Finding Time to Get Fit

Women Exercising W Balls

When Suezette Redfield was making her bucket list, she knew she wanted to do something that would really challenge herself.

So the Fuquay-Varina mom decided to participate in a triathlon. The kicker? Not only had she not ridden a bike in years, she didn’t know how to swim. But she didn’t let that stop her. “I signed up for swim lessons and I’m taking spin classes at the gym,” she says.

Those aren’t the only challenges she’s facing. With three school-aged kids and their busy schedules, Redfield is hard-pressed to find time to devote to working out as rigorously as she needs to train for the triathlon – but she gets creative when she has to.

“As soon as I get the last child out the door to school, I leave for the gym and take two hours in the morning to work out,” she says. During track-out from year-round school, she’ll try to take at least one child with her. “But lots of times I have to wait until evening to get a chance to work out,” she says. Weekends are time for the whole family to be active together, walking or going boating.

“It can be tough to balance training time with family time,” she admits. “It would be great to work out as long as I want, whenever I want. But you’ve got to think about what’s best for the family, and not just what’s best for you.”

It’s a common dilemma, says Kathy Kreis, wellness director at Clubworx in Fuquay-Varina. “Moms are usually going to put their family first, not themselves,” she says. “The important thing is to allot time to yourself every week without feeling guilty about it. At least one hour, three days a week, will make a big difference, and we need to do that.”

Whether you’re like Redfield and have a big training goal, or have lower-key targets – like losing baby weight or becoming more active before the big 4-0 – you need to have a plan. You need to set concrete goals. Having a solid idea of your workout plans will help you stick with the program – and achieve your goals.

Setting realistic goals

There’s a difference between a good goal and one that’s destined to tank. “Goals should be specific, measurable and achievable,” says Kelly Nordby, an instructor with Eat Smart, Move More, Weigh Less, an online program developed by the N.C. Division of Public Health and N.C. Cooperative Extension. Rather than saying, “I’m going to start working out,” make it more specific. Say, “I’m going to walk on the treadmill 30 minutes a day, three days a week.”

Romain Marriott, a personal trainer and group fitness instructor at the Cary YMCA, suggests breaking goals into several parts. “Set a six-week goal and a 12-month goal, for example,” she says. “And keep re-evaluating them. Ask yourself what made them work, what made them not work. That way, you’re not getting frustrated if you don’t achieve goals. You’re also finding out what works best for you.”

Making progress toward your goals

After setting specific goals, what’s the key to meeting them? Make sure you keep those goals a priority. “There are always going to be roadblocks,” Marriott says. “Kids have to get to their sports events, or they have homework, or you work full time, or your husband doesn’t support your goals. Moms put themselves on the back burner so often, but this is one of those times where you have to make yourself a priority.”

Sometimes it comes down to time management, Marriott says. Be honest about how you use your free time. If you fritter away a half-hour on Facebook, surely that time could have been spent with a few resistance training exercises, right?

Start off on the right foot to meet your fitness goals with the following tips:

*    Block off time. Grab your smartphone or the kitchen calendar and schedule your fitness time. Make it an unbreakable date, an appointment with a VIP. “Don’t give yourself excuses,” Nordby says. “Pack your workout bag the night before, bring your walking shoes to work, or take other steps to make it easy on yourself to keep your fitness plans.”

*     Reward yourself. Forget “no pain, no gain,” at least when it comes to rewarding yourself. “Plan on rewarding yourself when you reach your goal,” Marriott suggests. “If you meet your fitness goals, treat yourself. That’s probably something you’d do for your child who got a great report card. Do the same for yourself!” Get a great manicure, get together with your friends, or even splurge on a new workout outfit. Knowing there’s a “prize” when you reach your goal can make things more fun.

*     Seek motivation. At 76, Maggie Sullivan’s grandmother is doing great. “She can literally run circles around me and she’s on very little medication,” the Angier mom says. “My other grandmother never took care of herself, and she died young. But this grandmother is having a chance to enjoy her great-grandkids. She’s an inspiration to me, and that’s one reason I work out. I do it for my long-term health.”

*     Buddy up. Last fall, Raleigh mom Kerry Heckle joined a Fit-Tastic group sponsored by Rex Healthcare. She sent out the call to friends to see who wanted to join her, and Jill Weincek accepted the challenge.

“We each have two kids under the age of 4,” Heckle says. “Scheduling our workouts can be a bit of a juggle, but it’s great because we hold each other accountable.” They found having a workout partner goes beyond the “Hey, it’s six o’clock. You ready to go running?” reminder phone calls. Heckle and Weincek also reap the benefits of “girlfriend time,” and they share healthy recipes and de-stress together, too.

