IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE AWARENESS
I have become aware of several women at my gym of different ages who work, who may or may not have life partners, are mothers of one or more children and who must somehow balance all the demands typically placed on working women with families by our culture. Yet somehow they make time to work out as well which leaves me dumbstruck wondering how they do it!
I’m 73, semi-retired, am not raising children or caring for grandchildren, and do not have a live-in partner to care for (mine lives in the next state over – great arrangement that I highly recommend, BTW!). I work part time in the mornings on an interesting internet gig as an independent contractor so can make my own hours. My weekends, and sometimes evenings, are spent working on an internet marketing business, which includes this blog, and a novelties business. Such a schedule allows me to spend 5-6 afternoons a week at the gym, plan, shop for and prepare my food thing, and take the occasional nap.
With a frequency that I must acknowledge in honor of these warrior women, I constantly ask myself how they do all that they do! Obviously, men, I cannot and will not leave you out of the discussion. I am obviously old enough to have watched how, over the years, beginning in the 1960s, men with families have willingly and lovingly enlarged their roles to include helping with what used to be all the stereotypical duties of women with families.
I cannot begin to tell you how important that is in the advancement of our culture’s enabling women’s lives to be fuller, more rounded and more fulfilling for those who chose both to have families and to work. And men’s lives as well as they expand themselves from often being merely the stereotypical “breadwinner” to the fullness, richness – and, yes, chaos and exhaustion! – of incorporating child-raising, food shopping and home cleaning duties into their lives.
But I want to focus on the women for now. And guys, fear not! I’m not ingoring you and will be looking at some of the same issues for you in a later blog and how they are both different and the same.
I decided I would see what I could find online about how women who both work and have families have made the necessary adjustments to be able to include becoming and staying fit in their busy lives. Perhaps it won’t be a surprise to any of you that there’s an amazing amount of discussion of this very topic in the blogosphere. Below is a small taste of what I have learned, and I invite you to share your own experiences, frustrations and successes with us all in the comments section following this post.
TIPS FROM WORKING MOMS
I was somewhat myopically surprised to see that using a gym is mentioned in only a few of the following cases. However, a gym is a great resource in developing fitness. If gym membership is a financial challenge, though, think about gyms that charge only $10 per month with a small initial and/or annual fee. You might be surprised how many there are and how much they provide! I’m a member of a local Planet Fitness, one of the $10 per month choices, and for my purposes, it’s a terrific option. But I appreciate that even $10 a month can be a challenge. It certainly has been for me during a few “interesting” times in my own life! And then, of course, is the issue of time to go to the gym.
If time or money are issues for you, there’s tons of information on line or in books that you can access from your local FREE public library computers or book shelves. And many libraries have an inter-library loan option if you can’t find what you want at your local library. In other words, a lack of funds need not deter you from your fitness goals! Easy for me to say, I know, but you may, after all, be doing something that could save or extend your life so that you can be present for your children, your partner and yourself!
With that, here are some extremely creative tips, with an occasional observaton or suggestion from me, to make sure you include your fitness requirements into your daily work routines, both in and outside of your home. I hope you find something inspiring and useful for your own lives in these examples.
And consider these as much of a priority as your job or work you do at home because working out and eating right will make you feel so much better than when you don’t.
WORKOUT VIDEOS: Use workout videos at home when the kids are playing, watching TV or sleeping. It requires very little space and can be completed in half an hour! And it’s a strategy you can use whether you’re working, not working, or working at home – in addition to taking care of the kids, that is!
ACTIVITIES AT WORK: Take the stairs, use a standing desk and/or lift 3-pound or 5-pound weights you can keep under your desk. When you go to the gym, your child/children can play on a tablet computer or smart phone while you work out. Some gyms may even have play areas for kids. If you use or are planning to use a gym, check to see what their policies are about children. For example, some have age restrictions.
TREADMILL IN THE BEDROOM: Whenever you can, jump on and just do a mile or three. Multiple short intense bursts of activity have been found to be as beneficial as, if not more than, longer activities. The term HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) may be familar to you in this regard. And you don’t have to leave the house, get a baby sitter or brave the elements.
