Whether fitness was a priority before kids or you are just starting the journey, one of the biggest barriers to exercise for parents is finding the time to make it happen.

Kendra Garrett, supervisor of group fitness and aquatics programs at the Greenville Health System’s Life Center, said parents may have to do things a little differently.

“For parents in general, when you have little lives depending on you, it’s different than just saying, ‘Keep a calendar and make it a priority,’” she said.

Garrett suggests enlisting your allies, such as a spouse, partner or friend. Asking a friend to trade play dates may be a good option that allows each of you to have a turn getting in a workout.

“Figure out who you can get on your team to help you accomplish that,” Garrett said. “If someone knows you, loves you, cares for you, they are probably going to help you. Ask for help. Take turns. You motivate one another.”

Garrett said children benefit when they see their parents make health a priority.

“Your kids are seeing you model that it’s important,” she said. “What feels like a lot to manage in the short term is worth it in the long term because those kids who are watching us will learn to make those healthy choices.”

Garrett bristles at the notion of just trying to fit more into the day.

“There are 24 hours in your day and 24 hours in my day,” she said. “The only difference is who is getting less sleep. We have a lot to do and we won’t get it all done in one day. We’ve got to take some pressure off of ourselves.”

Calling moms “masters of organization,” Garrett said getting the week organized in advance can help.

“If you plan to work out four or five days this week, over the weekend you can get your workout clothes clean and maybe have them in your gym bag,” she said.

Even meal planning and preparation over the weekend can help the week go more smoothly and maybe free up time to exercise.

“Part of getting organized is figuring out what you want to accomplish each day,” she said. “If it doesn’t all fit, I figure out what isn’t going to happen today and I have to be OK with it. If exercise is on the list for that day, get help with how to remove the barriers.”

But Garrett understands that real life is quite unpredictable and even the best ideas won’t work for everyone.

“A lot of moms will say, ‘That’s awesome, but who will watch my kids?’” she said.

Garrett suggests trying a gym with child care or even doing workouts at home with a DVD or — using caution and considering the source — a YouTube video.

“We expect so much of ourselves,” Garrett said. “Moms, in general, do a really good job of taking care of themselves and everyone around them. It’s important to stay positive about themselves. I encourage people to give themselves some grace.”

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