When you first become a parent, it's really all about survival.
You have to learn to care for another life form. A screaming, crying, unreasonable, pooping, vomiting life form.
It's hard enough to just get through the day.
Taking care of yourself goes nearly out the window.
But eventually, things settle. One day you look down at yourself and see the toll the months or years of eating like crap, not sleeping, and not exercising has taken on you. And you're ready to change.
The problem is, the game has changed, too. Everything is harder now. There's no time. You're tired. You're busy. How do you do it?
Let's dive into some tips for working moms who want to create a workout schedule, plus my favorite programs and routines.
Or hop right to my top recommended workout program for women who want to drop fat and build lean, toned muscles.
Why it's so hard for moms to work out
Ah, to be young and free of responsibility!
The days of sleeping late, doing what you want, and working out when you please are over.
Now, working moms have to deal with:
No time: Let's start with the big one. Moms just don't really have a lot of time for themselves, especially if they're working. There are a lot of concerning statistics out there about exactly how much free time moms have every day, ranging from a paltry 17 minutes to a little over a half an hour, but no matter how you slice it, it's not very much. No wonder it's so damn hard to fit in a workout.
Lifetime of bad habits: The longer it's been since you've worked out and eaten properly on a consistent basis, the harder it can be to get back on the wagon. Hey, it's not your fault... we literally just talked about how you're lucky if you have 30 minutes a day to yourself after handling work and the kids! If you've been in pure mom-mode for a decade or more, it might seem impossible to turn things around. But it's not! (We'll get into some tips and routines that will help, below)
Lack of sleep: Not only are parents busy, but we're horrendously sleep deprived, moms especially. After kids, expect to get at least 1-2 hours less sleep than your childless counterparts. When you're that tired, it's really, really hard to get motivated for a high intensity workout.
Recovery gets harder: As our bodies age (even in our late 20s and early 30s) it starts to get a little bit harder and harder to bounce back from those tough exercise sessions. You'll be a little slower to recover, a little more sore, and a little more drained than you were when you were younger.
Add it all up, and it paints a pretty grim picture, right?
Sure. But all is not lost!
6 quick hacks to fit working out in a busy mom's schedule
Full disclosure, I am not a working mom. But I am a working dad, which is close!
I may not fully know the struggle, but here are a few key principles that really helped me turn things around and drop 15+ pounds of fat after years of ignoring my fitness:
Implement the “minimum effective dose” - Consider the 80/20 rule of life... 20% of your efforts typically get 80% of the results. Your job is to figure out what really works and cut the rest. There's simply no time to do any more. The good news is that everyone who tells you that you'll have to do brutal, hour-long HIIT or cardio sessions every single day, burning hundreds and hundreds of calories, while depriving yourself of all the foods you love in order to get results.. they're lying. Or they just don't know any better. (You don't need juice cleanses or expensive supplements, either). In truth, that style of fitness is a great way to burn yourself out, begin to hate the process, and give up after a few weeks. I promise you can get amazing results working out just two or three times a week and eating right if you're consistent and can stick to it for longer.
Proper nutrition is more than half the battle – You don't need to eat “clean and healthy” 100% of the time, or spend hours and hours meal planning. You don't even need to do any fancy dieting like keto or paleo if you don't want to (though I'm a big fan of intermittent fasting). The most important thing is to track your calories and ensure your intake aligns with your goals (weight loss vs muscle gain). A very manageable calorie deficit of about 300-500 calories under maintenance per day is perfect to get started... Try multiplying your bodyweight x 12 and shooting for that many calories every day. If you can stick to that number, you'll lose weight.
Remember that recovery is important – Don't hammer your body relentlessly. Push it hard a few times a week and then enjoy your “rest” days, which are probably still pretty active if you're busy chasing kids around! Don't feel guilty about your off days if you're eating right, spending time with the kids, and getting important things done. Give yourself permission to do this. Fit fitness into your life, don't make it your entire life.
The bang for your buck with strength training is out of this world – I know, I know. You don't want huge muscles or to get bulky. But trust me, you won't. Losing fat through dieting while using strength training to build or maintain lean muscle will have an incredibly dramatic effect on your body. Plus, when your muscles are fatigued from strength training, the calories you do eat get put to better use for the next 24-48 hours in terms of recovery and muscle repair. Certain kinds of cardio can also be brutal on your bones and joints, especially as you age. Definitely consider incorporating strength work in your routine.
Find something you love to do – It's really hard to force yourself to go and do something you hate. But again, if you think you MUST run or hit the elliptical to get in shape, you've been lied to. If you enjoy those things, do them! But feel free to experiment with yoga, barre, pilates, spin, weight lifting (this worked for me), HIIT, and more to find something you actually like. Heck, take a trampoline fitness class. There's no wrong way to get in shape if it means you can stick to it consistently and long enough to see results.
