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Exercise is a major component of taking care of yourself. It influences our energy level, ability to focus, quality of sleep, and most importantly, our long term ability to be up to the challenge of the work and circumstances life has in store for us.

Many of us, especially parents, have difficulty making time or, at worst, feeling like we can justify the time we spend on exercise.

In this episode we will make a quick and simple case for exercise and share some ideas for making exercise a part of your daily experience, even while the kids are around.

Highlights, Takeaways, & Quick Wins
  • Think about exercise as a vital piece to health, in the same way you think about drinking water or eating food.
  • You can’t think about exercise as a temporary fix.
  • When your children see you making exercise an important part of your life, they’re more likely to do that for themselves.
  • You’re not exercising for yourself now, you’re exercising so your future self is ready to take on the things you will have to do then.
  • If exercise is really important to you, what unimportant things can you cut out in the evening so you can go to bed earlier?
  • Get creative about getting other parents involved so you can help each other make time for exercise.
  • Surround yourself with people who you can share your goals and your commitments with.
  • Whatever activity it is, make exercise a part of your daily experience.
  • Playing with the kids in certain ways can be a form of work out.
  • It’s not a matter of how to squeeze exercise in, it’s a matter of exercise being as important to you as other things you’re working on.
Show Notes
  • 02:38 Ben: This is something that can have a pretty heavy influence on the kind of energy you have and on feeling positive vs. feeling negative. Charline in the chat said an alternative title to the show could be Making Time to Work Out When Overlapping and Hustling. I think some of the stuff we’re going to talk about will help people who don’t have kids but who feel like they have difficulty making working out a priority. To give a little bit of background, ever since we’ve been married, Rachel has always been the one who’s into staying in shape and working out.
  • 03:41 I’ve always aspired to be as much of that as I can and at times it’s come easier to me than others. I think back to when we first got married and we were going running together several days a week. Even when we had our two oldest, Jadon and Asa, we bought a double running stroller. We were doing that pretty consistently and then, as our family grew, I definitely started to have more and more difficulty because of the logistics and I was getting busier with my own business.
  • 04:31 Rachel: I think part of it too is that we used to do it together. I’ve always been a very motivated person and I think that helped you to be motivated, so when we stopped doing it together, it was like you didn’t have a motivator anymore. Not that I pin that all on me, but it becomes harder when you don’t have someone to do it with.

Having a Healthful Mindset

  • 05:00 Ben: I want to start with what I believe is the cornerstone for making exercise a regular part of your life, and this is actually the tether that has brought me back to working out regularly when my circumstances have made it really difficult: mindset—the way you think about exercise. Exercise is a vital piece of the puzzle. It influences many areas of your life. You have more energy and focus when you exercise regularly, your body is healthier, you have more of an ability to keep up with the demands of life, not just in the present, but things in the future you can’t even foresee. There’s a readiness that comes with exercising regularly and keeping your body healthy.

Think about exercise as a vital piece to health, in the same way you think about drinking water or eating food.

  • 05:56 Those are things I have to do for your body. Not drinking water or eating food have more immediate effects, but not exercising over time can make your body sick, cause disease, and cause many other complications, not to mention the effect it has on your work and on your personal relationships. You can’t think about exercise as a temporary fix. If you’re thinking, “I have a weight goal, I want to lose some pounds, so I’m going to work out until I reach that goal,” that’s not what exercise is supposed to be. That’s not how you use that tool. If you think about it as a temporary fix, you’re going to have less success with it. You’ve got to think about it as a lifestyle—a part of your daily and weekly experience.
  • 07:16 This is another piece of the mindset that’s really important to me. We’ve got six kids and that takes a ton of energy right now, along with the demands of my business, and all the other things I need a healthy body in order to do. The body I have today, the ability I have to use my body to accomplish those tasks is something I’ve inherited from my past self. Your past self is the one who gave you the body you have today with which you can do things. Maybe you feel like you’re not healthy and that’s making things difficult for you—that’s the body you’ve inherited from your past self.
  • 08:20 Maybe you have a lot of energy and you can do a lot of things—that’s the body you’ve inherited from your past self. Certainly there are variables in there like body types and faster metabolisms, but eventually it comes down to staying healthy in the long-term. In your 30s, 40s, 60s, or 80s—as long as you’re still breathing—you still have work ahead of you. The health of your body is part of what’s going to determine how effective you can be at carrying out that work.

You’re not exercising for yourself now, you’re exercising so your future self is ready to take on the things you will have to do then.

