Balancing Life: 10 Tips to Fit Healthy Living into Your Busy Week
Wow, what a whirlwind of a summer. I feel like we did it all, yet there was so much more I wanted to do. I love the fall, but here in Minnesota it’s short. One minute I am throwing my kids in piles of leaves and the next minute I am in a funk as I watch shapes form in frost on my windows. So while I adore the fall I am not ready for it just yet! Ah!
To make things crazier we have begun full time homeschool. I honestly think life was crazier last year playing chauffeur for my daughter everyday as I drove her across town to and from her Montessori school for Kindergarten (we save at least an hour in commute/waiting in line time just by staying home). We loved the school more than I think I could ever really love any school, but for multiple wonderful reasons we decided to keep her home this year. Now I home pre school my son, and my daughter is a 1st grader here at home as well. And while I have found it to be much more calm in many ways (not being on anyone’s schedule but our own), homeschooling adds more to my plate in some ways as there is more “curriculum” planning in my daily routine. I adore having my two children in toe with me wherever I go. But I have also have to balance life a bit more. I’m sure all of you can relate whether you are single, a DINK (dual income no kids), a single mom (I give huge props to you ladies), empty nester, or even a teen. Whoever is out there reading my blog (I know there are a few others besides my husband and mom… “Hi mom! Thanks for the support!”), you all know that life can get busy. And one of the hardest things to do in life is find balance.
Being healthy is incredibly important to me. I strongly believe that I need to take care of myself (spiritually, mentally, and physically) in order to be the wife and mom I have always wanted to be. I have set goals in my life to be supportive, loving, and live long enough to run around with my future grandkids someday (if my children and God so chooses to bless me with that incredible gift). So how do I do it all?! Well, I don’t.
I would first like to start off by saying I mess up… a lot! And if you are my family, or a close friend of mine you can attest that this is true. However, it’s super easy to paint a rainbow picture on social media of how perfect my darling little family is. I post photos of awesome recipes, my smiling kids, our homeschool projects, and my favorite workouts. However, what you don’t see is me going a bit insane when my son has to go use the potty for the third time after bedtime has come and gone. Or when I’m in my zone cooking dinner and I don’t exactly greet my husband with a smile when he comes home from work. Or, when I eat a whole batch of (er, I mean, just a few too many) of my favorite peanut butter brownies in just 2 days.
My constant struggle is trying to balance life. I am often at my knees in prayer asking God for forgiveness and for His help to be the wife, mom, and friend that I want to be…. that He wants me to be.
I had this moment at the gym the other day where I was comparing myself to some gorgeous and ripped couple (I know, mistake number one right) and I was thinking. I want to look like that! I could do it if I put in the work.
Then I got home, made some snacks with my family and started planning my week for homeschool and realized what I would have to sacrifice to get there. Yes, I could do it ( I could be ripped… most of us could if we put in what it takes to get there). But the truth is, I don’t want to put in the incredible amount of time it would take to get there. Not because it can’t be done, or because I’m lazy. If anything I often er on the side of obsessing a little too much about fitness and health. I’m kind of an all or nothing person and that’s just the problem. If I wanted to spend the hours it takes, the money for the amount of food I would have to eat, and the childcare for the gym time I would have to spend to reach that goal, I could do it. But, when I am old and my children have blessed me with grandkids (still wishful thinking here), am I going to be so glad I had a perfect chiseled six pack during all seasons of the year, or am I going to wish I had spent more time with God, my husband, my children, extended family and friends? Am I going to wish I had spent more time in the gym to accomplish more goals, or wish I had spent more time doing something that means more?
“What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” ~Mark 8:36
This isn’t to say that you can’t have both and there are many men and women who balance their family and their fitness goals quite well. I am just trying my best to find the balance that works best for me. What looks like balance to me may not be the same for you… in fact it probably isn’t. So I wont compare.
Does this mean I give up all gym time and say the heck with being fit? Um, nope. I love my time in the gym. It’s my “alone time” when the kids are in childcare, or my time with my husband when we are on the same schedule. I love how I feel when I eat quality food that I spent time putting together for my family and myself. But I have had to cut back on workouts and find ways to put my family and friends first all while staying healthy in the process. My schedule may not look the same as yours but…
Here are some tips for fitting healthy eating and workouts into a busy schedule:
1. If you have to choose, choose weights (over cardio) and lift heavy! Don’t have a lot of time to spend at the gym? Skip the cadio and pick up some heavy weights. Women, don’t be afraid to bulk up. You can’t (unless you are taking mondo supplements). Do 4 sets of 8 (lifting a weight in which you can’t lift more than 8 reps), or 3 sets of 10 (also maxing out after 10 reps). If you can do more after your last rep, pick up heavier weights for your next set. It takes some trial and error but you will get it down after some experimenting. If you build muscle, your metabolism increases, and this will burn fat. Cardio has it’s place but if you can only choose one, choose resistance training.
2. Lift using movements that work more. When lifting, pick movements like squats, or deadlifts that engage more muscles at once. You get more bang for your buck. For example, you can skip abs if you are engaging your abdominals in these other movements (such as squats or chin-ups).
3. Do HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). If you have the time for cardio, do less of it… in interval form. For example, after a good warm up run, sprint for 30 seconds, then walk (or jog) for 30 seconds. Repeat this for 20-30 min, then cool down. You will get a much better fat burning workout than if you ran at a slower rate for 60 min. Here is a link to 5 great HIIT workouts for any fitness level.
