As a mum, you probably spend most of your day doing things for other people. If you want to lose weight, it can be tricky to schedule exercise time into your day, particularly if you have to squeeze it between work, the school run, and never-ending domestic chores. By the time you get around to it, you’re probably already exhausted!
But successful exercise isn’t about tiring yourself out even further, or spending hours sweating at the gym. Get the most out of your physical activity with fun and creative strategies that challenge your body and your mind. Not only will your workouts be more enjoyable, they’ll also give you a fantastic mental boost – and energy for all those other tasks you manage to fit into your day!
1. Be Google-inspired
Google has a policy that allows employees to devote 20% of their work time to projects that aren’t necessarily part of their job description. For that 20%, they’re free to explore, experiment, play, and innovate. Amazingly, this 20% has yielded some of their most successful products, such as Google Reader.
Google is one of the most successfully companies around, so it’s worth taking a leaf out of their book. Consider spending 20% of your total health and fitness time just “playing” instead of working out. Use this time to discover (or create) an exercise you really love, or a new variation of an old favourite. Use it to challenge your mind, as well as your body. For inspiration and even more fun, get the kids involved!
2. Train in time to music
When the speed of the music varies, vary the movement of your muscles accordingly. For example, consider a normal leg press: two counts down, two counts up. To fit into the chorus of a song, you might change it to three counts down and one count up. Experiment with different music and different exercises, and see what you can come up with!
3. Anchor exercises to particular songs
For example, Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana is an excellent song to do Medicine Ball Slams too. You can slam the ball to the chorus, and then recover during the verses. Now, whenever that song comes on, I feel like doing medicine ball slams!
This is a great thing to have up your sleeve to use on days when you’re struggling to get “in the zone”. It helps you train yourself (like Pavlov’s dog) to respond in a certain way to a certain piece of stimulus.
4. Go lop-sided.
Most people are stronger on one side than the other. Don’t be afraid to incorporate different weights on different sides of your body. This is also great for your core, as you need to focus on keeping your body straight. For example, you might do a 20 kg lat pull down on one side versus at 15 kg lat pull down on the other side.
5. Become ambidextrous
If you box, for example, and you’re right-handed, most of your big knockout punches will come from the right. In order to help develop strength, co-ordination, and new neural pathways as well, learn how to lead with your left hand as well. It’s challenging, but worth the effort.
6. Add balance
Neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to heal itself and regenerate cells) is one of the most exciting new developments in the world of science, and physical exercise is one way to help build new neural pathways. It also helps you develop a strong core and get more bang for your workout buck. For example, if I don’t have time to train both my arms and core, I can train them both simultaneously by doing bicep curls while standing on a Swiss ball.
You can add an element of balance to almost any exercise. Begin with something as simple as standing on one leg. How you make your balance training more challenging as your journey progresses is really up to you, but some of the variations could incorporate things such as cushions or wobble boards, having one or both of your eyes closed, incorporating weight on one or both sides of the body, or even juggling something light as you balance.
7. Get creative
I find it really difficult to challenge my core. One day I had the idea of hooking my legs into the bar of a smith machine and crunching up that way. I call these Bat crunches, because I hang upside down like a bat. You never know what you can do until you try! Don’t be afraid to get creative with your workouts and try new things to keep yourself engaged and challenged.
8. Have fun
Balance is great for the brain, and so is juggling. One day I decided to combine the two, and now I can jungle dumbbells while balancing on a Swiss ball! (Hello Cirque de Solei!) No matter how crazy you think it might look or sound, give it a go – exercise should always be fun.
9. Go backwards
Walking weighted lunges are a great exercise to do. Backwards walking lunges are even better because they make your mind (and your muscles) work just that little bit harder. You also need to engage your core more in order to stay upright, which is great for your abs.
10. Think outside the equipment square
If you don’t want to join a gym or don’t enjoy using gym equipment, you’ve still got plenty of exercise props at your disposal. A crowbar is just as good as a barbell, paper towel on wooden floors are just as good as sliding discs, and the seat of a chair is a perfect aid to a set of tricep dips! Experiment, play, and use what you’ve got at home – you might be surprised at how easily household objects lend themselves to helping you get fit!
By Sally Symonds, weight loss coach and author of 50 Steps to Lose 50kg…And Keep It Off, 50+ Recipes to Lose 50+kg…And Keep It Off, and 50 Ways to Weight-Loss Motivation. Visit www.sallysymonds.com.au for further information about Sally’s range of products and services, or follow Sally on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sally.symonds.