Every time I see one of those “No Excuses!” headlines or memes, I want to heave a medicine ball at my computer. These posts send the messages that going to the gym isn’t selfish, kids shouldn’t be an excuse for not working out, and there’s no excuse for not taking care of yourself.
I agree, and over the years I’ve made working out a priority. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings at 9:30 a.m., I’m at my CrossFit box laboring away.
Unless there’s a snow day for my kids. Or they’re sick. Or I’m sick. Or the doctor/dentist/teacher/speech therapist/freelance client can only meet with me during my scheduled WOD. Or my freelance work exceeds my babysitting/kids-in-school hours for the week.
Most of the time, I can schedule around my workout or move my training to another day. But I won’t feel guilty for the days when I just can’t make it in. I’m tired of being told no excuse is ever good enough.
Editor’s note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the author’s and don’t necessarily reflect the views of Breaking Muscle. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.
Exercise Is Important. So Are Many Other Things.
Believe me, I know the stakes. I had an endocrinologist write out “Exercise 60 min. three times per week” on a prescription pad and hand it to me when I was overweight and near diabetic. He wanted to make it clear exercise was as important to my health as the medication he prescribed.
Another doctor, after my first child was born, shared the beautiful idea that the time we spend exercising and taking care of ourselves is given back to our children over and over because it will make us live longer and more fully. That hit me.
And I’ll stipulate upfront that I’m sure there are people who have oodles of time to spend at the gym, but instead play video games and eat junk. I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about people with busy, demanding lives that make it difficult to do laundry, let alone an hour-long workout.
Lecturing (people) about how important it is to prioritize their fitness without helping them find the time is cruel.
But all that “fitspiration” doesn’t even begin discussing what these people experience when they complain they don’t have time. And it makes no mention of what gym owners and trainers can do to help busy clients start creating more time to be healthy.
People work out more when it fits easily into their lives and they don’t have to neglect legitimate priorities like work and family. So how do you know if your gym is a break from the stress or yet another burden to your clients? Ask yourself the questions below:
Are Your Classes in the Middle of Crunch Time?
Do your training sessions all start in the early evening between 4:00 and 6:30? Do they end by 7:30 a.m. in the morning? I have never worked a full-time job that allowed me to take a group class. The typical morning class time didn’t give me enough time to get ready for and commute to work.
Not to mention, as a parent, the normal group class times are actually the busiest parts of my day. In the evening, I’m dealing with cranky, tired kids, getting dinner ready, and taking kids to sports practices and classes. (In a world where most parents work, few kid activities start before 5:30 p.m.) In the morning, I’m getting kids ready for school. I work out in the two-hour window between when I drop one child off and the other comes home, and my husband works out at 9:00 p.m. after our kids are in bed.
Do You Offer Childcare?
My gym doesn’t, and it can be a struggle. I work part-time from home, so if my kids aren’t in school, I either bring them (and their electronic babysitters) with me or I have to leave them with my husband.
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Before my gym offered a late morning class, I missed a lot of evening CrossFit classes because my husband had to work late and I didn’t want to drag a toddler and kindergartener to the gym.
Do You Make Feeding a Family More Difficult?
Paleo, I’m looking at you. If you advise your clients who are cooking for partners and children to follow a restrictive diet without showing them how to do it in a way that won’t turn dinnertime into a full-scale nightmare, you are not serving your clients.
I am (mostly) paleo. My family is not. It took me a solid year to figure out how to do that effectively. It is still stressful, time-consuming, and expensive. Cooking for a partner and two, three, or even four children, like many of my CrossFit friends do, is hard enough without having to cook a separate meal for one of the adults.
Do You Offer Family Programming?
Families have precious little time to spend together. It’s easy to write off what parents feel as simply guilt, but I’d argue it’s more like longing. I love my kids and my husband. I want to spend time with them. It brings me far more joy than going to the gym.
If your goal is to get people moving and healthy, consider a yoga class for parents and babies or a playground strength class where older kids can play while their parents workout nearby. The next time your gym runs a fundraiser WOD, consider adding a non-competitive kids WOD so the whole family can attend. Do all the youth sports teams in your town practice in the same area? Try holding a boot camp on the sidelines for the parents while their kids practice.
Do You Encourage a Workout or an Active Life?
With two kids, it’s easy for me to be active outside the gym. We ride bikes, hike, play soccer in our backyard, sprint down the sidewalk, and explore museums. I often do pull-up negatives on the monkey bars when we go to parks. We shoveled a lot of snow this winter. Just because I skipped my workout doesn’t mean I didn’t exercise. Help your clients find ways to be active outside the gym on busy days.
Help Your Clients Help Themselves
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Wake up and go to the 5 a.m. class! Your kids will understand if you go a whole day without seeing them! Exercise at home while trying to keep your small child entertained!” (Side note: If you have never tried to keep a small child entertained while you work out with weights heavy enough to send them to the hospital, you have no right suggesting it.)
People are already stressed out, lacking family time, and struggling to do even basic, necessary things know that they should do. They are beating themselves up because they can’t figure out how to do it all. Lecturing them about how important it is to prioritize their fitness without helping them find the time is cruel. Fitness professionals need to make getting healthy fit into, not work against, people’s busy lives.
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