Tuesday 19 May 2015

The Importance of Exercise... "Eat Your Frog" & ultimate motivation/advice for busy parents!

This post has been bustling around in my headspace for a little while now. I've started it, abandoned it, and returned to it on a number of occasions. 

I've been fretting...how do I write about my new found love acceptance of exercise as a part of my daily/weekly routine, without sounded all holier than thou & preachy? Will I just be stating the obvious? Doesn't everyone already get tons of lovely exercise? 

Well, the short answer is: no. Scarily, regular exercise is something that lots of people struggle to make time for, it is often low on the priority list, especially for busy parents, and/or people working long hours - and we are suffering because of it. 

Clearly the most obvious side-effect of this lack of activity is Britains' ever-expanding waist lines, but weight issues aside, anyone not partaking in regular heart pumping exercise is really missing a trick or two: not only will a regular work out burn lots of calories and help you to burn off that cheeky slice of cake you had at lunch time yesterday, but it is also an amazing stress reliever, helping to keep a healthy balanced mind, as well as body. Regular exercise can improve mood, stress levels, PMT, anxiety, and insomnia/sleep issues. 

Before I embarked on my weight loss journey I was incredibly lazy: full of excuses as to why I didn't have time to exercise - the truth of the matter was, I just didn't want too. The thought of walking the then 10 minute journey into town used to seem like a mission, and I'd put off going until I had a long 'to do' list, to make the effort seem worthwhile. I hated the gym and had tried it on various occasions - always feeling self conscious and overwhelmed by the gazillion machines with all their lights and buttons. I wasn't 'sporty' and this moving about malarkey really didn't come naturally to me - I'm an awkward dancer, so anything that needed co-ordination seemed out of the question, and with three slipped discs in my back I decided it would be stupid to exercise anyway - it hurt! 

Image source: Pinterest

Oh how wrong I was. The key to me embracing regular exercise was the realisation that if I wanted to eat (and oh, I do love to eat) and lose weight, then I would simply just have to get moving - those calories weren't going to burn themselves, and by moving more, I could eat more - simple as that. 

I also had to find my 'sport' - something I enjoyed, found easy to fit into my routine, and something that my bad back could cope with. The answer for me was power walking. Good old, simple, one foot in front of the other, pavement pounding!

I made a pledge to myself when Bert was born in August 2013 that I would no longer rely on public transport to get around (I don't drive). So the plan was that unless it was absolutely necessary, or if the journey would be over an hours walk, I would avoid public transport and walk there instead. Since then I have stuck to my word, and have only gotten two taxi's in 21 months - one to the doctors surgery when Bert was poorly and it was snowing, and one over to my friends house, who lives somewhere it is impossible & dangerous to walk to. The only trains I've gotten are to London and Luton, and I've not been on a single bus! From that day on Bert and I have walked hundreds of miles around our home town, and between October 2014 - today I have walked on average 26 miles per week - I'm pretty chuffed with that - especially considering that's through the winter months! 

My back is holding up - the weight loss has really helped lighten the load (literally) and I now know my limit - I am taking pretty heavy duty painkillers when necessary, and now understand that keeping active is a help and not a hindrance when it comes to my disc problem. Sitting around doing nothing really isn't the answer! 

21 months on and I'm 6 stone 9 lbs lighter, I sleep well, I feel mostly balanced and content, and most importantly I have so much more energy and zest for life. I am no longer sluggish and lazy, and I feel proud of what my body can achieve. 


Obviously, it's helpful if your exercise is just a part of your daily getting-to-places routine: for those people with full time jobs, children to take care of, and cars to run, fitting in a workout won't be quite as straight forward - but it is absolutely do-able! If you're full of "I haven't got time" excuses then here's some ways you might not have thought of for us parents to fit regular exercise into our routines without too much hassle/change. 

