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MOVE

How a busy couple balances exercise with hectic schedules

It is amazing how difficult it can be to exercise regularly. My husband Mike and I are both physicians and parents to two girls. We experience barriers to regular exercise, including lack of motivation, energy and time—especially with all the family and work responsibilities. During the past year, we have tried to make healthier choices and make regular exercise a priority. We struggle from time to time, but we have discovered a few strategies that are key.  

Plan ahead

Mike and I make a schedule on Sunday nights. We use Post-it notes to fill out our plans for the week, including exercise and what we will eat for dinner. At dinner time, we take turns: one of us will go for a run while the other will cook and keep the kids from getting into too much trouble. By planning this out ahead of time, we can each prepare for our roles. During the week, we mainly find time to work out in the morning, which means Mike gets up at 4:30 a.m. to swim, and I get up at 5 a.m. to run. Planning our schedules is key for us.

Be fair

We take turns doing our workouts, especially on weekends. Our weekends are precious, as they offer a chance for us to reconnect with each other and our kids. We love spending time with our girls, but have found we each need time to ourselves or we feel spent by Sunday evening. Getting in a long workout individually is a great way for us to recharge. So, while Mike is exercising, I'm covering the home front, and then we reverse roles. This improves our moods and attitudes, something that benefits the whole family.

Offer encouragement

When Mike became interested in triathlons a couple of years ago, I was nervous because of the time he would need for training. But after seeing him train, get in shape and finish the race, I was so proud of him and his accomplishment! He motivated me to do something too, so I signed up for a half marathon. He took it in stride and didn't bat an eye when I had to do my long run each weekend, which could last for up to two hours.

We encourage and support each other in many ways. We ask each other throughout the week about our workout plans, which serves as both a reminder to exercise and a gentle show of support. When I'm having a particularly hard day, especially if I missed my morning workout, Mike encourages me to go for a run because he knows it will make me feel better. When Mike is feeling overwhelmed by his daily schedule, I'll ask him how I can help him get in his workout.

Chose a goal/motivation

Mike will readily admit some of what motivates him is the gear involved for triathlons. I, rather, just want my running shoes, water bottle and earphones; however, both of us find that choosing a goal, like registering for a race or event, helps us stay motivated. We know we must be prepared, so we plan our training schedules and stick to them. Plus, once we hand over the money for the registration, neither of us want it to go to waste.

Find balance

We each have our own exercise goals, which helps remind us that despite being married with kids, we are still our own people. Moreover, we are stronger as a couple when we feel healthier as individuals. Exercise boosts endorphins and helps us get better sleep, and that leads us to be better parents and doctors. This, more than anything, keeps us focused on exercise.

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