7 tips for finding time to exercise

How to find time to exercise in a busy life

Like many of you I have a life that feels full. Full of the wonderful, demanding and chaotic time with my family, full of the mundane  housework and shopping, full of amazing friends with whom I can spend some precious adult time. I am fortunate to currently be on maternity leave but soon the pressures and commitment that come with work will intensify the demands on my time.

I am lucky to have all these things clamouring for my time. I may not always feel this when I’ve been up at night with a grumpy baby, trying to cook dinner and entertain a toddler who often needs a potty trip at inopportune moments, but I am grateful that life challenges me to balance so many things on a daily basis.

Finding time to exercise is just another of the challenges resultant from a busy life .

Actually this is a two-part challenge – firstly motivation to exercise is required ( I find this motivation occasionally goes into hiding somewhere under a pillow, much as I would like to after a bad nights sleep).

Secondly, I need time to put this motivation into practice.

I’ll be looking at motivation to exercise later this week, but here are some practical ways to exercise when time is very precious.

7 tips for finding time to exercise

1. Short workouts at home: As the name of my blog implies just finding ‘ten minutes spare’ is often enough to achieve something worthwhile. When I am really struggling to find adequate time I do a ten minute exercise routine that doesn’t require any equipment at home.

2. Exercise DVDs: I’ve already written a little about my experience of learning Pilates at home using exercise DVDs. There are also numerous youtube videos to keep you motivated without needing to attend a gym class.

3. Early morning exercise: At the moment my precious sleep is frequently interrupted by baby Pumpkin so there is little chance of me voluntarily getting out of bed before he is awake. Mr R, however, often does a workout first thing in the morning before the chaos commences for the day.

4. Easily accessible exercise equipment:  Mr R has a bar for pull-ups over a door frame in our house. Glamorous it may not be, not practical and easily accessible it certainly is!

5. Running: I do find that this is one of the most time efficient ways to exercise, its quicker to simply on a pair of trainers and get out the door than to attend a gym. It’s also possible to go whenever you have a spare moment rather than struggling to make a timed class or group.

6. Cycling to work: I am currently on maternity leave but Mr R cycles to work once a week.

7. Walking: I walk on a daily basis, usually pushing a heavy double pushchair. This is not something I would have considered exercise pre-children, but I do now count it as physical exertion. Extra credit if done with a shopping-laden pushchair, one-handedly, whilst clutching a toddlers hand, with a baby strapped to the chest (yes I have done this…on more than one occasion)

Exercise as a new Mum brings extra challenges. Your body has undergone immense changes and it is advisable to wait until after the 6 week post-natal check before commencing a formal exercise regime. Once you have the go-ahead to start working-out the following are some of the options for exercising with a baby.

  • ‘Bring your baby’ exercise classes: There are often local classes organised for Mummies where baby’s can be brought into the exercise room. There are also some classes where babies can be worn in slings
  • Gyms with crèche facilities
  • Outdoor classes where you can exercise with a buggy
  • Home workouts with your baby. I have enjoyed reading the baby wearing workout from breaking muscle.com. I have never personally done any formal exercises whilst baby-wearing, but simply carrying your baby is in itself a form of exercise.

I am constantly inspired by some of my amazing friends and acquaintances who have achieved fantastic exercise and health related goals in their busy lives. Later this week I will be writing about motivation to exercise, which consists of having goals and inspiration. I am blessed to have both reasons to want to remain physically fit and to be surrounded by inspiration.

30 Second Summary: Finding time and motivation to exercise can be a challenge. Here are 7 tips for fitting exercise into a busy life.

Please do let me know if you have any tips for how you manage to find time to exercise in your life when things are busy? I always enjoy reading your comments.

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Parkrun

5k Parkrun

On Saturday I ventured out into the wind and cold voluntarily before 9am. Actually the time is irrelevant. As to a Mummy with two little ones 5am is a bit early, 9am is most certainly not.

The wind and the cold were braved in order for me to participate in a 5k parkrun. This marks the first timed run in which I have taken part since having baby Pumpkin.

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For those of you who have never heard of parkruns, these are fantastic weekly organised runs that happen in many locations around the country. The events are free and open to runners of all ages and abilities. They usually take place on a Saturday morning around 9am, often through picturesque locations.

