While I’m thrilled that the good weather is here and summer holidays are right around the corner (closer than expected if our teachers do indeed go to a full scale walkout…), I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to some anxiety over the upcoming change in my routine.
For me (and many of my clients and class participants), next to Christmas holidays, summer is the most challenging time of the year to stay focused on exercise and clean eating.
Despite the longer days (more time to exercise out of doors), the abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables (farmer’s markets are a great place to sample local produce) and the shedding of cold weather clothing (nothing like wearing shorts and a tank top to highlight those muscles you’ve built over the winter and help you stay focused on keeping them), for those of us with school age children, summertime fitness can become a scheduling nightmare.
With kids’ camps, family holidays, visiting relatives, swimming lessons, barbecues, beach parties, sleepovers, play dates and all the extra meal prep and house cleaning (admittedly, my children are getting better at helping with this), many parents find it difficult to maintain their regular workout schedule. Some quit altogether, only to return to the gym in September, feeling like they’re starting all over again.
5 tips for reducing summertime fitness stress
1. Re-think your goals. If you don’t have an event you’re training for, reduce your expectations; it’s the easiest way to set yourself up for success. Admitting that summertime may not be the best time to put on more muscle, lean out or PR on your dead lift gives you the freedom to follow a ‘maintenance’ schedule. For me, summer is all about maintaining my fitness status quo.
After years of paying attention to how my body responds to exercise, I know that I’m capable of maintaining my muscle mass and body weight with a mere three, full-body strength training sessions per week. Any less and I regress. Anything more is just icing on the (low-fat, sugar-free) cake!
If you’re looking for free, short but intense, minimal equipment workouts, check out my YouTube channel.
2. Make yourself a priority. Remember that summertime parenting is an endurance event. Taking care of yourself makes it easier to take care of others. Rather than thinking of exercise as a chore, remind yourself of how good it makes you feel and in turn, how much easier it is to remain patient, kind and loving to your children (even when they’ve uttered the phrase “I’m bored” for the hundredth time today…).
3. Exercise outside the ‘box’ (or the studio or the gym). Not getting to the gym as frequently as usual? Not to worry. Expand your definition of exercise to include backyard and playground activities with your children.
Monkey bars are just as good an exercise for your back as lat pulldowns. Spend thirty minutes on the swing and tell me you don’t feel the muscles of your core? Hiking, biking, kayaking, swimming, scootering and hula-hooping are all great substitutes for more traditional, whole-body metabolic strength workouts.
4. Focus on nutrition. If you’re cutting back on exercise, use this time to focus on nutrition. Not only is it easier to eat healthy in the summer (berries, tomatoes, greens, apricots, cherries, cucumbers; all are readily available and both fresher and cheaper than any other time of the year), many people find that their appetite for sweet and starchy carbs is less intense when the weather heats up. Think of this extra time with your children as an opportunity to plan and prepare healthy meals WITH them (rather than FOR them).
5. Take a daily ‘constitutional’. Recent studies show that significant health benefits can be gained by simply adding a walk to your daily routine. An after-dinner stroll around the neighbourhood is a great way to get kids away from the computer. We incorporate berry-picking, geo-caching, wildlife photography and chatting with the neighbours into our evening ‘constitutionals’. With the children running ahead, some days this is the only time my husband and I can hold a conversation without interruption.
Do you find it harder to fit in fitness over the summer?
Share your tricks and tips for maintaining summertime fitness below.