Moms struggle to find time to exercise

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Regular exercise can be a daily struggle, whether it is finding the time, motivation or figuring out what to wear.

Imagine adding a child or two to the struggle. For most mothers, getting a chance to exercise is a luxury they aren’t able to afford. With children, the focus turns from what you want to do to what the child wants.

Finding the time is often a factor for mothers seeking to exercise. The free time that used to be there is no longer available, and mothers are forced to get crafty with their time.

Kimberly Gardner works out in her Provo home while her child Porter plays with toys.
Kimberly Gardner works out in her Provo home while her child, Porter, plays with toys. (Elliott Miller)

“The biggest obstacle I face when trying to work out is time,” said Cassandra Heaps, a single mother with two children. “I try to work out when my kids are at school on my days off, but now that school is out that will become more difficult. Either I will have to get up really early in the morning before they wake up, which means I’m exhausted by the end of the day, or I have to try to work out sometime in the evening, which makes it harder for me to fall asleep.”

Another issue is navigating the delicate balance between personal time and family time. Mothers need time to themselves to relax, but they also have a desire to spend time with their families.

“I like exercising, but I also work full time as a high school teacher, so I’m exhausted at the end of a work day,” said Brittanie Petersen, a mother of two. “I also feel guilty because I haven’t been with my kids all day.”

Getting a chance to spend time with children is important, but so is spending time with their spouse.

“The biggest difficulty is having a husband that’s either working or attending school and finding a time when he’s home and can go watch (our son) while I go to the gym,” said Hannah Weirich, a mother of a 1-year-old. “Then the other challenge and figuring out if it’s worth it to go or worth it to spend quality family time where my husband isn’t working or at school.”

For some mothers it can be easy to say there isn’t enough time in the day or that exercise isn’t important, but that attitude doesn’t drop the baby weight.

“I stop making excuses,” said Kimberly Gardner, a mother with an 18-month-old son. “For instance, I wake up early to exercise, or I do it at nap time or the second I put (my son) down for bed. If I do it first thing in the morning then I do not have to worry about spending time with my husband or lack of energy. So, if I wake up early, then I can do it before they wake up and then I really do not have any other excuses.”

Once the decision has been made to exercise, then comes the choice of what type of exercise to do. For some it isn’t possible to go to a gym or a attend fitness class. Motherhood forces women to get creative with their fitness activities.

“The biggest difficulty I face is boredom,” said Ashley Contreras, a mother of two. “It can be easy to get in a bit of a rut. Constantly changing what exercises I engage in, even a little change, can make a big difference — from long runs to short runs, to lifting before my run or lifting after my run.”

Finding motivation can be a challenge when planning an exercise routine. Petersen finds her motivation in the way she feels when she works out.

“I love the way I feel when I work out,” Petersen said. “I feel stronger. My clothes fit better. It gives me more confidence. I like the feeling of personally working towards something and accomplishing it.”

For others the motivation is more focused on being an example to their children.

“I want to show my children that just because you have the same body type as an obese person does not mean that he has to let himself feel like that because it is his genes; he can’t do anything about it,” Gardner said.

Overcoming obstacles is possible. It isn’t easy, but with dedication and a strong desire to live a healthy lifestyle it can be accomplished. It requires a mother to take some time for herself and make exercising a priority.

“After having kids, exercise became a top priority.” Contreras said. “There is very little ‘me’ time in the day, so I choose to exercise regularly because its a gift I give myself. It really is time for me to take care of myself, not only physically but mentally and emotionally.”

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