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By Transamerica / Aug 29, 2016

Finding Time for Fitness (Even As a Single Parent)

Catherine Businelle

In 2013, I was a working single mom of four kids 10-years-old and younger. Saying I didn’t have time or money for fitness is a wild understatement, but I wasn’t keen on the age and pants sizes in my near future.

By September 2014 I managed to complete my first half-marathon, and along the way I learned a few ways to get around time and money obstacles. Here are some ideas for finding the time:

Evaluate the time you DO have

Having so many kids at such young ages made real exercise, with them in tow, unrealistic. They did, however, spend two evenings a week with their dad, and I had an hour for lunch every day. The trick was that I often ran errands during lunch, family friends had me over for dinner on one of those evenings, and I needed the other one for unavoidable chores such as mowing the yard or doing the laundry.

Once I had a clear idea of how much time I had, I started working on how to use it. Even if you have very, very little spare time, sit down and write it all out. It might not help much initially, but it’s a place to start.

Create more time

Once the wheels in my head were turning, it occurred to me that the kids’ daycare and school drop-off times forced me to get to work about twenty minutes early every day. I asked my boss if I could start work at 7:45 and take a 75-minute lunch; she agreed. Then a friend, who was in a similar boat, suggested a weekly babysitting trade, adding a free Saturday morning to my weekly schedule.

Of course these ideas may not work in every case, but you might find a trick or two up your sleeve once you start looking for work-arounds. As a single parent, you’re already getting free advice from everyone you know (and complete strangers in the supermarket check-out line). Why not ask for thoughts on squeezing more time out of your schedule? They might surprise you.

Pick an activity that fits

I started walking on a treadmill in my apartment complex’s gym during my lunch break. Even with occasional lunches spent on errands or appointments, I could almost always get at least three sessions a week if I hustled. I spent my Saturday morning on a bigger activity such as hiking a nearby mountain trail.

Choose an activity that’s easy to move around to fit your schedule, whether it’s a video workout after the kids’ bedtime or tennis with a coworker who shares your lunch break. It matters most that it fits your time constraints and feels fun so you’re motivated to make it happen.

Eventually I got bored walking and started brief spurts of shuffle-jogging. Then the shuffle-jogging parts felt less like dying and got longer until they swallowed the entire time. Then I started running longer on my Saturdays off until I felt brave enough to run the world’s slowest 5K.

A few weeks later I found a run/walk training system for completing your first half-marathon, worked my way through it over the course of a few months, and managed (barely) to place 112th at the Winslow Run Half Marathon. Of course, there were only 126 people in the race, and I was beaten soundly by a woman in a full-body squirrel costume (I wish I was  kidding), but it felt great to finish.

When I got home, my daughter asked me if I’d won the race, and I still kinda feel like I did.