Finding Time for Fitness
By: Amanda Davis
Being a parent is honestly one of the hardest jobs I have ever done. Throw in a full-time job and life gets crazy busy and very hectic. My two kids are my whole world and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without those two kiddos of mine.
Looking back at my life 20 years ago. I often refer to this time as my “BC life” – life before children. I just graduated from the University of MT and I was heading out to WA state to start my fitness career in Bellingham. I took a position as the Fitness Director and Group Exercise Coordinator for all three Whatcom County YMCA’s. My days were spend working M-F at the YMCA. On Friday and Saturday nights I took a second job as a cocktail waitress to help pay off my student loans and buy a new car. My car from high school died a week into moving to Bellingham. Buying a new car wasn’t exactly in my budget and being kid number two out of five children. I knew had to take care of myself.
Life in Bellingham was great. For the first time I had my very own apartment (no roommates). I worked a lot of hours at the YMCA it was busy and demanding job. Even though my job at the YMCA was 50 plus hours a week and my cocktailing job added another 12 hours a week to my work schedule I never struggled to get my workouts in for the day. I often worked out in the evening to meet people. Having an apartment by myself was great and all but it was also lonely at times. Looking back my workouts helped my physical body, but my exercise program was an amazing way to help me shake my homesickness.
Fast forward to 2003, I’m now married and working at Columbia Athletic Clubs as the Fitness Director and Group Exercise Coordinator at the Silver Lake Location. I still was living my BC Life and I was able to exercise after work. Often my husband would meet me at work so we could workout together.
In 2006 my daughter Ella was born. I took 4 months off from work to stay home with Ella. My workouts to help me lose my “baby weight” were done at home. My exercise program consisted of walking outside with Ella in a jogging stroller and DVD workouts I could do at home when she was sleeping. When I went back to work, I found myself wanting to get home right at 5:00 pm to spend time with my new baby girl. My workouts consisted of the fitness classes I was teaching and lunch time workouts on days I didn’t teach fitness classes. On the weekends my workout was fun and social. I guess you could say my workout was non-traditional. I decided to take group tennis lessons with my older sister (Claudine) and my husband. During the hour tennis lesson, we would put our kids (Ella and my two nieces in the club’s drop-in daycare). We were terrible at tennis, but we had fun together while exercising. Exercising after Ella was born had two purposes for me. First, I wanted to lose my baby weight. Second, I wanted to have good emotional and mental health for myself and my family. Being a first-time mommy and full-time employee was hard!
In 2013 my husband and I welcomed baby number two into our lives. With my son Jase I was able to stay at home for 12 months. My workouts really changed with baby number two in the house. Jase was diagnosed with sleep apnea at 6-months-old. Having an infant with sleep apnea means your child doesn’t sleep through the night. As a matter of fact, Jase would wake up 1-4 times every night. I was so sleep deprived I could no longer workout while he was sleeping like I did with Ella. When Jase was sleeping, I was sleeping. The way I fit exercise into my day was to walk while Ella was at dance class. I always kept my jogging stroller in the back of my car. While Ella was in dance class for 45 mins (sometimes she was in there for 90 minutes) I would walk the dance studio parking lot while pushing Jase in the stroller. In October of 2014 I re-entered the work force. I started working at NWWC part-time. I now had to workout with small bits of time here and there. Walking at work on breaks in between patients. Walking when Ella was at dance. Using my elliptical trainer at my house when my husband was home to help watch the kids. My workouts were not long one-hour sessions, they were small sessions here and there. By age 3 Jase had surgery to help with his sleep apnea. He was finally sleeping through the night. I just survived 3 years of a child waking up 1-4 times a night. Mom WIN!
By 2016 I was a full-time mom to two kids (now ages 3 and 10) and working full-time at NWWC. Ella is now dancing for a competition team and playing piano. Jase is also dancing. My husband is now working a full-time job and has started up a small business (machine shop) with his brother.
