Fitness And Family: The Juggle Is Real!
Babies and toddlers need constant care, attention and cleaning up, while children and teenagers are a whole different challenge with school, playdates, sports (not to mention bigger appetites, mess and a whole lot of sass!) to contend with.
Several Sweat Trainers are mothers and know the struggle of the family juggle and what it’s like to wear many different hats in a day all too well. So how do they prioritise their fitness and find balance? Or is having it all really just a myth?
Kayla Itsines: If you're a new mum, just do what you can
Head Trainer Kayla’s daughter Arna is now three and well past the newborn stage, but Kayla knows how hard it can be to make fitness a priority as a new mum.
“I say it’s important to find balance, but there is none, because your life is literally dedicated to keeping this small child alive,” she says of those early days as a first-time mum.
“At the beginning, you are on autopilot survival mode and it feels like you can’t do anything. You just need to give yourself some grace, space and time to understand that it’s a short period in your life, and if you’re able to go for a walk or fit ANYTHING in, that’s great! But if you can’t, it’s ok to just chill out.”
If you’ve got a newborn baby to care for, she recommends putting time aside for YOU. This can be to move your body or anything else you enjoy, but exercise can be a great way to feel normal again and get some endorphins flowing. Before she got back into full workouts, Kayla would just do a few minutes of walking on her treadmill.
Try to eat as well as you can, drink lots of water and do meal prep to make your life easier, get as much help as you can, and never be afraid to ask for help either if you have friends and family around.
When it’s tough, Kayla says to take the day one minute at a time and focus on the bare minimum.
Prioritising health as a mum isn’t just about fitness, it’s holistic, and sleep is a big part of your overall wellbeing.
“Try and get as much sleep as you can and sleep whenever your baby sleeps. Ignore time zones, so if it’s sunny outside and you need to sleep, go to sleep.”
Kayla wants to remind people that while the days are long, this sleep-deprived period won’t last forever and you’ll find a better routine in time.
Being a mum can be an isolating experience for many women, and Kayla recalls several tough moments when people didn’t seem to understand how she was feeling. The solution? Community and connection.
“You’re definitely not alone, but you do need to find people who are in the same position as you. It’s the worst when someone tells you it’s all going to be okay, meanwhile you haven’t slept or eaten, the baby is crying and the house is a mess,” she laughs.
“You need to find the people who will say to you, I get it. That’s why social media and forums are so amazing.”
Being a new mum is a big life change, but exercise can be a way to take some much needed time for yourself, and it doesn’t need to be anything long or strenuous. With a baby to look after, even a couple of minutes of walking is great.
Now that Arna is older, Kayla still keeps her workouts short, and knows how crazy it can be trying to exercise with a toddler.
Kelsey Wells: Forget guilt, self-care is essential
After having her son, Anderson, Kelsey experienced postnatal anxiety and her midwife suggested exercise to help improve her wellbeing.
It’s normal to feel like finding time is a struggle, so she has some helpful tips:
- If exercise makes you feel better, make it a non-negotiable part of your day.
- Be flexible. Your workouts won’t always happen at the times you planned or hoped, so fit it in when you can. That might be while your kids sleep, while they watch a TV show, or when they’re at school or daycare.
- If you can’t get to a gym or don’t have equipment, bodyweight workouts are still effective! The PWR at home program is a great option, as is walking and yoga. Find what you enjoy.
- Doing your best will look different each day and that’s ok. You should still feel proud of yourself for any exercise you fit in.
Kelsey has also spoken before about guilt being a common feeling that all women struggle with, emphasising that mums tend to feel it particularly strongly in regards to self-care and exercise.
“There’s nothing you wouldn’t do for the health and wellbeing of your children, so why is it that our own self-care and wellbeing falls to the bottom of our priority list? Caring for yourself is going to allow you to be healthier, to run and play with your kids and have energy to be with them.”
“It is going to allow you to be a better you, and a better partner, mother, sister, daughter, friend and all of the different hats you wear in your life. Taking care of yourself is only going to magnify your other relationships, not take away from them.”
She explains that when you prioritise healthy living for yourself, it’s also a powerful way to lead by example and teach your children how to cultivate healthy habits.
“So next time you start to feel guilty or stressed about carving out time to take care of yourself, please remember there’s nothing to feel guilty about and what you’re doing is important, it’s worth it, and it’s only helping your kids.”
