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By: John Adams, writer of and dad of two young daughters
Posted on: Jan 31, 2019

How do you find time for working out with a young family?

Five Tips for starting an exercise program

I looked in the mirror. I didn't look that bad, especially for my age, but I knew I wasn't getting any younger. I often found myself feeling sluggish and a little tired, despite being a frequent runner. Was I, however, quite the runner I thought I was? When I thought about it, I hadn't run anywhere or participated in anything like interval training for about three months.

I lead a busy life as a dad. I’m the at-home-parent while my wife goes out to work. I do work for myself when my children are at school, but in between my freelance work, housework, helping the kids with school work and so on, I wasn’t doing the exercise I should be. It can be difficult to find the balance that allows for regular exercise when you have a young family.

This all happened last year. I knew my focus on exercise had to change.

Several months later, after implementing a workout plan, I am in better shape. I feel fitter, I sleep better and my wife has even commented that I am developing a six pack, so I know i'm decreasing body fat (it's more of a four pack at the moment, but I'm working on it!). The key to this has been finding the time to work out. It's taken me a little while to realise that it takes discipline to stick to an exercise program. Once I learned that and prioritised it, I stuck to my program and achieved results.

How can you find the time to work out for weight loss and to improve your fitness? Here are some ideas based on my experience that I hope you find useful.

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Choose your exercise carefully

If you simply want aerobic activities, you can go running or use a treadmill at home. This is flexible and easier to fit around family life. If the climate is warm where you are, brisk walking or running outside can serve the same purpose. I use an exercise rig to keep my upper body in shape and a recumbent exercise bike for aerobic exercise while occasionally going for short runs. This works well for me.

You may want to go swimming or use a gym for exercise classes. This is great, but you will need to allow time to travel so keep this in mind. Or, if team sports or exercise with a group of people are your thing, you’ll have the benefit of socialising with your team mates. This may be important to you if you’re stuck at home all week with young children. You will, however, have little flexibility as you’ll need to stick to the team’s schedule and keeping certain days of the week available for exercise may be difficult. It all just depends what works for you.

If it's been a long time since you last exercised regularly (like before having children), you may also need to consult a physician or a specialist in internal medicine to ensure that you choose the right kind of exercise for your fitness level. It's also important to consult your doctor if you suffer from any chronic illnesses, such as diabetes or heart disease.

Be realistic

Look at your schedule. What is it like? Maybe you have identified a couple of hours each week when you can do a hardcore workout? If so, great! Maybe it’s easier for you to do three or four shorter sessions, like 30 minutes at a time, each week. If that’s better for you, do it. Studies have been published that show that even a little bit of exercise is better than nothing at all.

If you start off with unrealistic, big ideas and fail to achieve them, you will become disillusioned. Be realistic about the amount of time you can dedicate to physical activity and stick to it.

Choose when you exercise wisely

This follows on nicely from the point I made above about being realistic. You can also learn from my mistakes! I always used to try and exercise in the early evening, but something always stopped me.

I was stupidly trying to squeeze in a work out between cooking the evening meal and helping the children with their school work. Something always went wrong and stopped me from getting the exercise I needed. Make sure your diary is clear so you can concentrate on keeping fit.

Be disciplined

When you have worked out what exercise you want to do and when, stick to it. Turn off your phone so you don’t get distracted once you've started working out.

Make clear to your family members that you are not to be disturbed during your work out. This is your time, make the most of it.

Finally, enjoy the benefits

Once you have dedicated time to a regular work out, you will quickly feel the benefits. It is important to look after yourself and you should feel good about spending a little time working on your cardiovascular health and major muscles. It's also likely that you will see other positive results, like benefits to you immune system, weight loss and body fat reduction.

Also, your children will see you getting exercise and becoming a healthy adult. This is a great as it will encourage them to be active too. When you can get family members involved, it can be very motivating.

Best of luck working out. As I said above, this is your time, have fun with it!