A typical day for me:
- Wake up and get myself ready for work
- Get Ella up and going
- Get Jase up and going
- Make the kids breakfast
- Make lunches for Ella and myself
- Drive Ella to school
- Take Jase to daycare
- Get to work and start seeing patients (work 8:30 am – 5:00 pm)
- Ella has an after-school nanny to get her from school and take her to dance
- Pick-up Jase from daycare
- Get Ella from dance (dinner break)
- Make dinner
- Check homework
- Take Ella back to dance
- Head home to give Jase a bath
- My husband gets Ella from dance at 9 pm (he just worked 7:00 am -5:00 pm at his regular job then worked at his machine shop from 5:00 pm -8:00 pm)
- Get Ella to bed
- Get myself to bed
I know this is a schedule most working mom’s face daily. My workouts were suffering. I was only getting workouts in on the weekends. Not what I was hoping for. I felt like my weekdays were shot. How in the world was I going to exercise? Well, I had to have an honest with myself. I had to look closely look at my days. I needed to set myself up to be successful and not set myself up to fail.
These are the questions I had to ask myself:
- Do you have the time to get to the gym?
- How many hours a week am I willing to dedicate to my health?
- Can you exercise after work?
- Can you exercise on the weekends?
- Can you exercise at home?
- Can you exercise before work?
- Take a good look at you time in a week. Add up the number of hours you work + commute time to work + 8 hours a night of sleep + 2-3 hours a night of family time. Take that number of hours and subtract it from 120. How many hours a week are you left with?
- Now look at the weekend. How many hours are you committed to (kids activities, house hold chores, grocery shopping, and family-time). Take those hours and subtract it from 48. How many hours on the weekend are you left with?
After I sat down and answered these questions I realized my time to exercise was early in the morning while everyone was still sleeping, late evening after everyone went to bed and weekends. I know late night workouts are not good for me. I’m the type of person after a workout I get all hyped up and then I can’t sleep. It was beginning to look like early mornings and weekend mornings were my days to get exercise in.
I’ve always been the person that doesn’t hit the snooze bar when the alarm goes off. I’m a let’s get up and let’s get going type of person in the morning (yeah I know I’m that annoying morning person). I’m used to getting up at 6:00 am. However, 4:45 am? OMG! That’s early people.
My next step was how to become a successful early morning exerciser. I started with my bed time. In 2016 my bed time was 11:00 pm. If I stayed with that bed time I would only be getting 5 hours and 45 minutes of sleep at night. My plan was to get to bed sooner. I started with 15 minute increments to start to get myself to bed by 10:00 pm. Getting to bed sooner went smoothly. To start waking up earlier I went with the same approach (fingers crossed).
Now that I have changed my sleep schedule I needed to get myself organized. Before I go to bed I make sure the following items are all in the right place. I put my workout clothes and shoes in the bathroom, put a water bottle in the fridge, place a new sweat towel on the elliptical trainer, and place the TV remote next to the elliptical trainer. Yes, I organized my workout items but really what I just did was eliminate all excuses I could use to not get up and workout in the morning.
Trust me there are those days when I hear the rain hitting the window and know it’s going to be really cold exercising in the basement and all I want to do is stay snuggled up in my cozy warm bed. That’s when you have to have that conversation with yourself – “What’s really going to make me feel better for the rest of the day, one extra hour of sleep or one hour of exercise?“
. I’m not a perfect Pinterest mom. My house is not spotless. Nor does it look like a house fresh off a photo shoot of Better Homes and Garden. However, I am that mom that can keep up with a busy 13 year old dancer and a crazy 6 year old football player. The thing is this sometimes as working parents we need to hear from another working parent “it’s okay to take care of you”. Don’t think that one hour of exercise a day is being selfish and that you are taking time away from your kids. Think about this way instead – you are being thoughtful. You are going to be the active parent you want to be for your kids. You are adding time to your life by adding in regular exercise into your life. Taking time to care for yourself will give you more time to be with your family. I made a promise to myself – My health (physical and mental) was worth 4-6 hours a week. Because the thing is this…when I take time for my health not only does my personal health get better but my relationships with my kids, husband, co-workers, family, and friends all become healthier too.