10 tips to help busy mums stay healthy

woman lifts girl into the air inside house

With kids at our ankles and the pressures of everyday life, it’s all too easy to put ourselves last. We’ve enlisted the help of an expert – a personal trainer, who is also the mum of two boisterous boys, to give us a bunch of tips for staying healthy while we’re busy. We’ve got exercise tips, quick and easy healthy recipes and clever ways to carve out some ‘you time’ in the day – come and take a look, you owe it to yourself!

Jayne Leslie is a personal trainer with Fitness First, and mum to Ethan and Blake, and says she knows just how hard it is to juggle your own health and fitness and the needs of your family, and work.

“When looking after a family it’s very easy for mums to put themselves last, but how will you cope with your daily challenges when your body and mind aren’t functioning optimally? I know that when I’m tired and cranky it bounces off my kids and comes back to slap me! When I’m organised, exercised, well fed, and well slept I’m a calmer and happier mumma and generally this reflects back in my kids’ behaviour.”

Here are Jayne’s top tips for getting yourself healthier, and hopefully happier!

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1. Fitting in exercise

Sometimes we have to think outside the box when trying to make time for ourselves throughout the day. These are Jayne’s suggestions for finding your exercise time:

  • Early morning, in your lunch-break or while your little ones nap. Make the most of your free time in the day to get moving, maybe at the work gym, local park or in your lounge room or backyard.
  • Find a gym with a crèche so you can work out while the kids are looked after.
  • Exercise with the kids! Put bub in the running pram or play a game of tag with your older kids at a park. They will get fresh air and will love it. Good for everyone.
  • Schedule in blocks of time when your partner, mum or a friend can watch the kids and dedicate these to exercise. For example, at 7pm on Thursdays Jayne goes to yoga. Non-negotiable.

2. Some is better than none!

As with all things in life – you can only do what you can do. Jayne recommends moving for short bursts, like a couple of 30 minute blocks, or three 20 minute blocks – or even 10 or 15 minute bursts throughout the day.

“Be kind to yourself and have a No Guilt and No Giving Up attitude,” she encourages.

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3. Best exercises to do when your time is limited

Jayne’s top tip for making the best of your exercise time is to mix it up and go for intensity.

Work out how many times you will be able to dedicate to exercise each week and try some of these options:

  • Cardio intervals. Either outdoors or on the treadmill, try running/walking intervals of 30 seconds jogging, 30 seconds fast walking, and go for as long as you can or have the time available for. Fitter mums try intervals of jogging/sprinting, or add some hills to ramp it up. The rower, cross trainer and spin bike are other gym-based cardio options fantastic for interval training.
  • Resistance training focusing on compound movements (movements using multiple joints and therefore multiple muscles) to get more bang for your buck, or more benefit out of your limited time. Five of the best compound exercises are Squat, Deadlift, Push-Up/Bench Press, Bent Over Row and Dips. These can be done in a gym, outdoors, at home, and you can get creative with your type of weights – even your baby can be used!
  • Functional training – exercise based around movements performed in everyday life. Think about the things you do every day while caring for a family – lifting baby, reaching down to pick up things from the floor, lifting and moving the pram/shopping bags/screaming toddler in and out of the car, running after kids as they play/try to escape. You need to have a strong body to perform these movements effectively and avoid being injured. Combining running with push, pull, twist and balance movements in your training will build a body that can cope better with everyday life.

4. Make exercise simple and stay motivated

Mums are great at planning, so use this same skill to plan out your exercise time. Being organised can help you stay motivated and focused. Here’s how Jayne stays organised for her workouts:

  • See a personal trainer, where you can just turn up and do as you’re told. You’re accountable because someone is there specifically for you, and is tailoring your workout to meet your individualised needs.
  • Join some group fitness classes – Pump, Step, BodyAttack, Zumba, YogaBoxing, Outdoor Training – find the style you enjoy and be motivated by not having to plan your workout, being accountable to work out the whole 60 minutes because people will see you leaving (!) and maybe training with friends or meeting new people.
  • Have a written workout plan, so you have something to follow and can just focus on getting it done. Having a program written for you by a personal trainer who can tailor and progress it specifically to your needs is ideal, as they can also teach you the correct form when performing the exercises.

5. Try simple, effective exercises you can do anywhere – like these

  • Squat Press – Stand with your feet hip-width, feet facing forward, holding a weight (dumbbell, pot plant, baby etc.). Keeping your chest up and shoulders back, bend your knees until your thighs are parallel with the ground, then straighten your legs, raising the weight above your head. Come back to your starting position and repeat for 10-15 repetitions.
  • Lunge Clock – Weighted or bodyweight only, stand with your feet together. Step your right foot forward into a lunge position (both knees bent to 90 degrees) then drive up through your front foot to step back to your starting position. Step your right foot out to the side into a lateral lunge (right leg bent, left leg straight), then drive through the right to push back to starting position. Step your right foot behind you into a lunge, then return to the start. Repeat on the other side using your left leg. Work through five to 10 ‘clocks’ then rest.
  • Push-Up & Reach – Start in a push-up position, either on your toes or with knees on the floor, and hands about one-and-a-half shoulder widths apart. Keeping your body in a straight plank, either from shoulders to heels or from shoulders to knees, bend your arms until your chest touches the floor, then push back up. Raise your right arm straight up, reaching for the ceiling, then return to starting position. Alternating sides, work though 10-20 repetitions.
  • Supine March – Lie flat on your back with your feet off the floor, hips and knees bent at 90 degree angles. Draw your bellybutton in and flatten your lower back against the floor. Maintaining this spinal position, slowly lower one heel at a time to the floor. Work through as many sets of 20 reps you can do without your back arching off the floor.
  • Romanian Deadlift – Stand with your feet hip-width, feet facing forward. Your weight (kettlebell, washing basket, baby etc) is sitting between your feet. Slightly bend your knees, then lock your legs in this position. With your back straight and shoulders back, move your hips back as you reach down and pick up your weight, then return to the starting position, lifting the weight directly up. You should feel a stretch down the back of your legs and backside as you lean down, then contract these posterior chain muscles as you lift back to standing. Repeat for 10-15 repetitions. Try doing three sets of any of these movements, or even better, create a circuit by doing a set of each, one after the other. If you’re feeling even more energetic, add a short run between each exercise!