WORKING OUT AT WORK: Do some kind of workout on site or at a near-by gym instead of taking a lunch break, and eat your lunch in small amounts during the day, rather than at a specific time, to keep your energy up without spikes and valleys.
LAGREE FITNESS CLASSES: A high-intensity, low-impact workout that uses Megaformer or Supra machines you can do one weekday night and one weekend afternoon during kids’ naptime each week. Allows you to strengthen and tone without bulking up and has been especially helpful to some in getting their core strength and tone back after a birth. (This is not an endorsement, and I receive no pecuniary benefit from mentioning it.)
GO TO THE GYM EARLY MORNING: Although I appreciate that this may be an impossible challenge for many of you, at least maybe try to wake up early two to three days per week and go to the gym or use a home rower, treadmill or stationary bike. Or do some HIIT training at home. Look for resources on line.
BECOME A FITNESS INSTRUCTOR ON THE SIDE: This will make sure you’re working out a few times a week. Plus you’d be getting paid to do something you enjoy! On days you’re not being a part-time fitness instructor, try to make playing with your kids or cleaning the house as aerobically effective as possible. As a wonderful Kaiser Permanente MD once said to me, “Just start moving!”
TURN CHORES AT HOME INTO WORKOUTS: Lift and hold a laundry basket filled with clothes over your head while walking to and from the washer. Do squats as you load the laundry – even with top-loader stuff you can do a squat between each armful. Do squats and yoga stretches in the shower to relax your muscles for better stretching. Play like a child at the playground, using the equipment as though you were working out at the gym, for example..
RUNNING AROUND AFTER THE KIDS: This can keep you in good shape if they’re very active and you’re not working outside of the house or can be active while working at home. Walk with them when the weather is nice, and when naptime hits, do 30 to 40 minutes of yoga. Get a video and a mat (or use a beach sized towel), and you’re good to go!
GO TO THE GYM AT CONVENIENT TIMES: For example, after the kids are in bed, whether you’re working or not, or during the day when they’re in school if you’re working at home or not otherwise working.
USE A FITNESS WORKOUT APP AT HOME OR AT WORK: For example, I have been told that the app 8fit has six-minute workouts you can do. This app apparently also includes healthy meal plans and recipes. (This is not an endorsement, and I receive no pecuniary benefit from mentioning it.)
HOW-TO-EAT CASE STUDY
This is the story of a married mother of two children with an extremely demanding work life who allowed her own needs to slide under the professional, personal and financial responsibilities that have been an integral part of her world for many years. As a result, she has become overweight, tired, and concerned about the example she is setting.
I’m guessing this may feel familiar to some of you because it’s a very common phenomenon and can become more of an issue when our metabolism starts slowing down as early as in our mid-20s! Our subject made a decision, however, to take charge of her life and change the habits and behaviors that got her to this point. I’m going to focus here on the food side of her efforts.
With the help of a nutritionist and a fitness trainor, she put together a food and fitness plan that would work for her extremely busy schedule. It is a very doable program for the long term, not intended to be a quick fix. It will also allow her to meet her three goals: to lose weight and keep it off; to become more fit, more energetic and less tired; and to make healthy eating and exercise a natural lifestyle for her family.
Her plan includes losing about a pound per week by eating 1,200 to 1,400 calories a day. Alternatively she will reduce her current daily intake by 500 calories (or by 300 calories and exercising off the other 200). Her nutritionist has also discovered the places in her day that challenge good eating and has developed solutions that can be planned in advance.
And here are those problem times:
Her problem times include her fast-paced morning when she tends to SKIP BREAKFAST and often doesn’t eat anything until about 10 am. The nutritionist recommends that she eat earlier and spread her calories out over the morning with the help of a cheese stick or hard-boiled egg before leaving for work, followed by some Greek yogurt at around 11. These are protein-rich foods which are good for starting and carrying us through the day. She is then to eat something every few hours throughout the afternooon to keep her metabolism going and to control her appetite.
Her second problem area is SKIPPING LUNCH, often not eating until 3 pm. This can result in making poor food choices because she’s so hungry at that point. The nutritionist’s solution is to have her pack lunches and snacks, saying that taking lunch to work can be extremely significant for long-term weight loss and control. For lunches, she recommends a basic sandwich with a few slices of lean turkey, ham, roast beef or chicken, all low calorie but high in protein. She also recommends 50- or 60-calorie-per-slice bread, with mustard or a 35-calorie cheese spread (such as Laughing cow), for a lunch of about 200 calories.
