Out There Mothers

How To Find Time To Exercise As A Busy Mom

The primary barrier between you and finding time to exercise as a busy mom is the demanding schedule that revolves around caring for your baby 24/7. But, through time and trial and error, you’ll start to see where exercise can fit into this new life of yours.

Mother and marathoner Kara Tibbe says she has come up with creative ways to reach her goals since having her two gorgeous kids. She consoles with a reminder that “sometimes, you have to take it one small step at a time.”

Here are some tips, from our swamped schedules to yours, on how to find time to exercise as a busy mom.

9 tips on finding time to exercise as a busy mom

A busy schedule shouldn’t stop you from getting those steps in. Here are our tried and tested tips on squeezing in exercise in your busy mom schedule!

1. Shift your idea of what qualifies as a good workout

It does you no good to compare what you could accomplish before you had a baby and what you can accomplish now when it comes to exercise.

Adjust your expectations for yourself, your body, and your availability to find a workout schedule that fits your life as a mom.

The changes you make to add movement to your busy life may feel like you’re slacking on fitness. But I assure you, the fact you’re attempting to show up for exercise when it’s difficult means more to your health now than it did before.

2. Workout around baby’s nap schedule

Knowing your baby’s nap schedule is the key to finding time to exercise as a busy mom. When your child’s naps become predictable and provide you with anticipated free time, you can devote them to your favorite baby-free exercises.

If my husband is home and I’m caught up on work (for once), I’ll use my daughter’s 2-hour nap to go on a long run outside. Sometimes, I just nap, also.

Making time to exercise is about more than step count, cardio, or losing the baby weight that clings with vice grip strength. It’s about re-connecting with your body and learning to treat it well.

3. Take walks (or runs) with your baby

When you find yourself aching for a workout while bound by your role as your baby’s eternal chaperone, utilize a carrier or a jogging stroller to do 30-60 minutes of continuous movement a few times per week.

Baby gear to make exercise easier

Thanks to the magic of modern technology, we’ve got various choices that combine exercise and baby bonding time.

Wrap or carrier for walking

Secure your baby in a wrap or carrier to enjoy a rejuvenating stroll. My newborn fell asleep in her Moby wrap while I walked on the treadmill for 40 minutes—with inclines!

Browse some of the most popular at Ergobaby.com or Mobywrap.com.

Jogging stroller for running

Get your runs in, with the added bonus of strength training, by running with your baby in a jogging stroller. Tibbe often merges family time with her running workouts by packing her two kids in a jogging stroller and heading outside for what she calls “a fam run.”

Check out OTM’s reviews of the Thule Chariot Sport 2 and the Summit X3 by Baby Jogger for running.

Child carrier hiking backpack for hiking

Plow through leg-strengthening hikes with your baby in a child carrier hiking backpack. These are designed and cushioned with both the child and wearer in mind for a safe and comfortable journey. 

Browse some of the best reviews at Kelty.com.

Using a baby hiking backpack for exercise as a busy mom
Bri Terry hiking in Yosemite with her 1-year-old in her Kelty Perfectfit Kid Carrier.

4. Wear your workout clothes all day

If you’re at home and don’t need to dress-to-impress, spend the day in your workout gear. This way, when exercise opportunities arise, you don’t need to waste a minute of your measly free time fumbling with your compression pants. You’ll be ready to go!

This is a tip I executed when I was training for a marathon during the first year of my daughter’s life.

Putting my workout clothes on first thing helped me because 1) I tend to procrastinate on the mere act of getting dressed for exercise, and 2) I was outfitted to work out the moment my baby gifted me with a surprise nap.

5. Set unintimidating goals

It’s easier to talk yourself out of exercising for an hour than it is to talk yourself out of exercising for 10 minutes. 

And 10 minutes is enough to earn the same benefits you get from exercising for longer periods of time.

When you’re struggling to find time to exercise as a busy mom, set your goal for 10 or 20 minutes of movement. This could be jogging around the block or on the treadmill, doing a quick strength training routine, or finding a 10-minute power yoga video on YouTube.

If you end up doing more, great! If you’re interrupted, put it on pause and finish later. The point is to create a routine with realistic and sustainable expectations

This sets the foundation for learning when and how to fit exercise into a busy schedule.

Fitness balls for your busy mom workout

6. Make minutes add up

What if you did a plank for 1 minute every time you changed a diaper? In the early days of parenthood, I restored my core with minute-long planks during diaper changes.

By the end of the day, those minutes add up to something significant.

You don’t have to use diaper changing as your prompt or planks as your workout. Use tummy time to do floor exercises while your baby figures out their knees. Or perform one of the following exercises for 1 minute after every feeding.

