We get so many physical and mental health benefits from exercising; but establishing your own exercise routine is easier said than done. Especially when your life is already busy!

For many women, exercise plans can be stop-start in nature and they haven’t yet built a routine and habit that has become part and parcel of their life.

If this rings true for you – have a read below of 5 things we need in place to build our own exercise habit and how to get these for yourself.

1. Acknowledge and ditch the guilt

Mum-guilt can feel never-ending can’t it? I know it can for me and I’ve yet to meet a woman who doesn’t carry some burden of it around with her.

It comes in so many forms. Guilt about wanting to spend time on ourselves rather than with our families, guilt about someone having to change their plans to support ours and guilt about spending money on things solely for us. To name just a few.

It took me years to recognise that these feelings are normal and a few more to understand how I could best handle them. Option A which I succumbed to for years was to let them take hold and not do things I wanted to. Or Option B which I eventually arrived at (though I do slip back into A at times) was to acknowledge them but not let it stop me.

I get whilst this sounds simplistic, it can feel far from it. Yet when we start to truly believe we have right to do things for ourselves; the sense of personal freedom and empowerment even with the confines of motherhood are amazing.

If you need to hear it from someone else too. Check out what one of my inspo women Anna Marthur has to say on the subject.

2. Carve out your time

Remember those child-free days where aside from work, your diary had lots of blank spaces to fill with things you wanted to do?

What did you do in them?

For me, no surprise, exercise featured quite abit. I used to meet a friend after work, do a CrossFit class and then hang around after chatting or go grab some food. I still get to occasionally train with her now and every time we see each other we hark back to those days and how much we enjoyed them.

Yet the reality now when it comes to my diary and doing things for myself is so different and I’m guessing if you’re here reading this then it is for you too.

‘Carving out time’ is a concept that came from one of the women in the MTW Community. We were talking about the challenges of fitting exercise alongside (in her case) 3 kids and a full-time job and she talked how how she’d sat down with the family calendar and looked at where across the week she could literally ‘carve out some time’ for herself.

So how does this work in reality then?

First up it’s acknowledging what things are non-negotiable. For me these include school pick up/drops offs, when I’m in working, taking Thomas to his activities, evenings and school holidays when he’s with me and I have no childcare options.

What would be on your non-negotiable list?

Through doing this, we can get a clearer view of when ‘our time’ could realistically take place. At a point in the week where sure, there’s bound to be some pressure (is there ever a point in life where there isn’t?!) but we’re not trying to fit in it when it’s simply not realistic.

3. Find something you enjoy

For me this comes after I’ve identified what are the best times for me to do something for myself; but not everyone agrees with this.

Years ago I was challenged by a coach when I told them I couldn’t do a particular class as I took Thomas to an activity club at that time. They told me “If I really wanted to, I could make it work”.  Yet this would have meant pulling Thomas out of his club, taking him with me and him sitting on the sidelines in a busy class bored to tears and probably bugging the hell out of me.

This wouldn’t have made it work for me at all. Oh and in case you’re wondering – yes the coach was a man and no he didn’t have children!

It’s for this reason when women say to me they’d love to join a programme but the timing just doesn’t work for them, I get it. Instead of shaming them that the simply aren’t trying enough to exercise; I’ll instead explore what other options there could be for them based on when they can.

I can’t stress enough the ‘enjoy’ bit here! Yes you’ve got some specific times available to you but please choose something you want to do. Our time is so precious. Don’t waste it dragging your ass to a class you hate; chances are you simply won’t bother!

4. Get accountability & support

This sounds a serious one doesn’t it?! I promise it’s not so keep reading!

We all need accountability and support when it comes to our exercise. Without my own coach, I know I wouldn’t be as consistent with my workouts; and I definitely wouldn’t run as much if I didn’t run with women in the community.

Does that make me lazy? No it makes me human!

If having a coach or meeting a friend wouldn’t work for you; telling people your plans is also really powerful. Whether that’s a partner, friend or work colleague. Telling them and knowing they’re going to ask you how it went it a great motivator for actually doing it.

Where could you get your accountability from?

5. Celebrate your success

How often does that voice in your head, yes you know the one I’m talking, tell you you’ve done something wrong or you’re failing?

I’d put money on it being fairly constant. Whereas it telling you how well you’re doing is hardly ever if at all.

Am I right?! If so then you’re not alone. In a recent poll I did on social media, only 50% of women said that they acknowledged and celebrated when they’d done something well.

I’m not talking about celebration in the form of a self-congratulating social media post; though this is by no means a bad thing to do. I’ve done it myself in the past!

Celebration starts and often ends with simply acknowledging what we’ve done and allowing ourselves to be proud of doing it. Being proud of ourselves doesn’t mean we become egotistical maniacs either so please don’t shy away from it.

A cause for celebration might be that you’ve finally got to that class you’ve been talking about for months, you and a friend now have a regular date in the diary to meet up and exercise, that you’ve managed to run fast or lift a heavier weight or that you feel healthier and better in yourself.

Whatever yours is, please own it. Through acknowledging and celebrating the wins, it spurs us on!

Will you actually create an exercise habit?

It’s easy to read blogs like this, nod along with them and then do nothing. I know because I do it a lot!

I might save the link or screenshot it and then months later when I’m scrolling through my phone I find the info again and think ‘shit, I didn’t do anything about that’

So remember that calendar I talked about right at the beginning? How about you get that out right now and put an actual time in it right now?

I’m hoping in reading this that we’ve already addressed the first point about ditching guilt for wanting your own time so it’s time to move on to the second which is carving out your time. Trust me when I say you have to think this through and our diaries are busy!

So I’d love for you to be reaching for it right now and putting time in there to do this. Yes that’s right, dedicated time ideally when the kids are in bed and you have some quiet, to be able to go through that calendar and carve out your time.

From there you’re on the exciting bit of finding something you enjoy. What will it be?

How about exploring my personal training programmes and running clubs to see if they fit into your times? I promise I’m good at creating accountability and celebrating progress!

Though whether it’s with me or through another community and coach; I truly hope that you do it.

It’s makes the world of difference to our health, wellbeing and happiness.

Emma x

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