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The Soccer Mom Fitness Trap

You're Busy, But Not Active

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Always on the run, but no time to jog? Or bike, hike, swim, or otherwise participate in activities that would mean better health, more energy, and even fun?

If this sounds like your life, maybe it’s time-- in the rosy glow of the just-dawning New Year-- to consider how you can get off that routine treadmill of busyness and blaze a new trail that allows you to be physically active while completing important tasks.

For inspiration, meet 46-year-old Taimi Henderson (pronounced Tammy), who had three kids in two years and eight months, raised them as a single "soccer mom"—before that term existed—and survived to smile about it all.

Acknowledging the hard lessons of organizing life with two young daughters and a son, Taimi admits feeling envious when she heard other adults say they were heading off to the gym or signing up for aerobics classes: "I would think, ‘I so want to exercise!’ But I couldn’t. I was too busy to be active."

Faced with mounting mounds of laundry and pre-teens who would "freak out" because a special shirt wasn’t clean when they wanted to wear it, Taimi said she realized "something had to give."

As a result, she drew up a new battle plan— one that involved time-saving strategies to help her keep her sanity.

First on the list: setting up the household so that her children could take on more responsibility.

"They’ve done their own laundry since they were 10, 11, 12 years old," she says, recalling with a chuckle how she got her darlings their own clothes baskets and held a group training session to show them how to use the washing machine. They also learned at an early age to cook meals, as well as rotate kitchen cleanup and other daily chores.

While it wasn’t always smooth sailing— "I learned really quick that they needed assigned days to do their laundry, because they would all wind up trying to do their laundry at the same time and it was ugly"—Taimi says she learned as she went, and the additional responsibilities were good for her kids.

Slated next for a new plan of attack was the weekly marketing, since "I hated everything about grocery shopping."

Though there were limits to how much she could reduce this task, she simplified the process by instituting her own ‘Deal-a-Meal’ lists, with dinner menus on one side and the necessary ingredients on the other side. "That way, I could plan out 6 or 7 different dinners every week, and already have the list. I couldn’t change the need for shopping, but I could get it done quicker."

Getting things done more efficiently was especially important, Taimi says, because of her training job at a Honda manufacturing plant, where she earned top-notch pay and benefits but faced high expectations which didn’t allow flexibility. "I didn’t feel like being more organized, I had to be. There was a mindset that if production (at the plant) was running you had to be there. It’s a way of life there that you cannot ever be late, not even one minute."

As a result, Taimi says, she had to be more creative in fitting exercise into her hectic life. "It’s not easy to do" when you have to be at work at 6 AM. When planning to work out, "You have to go straight to the gym or you won’t get there." Formal workouts were often out of the question "when the kids were small and I was just swamped." Instead, physical activity revolved around things like "working on the house, painting, going up and down stairs" and the long walk twice a day from her large company parking lot to her office.

Later, with kids involved in a multitude of activities-- softball, basketball, cheerleading, show choir-- "drive time was horrendous! There are times when you honestly don’t have a life. I remember a 2-year period when we were gone almost every night from 4:30 until 8:30 PM."

Still she didn’t give up, but looked for opportunities to exercise during the inevitable waiting. At sports practices, "I would sit at the top of the stadium and run up and down the steps, or walk around the baseball diamonds or the track-- little things like that."

Also helpful, she stresses, was being realistic about the type of exercise routine she would actually commit to: "I can’t do it down in the basement, I have to be around people."

In addition to strategic planning and delegating responsibility, Taimi has one additional piece of advice for soccer moms and dads who want to build fitness time into their frantic schedules: Let go of some things.

"I remember when the kids were young, they were always fascinated by the Christrmas tree. They wanted to touch the ornaments, take them down and look at them, and I was always worrying about it. I finally decided the best thing was to give them each their own little tree. They could decorate it themselves, and they’d leave mine alone!" So began a family tradition that has lasted throughout the years.

"You have to let some things go…You’re just too uptight when you’re younger. I sometimes wish I knew then what I know now, it would have saved so much stress."

Additional Reading:
Get more information on women's health at RealAge.com.


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Member Comments

  • My children are grown now, but I will share this article with them for my grandchildren. Excellent ideas!
  • SAMUELSM
    Great inspiring article!
  • It probably helps if your kids aren't overscheduled and overstructured. One activity per kid is sufficient, in my estimation.
  • ZIFONIX
    Thanks you, this is a great article.

    http://zifonix.
    com/category/
    health/fitness/
  • Thanks so much for sharing
  • Great article with examples with solutions to what needed to be done and why she picked them- this woman had it together from the start.
  • I do think it is great for kids to learn home responsibilities and live in a schedule because most of life does have both. Mom does not mean you have to actually do it all - it is great to delegate and just supervise...Great story/article.
  • I raised five children while my husband was gone most of the time in the military. Even when he was home, he was always busy doing what he needed to do, so he was little help. But I learned to be organized through Pam Young and Peggy Jones "The Slob Sisters" and through using ideas from Denise Schofield "Confessions of an Organized Housewife." Rule 1: Less is always better. I didn't run my kids to every activity, but we focused on a couple and they got good at them. They did Judo, and played Soccer in the fall & did swimming in the summer. I always found time to do WALKING while they had Judo class or Soccer, so I got in exercise then. You DON'T have to SIT and watch.
  • I juggle kids activities which seem to be never ending and as my husband works away, I have to do by myself as well as working. Where there is a will there is a way. I have 5k routes marked out near all their activities. Most activities last an hour and my 5k takes me just over 30 mins (depending on how well I am doing!!) so I even get to watch them for awhile. I jump rope for ten minutes in the morning before they get up and I jump on the trampoline with them. I also have a 40 minute kettlebell routine which I do while they are doing homework or else get up early to get it done.

    Where there is a will there is a way! and if you really want to do it you will find some way and if you want to find an excuse, you will find that too!

    Having said that, I do know that it is very difficult with smaller children and I found it difficult when mine were small and they were with me all the time and I had no family living near and didn't know the neighbours as we had just moved to the area. At least when they start school you get to meet other parents and can get some mutual help going!
  • You are very wise! I agree so much with learning to let go of things. When my boys were young I was so uptight about stuff; now that they are teenagers and one getting ready for college I realize I could have done a little better job getting them ready if I hadn't been so worried about it being perfect.

  • Awesome Article. Very Inspirational and Motivational. Great for Families with Children to in managing the household to bring down the stress level to where things would run smoothly. God Bless Everyone. Have a Wonderful Week. Take Care.
  • Wow! 3 kids in 2 years 8 months! I cannot even imagine-how hard that must have been with no Dad in the picture. I know with my husband being in the Navy on submarines he was gone 6 months out of 12 and our communication was almost nil.. I cannot even imagine having children during that time. We had to think it thru and decide how much he was going to be involved with parenting. Our decision took a lot of time to put everything into the mix-me being alone raising the children and him coming in and out and still being an active parent. I cannot imagine all of the other choices you have made but I would think laundry, shopping, and meal planning while trying to get in exercise time would be difficult to say the least. I'm glad you had a well paying job, though taxing, that made it possible for you to raise responsible, self-sufficient children on you own.

About The Author

Rebecca Pratt Rebecca Pratt
A freelance writer who contributes to various newspapers and magazines, Becky loves covering ordinary people doing extraordinary things.