How to Stay Active Even When You’re Tired

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Whether your kids are in diapers or in high school, mom life is just plain tiring and it can be hard to stay active. You may be in the middle of multiple nighttime wake ups (like me) or you may be shuttling your kids to after school activities or staying out late cheering on your kids at their favorite sport.

Whatever season of life you’re in, I bet it’s busy because as moms we are the glue that holds our little families together. Most of us are planners and shuttlers and organizers and delegators. Oftentimes, we’re running on little sleep and lots of coffee (or is that just me?!).

How to Stay Active Even When You're Tired

Despite our busy lives, I believe it’s important to stay physically active. Sometimes, such as when you’re taking care of sick kids, it’s really hard to maintain any kind of exercise routine. But fighting for that time for yourself is so important.

Exercise is an amazing stress reliever for us moms. When endorphins go up, stress goes down. Exercise even helps to even out all those female hormones as levels of estrogen and progesterone rise and fall.

Exercise provides a myriad of health benefits (heart health, bone health, gut health and more), but just as importantly and seemingly counter-intuitive, physical activity actually improves sleep—even when you aren’t getting much.

I’ve been living off limited sleep for the past 7 months because my non-newborn still sleeps as horribly as a newborn, so I can attest that the days that I exercise are the days I feel best, regardless of how I slept the night before.

The key with exercising on limited sleep is curbing your intensity. This requires being in tune with your body and not working out so hard that you put your body into further distress. I will admit that I have overworked my body when I’m tired, but I’ve learned from those mistakes. My husband used to own CrossFit gyms, so I was accustomed to a certain level of intensity when it came to workouts. After my fourth baby was born last summer, I can count on one hand the amount of high intensity workouts I’ve completed. I keep thinking he’ll start sleeping better, meaning I’ll get more rest and soon be ready for more intense workouts, but until then, I’m listening to my body and exercising accordingly.

I thought I’d share a few ideas for exercising that I do when I’m low on sleep but still want to stay physically active.

How to Stay Active When You’re Tired

Get outside. This is the low-hanging fruit for most moms. Kids love being outside and if I’m outside with the kids, I am rarely sitting down. Instead, I’m moving around, helping them with toys, picking up random trash from the yard, getting the mail, organizing the shoes, breaking down boxes for the recycling bin . . . you get the idea. Plus, the fresh air is inspiring.

stay active hiking

Go on a walk or hike. Not far behind simply being outside, going on a walk or hike is one of my favorite activities when I’m tired. I’m usually pushing a stroller or babywearing so I get in a little more physical activity. To up the intensity a bit, do walking lunges with your stroller or drop down for burpees or push-ups every 100 yards. Your neighbors will think you’re crazy, but all those endorphins will make you feel so good you won’t even care. Bonus if you can go on a hike outside. Not only will the fresh air do you good, but a change of scenery and some Vitamin N(ature) will as well.

Do a body-weight workout at home. Depending on your kids’ ages, this is easier said than done. BUT, young kids take naps and older kids are often at school. So at-home workouts are possible. Body-weight workouts are great for doing movements such as squats, push-ups, burpees, lunges, planks, jumping jacks, jump rope, etc. Plenty of bloggers offer ideas for at-home workouts to make it easy. This blogger and this blogger have great ones. At-home yoga is also a great option.

Do only weights at the gym. On days when my energy is dragging, I often just lift weights. I don’t focus on setting any PRs or personal records, but I know the value of weightlifting for women so I set a smaller-than-usual goal for that day and work toward it. I get the blood pumping with a few minutes of rowing, then do some stretching and mobility for about 5 minutes before diving in. I pick two lifts that focus on two different areas of the body (such as bench press and squats) and superset them. This means I do one set of bench then one set of squats. I typically increase my weight for a few rounds to a point where I feel challenged but not exhausted.

stay active even when tired

Do only cardio. Some days when I head to the gym, I’m either not in the mood for weightlifting or simply feel too weak for it. On those days, I do a basic cardio circuit between the treadmill, stair climber and elliptical. I start out walking at an incline on the treadmill for a few minutes to warm up. Then I hop on the stair climber and get the hardest part out of the way early. On the stair climber, I start at a certain level and increase my level by one every minute until I feel like I’ve reached my max. Then I come down one level every minute until I reach my starting point. If I have any energy left after the stair climber, I hop on the elliptical machine to finish things out. I don’t set a certain time for cardio for myself, instead, I focus on how I’m feeling and stop when I start feeling tired.

Take an exercise class. There are days when I’m tired and simply want to follow someone else’s lead. On those days, I head to my local gym and take one of the classes offered. By no means are the classes easy, but most are scalable to your level and you get as much out of them as you put into them. So if I do a light weights class on a day I feel tired, I don’t get overly ambitious but chose a weight level that I know I can sustain throughout the hour-long class. I also love taking the yoga class on days that I’m tired. It gets my body moving at a slower pace, promotes lots of stretching and also puts my mind in a good place.

My last piece of advice for staying active when tired is to choose any of the above options, but do them first thing in the morning. When I’ve had a more-sleepless-than-usual night, I always work out in the morning while I’m still on my coffee high. By the afternoon, my energy wanes tremendously even when I get decent sleep.

How do you stay active when you’re tired?

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