4. Prep meals ahead of time. Pick a day to cook a whole bunch of chicken and veggies (for example) and portion them into smaller containers to they are ready to go later in the week. I like to make food in large batches and freeze what I can’t eat now for future meals. One of my favorite “go to” protein packed favorite are “turkey meatballs“.
5. Have a plan when you go to the gym, run outside, or workout at home. If you write down what you are going to do that day (or better yet, the entire week), not only are you less likely to waste time at the gym but you are more likely to reach your goals. Also, try to have your workout clothes laid out and your gym bag ready the night before (this makes for one less step when trying to fit everything in the day of your workout).
6. Make a grocery list before you go to the store based on the meals you planned for the week. This will cut down on your “wandering” time in the store, and keeps you from making impulse buys like those cookies that are on sale. If the junk food is not in the house it’s less likely to be eaten. I have no self control if cookies are calling my name from the cupboard. But if I have to make a special trip out to get them I’m more likely to opt for a healthy treat at home.
7. Combine cardio into your lifting routine. Want to burn fat quickly? Work in “active rests” into your lifting routine. In between leg extensions throw in some jumping scissor lunges rather than resting. Take your breaks in between exercises only (for example after leg extensions and before leg curls) rather than in between sets. OR, turn your lifting into a circuit.
For example: Take 5 lower body lifting exercise (such as leg press, leg extensions, leg curls, lunges, calf raises) and do one set of each all in a row (one right after the other without rest). Then rest 2-3 min. Repeat 2-3 more times. This will get your heart rate up much more than a regular lifting routine.
8. Move every day! Some days I just don’t have time to get to the gym. Instead I go for a hike with the kids or swing on the monkey bars with them at the park, or have “wrestling tickle fights” with the kiddos on the bed. Go for a bike ride with your spouse or park in the farthest parking spot and take the stairs. Find ways to move every day. And if you are at an office job where you sit all the time, make sure to take breaks every so often to walk around. My husband keeps a bottle of water with him at work and he drinks so much water during the day he HAS to get up to use the restroom every so often. It makes him get up and walk around and keeps him hydrated. Two benefits to drinking plenty of water!
9. Workout at home. Save the time it takes to drive to the gym and do a work workout at home. Here is a great home workout I love to do when I’m stuck at home and can’t get to the gym.
10. Cut out the sugar. You can’t out run what you eat. So the best time saving tip I have is to cut out the sugar. If you can’t do it completely take baby steps to get it out of your diet as much as possible. Sugar can destroy the goals of even the most dedicated athletes. If you work hard at the gym then eat a bunch of processed junk at home it will catch up to you. Sure, there are the genetically gifted who seem to be able to eat whatever they want and still look and feel phenomenal. But most of us just aren’t that “genetically gifted”. So if you would like to make the biggest and best change to you diet start by cutting out that white processed stuff. Even too much honey or dates can be too much of a good thing so be careful even when eating whole foods. But the processed junk should be the first to go.
Here is my current workout plan (and this is a rough outline… I often have surprises that make me have to change things up a bit).
Monday: Rest- I do active stuff with my kids like go for a nature walk to run around with them at the park.
Tuesday: Lift back, and legs plus 30 min cardio
Wednesday: Lift chest, triceps, biceps plus 30 min cardio
Thursday: Rest- I may do something active with the kiddos like running stairs or yard work outside
Friday: abs and sprints on the treadmill at home (this way I don’t have to go to the gym. My kiddo happily play in the basement with toys they don’t usually get to use or watch some cartoons since they don’t get much “screen time” otherwise
Saturday: lift legs and shoulders (no cardio except 5-10 min warm up walk on treadmill)
Sunday: Rest! I even take a nap most Sundays when the kids do. We really enjoy honoring the Sabbath 🙂
I also now workout after the kids naps/quiet time in the afternoon when we are all done with school work for the day.
This schedule has worked quite well for me lately. It’s much less than my 5-6 days at the gym I used to have.
I also do a lot of movements where I work multiple body parts at the same time. Abdominals aren’t even a must because I engage them while doing other lifts (such as squats and pull ups).
Here are a couple photos from our nature walks with the kiddos. They love running around and being active outdoors. This is a great way to get moving every day…
by the river
checking out the Oxen at Oxbow Park
So each day workout may look a little like this…
Tuesday’s gym day looks like this:
deadlifts, leg extensions, standing calf raises, chin ups (palms forward), rows, run or elliptical for 30 min
Wednesday’s gym day looks like this:
bench, pull ups (palms towards me), inclined bench, dips OR triceps extensions, curls of some sort, elliptical for 30 min
Friday’s home workout looks like this:
I pick 2-3 abdominal workouts (for example, bicycle crunches, Spiderman crunches, and reverse crunches). I do 3 sets of 10-20 of each. Then I do sprints on the treadmill. I set it at 9.0-11.0 depending on how I am feeling and do 30 min sprints 30 min off (standing with feet to the sides). This is after a proper warm up run.
Saturday’s gym day looks like this:
squats, lunges, seated calf raises, shoulder press (with dumbbells), seated delts, upright raises
*And I always do a 5-10 min walk or run to warm up, some dynamic stretches before lifting, and static stretches when I’m done.
Oh, and if you want to be like my husband you can do pushups with kids on your back. Warning: It’s all fun and games until they roll off your back and bump heads.
What are some of your time saving workout/eating healthy tips? Feel free to share in the comments below.