Have you resolved to improve your health and reach your fitness goals this year? As a working parent, making a commitment to a new routine and lifestyle can be a challenge when you’re already juggling multiple personal and professional priorities. But while it takes some shifting—for you and your family—it is possible. Here’s how to make your health and fitness goals a priority in the new year:
Get the support you need.
To make a change that lasts long term, you need the whole family to be on board. Start by talking to your partner before committing to a new exercise routine or purging your kitchen pantry of sweets and snacks. Even if they don’t want to join you on your health and fitness journey, ask that they respect and support your goals. Be specific about what you need. This could be as simple as asking that they refrain from bringing unhealthy food into the home or that they are available to do the bedtime routine solo one or two nights a week so you can attend your favorite fitness class. Your nanny and regular sitters can provide support as well by taking on additional household responsibilities like grocery shopping and helping to prepare healthy meals or adding a few extra hours of childcare to their schedule each week.
Get in the habit of meal planning.
Meal planning not only helps ensure that your family is eating well, it will also save you time and money. Write out a weekly meal plan and use it to build your grocery list. Make an effort to try new recipes that are healthy and can be prepared quickly by you, your partner or a caregiver. After a month or two, you’ll have a bank of meals (and maybe some new family favorites) that can be reused when you’re too busy to plan.
Find some fitness options that are convenient for you.
Some people thrive on early morning workouts, while others prefer to exercise midday or in the evenings. Enjoying the outdoors while being active might appeal to you or finding camaraderie in a group fitness class could motivate you to keep showing up. While there are plenty of claims about the most effective kind of exercise and the best time of day for a workout, it doesn’t actually matter what you do or when you do it. What is important is that you figure out what type of activity you enjoy and find a convenient time and place to do it—you’ll be more likely to commit and less likely to come up with excuses to skip it.
Making a lifestyle change is difficult even under the best circumstances. But throw in a few skipped workouts or a day spent eating too many treats, and you might feel like you’ve completely undermined your health and fitness goals. Don’t let this kind of thinking derail your efforts. As much as planning, securing childcare and having a schedule will help you stay focused, you need to be prepared with back-up plans when your day (or week) gets off track. For example: Arm yourself with a few quick workouts that you can do at home when getting to your regular fitness class isn’t possible or freeze healthy meals that can be heated up for dinner on busy nights. Being prepared for hiccups will help ensure that you keep seeing results and stay motivated.
Remember: The whole family will benefit.
Whether you’re at the beginning of your health and fitness journey or you feel like you are starting over after spending years caring for babies and young children, it can seem like you have a long road in front of you. That can be discouraging, but it’s important to remember that putting your fitness and health goals higher on the priority list has benefits for the entire family. Committing to an exercise routine, taking time to care for yourself and eating nourishing foods will lead to happier, healthier and less-stressed out parents, which is good for everyone. Don’t forget that you’re also setting an example for your kids. If they see you eating healthy food and being active, it will be second nature for them to make the same choices. Your positive change will mean positive changes for the whole family.