I like working out, yet I still find myself making excuses rather than making exercise a priority. Whatever your excuse -- you don’t like to exercise, you don’t have time, you can’t afford it, you never stick with it -- this post will challenge you to make your health a priority. Three working moms with serious fitness street cred eliminate the top six excuses for not exercising.
I certainly don’t have Shania Twain abs or Heidi Klum legs, but I like to work out. Go ahead and throw things at my head or roll your eyes. I’m not a super fitness junky by any stretch, but I like running and group fitness and the feeling of pushing my body physically and seeing some results. When my husband and I went on a kid-free vacation a couple months ago, we played tennis or ran every morning because I wanted to – it’s a luxury I don’t often get. But before I lose those of you deciding you would never want to be my friend, let me make the point that I’m still the queen of excuses as to why I don’t work out as much as I should: No time. No money. Big work project. Kid activities. Can’t wake up that early. Already showered today. Shall I continue?
I make excuses, skip workouts and push exercise down on my priority list all the time even though I LIKE working out. I imagine this problem gets a smidge bigger for the many people who don’t exactly look forward to working out – it’s just not their jam even though they know exercise is pretty much a requirement of a healthy life. So I reached out to some working moms with serious credibility on the fitness front to get realistic suggestions for ditching the excuses that keep us from doing what we want to be doing or should be doing on the exercise front.
Meet Laura Santagata
At home: Twin sons in sixth grade
At work: Teaches 7th grade language arts
Fitness cred: Certified personal trainer with added certifications in nutrition and yoga
My journey began with being unhappy with my current weight back in my early 20s right when I graduated from college. I returned home on my first day of summer and attempted to put on my favorite shorts; I could not even get them buttoned! Right at that moment I decided I needed to make a change and was motivated instantly because I knew I was capable of being fit and lean. Over the next two years, I dropped approximately 40 pounds. People started asking me how I did it, and if I could give them any tips. That is when I decided to get my personal training certificate so that I could help others achieve their fitness or weight loss goals, too. That was over 20 years ago.
Meet Katie Blickhan
At home: Sons in 2nd grade and kindergarten
At work: Co-owns Shred415 Sawmill
Fitness cred: She quit her day job to open a fitness-based franchise
I have always had desk jobs, but have always wanted to open my own business. When I told my closest friends that we were taking the plunge and opening up Shred, one of them said, "Oh thank goodness - you have been wanting to open your own business for years!" And it's true. If I never did it, it would be something I regretted later in life. I went to Shred in Chicago, and always thought about how I would love to have it in Columbus, and that there would be a big appetite for a workout and community like this in Columbus. When they started franchising, I was one of the first emails in their inbox.
Meet Katie Lovell
At home: 3-year-old son
At work: Franchise master trainer for the barre3 Office in Portland, Oregon
Fitness cred: Certified barre3 instructor, teaches classes
Photo credit: Folchi Creative
I started going to barre3 classes when the studio opened near me. I loved attending group fitness classes, and this one spoke to me! I had never taught group fitness before, but was very interested in barre3's approach. I talked to the owner and asked about the process, and jumped in! I became an instructor while working full-time in marketing/communications, and then made the switch to managing a new studio when it opened.
I recently made the jump from working as the studio manager for the barre3 franchise in my area to working for the barre3 Office in Portland. I am a Franchise Master Trainer, and still teach 2-3 classes per week in Powell, Ohio. However, my current full-time role consists of running trainings across the country for new instructors, current instructors, and owners. I also help new owners open their studios and build their teams!
Excuse #1: I don’t have time
This excuse also translates to:
- My life is just too busy right now
- I feel guilty taking time away from my family
- I have too many things on my to-do list today
Blickhan says in today's busy world, it's really about prioritizing health and fitness, and fitting it into your already jam-packed life. The moms she sees making the time to get to her gym consistently are not women with a lot of time on their hands.
“Now, these women do not come strolling in after brunch with friends...They come in, and they might need to leave class 15 minutes early to get their kids somewhere. And that's more than okay! We always say do what you need to - come late, leave early - breaking a sweat and knowing you made it a priority can change your whole day.”
As a personal trainer, Santagata says busy moms often carve out time to work out before their busy day begins and using their lunch break from work to move their bodies. Working out in the morning also blows out that “already showered” excuse.
Lovell sees many parents who come in feeling guilty for taking one hour for themselves.
