30 minutes of exercise, 5 pieces of fruit, eight glasses of water, two tablespoons of suncream…the NHS has a lot of lifestyle prescriptions. Making them a habitual part of your life is less easy. So, here’s my take on it.
Think in exercise “moments”
A good exercise routine involves a mix of cardio, flexibility, strength, aerobic and circuit training. But it does not have to be all at once. I would struggle to complete a 30 minute kettlebell video with my toddler around, but a 10-minute dance class? Much easier. Here’s my exercise habits:
Morning: 7-10 minutes of strength training in my PJs. The kids typically eat breakfast around this time, whilst I exercise. I aim for a mix of moves and shake up the routine each day – the 7 app is good for this, as are various youtube instructors. The only piece of equipment I grab is sports bra and a mat.
Mid-morning or lunch time: 15 minutes of fast-slow (fartleg) walking. Where possible, I always try to walk to classes or errands around my area. I get little Squish involved by making her the “driver” and getting her to yell “fast” or “slow” (it used to be “peep-peep” like Thomas the Tank Engine – so this is an improvement!). We constantly end up laughing and it’s a brilliant way to release stress, as well as get the heart-rate up.
If you would struggle to walk from the house, consider shopping centres or even laps around the local children’s park. Another option is 10 minutes of skipping: this can be done indoors with a shorter rope in the winter.
In the evening: I hula-hoop in front of the TV or do a quick online class for Yoga nad Pilates. Again, there are loads of excellent instructors, just a click away on your phone. If you have spent the day bending down, picking up and generally cleaning, this is your chance to stretch the spine. Again, I mix it up – silly dance-offs with my husband, jumping around on the trampoline with the kids or just using a resistance band for a quick advert break.
Harness the Power of Snacking!
In all seriousness, put your cookie jar next to your fruit bowl and fill it with the healthy equivalent of biscuits. When you (or the kids) are feeling peckish, allow yourself one treat, alongside a piece of fruit. Let your habits do the work for you.
Here’s a few recipes to get you going:
More veg, fewer carbs
Execise alone will not shift the belly overhang (sadly). Carbs and sugar are major culprits in packing on the pounds, not to mention the havoc they play with your blood sugar. Fortunately it’s getting easier to switch away from carb-heavy meals and back to the vegetables proscribed by the NHS. My favourites are:
Potato chips > Sweet potato fries or carrot fries (buy frozen)
White rice > Cauliflower rice (buy frozen)
Noodles > Carrot or zuccini noodles (pre-made)
Pitta Bread > Lettice wraps (Little Gem is best)
Lasagne sheets > thinly sliced butternut squash sheets (can be found in the fresh section of some supermarkets).
I am all in favour of conveniance, especially if it speeds up meal time.
Treat Yourself to Water
We have been taught that water is boring, compared to squashes, tea, cordials and fizzy drinks. I have to admit, its not my favourite, so I have taken to flavouring it with a few drops of lemon. In addition, I have my favourite water sipper (from Ikea: anything expensive is going to get broken!), that gets carried around and refilled frequently when empty. Drinking water is habitual, when you don’t even think about it. The great news is that it’s encouraging my kids to drink more as obviously, mummy’s cup is better than theirs….
Set up for success
When we are busy or tired, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by big tasks. You are going to struggle with a long fitness regime if the toddler is crying and the baby is changing. You are going to struggle to drink enough when you are busy cleaning up mess and answering the door. Carry your habits with you. The easier it is to do them, the more likely you are to try.