Having kids means experiencing the unbridled joy of forced insomnia, an overwhelming daily to-do list, an underwhelming amount of time to do it in and an endless treasure trove of cheerios in the cracks of your backseat. It also means loving someone more than you ever thought humanly possible which makes it all worth it. Eventually… it’s what I’ve been told. Being a parent also means it can be near impossible to find the time to take care of yourself. You’re too busy putting everyone and everything else first to shine the proper spotlight on yourself. As long as everyone else is taken care of, then all is well! At least that’s what you tell yourself when your schedule is jam-packed. 

Loving (and taking care of) yourself completely is what allows you to love others completely, as well. Imagine you’re a leaky rowboat tasked with ferrying your kids across a large, treacherous lake. Even though you have a leak and are taking on water, it’s not rapid or powerful enough to keep you from floating. Assessing the risks and deeming yourself seaworthy, you decide to set sail fully intent on providing safe passage to your little ones no matter what. However, about halfway through, the leak becomes too intense as your once-steadfast ship begins to sink. What I’m getting at is: taking care of yourself is like patching that leak and fortifying your back to carry the burden of parenthood before you find yourself drowning yourself in the midst of it.

Since every family dynamic is different there is no “one size fits all” solution to sneaking in workout time for yourself. Be that as it may there are definitely a lot of tips and tricks to share on the matter. Here are seven creative ways parents can sneak in a workout.

Introduce the Birds to the Bees

I might as well get the most obvious one out of the way… The details of this one are highly personal and left up to you.

Incorporate “Playtime” Workouts

Depending on how old your kids are, you can either workout with them or workout with them. The first involves things like challenging them to rock out some of your favorite exercises or making outdoor sports/games/hikes a regular thing to do together. The second means making them a literal part of your workout! Squatting whilst holding a baby or planking with a toddler on your back not only adds up if you’re consistent enough but will also help influence your youngsters to be health-conscious in the future. Win-win!

Get Hungry for “Exercise Snacks”

An “exercise snack” is the physical equivalent of grazing the appetizer table, but with fitness instead of delicious chips and cheeses. If you don’t have time to get in a full “meal”, then feed your fitness appetite with mini-workout sessions throughout the day, instead! You can make a list of some of your most beloved and essential exercises with a corresponding set of reps to be done when you have a few free minutes (sometimes that’s all you’ve got) and cycle through them as many times as possible:

  • 20 Push-Ups
  • 30 Squats
  • 25 Jumping Jacks
  • 50 Bicycle Crunches
  • 5 Staircase Climbs

You can alter the list each day with different exercises, even creating a theme (upper body, core, legs, cardio, etc.) if you want to take it up a notch. It all accumulates into one big workout by the end of the day!

Create Your Own “Home Depot”

This doesn’t mean grab a sweet orange vest and develop omniscient deck building skills, but rather develop an excellent backup plan of “tools-at-home” to exercise with when you can’t make it to the gym. With some thrifty shopping you can find affordable BOSUs, TRXs, dumbbells, resistance bands and anything else your heart desires to create a home space fit for living fit. The best part? You’ll get better at using the equipment in the gym from your at-home sweat seshes while also providing a constant visual reminder to keep your head in the game.

Schedule It 

Instead of saying you don’t have time… schedule the time. You schedule everything else, why not schedule 20-60 minutes of “you” time, too? Don’t get me wrong, I know this isn’t possible every day, but it’s possible most days. Try making time in the early morning before the kids are up, late at night when they’re already in bed or in the middle of the day before you head out on errands. If you write it down or plan for a workout on your daily agenda, it’s a lot easier to hold yourself accountable to it.

Eat for Health

Despite how great our bodies feel when we fuel them well, it isn’t always easy to stay on track. When we eat with our health in mind, our quality of life tends to go up drastically—but if it were easy, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Simply put, we’re creatures of instant gratification who unknowingly (or knowingly) turn to food in an effort to soothe our emotions. If you set your sights on the big picture of feeling well and keep your eating as clean as possible, you’ll feel much more up to the task of sneaking workouts in instead of feeling lethargic and unmotivated.

Turn Screen Time into “Me” Time

These days, we are completely surrounded by all kinds of screens. TVs, smart phones, tablets, and laptops are populating our households at an epidemical pace making screen management a hugely difficult undertaking. With the right perspective though we can use this to our advantage! If you’ve given your kids a daily screen-time allowance, odds are they covet their time with tech. When they’re lost in their tablet or TV time, take it as your chance to throw the hammer down on some personal exercise time! Challenge yourself to use this technique along with another from the list. You’ve got this, don’t be afraid to double up!