Get the kids involved – Depending on their age, consider taking the kids on a long walk or hike instead of to the playground on the weekends. Low intensity cardio like this is fantastic for weight loss because it burns calories but does very little to increase appetite (as opposed to higher intensity cardio). Just remember... you don't “earn” extra calories by going for a walk, hanging on the playground, or mowing the lawn. Those are just normal things that contribute to your overall activity level and help keep you in the right calorie deficit. (If you burn 700 calories on a long run, on the other hand, you may want to eat a little bit more.)
Free sample workout schedule for working moms
This is a routine put together from the folks over at the bodyweight fitness subreddit. It's perfect for working moms because it's all done at-home, with little to no equipment, and can be easily slotted into almost any schedule. Do it first thing in the morning, last thing at night, or heck... lock your office door and do it at work if you must. It can also be customized based on the time and equipment you have available.
Pair this routine with smart nutrition and you'll see great results, strength gains, and toned arms, back, shoulders, and legs in no time.
- What it is: An at-home strength training workout routine based on bodyweight movements like pushups, planks, squats, and dips.
- Time commitment: ~1 hour, 3x per week
- What you'll need: A space to exercise in. Exercise bands and a pull up bar are helpful but not 100% necessary.
My top recommended workout program for moms
At some point in your fitness journey, you may be ready for something a little more intense than bodyweight work at home.
In that case, here's a quick overview of my top recommended program for women, the Goddess Toning Program.
- What it is: A gym-based strength training program that pairs an easy-to-implement nutrition plan with heavy lifting in the gym for dramatic results. You can also supplement with some at-home work, or replicate the entire program at home if you invest in a dumbbell set.
- Time commitment: ~1 hour, 3x per week, plus time for some optional accessory ab work
- What you'll need: A gym membership and/or a set of dumbbells at home
- Why I like it: This program is designed to strip fat off your body while building extremely lean and toned muscle underneath. You'll lift heavier than you're probably used to. The nutrition plan is also extremely simple and easy to follow (no complicated juicing, meal prep, or low carb rules). Best of all, it works. Check out a sample transformation:
Amazing goddess transformation :)!!!! 28 lbs of fat dropped and strength and lean muscle gained. Best of all, her complete mindset and confidence changed for the better. Swipe over to see the whole story! This was the only program in the world that produced amazing results while still allowing her to have fun, enjoy drinks and eating out! Way too go!!! Link in bio to get your program :). Once you finish the four step quiz I’ll give you the next step to join
There is really no one workout schedule that'll work for busy moms, or "one routine to rule them all."
It all depends on what you like to do, what you'll stick to, and how much time you have.
My advice would be to experiment with many different options until you find the right fit. Just work toward consistency and steady progress rather than burning yourself out too fast.
You can do this!
Fit Mom FAQ
Is weight loss possible for busy moms?
Yes! Absolutely it is. The trick is to probably do less than you're doing (or think you need to do) and focus on consistency.
You don't need to work out 5-7 times per week. 3 really solid, relatively short workouts is plenty provided you bring the right intensity. Getting proper rest and recovery after these workouts is really important.
From there, you just need to hit your calorie goal each day on a consistent basis (whether you want to lose fat or put on a little bit of toned muscle). My favorite starting point for weight loss is about 12 calories per pound of bodyweight every day (If you're 130 pounds, you'd eat just under 1600 calories per day). If you want to go a little more aggressive, you can try 11 calories per pound, or use 12 calories per pound of goal bodyweight.
However you choose to hit that number is up to you. Whether simply counting your calories, using intermittent fasting (my favorite), or small, frequent snacks, the important thing is to get your calories in vs calories out (CICO) numbers right on a regular basis.
If you can do that with all the chaos going on around you, plus a few solid workouts per week, you can get amazing results without killing yourself trying to burn hundreds of calories every single day.
How do working moms find time to exercise?
It's definitely hard, I can't pretend that it won't be.
But the important thing is to create a moderate workout schedule. Who has time to workout 5-7 times per week for over an hour each time?! I have no idea how moms can make that work.
Most good programs I've seen focus on three roughly one-hour long strength training sessions per week with the right nutrition.
That low frequency approach gives you a little more flexibility as to when you can fit them in. And if you miss a day, you can try to get that workout in the next day without falling behind.
Strength training and proper nutrition will probably give you a lot more bang for your buck than endless cardio. So see if you can carve out three one-hour blocks of time (or even 45 minutes) per week (you can even start at home with just bodyweight and dumbbells if that makes it easier).
And again, I really think you'll dig this strength training and nutrition program for women (the Goddess Toning Program). It's my top recommendation for getting toned and in amazing shape!