  • 09:25 That’s another great way to think about it. The final piece of the mindset is thinking about exercise as being as important as anything else on your schedule. Cory McCabe said, “I find that when I tell myself I’ll work out today after such-in-such, I don’t end up doing it, but when I say that I’ll start at 8pm, I usually end up following through.” There’s real power in actually giving it a place on your schedule. Do you actually schedule your work out times, Rachel?
  • 10:04 Rachel: Yeah, my work out is done at 8am every morning. My mindset is a little bit different actually. You’ve been talking about having the mindset of desiring to be healthy and doing more in your work, but I think mine stems from a more selfish thing. I’m a survivor or eating disorders, so my motivation always comes down to what my body looks like.
  • 10:43 After having six kids, I bust my butt to try to get back to pre-pregnancy. For me, it’s about looking good and that can sound selfish, but I think it’s helped keep me more motivated than just the healthy piece. I think some people have that motivation and I don’t necessarily think it’s a healthy one. I’d rather be more motivated by being healthy, but the reality is there are some people who probably aren’t as motivated just by being healthy
  • 11:25 Ben: People always use this example, but I heard it after I had already made the observation watching the first Thor movie—Chris Hemsworth worked really hard to get this really nice male physique. When I saw that, I thought about what a “dad bod” I had. I’m sitting there and my jeans are tight, my stomach is hanging over them, and I’ve got nacho cheese dripping from my mouth. I felt so bad about myself in that moment. That’s definitely not a healthy motivation in the sense that it causes you not to accept your body or accept yourself.
  • 12:34 The way you look right now is a part of who you are and there’s nothing wrong with having a little bit of extra fat. Where it becomes difficult is where it effects your health and energy level. I will say that when you’re exercising regularly, you’re going to see changes in your body. Some of that can lead to you feeling more self-confident. The self confidence piece can be a really healthy thing. You’ve got to find a good balance there.
  • 13:37 Men, your muscular-ness is such an insignificant measure of how much of a man you are and you need to know that. You’re so much more than that. The health piece is the healthiest motivator. The looks, appearance, or whatever idea you have of what a nice looking body is, falls apart over the years. Things are going to sag—it happens.
  • 14:31 Rachel: One of the things that motivates me now is that there’s just something about the way your body feels when you’re working out. It’s all the endorphins that makes you ride high and after a good workout, I’m so incredibly satisfied with what I’ve done with my time.
  • 14:58 Ben: Honestly, I’m still in the beginnings of getting back into working out regularly, so it’s still a struggle for me to be consistent with it as much as I’d like to. I had gone a month where I wasn’t working out. I’m starting to experience this thing where I really crave—almost like you’d crave chocolate—the feeling of having to take deep breathes like when you’re working out. Filling your lungs with oxygen is addictive in a way. The biggest part of it for me with the mindset, especially if you have children, is the example you’re setting for them.

When your children see you making exercise an important part of your life, they’re more likely to do that for themselves.

  • 16:49 That’s a huge motivation for me. Growing up, my brother and I didn’t have much of that as an example. My mom would go on really long walks, so that was the most positive example we had in terms of physical fitness. I think because that wasn’t a really important piece, I didn’t go into adulthood thinking about it that way. When you exemplify that as an important piece, your kids are more likely to take that on as well.
  • 17:27 Rachel: My parents never taught me any of that. When I went off to college, my motivation was not to gain the “freshmen 15”.
  • 17:38 Ben: That was not my motivation at all. I ate pizza two meals every single day from a pizza buffet in college.
  • 17:48 Rachel: We had a gym that was free with tuition so I used that.

Wake Up Early

  • 18:42 Ben: On Twitter, I asked, “How do you make time to exercise?” Cory Miller said, “I work out before anyone else is awake.” Scott says, “Morning routine: sketch, write, run/work out.” Many others said the same—they have to get their work out in before the kids wake up, otherwise it just doesn’t happen. In order for that to be possible, you have to go to bed earlier or you have to lose sleep. That’s counterproductive, why would you make time to work out and then not get enough sleep? It’s like the people who work out regularly so they can eat bad foods without feeling guilty.
  • 19:40 Rachel: I already wake up before anybody else, but I have a long routine of writing and reading. In order to fit exercise into that time, I would have to get up at 4am, which I’m not going to do. I usually use the kid’s nap time. We have three in school and the other three take naps. Now, sometimes I’ll do it while the boys are playing and they’ll do it with me.
  • 20:11 Ben: While they’re sleeping is a good time to get your work out in. That doesn’t always mean you can go out for a run in your neighborhood or go to a local gym necessarily, but there are other things you can do. Going to bed earlier is tough often because we have these habits we get into—these things we do at the end of our day—to try to wind down. We don’t really want to think about anything so we turn on the tv and watch a show. That might get us a little wired and we watch another show because we’re binge watching something.

If exercise is really important to you, what unimportant things can you cut out in the evening so you can go to bed earlier?

  • 21:18 This isn’t an easy thing either, this is hard, but that’s just one idea. You can also get help. If your spouse is not aware that fitness is a priority for you, getting them on board with that can free you up. Maybe you talk about it and they offer to put the kids to bed two nights a week so you can go for your run, or two mornings a week they make breakfast so you can finish your work out. Depending on your situation, that might not be possible, but having the support of your spouse is really important.