6. Stay nourished on the go with easy healthy snacks

Being prepared is key – and this goes for beating the munchies that creep up on you when you’ve been on the go all day. Jayne has some easy, go-to snacks that will have you filled with energy, not sugar!

  • Sliced green apple and ricotta with cinnamon
  • Hummus with vegie sticks and olives
  • Corn thins with chilli tuna and avocado
  • Sliced banana with one tablespoon of natural peanut butter
  • Plain yoghurt mixed with natural muesli

Jayne says, “These are all balanced with good amounts of carbs, protein and healthy fats to keep you satisfied longer than sugary, simple-carb laden snacks like biscuits and muffins and even just fruit on its own.”

7. Beat the afternoon slump and sugar cravings with a protein smoothie

There are certain times of the day that unhealthy snacks seem to beckon us. Jayne says: “This is when I love the smoothie. You can make one at home, or tell the juice bar the ingredients so you can have it whipped up for you when you’re out.”

Here are her top five quick and easy recipes for energy-packed nourishing power smoothies:

Green Power Punch

  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup chopped kale
  • 30g vanilla HWPI protein powder
  • 1 cup almond milk

Mango and Raspberry Delight

  • ½ cup coconut water
  • ½ cup frozen mango
  • ½ cup frozen raspberries
  • 30g vanilla HWPI protein powder

Banana Bounty

  • 1 banana
  • 2 tbsp shredded coconut
  • 200ml almond milk
  • 30g chocolate HWPI protein powder

Green Goddess

  • ¼ avocado
  • ½ banana
  • 200ml almond milk
  • 1 tsp honey
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 handful baby spinach

Strawberry Supreme

  • ½ cup fresh or frozen strawberries
  • 1 tbsp plain yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp flax seeds
  • 200ml almond milk
  • 30g vanilla HWPI protein powder

Note from Jayne: HWPI stands for Hydrolysed Whey Protein Isolate – the most easily absorbed and complete protein available.

8. Have dinner for lunch

This tip is not only a great way to stay healthy, it’s a time-saver! Simply make extra dinner the night before, and eat it for lunch the next day.

9. Plan your healthy family meals for the week in advance to stay on track

Again, organisation is key when it comes to food – and in particular when cooking for the family. Jayne recommends setting aside one day a week to plan family dinners and buy the ingredients, so you don’t get caught on the hop during the week and resort to take-away.

These are two of Jayne’s favourite, super-easy meals:

Slow-Cooked Roast Lamb

  •  Lamb Mini Roast
  • 1 cup organic liquid vegetable stock
  • 1 large sweet potato, chopped
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • sprig fresh rosemary
  • 2 green apples, chopped
  • ½ cup raisins or currants

Slow-cook on low for eight hours (I either turn on the slow-cooker in the morning so dinner is ready by the night, or when I go to bed so it’s ready when I wake up). Serve on its own, or with basmati rice or couscous.

Savoury Mince with Chunky Vegies

  • 500g beef mince
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 zucchini
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1 punnet cherry tomatoes
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 yellow squash
  • 1 red capsicum
  • 1 sachet Celebrate Health Tuscan Meatball Sauce

Heat oil in a large saucepan. Brown mince, then add all the veggies which you have coarsely chopped into chunky pieces. When veggies have started to soften, add sauce, stir and simmer for a further two minutes.

Ways to enjoy your Savoury Mince:

  • on top of gluten free toast
  • as a pasta sauce (add parmesan)
  • with broken up Corn Thins as ‘Nachos’ (add avocado)
  • with rice (add coriander)
  • with couscous
  • in a wrap as burritos (add avocado)

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10. Aim to reduce stress

Although this is easier said than done, Jayne says it’s key to ensuring a balanced, healthy life.

“Stress is a killer, and often has horrible, draining effects like headaches, anxiety, fatigue, trouble sleeping… the list goes on. Stay calm, happy and healthy by trying some of these stress-reducing techniques.”

  • Nourish your body with regular, healthy meals and plenty of water.
  • Move your body daily, to get your blood pumping, muscles working and feel-good hormones flowing. Be careful not to over-exercise though! Listen to your body and if you’re too fatigued, take it easier.
  • Aim for at least eight hours of quality sleep per night, and if you need to, rest during the day. Don’t feel guilty about letting your wellbeing take priority over other tasks. Without proper rest we don’t repair properly physically or psychologically.
  • Less caffeine and less sugar! These drugs spike highs in our body that then lead to crashes – reduce them to maintain a more stable balance in your body’s hormones and in turn your mind and ability to cope.
  • Try relaxation exercises like walks in the fresh air, meditation or yoga. Be kind to yourself – accept that there are things you cannot control and try to have a positive attitude.

Fitness First are offering a free Three Day Pass especially to Babyologists so you can take charge of your health in a way that suits your lifestyle. Check it out at Fitness First.

(This is a sponsored post for Fitness First)

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