In parking lots all across America, parents high-five each other while overflowing cups of coffee spill onto freshly pressed dress pants. The first day of school bell rings like songs of joy in our hearts.
Though it’s great to get back to your regular scheduled programming, one thing that comes along with a new school years is a crazy schedule. Whether you are a working or stay-at-home parent, the calendar fills up fast and daytime hours seem to fly by like jets.
As a working mom of two growing kiddos, I know this story all too well. Sports, music, friends, and all the fun after school activities add up to a crammed calendar and exhausted parents.
But they are worth every lost moment of sleep.
The busier you get the more important it is to stay on top of your fitness and nutrition regimen—which sounds like the ultimate conundrum. We get so busy that we don’t have time to take care of ourselves, right?
Or is that just some lame excuse? Perhaps time is a precious commodity, so rather than throwing in the towel until soccer season ends (does it ever truly end?) it’s time to get smart about how you manage your workout and eating routine.
These are my top tips for staying in tip-top shape as the school year begins. Get a handle on it now and your new routine will be a breeze.
And so it begins...
Plan ahead. It seems obvious but planning is everything. On Sunday evening sit down with the family and check out the weekly calendar. On your busiest night, be sure to have something prepared ahead of time. Try to cook big meals that last more than a day, and have quick-grab foods that you can easily heat up or toss together for nights when you get home late.
Pack a cooler. Whether it’s for breakfast, lunch, or dinner packing a cooler staves off any temptation to hit the drive-thru (we know bad things can happen if you go to the drive-thru too often). Have ready-made items available like chopped veggie sticks, precut fruit, boiled eggs, cans of tuna, turkey slices, nuts, yogurts, and other yummy good-for-you foods packed with vitamins, minerals, and protein. If you are stuck poolside during swim practice have dinner in your lawn chair rather than rushing home to throw a frozen pizza in the oven.
Schedule dining out. There is nothing wrong with dining out, even if it’s fast food. It becomes a bad habit when you default to eating out rather than at home. The best way to save your budget and your waistline is to plan ahead when you will eat out. Decide with your family how many times per month or week you will dine out as a family. Decide which days you will do this and stick to it. Figure out healthy choices ahead of time so you don’t spend the night driving in circles because no one can agree on a restaurant.
Be OK with simple. Everyone enjoys your leg of lamb, but that’s not a practical Wednesday night meal (if it is, I’m on my way over!). Serve your family chef’s salad, scrambled eggs with pancakes, or grilled turkey on rye with tomato soup for dinner. Simply meals can take less than 20 minutes to prep, which is about the amount of time you spend sitting in the fast food line during the dinner rush. If you have time on the weekends, prepare salads, grill protein and chop it up for different meals, and cook a batch of beans, rice, or potatoes to serve on the side. You can work wonders with a few simple ingredients.
Treat snacks like meals. It’s easy to default to snacking at the end of the day—especially if you didn’t get enough to eat during your three main meals. Rather than plowing through a bag of caramel corn like a ravenous circus clown, treat your snacks like a fourth meal. Make sure if you do snack during the day or in the evening that you include a quality protein source, a health fat or carb, and something that comes from a garden or orchard. In other words, every time you eat it should look like a complete meal, not a snack food isle.
Redefine workouts. Ah, summer. When the kids are at camp and you can lavishly peruse the gym for hours several times a week. Gone. Now you are rushing out the door with only one eye fluffed in mascara and the ever-coveted one slipper/one pump style that every mom sports at least once in her life. So, your workouts might not be an hour. They might not even happen in the gym. Deal with it.
Find time in your day to exercise, even if it’s two minutes. Seriously. Look at your calendar and write down when you have time to workout. Then do it. Got thirty minutes to see who was voted off the Bachelorette? Grab a pair of bands and a yoga mat. Do the kids sit down for an hour of homework? Do squats and push-ups in between math problems. It’s easy to skip workouts, but you feel worlds better when you squeeze in a little movement everyday.
Buddy up. I’m a sport mom. I can spot a sports field mom from a mile away. She’s usually in dressed in what resembles workout attire. She’s usually camped out in a folding chair surrounded by other moms who liked oddly identical. Wait? This is the perfect situation to start a moms walking group. Or a fun fitness boot camp. If you’re stuck at practice gather a couple other parents and get moving. Chat about your day, catch up on life, laugh, and get in some mileage on those fancy Nikes.
Get help. No, not a therapist. I usually suggest that closer to May when summer is approaching. I am sure as a parent you are often giving, giving, giving. You give to your neighbors, your sister, your kids’ teachers, your friends, your fellow countrymen. Well, guess what? Those people want to give back to you. Someone somewhere is willing to lend a hand so you can check out that new hot yoga studio or head to the gym for 45 minutes. All you need to do is ask. I bet ten heads will nod with a YES because they know you will return the favor-- or the already owe you ten.
Be kind to yourself. You do a lot. You care about a lot of people and you work really hard to make others happy—to give them good life experiences. Remember to do the same for you. A healthy parent is a happy parent. And a happy parent means a happier family. Putting yourself first doesn’t mean you neglect everyone else. It’s not a selfish act. It’s a kind act. It’s something those who love you want you to do. Even if it’s ten minutes a day.
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