Long gone are the days when I could leisurely wake up naturally and decide whether I wanted to take the 9 a.m. or the 11 a.m. yoga class or when I would put my running clothes on in the afternoon and lay around until I “felt ready” to head out for my jog, sometimes several hours later.
Before becoming a nurse and mom, I used to put a lot of thought into the location of my runs. Where would I go today? The beach? Or to the running trail? I never even thought about how long I would be out. I just ran until I felt tired and then called it a day.
Now I’m lucky if I get to squeeze in a 20 minute run after I put the kids down at 8PM. And by that time I’m usually so tired I can barely muster the energy to get out the front door!
For the record, I am happier now than I think I have ever been. I wouldn’t change anything about all of the blessings in my life that make me so incredibly busy. I LOVE being a mom and an ER nurse. But, as a healthcare professional and a person who enjoys a little self-care here and there, I am all too aware that I need to get regular exercise if I want to keep my sanity intact.
Over the last month I have been interviewing fellow nurses to find out how they squeeze in a workout while balancing motherhood and 12 hour shifts. Some of the feedback I received was very encouraging! The conversations I had with these nurses convinced me that it is in fact very possible to stay fit when it seems that there is no more time in the day.
For me, finding time for fitness has been a trial and error project. Over the past three years (since my first baby was born) I have tried several methods to squeeze workouts into an already crammed work/life schedule. Some of these methods worked, some I tried but didn’t stick to, and some never came to fruition.
My personal journey to stay fit along with the information shared with me by my fellow nurse comrades revealed 4 primary ways that nurse moms can successfully find time to exercise.
Before kids I never in a million years would have dreamed that I would be awake in time to make it to a 6AM hot yoga class. But free time is sparse now. If I don’t make time somewhere then it won’t happen. It’s as simple as that.
The good news is that when I drag myself out of bed early for a workout then I feel amazing for the rest of the day. Sure, I’m tired, but I would be even more tired if I didn’t exercise at all. By starting my day with a yoga-induced rush of endorphins not only do I feel better, but I am so much more productive throughout the day.
My goal is to make it to a 6 a.m. class at least 2 times during the week on the days I don’t work. In addition, I am usually able to fit one early morning class in on the weekend as well. Sometimes it ends up being only once a week and sometimes if I’m lucky, all three. But something is always better than nothing!
A nurse friend of mine changes into running clothes and goes for a jog during her lunch hour. Talk about dedication to your personal health! She says it works for her because she can do it no matter what time her break is. Additionally, the midday exercise helps break up the day, helps her deal better with stressful patient assignments, and gives her energy for the rest of the shift. And she is a good role model for patients to boot!
(On another note, my husband replaced his lunch hour with an F45 class 3 times a week. Although he is not a nurse, he is a busy working parent nonetheless. The benefits for him are so obvious. He is noticeably better able to manage work stress and comes home with significantly more energy at the end of a busy work day. And he says he feels a lot better too!)
I know a lot of nurse parents who make it to the gym or a yoga class after working a 12 hour shift. This seems to be the most popular time for many parents because the kids are in bed and it’s a good time to work off the stress from the day. It is an effective way to put the day behind you and do something for yourself after spending 12 hours putting patients’ needs first.
On occasion, I will try to go out for a run or a walk if I still have a little energy left in me, usually during the summer months when the days are a little longer. Unfortunately, it is also usually when I am the most tired and I really just want to crawl into bed with a book and fall asleep. But I do love listening to music and disconnecting for a little while after a long shift, and a quick run is a relatively easy way to do that!
A post-work run for me is usually pretty quick, 20-25 minutes max. Unfortunately, if I run too long then I risk not being able to fall asleep and there’s not much worse than that. After all, sleep is important to the already sleep deprived parent!
Finding new ways to exercise as a busy nurse mom requires some thinking outside the box. Why not try squeezing in a workout when you are at home with the kids during the day? Besides, isn’t taking care of a baby or toddler already a kind of workout in itself?
Here are few ways to exercise with kids in tow:
How do you find ways to exercise as a busy nurse mom? I very much enjoy hearing about ideas of what others are doing. Feel free to leave a comment!
Sarah Jividen is a registered nurse, blogger, writer, wife, and mother with an aspiration to empower nurses and moms to take better care of themselves. Sarah lives with her husband in a beach suburb outside of Los Angeles where they are raising their two-year-old daughter, newborn son and two rescue kitties. In a rare moment of free time you may find Sarah practicing yoga, socializing with friends, sampling dark beers or attending a local concert venue with her husband.