Some 1-minute exercises to do near your baby

Windmills – works obliques
Bridge – strengthens glutes, quads, and pelvic floor
Plank – works core and arms
Mountain climbers – works shoulders, core, arms, and legs
Bear plank – strengthens spine and core
Leg lifts – works lower abs
Floor Tricep dips – works triceps and pecs
Russian twists – works obliques and core

7. Workout before baby wakes up or after they go to bed

Your child sleeping soundly in their crib is the closest you can come to being off the clock as a parent. The time you have after the baby goes to bed or before they wake up in the morning is time for you, so use it.

Take one or two nights off from TV or doom-scrolling to go for a long run instead. Or wake up early to exercise before everyone else is up and at ‘em.

Convincing yourself to exit your bed cocoon when you’re already sleep-deprived will be more difficult than the workout itself.

If your goal is to get some solid exercise as a busy mom, this is the time to do it on your terms.

8. Make a plan and commit

Tibbe finds setting goals and having a supportive community are vital to staying committed to her sport. After setting a specific goal, such as running a race in 3 months, she absorbs support and accountability by telling all her friends enthusiastically.

“Support from my husband, family, and friends is imperative,” she explains. “I get that support by expressing the importance of what running means to me in my life.”

Tibbe then combs through the next few months to find how her availability supports her training and adds it to her schedule as a non-negotiable to-do.

Kara Tibbe exercising postpartum with her family during the Longmont Half Marathon
Tibbe with her husband and two kids at the Longmont Half Marathon in Colorado.

Your well-being is essential to being a good parent, so don’t you dare feel guilty about taking this time for yourself to exercise.

If we mothers can manage to fit a constant brigade of postpartum doctor’s appointments into our overloaded schedules, we certainly deserve to block out time for our workouts.

9. When you don’t have time, work toward intensity

Pack speed work and interval training into your shorter jaunts if you’re a runner who no longer has time to run satisfying long miles.

If you’re working with a 20-minute workout window, jam a series of HIIT (high-intensity interval training) exercises for the most effective calorie burn.

Finding time to exercise as a busy mom is a challenge in itself.

When you can grasp those scanty pockets of free time, get the most out of your workout by maximizing the intensity—heavier weights, faster speeds, sandwiching spurts of cardio between bodyweight exercises, etc.

FAQs

Why is exercise important after having a baby?

Postpartum exercise aids in repairing your body after the most physical challenge of its life (y’all can debate whether or not running a marathon is harder than having a baby in the comments).

Benefits of postpartum exercise for busy moms

  • Helps relieve postpartum depression and anxiety symptoms
  • Raises energy levels
  • Supports Diastasis Recti and pelvic floor recovery
  • Aids in muscle repair and restoration
  • Empowers you to come back stronger—physically and mentally

When can I exercise after having a baby?

Moms can generally start running 6-8 weeks following a vaginal birth and 11-12 weeks after a c-section, but your body is going to tell you when you’re ready to start exercising postpartum.

STOP Exercise If...

  • You feel tearing or sharp pain in your pelvic area.
  • You experience severe cramping.
  • You feel knee pain.
  • Exercise becomes a source of added stress instead of relief.

Pay attention to your body’s sensations when you start exercising postpartum. Know the difference between aches you feel when you exercise muscles you haven’t used in a while and pain that indicates you need to stop.

Mom exercising postpartum with her daughter

How can busy moms stay in shape?

There are a few leading factors to maintaining your fitness when you have no time to consciously do so. The busiest and fittest moms I know shed expectation overload by sculpting their focus on:

  • Movement
  • Intensity
  • Nutrition

Engage in activities that involve a lot of movement, such as hikes, bike rides, chasing each other around the house, and lunges with the baby on your shoulders.

When you can’t manage a lot of movement in a given day or week, make sure you’re feeding yourself well. 

Food holds superpowers in providing you with energy and endorphins when all other external factors deplete them. Pack your meals with whole, nutrient-dense foods while keeping processed and sugar-loaded snacks to a minimum.

Conclusion

Finding time to exercise as a busy mom isn’t easy—it’s sporadic, frustrating at times, and often moved to the back burner because your child will always take precedence over step count.

However, you’re entitled to retrieve the part of you who feels strong, capable, and accomplished after a good sweat session. So, I have no doubt you’ll find a way to do it.

“Typically, as badass moms, we can find the time to include what’s most important to us in our schedule,” says Tibbe.

It might be learning to pack exercise into 10 minutes of spare time, cutting back on the gym, or shifting to less intense workouts to accommodate your healing body. Whatever your exercise is, remember this:

Doing something is better than doing nothing.

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