How to fit exercise in to your busy week:

  • Don't automatically take the car: ask yourself before you start that engine, can you walk it, and do you really need the car to get there? 
  • Plan ahead, leave early and park your car further away from your destination so you have a little walk to get there and back. If you do this often those pavement pounding minutes will soon add up.
  • Take a family walk during the lighter evenings/weekends: not only is it brilliant exercise, but it's a fab way to reconnect as a family and step away from technology. Make it a regular thing for certain nights of the week, or say every Sunday, like you would if it was a class you were paying for, and you'll soon be reaping the health benefits. 
  • Take the kids to the park with a football and have a good run around with them - they will so enjoy your undivided attention, and the fact that you are playing with them, instead of watching from the side lines. You'll be amazed how it will get your heart racing! 
  • Housework. Sounds like a given, but when I do my housework I try consciously to do it with speed and vigour - put in 10% more effort, and your heart will soon be pumping - 30 minutes of moderate effort cleaning can burn 100 calories! Bonus. 
  • Workout in front of the telly! Got an old exercise bike, cross trainer or rowing machine in the garage/loft? Dust it off and plonk it right in the middle of your living room! Pledge to cycle/cross train/row all the way through your favourite regular TV show, and you'll be amazed at how easily you manage to a) get through the exercise without dying of boredom and b) how easy it becomes to fit into your routine regularly. If you don't already own any home gym equipment ask around friends and family (you'll be surprised at how many people own unused equipment) or check out selling sites such as Freecycle, Friday Ad and eBay for some freebies/bargains. 
  • Have your children got a trampoline in the garden? Now those evenings are lighter and the summer is just around the corner think about using it as well as your children- trampolining is a fantastic form of exercise and your kids will think it's hilarious to see you bouncing around. NB: Mums: don't forget your Tena lady! ;-)
  • Cycling. This incredible form of exercise is useful as well as brilliant for you: like your car it gets you places quickly (obviously), minus the huge petrol bill and parking fees. If you swap some of your car journeys for bicycle rides, before you know it you'll see the pounds drop off your bottom right into  your purse! I love bike riding, and am thinking about requesting a bicycle for my 30th birthday next year. I'd go for a stunning bike with a basket on the front (to hold my shopping, naturally) for long countryside cycles, if however, you'd be more likely to cycle on busy roads you'd be better off with a top of the range road bike designed specifically for road cycling (if your budget allowed). 
  • Evening classes. There are hundreds of evening and weekend fitness/exercise classes running up and down the country suitable for busy workers of full time stay at home parents, who don't have any time during the day to workout. Even one regular class a week will have a huge impact on your fitness, and you're really looking at only an hour out of your busy routine to attend. From yoga, Pilates  and Zumba to kick boxing, spinning, aqua aerobics, and dance classes: there's bound to be something you could enjoy. 
  • Fancy yourself as a bit of a team player? Why not look into joining a local sports team - from all your usuals like football, netball and hockey - to something more unusual like roller-derby or a running club - you might find that exercising as part of a team is just the motivation you need to stick at it. Now the summer months are here you could try summer sports such as tennis, badminton, volley ball or cricket (don't forget safety and make sure you always wear the right kit such as a cricket helmet - I once experienced a cricket ball hitting my eye socket, that was really not fun, I can promise!). 
  • Want to run, but find it difficult to even run up the stairs? Why not try the Couch to 5K phone app & build up your running stamina slowly but surely. You could join up with a pal, or go to a running club. Have a baby & buggy in-tow? Why not join a Power Pramming group (running with your baby/buggy)? There are lots of options. You could even sign up to a charity run with friends to make you accountable and therefore more likely to stick at the training - you get to raise money for a good cause too, so all the better! 
  • Go swimming as a whole family, and take it turns to watch the kids while you and your other half both get twenty minutes or so of proper swimming in (rather than just splashing about). Alternatively, make the most of the late-night swimming sessions that your local pool will run. It might feel like the last thing you want to do of an evening - but trust me when I tell you that you'll get into bed after a nice swim and feel brilliant (you'll also sleep so well!). 
  • Join a 24 hour gym. These places are springing up all over the place, and are perfect for busy parents whose only free-time to workout are first thing in the morning (before the kids awake) or last thing at night. If your partner can stay home with the kids while you fit in an hour at the gym, then these open 24 hour gyms might be just what you need. 
There's a term used in business called 'Eat Your Frog' whereby you get done first the thing that you are most dreading: often exercise is our 'frog' - we dread it, avoid it, and usually end up not getting it done. If you could get up half an hour earlier and fit in a workout first thing before the kids wake up, you'll feel oh-so-much better for it - all day you'll be filled with a fuel in knowing you "ate your frog" and got it out of the way. Obviously, it's all the better if you find an exercise you truly enjoy doing and want to fit in. But whatever you do, try to avoid the excuse making & just get moving. 

You'll thank me for it in the long run, promise!

Mrs B


Need some more inspiration? Why not check out my Pinterest Board "Fitness".

Image source: Pinterest