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 8 PM. 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.
What are the simplest ways to exercise as a busy nurse mom?
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 journey to stay fit, along with the information shared with me by my fellow nurse comrades, revealed four primary ways that nurse moms can successfully find time to exercise.
Fit nurse tip #1. Work out before the kids get up.
Before kids, I never in a million years would have dreamed that I would be awake in time to make it to a 6 AM 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 two times during the week on the days I don’t work. Also, I am usually able to fit one early morning class 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!
Fit nurse tip #2. Work out on your lunch break.
A nurse friend of mine changes into running clothes and goes for a jog during her lunch hour. Talk about dedication to your 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 workday. And he says he feels a lot better too!)
Fit nurse tip #3. Work out after the kids go to bed.
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 an excellent 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 typically when I am the most tired, and I 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 essential to the already sleep-deprived parent!
Fit nurse tip#4. Try squeezing in exercise during the days when you are at home with your kids.
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 a few ways to exercise with kids in tow:
- Turn on a workout video in the living room (good when the weather is poor!)
- Take the kids for a walk in the stroller
- Take a stroller strides class with other moms
- Run around with the kids on the playground
- Kick a soccer ball around with the kids
- Try teaching your kids with a Gaiam yoga video (watching my daughter practice yoga just melts my heart!)
- Turn up the music and dance with the kids (it just doesn’t get more fun than that!)
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!
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