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9 Tips for Fitting in a Workout — Even on Your Busiest Days

I recently busted 10 of the most common excuses you may have for not working out, but truly, the hardest one for many of us is at the top of that list: no time. As busy parents, it can be hard — really, really hard — to find the spare time to work a workout into your day. Whether you’re at home with the kids, work out of the home, or work in your “free time” like I do, it’s a challenge. But it’s not impossible if you truly make it a priority.

My perfect time to work out changes every day. I’ve never been a morning person, so getting up before the kids wake up is beyond out of the question. Once I’ve had my coffee, I’m feeling better, and then and only then can I really start thinking about where in my day can I fit in a workout. Mid-morning, if everything is going smoothly and both kids seem happy, I’ll head up to the gym and roll the dice on gym daycare. If mornings are a disaster with clingy kids who aren’t happy no matter what hoops I jump through, I know that I won’t get more than 5 minutes into a workout before the daycare staff desperately calls for relief. Those days, I reassess the situation after nap time in the afternoon. Occasionally if I don’t have a deadline breathing down my neck, I’ll spend half an hour of their naptimes doing a workout DVD. Or we’ll take a walk during the hour before dinner to get moving as a family. (Even if it’s at a snail’s pace.) I really do have to make it a priority and keep it top of mind, otherwise it’s all too easy to get busy and forget that I wanted to do it at all.

We all have different schedules, but the best time to work out is honestly when you’ll actually do it. If that’s a set time every day, great! If it changes for you like it does for me, work on being prepared whenever that moment strikes.

  • 9 Places To Look For Workout Time 1 of 10
    timecollage

    If you're having a hard time finding times during the day when you can get your sweat on, here are a few spots you just may be able to carve out some time for yourself.

  • Before Anyone Wakes Up 2 of 10
    Timesleep

    Beat your kids to the wake-up punch and get your workout in before they rise and shine. This way you have uninterrupted time for a workout, you get going yourself before the demands of the day begin, and if you get to shower, too, you're all set for the day. Beware of accidentally waking the kiddos up as you head out to work out, though. Not only does that make your workout tougher (or impossible) to complete, but it's an extra hour of keeping them occupied and happy tacked onto your day!

    Photo credit: iandeth, Flickr

  • Anytime Gym Daycare Is Open 3 of 10
    Timedaycare

    A gym with daycare for your kids can be key in getting an hour of exercise into your day. Beware the separation anxiety of toddlers though; it may take time for little ones to get used to the change of scenery --- and not having mommy right there. But if you stick with it, they'll adjust. You'll know your kids are in a safe place, and you'll be able to get a little bit of workout time that doubles as alone time.

    Photo credit: U.S. Army photo by Hong Seung Hui, USAG-H PAO, Flickr

  • During Your Lunch Break 4 of 10
    Timelunch

    If you have an hour at lunch, you can use it to get in a power session. If you have a gym in your office building, fit in a 45-minute workout session to give yourself plenty of time to freshen up before you lunch at your desk. Or go for a long walk with a co-worker. I used to work across the street from a mall, and I often headed over at lunch to do a quick 20-minute power walk. If the weather is nice, head outside. Walk to a nearby park and eat your lunch before turning around and heading back to the grind.

    Photo credit: zoetnet, Flickr

  • During Naps 5 of 10
    Timedoor

    If your kids still nap during the day, that's an ideal time to sneak in a workout, especially if you have far more energy during daylight hours than after the sun sets. If your kids take predictable naps, it's easy to set aside this time, but it's understandably hard to do when so many other tasks call your name when you're kid-free. But if your child takes more than one nap a day, it can give you some wiggle room to attack your workouts --- or maybe even do a couple of shorter ones throughout your day. It's frustrating when naptime workouts get interrupted, but always remember: some exercise is better than no exercise. Plus, it keeps you in the habit of trying to fit it in.

    Photo credit: Yount, Flickr

  • During A Favorite Show 6 of 10
    TimeTV

    If naptime workouts don't cut the mustard or you find yourself too worried about waking the kids up to really enjoy your exercise, try working out when your kids are occupied. Whether it's with a few sheets of stickers, safety scissors and an endless paper supply, or a favorite movie, take advantage of those precious 15 minutes of a new activity before your kids start wandering or looking to you for direction.

    Photo credit: Jody Roberts, Flickr

  • After Work 7 of 10
    TImeclock

    After work can be one of the hardest times to fit in a workout, especially if you have kids at home or dinner needing to be made. But if a sitter or a spouse has things under control at home, get a workout in before you head there. The best way to do that is to have the gym be right on your regular route home; if you have to go out of the way, it's easier to skip it. The bonus is that you'll likely be reenergized and better equipped mentally to tackle the demands of nighttime kid duties.

    Photo credit: b3d_ , Flickr

  • As Soon As Help Arrives 8 of 10
    Timegymbag

    If you're home with the kids all day, blow that popsicle stand as soon as backup arrives. Your hubby gets home from work? You head out for a walk or jog or hit the gym. If you're a single parent, arrange for help a few days a week so you can get a much-needed hour to yourself. Or arrange a sitter swap with a family member or friend with kids to buy yourself some time each week to yourself. Just have your gym bag packed and ready to go so you're not tempted to sneak off for a manicure or shopping spree instead.

    Photo credit: dmjarvey, Flickr

  • After The Kids Go To Bed 9 of 10
    Timedusk

    If you still have energy at the end of the day, after the kids go down for the night is a perfect time for workouts. There are no kids to jump on your back while you're in plank or to bounce on you, in a poopy diaper, while you're doing crunches. (These things really happen, people.) But once the kiddos are in bed, you're free to pop in a workout DVD, do a quick Tabata workout, go for a run or even head to the gym, provided there is someone to stay behind with the kids. Heck, with the kids sleeping blissfully, you may even get to take a shower before your bedtime, too.

    Photo credit: _sarchi , Flickr

  • When You Have The Most Energy 10 of 10
    Timerun

    If energy is one of your biggest problems, take note of the times during the day when you have a lot of energy. It may be first thing in the morning, mid-morning, over your lunch or in the afternoon. But if you find yourself especially energetic at any particular time day after day, take advantage of it! There is no rule that you can't take your lunch break at 2 p.m., or that you shouldn't work out mid-morning if it works with your schedule. Find the times that work in your life, that you can consistently do, and just do it!

    Photo credit: Carolyn Coles, Flickr

Also from Erin:

Never Mind the ‘Thigh Gap’

9 Fun Ways for the Active Couple to Tie the Knot

What to Eat — And Avoid — at 12 Top Fast-Food Restaurants

8 Ways to Prepare for Flu Season

Read more of Erin’s writing at Fit Bottomed Girls and Fit Bottomed Mamas.
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