How to take part in a Parkrun

Prior to taking part in a parkrun you need to register online. A unique bar code is then generated and you print this and take it to the run.

My local Parkrun takes place on the Whitely Bay Links Common, this is a pretty green area adjacent to the sea front. The course is a mixture of gravel and tarmac paths and involves a couple of small inclines.

What is it like to take part

  • My local parkrun this week had 302 participants!
  • The fastest runner completed the 5k run in a fairly quick 17 minutes 23 seconds
  • The slowest few runners all finished in just under an hour
  • During my run I was overtaken by 2 dads pushing pushchairs.
  • I ran past several children (and was overtaken by a couple too!).
  • I saw several dogs running alongside their owners too.

Forever Young

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Overall it is a really inclusive event. The Parkrun is supervised by voluntary marshals, who point you in the right direction and provide friendly support as you run.

Results

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Later on the day of the Parkrun you receive your results via email. This gives you your time, gender position, overall position and also age grading. You can also look them up online and will see a list of all of the participants and their times.

The age grading is a cleaver score that allows you to compare yourself against someone of a different gender or different age. The higher the score the better the performance. These scores are calculated as a percentage against the world record for your gender and age group.

My experience

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On saturday, I completed the 5k distance feeling tired but not exhausted. I was a whole 4 minutes slower than my personal best so plenty of room for improvement. This still represents a huge achievement for me.

**NOTE: For those of you who feel uncomfortable, or uncomprehending at the term ‘pelvic floor’ I suggest you skip these last two paragraphs***

After having Pumpkin the weakness of my abdomen (diastasis recti) also caused weakness of my pelvic floor and a uterine prolapse. Running is one of the activities that may exacerbate a prolapse. Fortunately for me this has now resolved. I’m not going to go into any more details now, but suffice to say I am delighted to be able to run with all my organs in their correct anatomical position.

So on Saturday morning I could have stayed at home, having a calm family morning with my two angelic children. Or more realistically a chaotic, noisy morning full of laughter and the occasional tantrum. Instead I thoroughly enjoyed my 5k run, despite the wind and the cold, and am immensely grateful to have been physically able to participate.

30 Second Summary: Parkruns are free 5k running events that take place on weekend mornings in various locations throughout the country. The runs are friendly and inclusive of all ages and abilities. The results system is thorough and allows a participant to easily track their progress against themselves and other competitors.

Do you have any experience of parkruns or other 5k runs? Or like me have you had any injuries or complications that have made running more challenging? Do leave any thought in the comments section.
Further information

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Pilates for Diastasis Recti

Anyone else not know their ‘Downward Dog’ from their ‘Hundred’? Confused about the difference between Pilates and yoga? Or perhaps like me struggling with a mummy tummy or diastais recti after pregnancy and wondering what might help? 

Why I started Pilates

I have written a little already about my experience of diastais recti. 

After the birth of Pumpkin I experienced:

  • Difficulty sitting up from a reclined position
  • Discomfort coughing or sneezing 
  • Difficulty lifting anything including my baby!
  • Pelvic floor weakness
  • A excessively rounded tummy despite very little weight gain during pregnancy.

I had a five finger breath diastais recti and wore an abdominal support for several weeks with physiotherapy input for 3 months.

My experience is probably just more extreme than that faced by many women as their bodies adjust after pregnancy. 

Here I’m going to write about some of my ongoing exercises after my diastais had significantly improved. After finishing physiotherapy it was recommended that I continued regular exercise at home. One of the things that was specifically recommended was for me to do some Pilates.

I now have a couple of DVDs and try to do a Pilates workout at home at least once a week.

Photograph of women with diastasis recti after finshing Pilates exercise at home

I’d never done any Pilates before this and to be quite honest I wasn’t even sure of this difference between this and yoga. I also wasn’t sure why Pilates was particularly recommended for helping recovery from diastasis recti.

This is my understanding of it now.

About Pilates

Pilates was created by Joseph Pilates in the 1900’s from a mixture of Western forms of exercise, yoga and martial arts. Therefore there are many similarities between yoga and Pilates, however essentially yoga has a spiritual side that Pilates does not.