Chontel Duncan: Do it for YOU
As easy as Chontel might make it look, she’s open about how hard it is juggling five young kids and a business. For her, staying fit as a mum isn’t about “bouncing back”, it’s her outlet that makes her feel like her best self.
“I choose to prioritise my health because looking after me is just as important as looking after my family,” she shared on Instagram. “It’s about finding myself again because growing tiny humans, birthing them and raising them takes a toll on my physical and mental health.”
Workouts for Chontel definitely involve a bit more planning now, as she has to time the feeding of her twin babies Havana and Justice perfectly and try to get them asleep before she exercises.
Does every session go to plan? No way. But making time to move her body makes Chontel feel so much better. If you’re having a hectic day and need a workout that’s fast and requires minimal setup, she loves her Zero Equipment workouts in the Sweat app. You can also schedule your workouts in advance using the app’s Planner feature.
“Some days the twins wake up and are unsettled. This either stops my session altogether or causes a break as I hustle to get them back down… But when I get those good days with those epic sessions in, I feel like I can handle the juggle with such a positive mindset.”
Choose a training style you love, and remember WHY you’re doing it to keep you going - whether that’s to feel good, have some time to yourself, or let off some steam.
When handling the juggle gets too much, the first thing that tends to slide for Chontel is nutrition. She knows the struggle of accidentally missing meals, then overeating, eating on the go or in the car, or grabbing sugary snacks for quick energy. Some days, you just have to do what you can!
To make things easier, she has some helpful nutrition hacks:
- Stock your freezer and pantry with a variety of easy to prepare foods such as pizza bases, pasta, wraps, frozen meals and vegetables.
- Stock up with “on-the-go” foods for when you have busier days, when your hands are full, or when you don't have access to a kitchen or fridge. This could be things like rice cakes and toppings, snack bars, bananas and yogurt pouches.
- Eat foods you love, but make them yourself to make them more nutritious. Pizzas, burgers, ice blocks and lollies are all part of Chontel’s diet, but she makes most of them herself!
- Choose foods that suit your lifestyle. If you have busy mornings, find breakfast options that you can eat on the go. If you’re working or don’t have time to prepare lunch, prep lunches that can be microwaved, and find dinners that can be flexible. It’s all about making it easier for yourself.
Nights off don’t happen so often now for Chontel and her husband, but that social time is still so important for them. It fills their cup and is another key part of living a healthy lifestyle.
“It is healthy to take a break for pleasure and not just for work. To spend time with friends, fill your cup up, switch off, give back to your marriage, relationships and enjoy uninterrupted adult conversation,” she says.
Making healthy changes takes time and it’s normal to feel overwhelmed at times as a mum, so focus on creating a lifestyle you truly enjoy.
“Some days are good, and some days are great. You have to keep putting your best foot forward because every day is a new opportunity.”
Cass Olholm: Remember, this is for life
For Cass, finding balance is about focusing on quality over quantity, and not putting too much pressure on yourself.
“It’s important not to bite off more than you can chew. Often we are hungry for what we want, which is great, but what usually happens is that we quickly feel overwhelmed and end up back where we started. So start small. Implement one new change a week rather than them all on Day 1.”
The positive impacts of exercise on your life can be huge, so try not to get too focused on your progress to begin with. Instead, focus on finding exercise or a workout program you enjoy and can make part of your lifestyle as a mum.
Cass wants to be a positive role model for her daughter, have a flourishing marriage, strong friendships, be an empowering coach for her community, inspire others, and be the best version of herself, and to do that, she knows she needs to Sweat.
“Sometimes unforeseen setbacks happen, other priorities get in the way, or maybe your original motivation has subsided and you’re adjusting to relying on discipline,” Cass adds, emphasising how normal this is.
In those moments, instead of throwing in the towel, focus on what you can control and remind yourself why you started. Remember you deserve to prioritise yourself and don’t forget, you have the Sweat Community right here with you.
Give yourself some grace knowing you are doing your best, given whatever life is throwing at you. Cass tries to find balance, be kind to herself and enjoy her downtime too, rather than wearing being “busy” as a badge of honour.
Sometimes she skips workouts for adventures with her family or can’t squeeze all her training sessions in. Does she feel guilty or bad? Not at all! Because fitness isn’t for a week or a month, it’s for life.
Share with us
Mums of the Sweat Community, how do you find the balance your life?
* Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Sweat assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.