“I want to shout this from the rooftops: TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF IS NOT SELFISH! It is the most selfless thing working moms (or any person, really) can do for themselves. It's the whole 'oxygen mask' theory: you must put on your own oxygen mask before you can help those around you. You can't pour from an empty cup. Working moms spend hours of their day at their job, then come home and deplete the rest of their tanks taking care of their families. And trust me: as much as spending time with your partner and kids is enjoyable and lovely and wonderful...it is depleting!
If you can carve out time for yourself, it is powerful. I was talking to one of our working moms today after class, and she said she had to tear herself away from her to-do list, even though not even half of the things on it were crossed off. Ultimately, she knew that she'd be more productive at work, and more present for her family, if she took time for herself.”
Excuse #2: I Don’t Really Like to Exercise
Let’s drill this down a bit. What specifically don’t you like?
- Do you not like exercise because you feel out of shape?
- Do you not like exercise because you don’t feel good at it, or you don’t know how to do it?
- Do you like being active, but dislike more formal exercises?
- Do you straight-up dislike physical activity of any kind?
To overcome barriers to working out, Santagata says it’s crucial to know your “why.” For example, consider whether your goal is weight-loss or the ability to go on a hike with your kids and not be winded or the goal to beat back a family history of heart disease. The “why” becomes the goal and the focus, and the workout is how to reach that goal. The exercise itself might never be your favorite thing to do, but the prize at the end can be oh-so-worth committing to new positive habits.
Santagata leading a yoga class at her school.
If fear is holding you back -- that you won't be good at a new type of exercise or that you'll stand out among a sea of 20-year-olds in sports bras -- don't let it. Check out our post about How to Stop the Comparison Game for Good, because this is your journey to being healthy, and comparison shouldn't stand in the way.
For women who have never gotten into healthy habits, it can be even more difficult, so Lovell suggests starting small.
“It could be a simple as beginning to change one thing. Do something you love to do that involves moving your body. Find a hip-hop dance class, grab the phone and call a friend who lives across the country while walking around the cul-de-sac. Put on your favorite song, grab your kids and dance around the kitchen like a fool. Whatever makes you happy! You're not going to stick to something you dread doing.”
This article on Burning Calories Without Exercise from Harvard Medical School has some other good suggestions on small things you can do to be more active that don’t feel like exercise.
Excuse #3: I Don’t Like Going to a Gym
Then don’t. There are plenty of exercise options beyond the formal gym setting like walking/running and at-home workouts. But these options may give you less motivation and instruction, so I challenge the belief that there’s not a gym out there for almost anyone. See my Choose a Gym Cheat Sheet for a rundown on the cultures and workouts offer by some of the most popular gyms nationwide.
Excuse #4: I Can’t Find a Workout I Like
Let me offer some suggestions. Most gyms and fitness programs offer some type of trial - a free class or a free week. Take them up on their offer and do a Tour de Fitness in your area. This gets you into their system and their facility. You can see class options and schedules and how easy they are to schedule and get a spot. You can also check out other amenities they offer (I have a friend who loves the free massage chairs at her gym) and really get a feel for the people who work there and pay to work out there.
Larger gyms like Lifetime Fitness and LA Fitness offer lots of different group fitness options and amenities. You can take classes at different times of day and change up the style of your workouts, or even play racquetball or swim laps. Some locations also offer family activities like outdoor swimming, swim lessons or rock climbing. These gyms often come with a higher price tag and a longer-term contract.
If you like the idea of a gym that offers some other benefits for your entire family, a local YMCA might be another, more affordable option. Their fitness options can be strong. Several YMCA’s in my area offer the popular BODYPUMP classes, a group weight-lifting class provided through Les Mills.
Gyms like Crossfit, barre3, Shred415 and OrangeTheory are franchises, which means the workouts may be the same across different locations, but the feel and culture of each location may vary. If you find one you like, you likely be adopted into a closer-knit community because the facilities are smaller and more personal and all members are doing similar style workouts.
Lovell says barre3 won her over because the studio was warm and welcoming, and the workout meets people where they are. “If you're feeling turbo one day, it allows you to push yourself; if you're not feeling 100%, there are plenty of modifications to take (I went to a class three days before I went into labor!)”
- Grab three classes for $30 at the barre3 location in Powell, Ohio
Blickhan liked Shred415 during her visit to Chicago so much she jumped at the chance to open her own franchise in her Columbus hometown.
