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Busy moms' guide to fitness

Many busy moms have a hard time working an exercise routine into their already jampacked days. But MomsMiami consulted some experts about simple ways to get a workout, even if you have no time for the gym.

HOW TO GET STARTED

* Exercise in short bursts. Do something active for 10 minutes at a time, said Carole Wood, group exercise director at Midtown Athletic Club in Weston. “Something is better than nothing,” she says. “Vacuum the floors, walk to the mailbox or do lunges on the way to the laundry room.”

* Know that it's not all or nothing. People think if they come in here and work out for two hours a day, they will lose more weight,” said Almir Ocanto, a trainer at Bally Total Fitness in Miami. “You can exercise for 20 minutes a day, three times a week and stay in shape.”

MORE ONLINE TIPS 

Moms in Motion: Join or start a team to help you reach your fitness goals.Family Education: Lots of good exercise tips.

* Reward yourself. No, not with a hot fudge sundae. If you walk for an hour, treat yourself to an hour’s reading time or your favorite TV program.

* Know that it's not all about fitting into your jeans. “It’s a preventative thing - it’s not just aesthetic,” said Sandy Jiminez, a trainer at LA Fitness in Miami. Exercise can decrease your risk of heart disease, diabetes and a host of other health problems.

* Set short-term goals. If you want to lose a pound a week, you need to burn 500 calories a day, or a good 30-minute cardio workout, Jiminez says.

Don’t be afraid of weight training. “It will not make ladies look big or muscular,” Jiminez said. It will, however, tone muscles, which will increase the calories you burn, even when you’re sleeping.

EATING SMART

MORE DIET TIPS 

Some good websites packed with nutrition and diet information: 

  • Sparkpeople.com has free diet and fitness plans, along with planners and reports.
  • NeverSayDiet, a new site from iVillage.com, has all kinds of great information, including a Snack Swapper, in which you type in what you're craving, and it gives you a healthier alternative.
  • GoodHousekeeping.com's Diet Matchmaker compares all the popular diets so you can see if you can live with any of them.

"Watch what you eat. “You can do all the exercise in the world, but if you’re sitting around eating chips and chocolate bars, it won’t do a thing,” Jiminez said.

* Vary your diet. Take a look at your plate. Does it have foods in a variety of colors? If not, your diet is not varied enough.

* Don't starve. Eat small, frequent meals all day.

* No junk. Avoid crinkly bags. Instead of reaching for a crinkly bag of junk at 3 p.m., reach for fruit or lowfat yogurt, Jiminez says.

FIND THE TIME

You can squeeze in some exercise, whether you spend the day at home or at work.

At Work:

If you work outside the home, it adds to the challenge of squeezing in me-time, much less anything that will break a sweat. But there are a few ways to do it:

* Take a walk. Lunch may only take 15 minutes to eat. Use the extra 45 minutes to hit the pavement, advises Rebecca Kelly, a trainer at Midtown.

* Have a ball. As in, trade in your desk chair for a stabilizing ball. Sit on one of these large rubber balls behind your desk, and you’ll work leg and core muscles, Kelly said.

* Take the stairs.

* Post some sticky notes to remind yourself of good desk stretches and to maintain good posture, says Lisa Druxman, author of Lean Mommy.

* Set an alarm every hour to get up and take a walk, stretch your limbs and give your eyes a break, says Miami fitness guru Jessica Smith.

At Home:

* Raid your pantry and fridge -- for weights, not snacks. Look for half-gallon milk jugs, bags of flour, anything hefty you can lift to tone muscles, Kelly said.

* Set up a plan. Set aside a space and time for exercise, whether you put on a video, hop on the treadmill or walk around the block, Jiminez suggests.

* Make it measurable. If you walk, time how long you go, and note the distance, so you can work on increasing it, Jiminez says.

* Join other moms. “The group dynamic makes you realize that you’re not alone,” said Druxman, who created Stroller Strides, exercise classes that pair strolling your kids with an instructor for a full-body workout. For a list of South Florida classes, click here.

* Get out of the house. Meet friends at a park for a walk, or split the cost of a trainer to learn exercises you can do later, Smith said. “It’s much easier to cancel on yourself than to cancel on a friend,” she said.

* Cut your own grass. “You’re paying somebody to cut your lawn, when it could be free exercise for you,” said Julie Snyder, sports medicine program director at Keiser University in Fort Lauderdale. “Prune your own trees. Clean your pool and your deck.”

* Take advantage of the weather. “In South Florida, we’re the luckiest part of the nation, weather-wise,” Snyder said. “Get outside, exercise and get some fresh, clean air. You’ll release stress, fight anxiety and depression and empower yourself.”

GET THE FAMILY ACTIVE

Wood dances with her kids. Kelly plays T-ball and badminton with hers. Or she’ll Rollerblade or jog while the kids ride their bikes.

* Involve kids in workouts. Kelly has a set of green 2-pound weights for her son, and a pink set for her daughter. Everyone has their own yoga mat. “Then it becomes a family thing,” she said. “That way, you don’t feel guilty about not spending time with your kids, and about not working out.”

* Use playground time. Play 123 Redlight, tag or basketball. Kick some balls around a field. “You don’t have to be a great athlete to get some exercise,” Druxman says. "Find ways to make exercise fun and playful.”

* Get out the video games. But not the ones that just work your thumbs. Wii Fit, Wii Sports and Dance, Dance Revolution will get the whole family up and moving. “It’s not as much exercise as going out and playing soccer, but research is showing that kids who play these games are more interested in the real sport, and they’re better at them,” Druxman said.

* Exercise all day. Do squats while picking up toys. Do pushups over your baby and give him kisses. Balance on one leg while brushing your teeth, Smith suggests.

* Find a good video. Decide what you want to do: Strength training? Dance? Ab work? Then figure out how much time you’re willing to spend doing it, said Smith, who recently released a 10 Minute Solutions: Quick Tummy Toners video.

HOW TO MOTIVATE YOURSELF

* Find a buddy. It helps keep you accountable, and keeps you from getting lazy.

“When you choose someone to work out with, find someone with similar interests and motivation,” Kelly said.

* Make it a priority. It's your health, after all.

“Moms don’t take enough care of themselves, just ask any mom,” Druxman said.

* A good example. If you don’t do it for yourself, do it for your kids.

“Kids are not going to learn from school, friends or TV, they’re going to learn to take care of themselves from you,” Druxman said.

* Take baby steps. “We tend to overcomplicate life. Take baby steps. When you look to make a health plan for yourself, people try to do things so hard and so fast,” Druxman said. “If you try to change one small thing at a time, such as drinking more water or eating more vegetables, you’re more likely to stick with it.”

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