If there’s one thing I’ve learned about fitness through the years, it’s that variety is key. Varying your workouts through different forms of cardio and strength training will help you shape up quickly and boost your overall fitness. Amp up the strength training, throw in some cardio intervals and I promise you’ll see results. Too often people just go for the calorie burn of cardio and neglect strength training.
I’ve had the opposite problem, though–too much strength training and not enough cardio. I went through a period of time when I was doing too much Pilates for strength training and not balancing it with enough cardio. I was definitely building muscle, but ended up looking a little thicker around the middle than usual. When I brought it up to Doug, he had pointed out that the reason for this was probably not enough cardio, but I was enjoying my Pilates classes too much to give any up for another cardio day.
Getting to the gym for Pilates at 10am consistently has been a challenge since Emme’s been born, not to mention my core wasn’t strong enough for me to want to attempt any classes at first. Fortunately, that got me back on a more balanced strength/cardio mix and I have ended up in my best shape ever.
I don’t just do Pilates; I do weights too. I don’t just run on the treadmill; I do the stairmaster and stationary bike too. I make sure I vary the lengths and types of cardio too–HIIT and steady, long run, just HIIT. My Y just recently lengthened the amount of time I can leave my kids in the child care, so now I can fit in cardio intervals on the same day as Pilates, which is great. Pilates doesn’t work my arms as much, so I made sure to do a little arm burner, courtesy of The Fitnessista, after my long cardio session the other day.
You should note that when I say “long” cardio or run, I mean about 50 minutes. None of my workouts are really “long.” I don’t have time for that. Doing cardio on the same day as Pilates will put me at about 1.5 hours total workout, since I’ll use those days for my short (20 min), but intense (as the name states) HIIT workouts. When I do strength sessions, I usually spend about 20-30 minutes on strength and then another 20 minutes on cardio. Short and effective, which I also credit to The Fitnessista for teaching me this method.
These types of workouts are by far the most effective I’ve done. I love how quick and sweaty my strength sessions are. No more resting on the machines in between sets. I enjoy exercising–how it makes me feel, how it makes me look not to mention the “me time” it gives me–but I don’t want to spend all day at the gym. Plus, my kids can only handle the child care for so long before it’s time to nurse the baby or get home for lunch and naps. It’s nice the days that we choose to do something other than the Y too.
For instance, I’ve recently started taking them to story time at the library on Tuesday mornings. It was something I used to do when Emme was little, before I wanted to expose her to the germs in child care, but stopped when I got back into working out at the Y again. I realized I missed making time just to do something fun just for the kids in the morning, since the afternoons are packed with nap and dinner prep. I’ve really enjoyed this time at the library with them and I think Reece has too. Plus, it’s nice to get dressed in real clothes and makeup once a week. 🙂
When some people see a fit mom (like a picture of Maria Kang with her kids for example), they might say that it takes too much time to look that way; that it’s taking time away from her kids. I saw both of those things repeated in comments about that picture in various places. In reality, though, it doesn’t take all that much time. Workouts that can be squeezed in in little portions throughout the day (a technique I learned from Tracey Mallet and implemented before I could make it to the gym regularly after Emme was born), during nap time or after the kids are in bed is not taking time away from them at all. Even taking them to the gym for an hour or two during the day isn’t taking a lot of time and if anything, it’s good for all of us. It gives me some necessary me time, teaches the kids that exercise is important and gives them the opportunity to play with other kids and new toys for a little while.
For me, it’s not working out that takes time away from my kids, it’s the time I spend on my cell phone or iPad while they’re around. I think there are probably a lot of us out there who struggle with this. Sure, some phone time is ok, but it’s important to be there fully with them when I’m playing and there are days when I’m a little too attached to my phone. Exercising is healthy and good for them to see me doing. Paying attention to my cell phone instead of being fully present with them is not something I want them to learn.
It’s definitely tricky to find the perfect balance that it seems so much of life requires.