When goals slip away

Sometimes, just like New Year’s resolutions, goals just don’t quite get met. But don’t throw in the towel completely, Kreis says. These things happen. “Don’t beat yourself up about it,” she says. “Instead, think about what you have to change to reach your goals. Maybe your goal was too high to begin with, or maybe you didn’t think through what you’d have to do to achieve it.”

If you’re new to working out, you may have thought you’d see results faster. But even if you didn’t shed those 10 pounds pronto, stay the course. “Consistency is the key,” Kreis says. “What you’re really doing is changing your lifestyle and making sustainable changes. Look at other things, too, like your eating habits. Make sure they’re not sabotaging your hard work at the gym.”

Or, there may be physical obstacles, Marriott says. “If you haven’t worked out before, your knees might hurt, or suddenly you’ve got some muscle pain you’ve never had before,” she says. “People sometimes say, ‘Well, forget this, I can’t do it,’ and bail.”

If that’s the case, consult with a trainer or your doctor and ease up on your fitness goals. Or try a different approach. Maybe swimming is your ticket instead of running, for example. You can achieve your goals with baby steps just as well as you can reach them with giant leaps.

Jumping in

You set your goals. You found a workout partner. You laced up your sneakers and you’re ready to go. Now what? Jump in and start working toward that first goal, whether it’s going to your first spin class, walking and running around your neighborhood or lifting light weights.

“It’s normal to look around the gym and feel awkward or like everyone is more fit than you,” Marriott says. “But remember, everyone was where you are at some point. Everyone had to start somewhere.”

Do it for yourself – and do it for your family. “Sometimes I feel like, ‘Gosh, I’m taking another hour away from my family to go run,'” Heckle says. “But it’s so important to take care of you and foster your emotional and physical self.”

Besides, you might start a ripple effect that makes all the difference in your family’s health. “There’s a woman I know who ran for six months, and finally her husband wanted to join in,” Marriott says. “They did the Couch to 5K, and now they run together with their fifth-grade son. They were a sedentary family, and here’s one mom who decided to make a change for wellness and to be a better mom. Now the whole family is better for it.”  n

Kathleen M. Reilly is a Triangle-based freelance writer and mother.

October Fitness Events

PES Second Annual StrollerThon and 5K Run
Saturday, Oct. 1, Crowder District Park, Apex
5K run and fun family walk around Crowder Park.

Triangle Run/Walk for Autism
Saturday, Oct. 8, Moore Square, Raleigh
Competitive and noncompetitive 5K, a 1-mile run/walk and a Kids Dash event.

Ramblin’ Rose Women’s Half-Marathon
Sunday, Oct. 16
American Tobacco Campus, Blackwell Street, Durham
Women-only Ramblin’ Rose half-marathon for individuals and relay teams of two or three. Online registration for the Oct. 9 Ramblin’ Rose Women’s Triathlon in Chapel Hill has closed.

Get Heeled 5K Run and Family Walk
Saturday, Oct. 22, UNC Friday Center
100 Friday Center Dr., Chapel Hill
5K run and 1-mile family walk. Family fun registration package available. Benefits Get REAL &
HEEL, an exercise, recreational therapy, and mind- and body-strengthening program for breast cancer patients.
Paws for Life 5K-9 Road Race
Saturday, Oct. 22, 414 N. Main St., Wake Forest
5K run followed by a 1-mile walk for participants with their dogs.

Monster Dash 11
Sunday, Oct. 30, Cameron Village, 2000 Clark Ave., Raleigh
Family event includes a 1-mile fun run, 5K competitive run and 100-yard dash for ages 5 and under, as well as a costume contest.


Even if you were active in your younger days, becoming a mom can affect your days at the gym, says Kelly McLaughlin, a physical therapist and certified athletic trainer at Triangle Orthopedics in Apex. “During pregnancy, your ligaments stretch, and not just in your belly,” she says. “Your knee ligaments do, too.”
To prevent injury, McLaughlin suggests making sure you’re on a stable, even surface when you exercise. Also, be sure your kneecaps don’t travel past the tip of your toes during movements such as squats or lunges. And there’s another workout surprise: “Moms usually carry their kids on one dominant side,” she says. “That side will be stronger, and you could hurt the weaker side if you’re trying to do the same amount of weights before it’s built up to the same level.”
Women also need to see their health-care provider for physicals and routine check-ups, McLaughlin says. This not only helps develop appropriate exercise plans, but also is important for general health concerns.

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