A little while ago, a came across an article on how the single mother can live richly on a single income. Which led me to think, I ought to write a few fitness tips for the single mother, and how she can find quality time for some exercise, despite her busy schedule.
What makes me qualified?
Other than being a single mother, and working full time between several gyms, and online, there’s more….
In my situation, the father isn’t (currently) in the same state, which means that the standard visitation privileges that would free up some of my time isn’t there.
In most situations, the mother will have a night off during the week, and alternating weekends, etc, so that would theoretically allow for some free time for the single mother to fit in fitness.
That’s not my case. You could say I have LESS free time, not more than the average single mother where the father or partner is there to help out.
So, my tips below are really not just for the single mother (or even father!) in a more traditional set-up, but also for the single mother who may literally never get a parenting break (unless she has the financial means to hire nannies, or babysitters).
I also do work full-time. Granted, my job is active (I’m a full time personal trainer), I’m highly motivated to stay in shape, but unless I schedule or make time for my own training, it wouldn’t get done.
So, what are my fitness tips for the single mother who is trying to find time for fitness?
1. Reframe your mindset regarding the exercise time commitment. Realistically, you may not have 30-45 at a stretch to exercise. You can break your workouts in to shorter chunks of time. A 15 minute walk during your lunch break, a brief stroll in the evening, parking as far away from your destination as possible, walking up and down steps, etc. It ALL adds up.
You can check out all my sneaky tips to squeeze in activity here.
2. Find ways to exercise with your baby. Google “mommy and me” fitness classes in your area, fitness classes that allow you to work out with your baby in the stroller, or recreation centers, studios, and gyms that offer childcare services on site so you can bring your child to the gym while you train.
Many of my own personal training clients will bring their kids to my home gym studio. Depending on the age, we’ve done workouts while holding the baby or while the baby watches from a safe distance; or workout close enough to a clingy toddler so the tot can watch and admire the mother training.
Usually, if the child is old enough to be entertained with toys and games for a brief 30 minute workout, everything goes seamlessly. I don’t mind at all when my clients bring their child to my home for the workout. This isn’t really an option in a commercial gym unless they have childcare. You might be able to find a neighborhood personal trainer that lets you bring your child, or comes to you.
Need a playground workout? Something you can do while the kids play?
Here’s one for you to try, too:
Sign up you and your child for fun family runs, easy obstacle/mud runs, 5Ks, 1Ks, etc. This is a great way for both of you to get in some exercise.
If you are truly limited to at home training only, you can check out my tips for training at home or purchase my complete program for cardio, nutrition, and strength training at home called Stay At Home Strong. The workouts are short, ideal for busy parents, and meant to be completed in the privacy of your own home.
3. Find another single mother in your neighborhood that you can alternate drop-off playdates with. Naturally, this doesn’t have to be a single mom, but I’ve generally connected with other single moms in a special way. Another single mom and I will take turns watching the kids a few times every month so we can have some “me time.” I use that time to exercise, clean up, cook, whatever. Bottom line is that you’ve opened up another outlet for alone time that you can use to your advantage. If you need to find other single moms, try your neighborhood Facebook mom groups (if they’re trusty worthy), chat up the other moms on the birthday party circuit, or at school, etc.
4. Use every birthday party drop-off situation to your advantage. This tip won’t apply if your child is too young, but once your child is in kindergarten, you can leave him or her at birthday parties instead of staying. I actually did not know this until I hosted a birthday party and parents would leave their child, and pick them up after the party was over.
Seriously, no one told me so I had no clue this happened, or was acceptable.
It’s actually great, all the host has to do is worry about entertaining the kid rather than the parent. To be on the safe side, you will want to ask if parents are required to stay; sometimes the invite will specify it’s a drop off party. This is seriously one of the best things ever about transitioning your child to kindergarten. Free time is a luxury for me, so I take every opportunity I can get.
Again, use that time to get in a longer workout, a hike/run in a new neighborhood, or whatever.
5. Exercise during their soccer, football, cheer, martial arts, dance class, tutoring, piano practice etc. Usually, I witness moms and dads hanging out at the sidelines, on the benches or chairs, catching up on email, chatting with other parents, texting on their phones, reading a book, etc., while their child is in class/practicing a sport. That’s perfectly fine.
But if you’re a single parent with a kid that’s old enough to be left with the coach or tutor, and your presence isn’t required, use that time to walk, run, hit the gym if possible, do some bodyweight exercises like those shown in the playground workout video I posted earlier. Or throw some resistance bands in your car and do this workout, which can be done in 15 minutes or less:
I’ve dragged many a friendly mother out for a walk with me while my child was in class or practice. Again, if you are a single mom with limited resources to help you so you can get some time to exercise, you’ll need to milk every opportunity you can get.
6. Enlist help, paid or unpaid. And always, always ask for help if you need it. Never, ever wait until your at your wits’ end to take a break.
I’m lucky that my parents will visit from abroad and stay with me for several months. I also have a brother and a close friend in the city who adore and care for my daughter, and help whenever they can.
Although it took me a very long time to warm up to the idea of having a sitter, finding a local teenager in your neighborhood that you trust is key to freeing up some of your time.
Otherwise, if you do have siblings, family, or close friends that are willing to take care of your child so that you can get away for a little bit to recharge (whether it’s for exercise, or not) remember to ask for help. A stronger, healthier mom is a happier mom; better equipped to deal with the unique stresses of single parenting.