Exercising in the Margins
Have you ever been so busy that you feel like you don’t have time to think, let alone exercise?
And while I don’t like being busy, I do like that life has seasons.
I love that God designed nature and our lives to flow in seasons.
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
This hasn’t always been the case, but I’m slowly learning this valuable lesson.
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I know that someday my kids will sleep through the night, and I won’t feel like a mombie (mom zombie).
I know that someday my two-year-old will take himself to the potty without any assistance from me.
I know that someday I’ll be able to use the bathroom without an audience.
But I also know that those seasons of life will have their own challenges, so I’m working on enjoying the season I’m in instead of wishing it would pass on to the next one.
One of the big struggles for me right now is finding time for me.
I have four kids, ages ten and under, at home with me all day.
We are homeschooling so when I say all day, I mean ALL DAY.
And there are days that I push through the mommy guilt and make time to go for a jog because I love running.
But most days I don’t.
And for many years this just meant that I didn’t exercise at all. I had a very “all or nothing” attitude about it.
Then one day, while I was just sitting in the bathroom waiting for a kid to use the potty (I’m not even sure which kid it was. I’ve been potty training for the last decade.), I started doing some tricep dips on the edge of the bathtub.
The next day, my arms and thighs were sore.
Which was embarrassingly motivating.
I decided to use the potty training time to do some exercises.
I moved the five-pound weights to the bathroom and hung one of those Pinterest infographics on the mirror.
Every time I took the child to the bathroom, I did an exercise from the circuit.
This was so motivating that I started doing calf raises while brushing my teeth.
I paused and did five pushups every time I went down the stairs.
And while I haven’t gotten defined muscles, I have been able to get a pant size that I like AND stay there by exercising in the margins and making healthy food choices.
There’s no big runner’s high or endorphin dump after a thirty-minute sweat session.
But I do feel good knowing that I’m doing some exercise throughout the day.
It’s also been great for my kids.
We often take a three-minute break during school work time and do jumping jacks or planks.
I totally get that you’re supposed to make time to exercise. And I totally agree.
But there are some seasons in life that you just can’t.
Life is about trades and there are times that your own need for solitude, exercise, endorphins, etc. takes a back seat.
But what if you just looked at it differently?
What if your goal was to go through one of those Pinterest exercise graphics per DAY?
Instead of committing a large chunk of your day to exercising, you just committed to exercise in the margins of your day?
I know it doesn’t get your heart rate up for the recommended twenty minutes, but it does work your muscles.
And it does give you 30 seconds to clear your mind and slowly count the squat reps.
For example – I take my two-year-old to the bathroom upstairs at least ten times per day.
While waiting for him to do his thing, I do squats, calf raises, and tricep dips in the bathroom.
On the way back downstairs, I do five to ten push-ups on stairs.
While brushing my teeth in the morning and at night, I do calf raises.
I do a two-minute stretch sequence before bed every night.
We take random breaks in homeschooling when the kids are getting antsy and we all do jumping jacks, burpees, or planks.
My kids love it, especially if we do a “plank challenge,” and see who can hold a plank the longest.
If you’re in the mood for some sunshine, you could even take your kids outside for a quick exercise break. Play a game of tag, do pull-ups on the swingset, race your kids across the yard, or do standing pushups against the house.
You can exercise in the margins even if you have a job outside of the home. You could do tricep dips in your chair, calf raises at the copier and squat breaks in the bathroom.
And all of it will add up.
When I first started, I could only do five squats during a potty break. Now I can do twenty-five! My goal is fifty, but I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to do fifty squats fast enough for my two-year old’s potty break.
I’m not saying I’m going to get ripped this way, but there’s as I’ve slowly gotten stronger, I can SEE the change in my body.
But the best thing for me is that I don’t feel guilty.
And maybe feeling guilty isn’t a struggle for you, but I am the queen of feeling guilty.
I feel guilty for not taking time out of my day to exercise and care for my body when I don’t exercise, and I feel guilty for taking time out of my day to exercise when I do exercise.
It’s a horrible cycle.
By exercising in the margins, I’m able to do something good for me without the guilt.
No guilt, but I do have sore glutes.
That’s basically a win-win.
Because it is important to me to be a healthy mom. I want to model self-care for my kids, and I want to actually be healthy so that I’m fit enough to enjoy life with them.
So throw those kids in the bathtub and do a seven-minute circuit while they splash all the water out of the tub.
Or are my the only kids that turn into blue whales when they get into the bathtub?