Reported benefits of Pilates

(Please notes these benefits are consensus of experts on the internet rather than formal research trials. According to NHS choices very few of the health benefits of Pilates have been subjected to rigorous scientific examination)

  • Improved coordination and balance
  • Improved strength
  • Exercises easily modifiable for complete beginners or experts
  • Stress Relief
  • Improved core strength
  • Improved flexibility

Pilates and Diastasis Recti

Pilates is thought to help some women with diastasis recti as it focuses on engaging the transverse abdominal muscles.

A diastais recti is a separation of rectis abdominus  (the six pack muscle) due to stretching of the linea alba, the connective tissue, joining it together. Any exercises that cause stressing of the two sides of this muscle may prevent the separation from healing.

Examples of potentially unhelpful exercises

  • traditional sit ups
  • crunches
  • roll ups/downs
  • bicycle

My experience of unhelpful exercises

I was taught to check if an exercise might be unhelpful by looking for ‘doming’ of my tummy. In the early days after having Pumpkin everyday activities such as having a cough would cause my stomach to budge. However by the time I’d finished physiotherapy I could perform exercises such as the bicycle by ensuring that my transverse muscles were engaged.

Why Pilates may be helpful for anyone with Diastasis recti

In Pilates every time you exhale you should focus on the position of the deep abdominal muscles and pelvic floor. This focus and awareness of the activation of appropriate muscles is, in my experience, the most helpful thing about Pilates for someone with a diastasis.

During my home workouts I do still find certain movements that cause doming of my abdomen, however, because I am constantly reminded to check that my core muscles are appropriately activated, I can quickly identify if an exercise is suitable.

The evidence for use of Pilates for healing diastasis recti

It was recommended that I used Pilates by a very helpful and sensible NHS physiotherapist. I respected all the advice she gave me with regards to healing my diastasis and I have no doubt that I would not be anywhere close to as fit as I am now without her input. However, I have not found any actual researched evidence about the usefulness of Pilates for anyone with diastasis recti. This implies that the suggestion that Pilates is helpful for this condition is possibly based on consensus of opinion rather than researched trials. Of course I am not an expert in this matter and would be delighted to hear from anyone who knows of any researched trials.

Final thoughts

My personal experience is that I really enjoy the Pilates workouts that I do at home. I find the occasional exercise that causes doming of my abdomen but because Pilates has taught me a grater awareness of activating the appropriate core muscles it is easy to identify and substitute a different one instead.

30 Second Summary: Pilates is sometimes recommended for women with Diastasis Recti. I have found the exercises enjoyable and overall helpful in engaging my transverse abdominus muscles.

Further Information

Please do let me know if you have any experience of Pilates and if it something you have found to have any particular health benefits?

Why do Squats with a kettlebell?

Squats with Kettlebell

IMG_0867This week I thought maybe I’d try to learn something new for my workout post. I often stick to roughly the same routines and runs so I thought why not use the blog as an excuse to try something new?

I’ve always been slightly intimidated by kettlebells. I only usually use really light hand-weights (only up to 3kg!), but I’ve always wanted to try as Mr R uses a kettlebell as part of his routines.

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So I asked Mr R to show me how to do the most simple exercise he could think of with the kettlebell. He picked squats.

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How to do body weight squats

  • Stand with feet hip distance apart
  • Push body weight backwards whilst bending knees
  • Raise hands out in front for balance, parallel to the ground with palms downwards
  • Don’t let knees go over toes
  • When the bottom starts to stick out, keep spine neutral – don’t let it curve.
  • Aim to get legs parallel (at 90 degrees) to the floor.

Actually when I was researching technique for squats (to be sure I’ve been doing them properly!) I have found debate on-line about the benefits of full squats versus the version above which are half squats. I’ve always done half squats and from what I understand there is debatable risks to the knees by doing the full version. However I did find this very interesting site advocating doing the full squat over the half squat.

Why to do squats

  • Bottom toning
  • Non- impact so gentle on the back, knees and ankles
  • Improved balance
  • Tones muscles in the leg
  • Burns calories
  • Improves core stability

Why to do kettlebell squats?

A bodyweight squat strengths primarily the lower body, back and core. By adding in a kettlebell the arms and shoulders also get a workout.

