that simply isn’t true.  Fitness, like anything important, can be scheduled into even the busiest of days by making these “Five Pillars of Fitness” the foundation of your workout program. 

  1. Fitness needs to be fun!

First and foremost, fitness has to be an enjoyable experience.  We’ve all done those workouts or exercises that we think might be good for us, or might give us the most calorie burn, but make us miserable from beginning to end.  If that’s how we’re feeling, then chances are slim that we’ll maintain a workout habit.  Exercise doesn’t have to be painful or painstaking to be effective. If it’s fun, you’ll want to go back to it.  And if it’s challenging, which it should be, then the fun makes that challenge more manageable.  Choosing a workout format that offers continuous learning is fun for many people because it can be both enjoyable and satisfying to learn new skills.  But it’s also important to incorporate the things you already love to do into your workout routine as much as possible, so spending a summer day swimming in the pool, taking a bike ride on the towpath, or rollerblading around the neighborhood can and should be part of your routine.  The important thing to remember is to keep moving and keep mixing it up so it always feels fresh and exciting.

  1. Find a community of positive people!

Not only must your newfound habit be enjoyable, but being part of a positive community of like- minded people with similar goals is essential for your success.  This community can provide accountability and encouragement, critical components of a successful fitness regimen.  Mandi, mother to 5 boys, and fairly new to exercise, speaks to the importance of community when starting a new program.  “I’ve felt intimidated in many gyms, and had a lot of nervousness,” she says.   “But when I found an inclusive place where I received individualized attention, I realized my fears were completely unfounded.  I was amazed at how many people approached me and empathized with me.  It is definitely the community that keeps me motivated and coming back.”   And while the physical benefits of exercise are obvious (increased strength and endurance, weight loss, and clarity of mind, to name a few), the emotional benefits that come through membership in a community cannot be underestimated.   Sara, a busy mom to 4 children, notes that her membership “is about more than just changing my body or becoming stronger.”  “It is about a community of people that genuinely care about the person next to them doing well,” she says.  “I have loved meeting new people and forming new friendships.  It has changed not only my physical health, but my mental health as well.”

  1. Find a child friendly facility!

One obstacle many busy parents face when choosing a gym is finding a facility that provides a space designated for kids to play while the parents work out.  Unless there is a convenient family member, friend, or neighbor who can babysit, or a sitter that can come to the house for the hour or so that a workout takes, it becomes the foremost reason that many parents can’t or won’t join an exercise program. Fitness facilities that provide  a safe, clean space for children can be the difference between a regular exercise routine for adults that yields results or a hit or miss activity that yields frustration.  Sam, a working mom of 3 young girls, says that if her gym didn’t have a place for her kids, she wouldn’t be able to attend classes. “Knowing that I can bring the girls no matter what my schedule looks like helps,” she says, “because I can bring them in at a time that is most convenient for me.  They love to come along and play with the friends they’ve made, and I can get my workout in with the friends I’ve made!”  An added bonus to look for in a gym with a designated child area is youth programming offerings that can potentially overlap with adult classes.  This offers parents the convenience of getting in a workout while their kids do the same!  

  1. Stop thinking about finding the time and make the time!

Many busy parents feel that they can’t fit a workout into their busy schedule.  There simply doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day.  However, there are always creative ways to make fitness a priority.  Many gyms offer early morning classes that get you in and out before the work day begins.  This can be a difficult adjustment at first, but like anything new, once it becomes a habit, an early morning workout is a great way to set the tone for the day.  There are also virtual class options which offer a special kind of online community, and many gyms have at-home workout programming that includes member outreach, workout tracking, and attendance clubs.  Use lunch time if your workplace has the space, or go for a run after the kids go to sleep.  Fitness is important for building healthy families, so it’s imperative to stop thinking about making time and figure out a way to actually do it!

  1. Prioritizing your health isn’t selfish, it’s vital!

Our society has become more and more sedentary.  According to recent CDC national health statistics, obesity rates and the resulting healthcare costs are steadily increasing.  Children, especially, are spending more time in front of  the TV or video game screen than ever before.  Yet, many parents feel that taking the time to be fit is somehow “selfish.”  Exercise often becomes the first thing to go when schedules get hectic.  However, prioritizing your health isn’t selfish, it’s vital!  It’s important to remember that making your health a priority ultimately impacts the health of your children.  If you don’t take care of yourself, how can you take care of them?  Research clearly shows a strong correlation between the activity levels of parents and the activity levels of their children.  It’s a simple fact: parents who are fit have children who are fit. So toss aside the guilt, get moving, and remember that your children will follow your lead and be happier and healthier for it.   

These five “Pillars of Fitness” can create a strong foundation for incorporating a fitness routine into your busy life.  But don’t fret if you’re still unsure about where to start.  Do some online research about what local facilities are available, what programs are offered and at what times, and then make an appointment to consult about your options.*  Plan a visit and take the kids along, because your goal is to make fitness a family affair.  Once you find that perfect fit, there’s no turning back. Your new fitness regimen will become a strong pillar of your life!

*The professional staff of coaches and trainers at RTC Fitness can give you personalized, prescriptive options that will work best for your family’s needs.   Be sure to check us out, as our facility can help you meet your goals, get results, and create a strong foundation for optimal health!