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In an Exercise Rut?

As a health professional, I’m kind of programmed to scoff at excuses. But as a mom, I know that some of them are actually legitimate. It is never more difficult to find the time and motivation to exercise than when you’re a parent especially if your kids are in diapers. But its not impossible. I get tons of justifications from parents who just can’t seem to make exercising a priority. Here are the top 10 excuses I’ve heard, with corresponding solutions (or at least helpful tips) for each.

“I’m too tired.”

I know you’re tired. I’m tired, too. When you’re a parent you don’t have the luxury of sleeping in or even sleeping through the night. But there is one thing that will give you a much-needed energy boost: exercise. Even a gentle workout, like a brisk walk or jog, can make you feel more awake and help you sleep better. Know that getting started is the hardest part. Try keeping your running shoes by your bed and putting them on as soon as you wake up, so you’ll be more likely to make exercise a part of your day.

“I don’t have the time.”

This is a huge issue for all parents, whether you work at an office or stay at home. As a stay-at-home mom, I sometimes think that if I headed out to work, Id at least have the time to think about anything other than the baby for 10 seconds. Then again, those who work 9-5 generally want to spend time after work with their kids, not at the gym. For both cases, changing your mentality is crucial to changing your life. Start by considering exercise a necessity, instead of something you can skip. Then you might find it’s easier than you think to make the time for it.

“I’m embarrassed to exercise in front of people.”

Adjusting to those few extra pounds can be a huge struggle if you’ve never had issues with your body image before. If you are embarrassed by your post-pregnancy physique, its time to forgive yourself. Your body got that way by creating a life, the most selfless thing in the world. Now its time to do something for you. No one is laughing at you, and the sooner you realize that, the better equipped you’ll be to jog off those pounds or rep it out at the gym.

But if you can’t abandon the fear just yet, that’s what fold-up treadmills, Exercise TV OnDemand and fitness DVDS are for. Invest in some fitness equipment and scratch this excuse off the list.

“I’m too out of shape and not really an athletic person.”

Not that it’s a plus, but being out of shape actually means you won’t have to do much to see results early on. Make small changes in your life such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or lifting lightweights two to three times a week and you’ll be better off than when you started.

As for the second part of that excuse, you don’t have to be athletic to exercise; you just have to be brave enough to try. Here’s a tip that personal trainers don’t want you to know: if you consistently challenge your body, you will lose weight. It doesn’t matter if you jog a mile, take a group exercise class or perform 10 simple exercises a day. The key is to stick to a plan that gets you moving on most days of the week and is challenging for your personal fitness level.

“I wouldn’t know how to begin or what moves to try.”

I’ll be happy to help you with that, as will any fitness professional. But if your budget doesn’t allow for a personal trainer, it is easier than ever to learn some exercise moves and tone up yourself. Most bookstores offer at least 3 whole aisles dedicated to health and fitness publications, many written specifically for parents. There’s also this little thing called the Internet, which offers tons of excellent resources that demonstrate the correct form when performing exercises. Do your research and be your own advocate for good health. There is endless information waiting for you.

“I’m afraid of getting injured or being too sore to take care of my kids.”

Our bodies are tougher than we think (especially if you’ve given birth!). Just make sure you know the correct way to perform exercises. Always warm up your muscles for a few minutes before you start your routine and take time to stretch at the end. Injuries do happen, but letting a fear of injury prevent you from exercising is most likely far worse for your health. Being sore is part of the process and is proof that you are getting stronger. Minimize soreness by keeping your muscles moving a day or two after an intense workout and by exercising different parts of your body on different days. Also, remember that if you haven’t used certain muscles in a long time, the worst soreness will be in the beginning, but you shouldn’t be painfully uncomfortable after each workout.

“I’m lazy and unmotivated.”

A lot of times other issues, such as depression and anxiety, can be camouflaged as laziness. If you find it very difficult to talk yourself into a workout, its possible there is something else going on, and in that case you should talk to your doctor. Either way, you may need to do some soul-searching and get to the bottom of what is holding you back. It’s not always easy to get motivated, but once your routine is in motion, you will have an easier time sticking to it. Yes, the first few weeks or months may be tough. But keeping your eye on your goals (being healthier or losing weight) will help you power through the rough patches.

“I’m not overweight; therefore I don’t think exercise is very important.”

I’m not quite sure when thin and healthy became synonymous for most people, but they aren’t. Tons of conditions can develop from being sedentary, such as high blood pressure and osteoporosis, both common in women. As you get older, you are at higher risk for these conditions if you don’t make exercise a part of your routine. Of course, being at a healthy weight is a good start, but even those who are naturally thin should exercise a few times each week.

“I get enough exercise chasing my kids around.”

With all of the trips up and down the stairs to the changing table, squatting down to clean up spilled (or thrown) food, and sprinting after her out of sheer fear she might endanger herself, I definitely give my toddler some credit for helping me stay in shape. But it might not be enough. Unless chasing after your kids gets your heart rate up for a solid 30 minutes, 5 days a week, you should opt for another form of exercise. I’m talking about breaking a sweat, using your muscles, and keeping your body in motion for 30 minutes straight.

“I have some health problems that prevent me from exercising.”

This can definitely pose a challenge to getting fit, but that doesn’t always mean its a lost cause. Talk to your doctor to see what you absolutely should not try, then see what you can do. Often, exercise has a positive impact on certain health conditions, such as Multiple Sclerosis. (For example, Tai Chi or water aerobics can help improve circulation and may ease certain symptoms.) If you don’t have the use of certain parts of your body, you may still be able to elevate your heart rate, burn calories, and speed up your metabolism. For example, if you use a wheelchair but have use of your upper body, you can do a variety of fast-paced exercises using upper-body muscles. Knowing your limits is important, of course, but there is power in knowing what you can do, as well.

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