How to do kettlebell squats

  • Hold kettlebell in front of, and close to, chest with two hands.
  • Lower into squat position as detailed above whilst holding kettlebell close to the chest
  • Keep elbows tucked in.
  • Rise up again and repeat motion

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How I coped with doing kettlebell squats

Actually as you can see by my posture in this picture I found it surprisingly MUCH harder than a weight free squat. I couldn’t squat with my legs quite parallel to the floor and certainly couldn’t maintain it long enough to take a picture!

I also struggled to keep my back in a neutral position.

Overall I’m glad to have discovered the benefits of squats with added weights. I’m going to try adding a hand weight first and might work up to using a kettlebell regularly. I’m also hoping Mr R will show me a few other kettlebell exercise now that I’m no longer intimidated by them.

30 Second Summary: Squats are a great exercise for the lower body and core, adding in a kettlebell also works out the arms and shoulders. However, its important to only use weights if you can continue to squat with the proper technique.

Have any of you had any experiences of using a kettlebell? Or like me have you been a bit intimidated of trying out new bits of equipment? I’d love to hear any comments.

Mums' Days

10 minute abdominal exercises

Trying to find time to exercise

I’m sure lots of you will relate to my  struggle to find time to exercise. As I’ve written previously I had a significant diastasis recti after giving birth so it’s really important for me to keep looking after my tummy muscles. If I have a week without core exercises I can feel the diastasis gap widening again. I know not only does this mean my core and pelvic floor are weaker but it also has cosmetic implications. My tummy starts to bulge out again and I can go from being my usual size 6-8 to looking about 6 months pregnant on a bad week!

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So…..I am also a huge fan of 10 minute workouts at home. I’m going to share one of my basic abdominal exercise routines taking around 10 minutes. There is no equipment is required. You will also note that I don’t include any crunches only because I still really find these difficult to do without causing stress on my diastasis recti.

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Please note: Although I can just about do most of these exercises now, if any of you have issues with diastasis recti I would strongly recommend getting a professional to show you how to engage your transverse muscles when exercises and also how to check whether you are getting any doming of your abdomen (which is a sign the recti diastasis is under stress).

I aim to perform each exercise for around a minute.

10 minute Abdominal Workout

1. Plank

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  • Lie on front
  • Push up onto your elbows (forearms remain touching the floor)
  • Try to hold in tummy muscles and also don’t stick your bum in the air!
  • Try to keep the whole body in a straight line.
  • Hold for as long as possible – up to a minute

2. Bicycle

  • Lie on back with knees  and hips bent at 90 degrees and feet off the floor
  • Reach right elbow towards left knee and straighten right leg at the same time
  • Repeat with left arm towards right knee
  • Continue to alternate arms and legs for up to a minute
  • (this sounds really complicated but its not once you’ve started!)

3. Side plank left

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  • Lie on left side
  • Push up onto left elbow and keep hips in straight line
  • Hold for as long as possible – up to 1 minute

4. Side plank right

  • Lie on right side
  • Push up onto right elbow, keep hips in line with the rest of the body
  • Hold for as long as possible up to a minute

5. Alternate Arm/leg stretch (Mr R calls this the superman)

  • Knee onto all fours
  • Lift left arm and right leg off the ground and stretch them at 90 degrees to body
  • Return to start position and repeat with other arm and leg.
  • Continue to repeat with alternate arms and legs.

6. Plank with toe taps

  • Get into plank position
  • Hold position and lift left foot just off the ground. Tap immediately back down again and repeat with right foot.
  • Continue to tap from left to right foot for as long as possible up to a minute.

7. Double leg circles (this one can be tricky….if its too difficult just make smaller circles!)

  • Lie on back
  • Stretch both legs into air – at 90 degrees to body
  • Keeping feet together move legs around in a slow circle
  • Continue for as long as possible up to a minute

8. Side plank push ups (30 seconds each side)

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  • lie on side with knees slightly bent
  • Raise hip off ground (as if doing a sideways push up!)
  • Lower and repeat as many times as possible – up to 30 seconds then switch sides

9. Scissors

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  • Lie on back
  • Raise left leg off ground
  • Lower back to ground and as the heel taps down lift right leg
  • Continue to alternate legs for as long as possible up to a minute.

10. Stretch!

Please let me know if any of you also have experience with diastasis recti or anyone also struggling to find time to exercise?

Mums' Days