- Get your first workout free at Shred415
To explore what workout might motivate you, check out my Choose a Gym Cheat Sheet -- it lists some of the well-known gyms in Central Ohio (my area) that also have locations nationwide. I give more details on the type of workouts they offer and side-by-side info on amenities and pricing.
Nationally-recognized health system OhioHealth also offers the video “Mom on a Mission: Finding Your Perfect Workout” with additional advice from an exercise physiologist.
Excuse #5: I Don’t Have Money for a Gym or Trainer
I chose Cincinnati's Flying Pig as my one and only marathon.
Great race, but tons of hills!
I’ll stand in as the “expert” on this one. My claim to fitness cred is that I’ve run one full marathon, seven half marathons and countless 5- and 10-Ks. I chuckle to write that because I clearly remember my disdain for any running-related activities prior to college. That’s when my well-meaning friends peer pressured me into running for the first time. After college, I roomed with a human gazelle who convinced me to run my first 5-K, though I much preferred step class at the gym (I know I just aged myself with the step class comment, but come on, those classes were awesome). But once I had kids and started paying a second mortgage in childcare, the almost-free price tag and efficiency of running became pretty dang appealing. And then I became a convert.
When I sign up for a race, I hold myself accountable. I do spend the money for quality shoes and I replace them fairly often to prevent injury. It only took once to learn my lesson on that one. But for this my phase of life - as a working mom with three kids ages 5-11 - running gives me the flexibility I need at a low cost. During cold Ohio winters and times when I just need a change, I take advantage of different deals. I might buy a package of a few classes at barre3, drop in on one of Laura’s bootcamp classes since she lives in my neighborhood, or see if I can tag along to a gym as a guest with a friend.
Burning 200-300 Extra Calories Day (No Gym Required)
I asked all of my fitness gurus for tips on burning a few hundred extra calories a day, and they came back with some great options that are super affordable:
- Stand up to do your job. Laura grabbed two milk crates and propped her monitor and keyboard up so that she could stand at her desk while teaching in her classroom.
- While brushing your teeth, do plie squats, leg raises, and calf raises.
- Walk on your lunch break AND with your family after dinner.
- Do high intensity intervals for 10 minutes.
- Walk and talk. If you meet your girlfriends for a glass of wine at night, go on a walk and catch up instead. The fresh air, camaraderie, and movement are a triple win.
- Simply get off the couch or out of your office chair. Suggest a walking meeting.
- Actually play outside (soccer, basketball)
- Put workouts on your calendar to ensure they happen - anything from a quick walk every hour around the desks on your floor at work to a trip to the gym
Lovell says “burning calories” is a common goal, but she likes to reframe that into “ways to add value” to your life. "What's an easy way to gain more energy?" "How can I fall asleep easier at night?" "What would help me be more engaged with my kids?"
Excuse #6: I Never Stick With It
The experts’ advice on putting this excuse to bed fell into three categories: work out with friends, find a workout you like (see Excuse #4) and be flexible.
At Shred, Blickhan sees a lot of women who come to classes at a certain time, twice a week with a friend.
“It's a standing date, and they both have the expectation that they will be there, because they enjoy it, and they enjoy doing it together! Inevitably, they stand in the parking lot for 15 minutes afterward catching up. And their whole day is better for it! Fitness and wellness are made that much better when you combine them with friends, and making it something we enjoy is what keeps us coming back.”
She says this looks different than the “accountability” she hears people often talk about.
“That makes it sound so boring, like you have weekly check-ins and report your workouts to a militant wellness coach. That's not what I mean. And it's not what I see that is working for people. If you can find something you enjoy, it's not a chore.”
Santagata sees the impact of having support from others and choosing workouts you enjoy in her personal training as well.
“When you have somebody waiting to go on a run with you or meeting you at the gym to take a class, there’s much more follow-through than when it’s just you.” She agrees that people don’t stick with workouts that feel like drudgery.
Lovell’s advice is to be kinder to yourself if you miss a workout (or a few) so the guilt doesn’t create a downward spiral.
“If you realize slip-ups happen and offer yourself the same kindness you'd offer to your best friend, the outcomes would be so different!”
Thanks to working moms and fitness gurus Laura Santagata, Katie Lovell and Katie Blickhan for their contributions.
- Katie L. hangs out at barre3 in Powell, Ohio and she provided a link for three classes for $30
- You can often find Katie B. at her Shred415 Sawmill location and you can get your first workout free
- Laura Santagata offers personal training and group fitness -- boot camp on Saturday mornings and yoga class on Wednesday evenings -- and you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 614-531-0544