Does Running Around Count? Three Ways to Start Working Out in 2009

by Amy Campbell Smith


A new year is about to dawn and we all know what that means. Resolutions!


For most people this involves list making. The enumeration of things to resolve; formal declarations of will regarding things we feel we should be accomplishing.


As in, the will to exercise regularly.


Exercise is on my list for 2009 and I state it in writing here so that my husband can see it, and with loads of compassion and without a hint of sarcasm, pull it out later as a gentle reminder should my willpower fail me.


The first question I asked myself was: does running around count? Working moms do A LOT of running around. I run my son to school. Then I run to the office. If I leave my desk at lunch, it is to run errands. Then I run reallyreally fast to pick up each boy at their schools and drive across town to pull into the driveway in time for the final stretch of the daily marathon: homework, dinner, baths, dishes, setting out clothes for tomorrow, and so on.


This sure seems like it ought to have cardiovascular benefits to counterbalance the stress of it all, but alas, it does not. I know this because if "running around" counted I'd have legs like Cameron Diaz and the butt of Jessica Biel.


I really would like to have a regular exercise routine. I love yoga. I don't mind the elliptical. I even once forced myself into a (short-lived) running habit. But the question for a working mother is when to fit it in? I'm pretty violently not a morning person, and a.m. exercise would require getting up very, very early to have enough time afterwards to shower and get ready for work. At lunch, by the time I get to the gym and change clothes, I've got 10 minutes before I have to shower and put work clothes back on. And what about my hair? Sweaty roots is not a look I can pull off. In the evening, after the boys have been at school and after-care, I can't take them to the gym playroom. They are tired and hungry and want to go home. I can't pick them up from one care center and dump them in another one while I exercise. Finally, at home after they are in bed, I could jump on the elliptical that is right there - in my house. But gosh that's asking a lot.


However, I must do this for my health, and so I'm searching for what will work for me. Here are three things I think I can work with:


1. Music. Everyone has songs they cannot resist! Music that makes you jiggle in your seat is a good sign. I put a notepad in my purse and started jotting down the peppy songs that make me smile and tap my toe, then put them on my iPod in an exercise playlist. I find it near impossible to do cardio without music that energizes me. Music can make all the difference.



I am not a morning person either but I have noticed that the days I don't exercise in the morning, I feel guilty and incomplete the entire day and keep feeling unfulfilled. A great way to get some exercise on days you just cannot do yoga or go to the gym is a 15-minute quick workout. 5 minutes of cardio (just put on your favorite song and dance for 5 minutes if nothing else), 5 minutes of weights (keep 3 or 5 pound weights at home) and 5 minutes of stretching. Doing this routine at least 3-4 times a week for 15 minutes before showering is a good way to stay in touch.


As a working mom, I swear by my pedometer. I wear it every day and aim for 10,000 steps. I was an avid exerciser before my daughter was born and I believe my pedometer, which I began wearing when I returned to work from maternity leave, is the only reason I've stayed in shape. Like many moms I found it damn near impossible to fit a workout in my day. With my little $5 pedometer I just try to fit more activity in each day. I park further away, I use the restroom on the top floor of the building next to my office, I pace around my office during conference calls. After a particularly low step day I occassionally even get out my old Reebok step and do the "basic step" while watching the Daily Show. Unless I go out for a real "walk" I rarely get to 10K steps but just having the pedometer on helps me gauge my overall activity level and allows me to make adjustments as needed. It's a life saver!


Here's the trick that has (mostly) worked for me the past few months: go right after daycare dropoff, before work. I head to daycare in sweats and carry my cloths. Then I HAVE to head somewhere with a shower. May as well get in 20-30 minutes in on the treadmill at the gym before showering... I'm not a morning person either, but this gives me enough time for caffeine intake before the gym but also doesn't interrupt the day at the office (I can never sneak away once I'm in). Early morning meetings are problematic, but I can avoid them enough to make it to the gym on most weekdays. if it cuts my workday too short, I can do a little more work from home at night (since I save time in the am by not showering until later)

It's a very delicate balance, but you can manage it! Good luck...


Great article! The activity that comes from shuttling around small children definitely is a good start. However, I agree that it is not enough. Fortunately, there is still a lot you can do WITH the kids: go to a swimming pool with your partner and take turns watching the kids and swimming laps. Get a bike seat or bike trailer for your bike and turn grocery shopping into a cardiovascular adventure. Teach them how to do abdominal crunches and do them together every day. They will not be able to do them, but watching the attempt is highly amusing. And take a family walk EVERY day. Best if you can put them in a stroller or wagon so you can really motor. If the weather's cold, just toss in a blanket and let them bring some stuffed animals from company.