Family Friendly Fitness

New Year, New You!

Doing more exercise” is a popular new year’s resolution, with gyms at peak marketing trying to gain new customers.

The thing is, we all know that an active lifestyle is good for us, but how do we make that a reality when there are so many other pressures in life? From going out to work to taking care of the family, it can often seem that wherever we turn there is yet another demand on our time and resources.

This is especially the case for mothers, who typically adopt the role of primary carer for the children, as well as often supporting older relatives too. For such women, it can feel that focusing on one’s own self-care is a luxury at best, and at worst just plain selfish!

So, what’s the solution?

What we need is a more family friendly approach to fitness which is inclusive of a mother’s needs and takes a more holistic view of fitness together with a woman’s wellbeing. For example, many mothers experience guilt at spending time away from their children to exercise. Dealing with these feelings is important as they get into our sub-conscious and help generate the long list of reasons why we can’t do it. There is no quick fix to this one, but you feel that feelings of guilt are preventing you from taking up exercise then you might want to consider having a chat with an exercise psychologist or wellbeing life coach.

Another issue is that we often focus on what exercises to do, and how often, and forget to consider how our new active lifestyle will integrate with the rest of life. This can sometimes create problems down the line as our new routines become more difficult to stick to. Sustainable active lifestyles tend to incorporate physical activity into daily routines, allowing the family to be active together. Some of the most popular activities to consider are trips to the park, dancing round the house, active computer games, family friendly events (such as parkrun), swimming and walking or cycling to school. For some reason the “fitness industry” tends not to focus on these types of activities and this can lead us to feel that they’re not “proper exercise” – but they are!

Understanding your needs

Of course, any major lifestyle change requires a specific period of focussed effort, ideally supported by someone who is knowledgeable on how to overcome the setbacks and challenges ahead. But choosing where to go for support can be overwhelming, especially in the new year when we seem to be bombarded with advertising for the latest new health trend, and the quick fixes seem ever more tempting. Remember, there is no quick fix.

My personal recommendation is that to know who can help you best, you first need to understand yourself and your own needs. Try this:

Take yourself aside for 20 minutes and try the following exercise:

  1. Write down your health goals – what are you prepared to work on to make a long-lasting change?
  2. Write down who else you think will be affected by the changes you want to make. How will they be affected – include both positive and negative – does this help or hinder you?
  3. Write down the reason why you want to achieve this health goal – how will you feel this time next year if you’re successful?
  4. Write down some initial ideas of things you’d like to try to help achieve your goals – what have you enjoyed in the past or always fancied having a go at?

When you have your answers, you are ready to start looking for the right kind of support, based on your own needs. For every gym, club, personal trainer or coach you consider, think about if they will be a good fit against what you have written down.

Choose what’s right for you

Making a lifestyle change can be hard, but it can also be made much easier with the right help and support. Take your time and begin when you are ready. If you are interested in learning more about my work, I would love you to contact me through my website. Until then I wish you all health and happiness for you and your family in 2020.

Dr Diane Brown is a Fitness & Wellbeing Coach, qualified in Sport & Exercise Psychology, Wellbeing Life Coaching and Triathlon Coaching. She has overcome her own health challenges to successfully complete an Ultramarathon (2018) and Ironman UK (2011). Diane’s current mission is to help as many women as possible to create active lifestyles, gain greater wellbeing and enjoy a better quality of life.

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