Sh... this is the secret to exercising and staying healthy when you have kids.
Some days good enough, is good enough!
Making time for yourself when you are a parent or carer is tough. Add in a complicated and unenjoyable eating and exercise routine and the wheels will inevitably fall off! If it feels like one extra added pressure you simply don’t need, the result - you won’t do it.
When your plate is full like many of us, exercise should GIVE back to you. It should create space and quiet in your day, reinject energy and should never leave you feeling drained, further depleted or worse, like you are failing. What we want is puffed out and energy expended!
Forget trying to find the perfect workout week from the very beginning. They don’t exist and life will always present an endless series of interruptions and distractions.
Instead, find the mode of exercise that makes you feel good and repeat that. Over and over again! Sounds boring, but you know what? It’s simple and effective!
Ask yourself this one question – "What can you still manage when everything turns upside down in your week and there is almost no time left for you?”
What you CAN actually manage when: one of the kids is sick, they have a specialist appointment to go to, you are sick, you have to work back, what can you still do? That’s your baseline and where you start to simplify when you can execute that ideal day or week.
Practical examples – I can still track my food, I can still squeeze in a PT session, I can still squeeze in a 30-minute walk or group training session, I can still hit my macronutrient goals if I buy a store bought meal and track that instead of wasting my limited time on cooking.
You will absolutely find on those harder days/weeks that good enough, is actually ‘good enough’, and even better, you are far more likely to feel accomplished and more satisfied that you still managed to take care of yourself in some capacity. This type of mindset further demonstrates to you that your lifestyle is achievable all year round, no matter what season you and your kids are in.
For anyone looking to start exercising, my tip is getting accustomed to an initial exercise and eating plan that’s good enough for the initial purpose of getting started, rather than procrastinate - that’s the goal. No overcomplicating, just getting it done. That’s it! And before you know it, your new habit loop has formed and you’re doing it second nature without even thinking about it. It just becomes a non-negotiable part of your day.
It takes a while, you’ll need to trial and test things to find out what works for you. How to do that? You’ll need to tune into what makes you FEEL GOOD as well as what you can manage in your week and once you do, you’ve created your new healthy lifestyle and one you look forward to.
Once that mission is accomplished, many of us don’t realise that’s when we need to implement the principle of ‘good enough’. And that doesn’t mean that you should necessarily strive for low-quality output or effort. Rather, it means that you should clearly identify what good enough means to you in your particular circumstances or what’s realistic for you in your week, based on the outcomes of your routine and what you’re hoping to achieve.
This will vary in different scenarios, and in some cases your standard for good enough might end up being quite high. But on the weeks where life just gets in the way and all you can manage is getting to your PT sessions (tick), maybe 3 walks or only a few group training sessions (tick) and hitting your macronutrients goals for the week (tick) then the job is still done and good enough is good enough. What we should be striving for is consistency over perfection, always!
The key to using the principle of ‘good enough’ is to identify at what point you will no longer benefit from additional training, intensity and/or an increase in frequency.
If you know that you generally struggle with letting go of expectations once you reach the ‘good enough’ point, you can decide to set hard parameters in advance.
This can look like:
- Deciding on how much time you’re willing to dedicate to exercise on your own, and how often.
- Deciding on how much time and money you’re willing to dedicate to PT sessions and good quality nutrition per week
- Deciding on how much time you’re willing to dedicate to preparing food vs store bought ready meals
- Setting secondary goals that are no longer outcome driven; non-scale victory goals such as: strength goals, sleep and energy goals, bloodwork goals, mobility goals, rehab goals maintaining clothing size etc
To help with this, we need to look at our own individual Body Budget. This is a metaphor for how your brain budgets the energy in your body to keep you alive and functioning optimally.
Imagine your body budget is like a bank account where you are continually making withdrawals and deposits. Our brains don't differentiate between mental and physical load. So, to our brains, physical withdrawals from our body budget; working long hours, running a marathon, interrupted sleep or a poor diet; or mental withdrawals such as fear, worry or anxiety, are all withdrawals from the same system.
Living a balanced lifestyle is the goal. The most important thing you can do to restore your body budget is to focus on getting enough exercise, good nutrition and adequate sleep/rest in whatever mode that looks like for you. Because without a healthy body, it’s impossible to have a healthy mind.
Remember, there is always a cost to doing extra work. Whether it’s in terms of time, money, effort, or other factors that take away from what’s really important to you. Ask yourself “Does this bring me closer or further away to the life I am trying to create for myself”?
When the cost isn’t worth it, that’s the point where you should stop.
Overall, the key to implementing the principle of good enough is to identify what your good enough point is, and then stop once you get there.
An active and healthy lifestyle needs to be fluid. Learning your signals and how to manage your ‘body budget’ will benefit you for life.