The nutritionist’s recommendations for eating lunch out or ordering in include starting with a broth-based soup, followed by a lettuce-veggie salad with a baked or broiled protein like chicken, salmon or shrimp, a fat-free dressing and one topping like croutons, ssunflower seeds or shredded cheese. She also recommends to start lunch by 1 p.m.
The third problem area is AFTERNOON SNACKS, when she’s skipped lunch and the vending machine and corner bakery beckon. The nutritionist’s recommendation is to include 3 or 4 healthy snacks of 130 or fewer calories each with the packed lunch and to have one at midmorning, and in the afternoons at 3, 4:30 and 6. She also recommends that the snacks be pre-portioned and never be a “handful” of anything – because one handful can easily become two or three. Monitor sweet snacks to see if they trigger eating more sweets. If they do, change up for a healthier choice.
Our subject’s next problem time is MINDLESS MUNCHING after she gets home from work and is preparing dinner for the children, and then following their dinner and before she and her husband have dinner at around 9:30. The nutritionist recommends that if snacks at this time of day are necessary, work from lower calorie choices up to higher calorie choices as follows: make “a cup of soup, microwave a bag of low-fat popcorn or put out a plate of raw veggies and fat-free dip, hummus or portion-controlled guacamole for you and the kids to munch on before dinner.”
The next problem area is EATING LATE FOLLOWED BY SNACKING. The nutritionist states that eating dinner late doesn’t have to be a problem for weight loss if you eat carefully. To make such a schedule work, though, avoid foods she describes as easy to overeat such as pasta, rice and bread.
“Instead”, she says,” have one lean protein, such as broiled or baked chicken or fish, and two vegetables.”
In terms of after-dinner snacks, she explains that late-night snacking is more likely about habit than hunger and recommends eating more protein and veggies at dinner if it is, in fact, hunger. If, instead, it’s habit, she suggests changing your routine – which should help change late night food habits. For example, change the room you sit in or don’t watch TV – find something else to do. If you still want to snack, snack on something that has 100 or fewer calories.
So, our subject will be using all of these strategies and food types to help her reach her goals. If you are now or decide to be on a calorie-counting type diet, these strategies and foods strike me as being perfect for anyone wanting to change their relationship with food for the long term as well as wanting to lose weight gradually and deliberately.
To conclude our case study, here are 10 HEALTHY 100-CALORIE SNACKS provided by the web site to use at any snack-appropriate time:
- Any fresh fruit. Two cups of blueberries have fewer than 100 calories.
- Any steamed or raw vegetable, served alone or with fat-free dip, a 100-calorie serving of hummus or a 100-calorie serving of guacamole.
- A single-portion serving of cottage cheese, a cheese stick or one small plastic-wrapped cheese (such as Babybel).
- A 100-calorie single serving of microwave popcorn.
- A 100-calorie serving of nuts. (Think almonds or peanuts, not macadamias – more bang for the calorie buck, IMHO!)
- A 100-calorie pack of pretzels, baked chips or cookies (limit: one per day).
- A small yogurt.
- A hard-boiled egg.
- A granola bar (check the label for calories).
- A frozen treat like Arctic Zero bar, Jala Frozen Yogurt Bar or Skinny Cow Low Fat Fudge Bar. (This is not an endorsement of these products, and I receive no pecuniary benefit from mentioning them.)
(With thanks to Maricar Santos, https://www.workingmother.com/real-working-moms-share-how-find-time-stay-fit#page-4) and Laura Flynn McCarthy https://www.workingmother.com/content/no-excuses-get-fit-plan)
THE END – BUT JUST FOR NOW
So, there you go! Once again, a few ideas to get you started with what might be a new way of working out and eating. As with all significant changes in your eating, I encourage you to meet and work with your doctor for any appropriate medical guidance for your particular circumstances.
It is always my fond hope that you will find this information helpful, and I welcome and look forward to your comments, questions and feedback!
And remember — Fitness with Attitude, everyone!