Ask for Help

  • 22:12 This was a fun idea I had, not just for exercise, but also for going on date nights: create a child care coop with other parents in your community. If you’re not an outgoing person, this may feel like pulling teeth but if you can find other parents who are also crunched for time and want to make working out a priority, maybe you can work out a deal where once a week you watch their kids so they can get a work out in, and then another day during the week you flip flop and they watch your kids so you can run. The more people you get involved, the more times per week you could have available.
  • 23:09 Even if you could get out once a week that would be better than just not doing anything. This morning, I did something kind of similar to that, but we set up a play date with some friends of ours who have twins nine months older than our twins. The other three boys are in school and I’m responsible for the boys on Friday mornings and I can’t take all three of them out to go running. I worked it out to where their twins and my twins could play and our friends agreed to watch them for 30 minutes, while I took Asher in the running stroller and went for a run.

Get creative about getting other parents involved so you can help each other make time for exercise.

  • 24:18 Maybe you could make it a regular thing. Some parents even like play dates. We have a set of parents who, when we bring a couple of our older ones over, they feel relieved because now they’re occupying their kid’s time. They only have one kid. Get creative with that and the most important kind of help you can get is accountability. If this is something you truly want to make a priority, surround yourself with people who you can share your goals and your commitments with and who will hold you accountable to those. You know you’re going to have to answer to them and you know if you don’t follow through, you’ll have to let them know.
  • 25:15 On SnapChat, I asked, “What are some things that make it possible to work out regularly? What are some things that make it difficult?” Sarah said, “One thing that has helped me keep going with working out is I have three mom friends who all do the same work out. We all live in different cities and states. We have a group text going encouraging each other. I have not missed a work out in seven weeks because of the accountability. We complain about the burpies and laugh about the soreness. I absolutely need another person to do it with.”
  • 25:55 For me, I actually created public accountability. I let all of my friends on Facebook and in the Community know that I was doing a fitness challenge for myself—I’m trying to reach a target weight. I created a page and outlined all my goals, so now I’ve got public accountability. Every once in a while I have to stoke that fire again and let people know this is still something I’m doing, but I’ll still have people asking me about it from time to time. I also have an accountability partner, Aaron Dowd, The Podcast Dude on the seanwes network. I’ve got layers of accountability that’s really helping me stay on track.

Integrated Work Outs

  • 27:16 This is probably the funnest tip I have and I’m calling it the “integrated work out”. Let’s say you don’t have time to go to the gym, you can’t work it out to where you can actually go for a run, and the only time you have when you’re not working is taking care of your kids. The integrated work out is one that actually uses the time you spend with your kids as a work out. Even though I have time to go work out without the kids, I’m thinking about doing at least one of these a week. One, because of the example it sets and two, because it’s a more playful form of exercise which is really good for you.
  • 28:11 If you can work in some kind of playful form of exercise every week, your body treats it a little bit differently than going for a job or doing an intensive work out. Your brain is engaged in other ways. It’s really good to shake things up that way. Playing with the kids in certain ways can be a form of work out. A few different things we do are freeze tag at the local park, which is a ton of short burst sprints, climbing, and parkour type stuff. I go all out. It’s great because you’re spending time with them and the kids love it. When I chase our five year old Hosea, he giggles the whole time. Another thing we do is a dance party, where we put on popular music and show off our moves in the living room. This is a great form of exercise when you really get into it.
  • 30:43 Rachel: It’s like aerobic freestyle dancing.
  • 30:48 Ben: Another game I play is called “floating baby” and this only works if you’ve got some older kids and a baby. I pick the baby up and hold him in front of me while I crouch down a little bit and I chase the older kids. The baby loves it because he’s flying through the house, keeping up with his brothers and the older boys love it because there’s something about being chased that kids love. I’m using my muscles to hold the baby up and running in this awkward position, so it’s a good full body work out.
  • 31:45 The last one I have is “Daddy’s a guerrilla” and “velociraptor” is a variation on this one. Essentially, you emulate whatever animal it is. When I do a guerrilla, I get down on my knuckles and I can run like a guerrilla. I’m actually very good at this. I’m going along as a guerrilla, jumping on furniture, and chasing the kids. The velociraptor is a similar one, but you get on the balls of your feet, pull your elbows into your chest, and put your fingers out like claws. Another way to do an integrated work out is actually using the kids as weights.
  • 33:03 I noticed someone share on Facebook about a guy in Australia who put together this full work out regimen doing this and he looks like Chris Hemsworth. He used his kids as the weights to look like Thor. It’s better than free weights because kids move around and wiggle, so your muscles have to compensate more. You can just Google “using your kids as weights,” or something like that and people have posted videos about it. Some may be safer than others, so use discretion there. I can do 50 pushups by myself and with a four year old on my back, I was able to do 28 before my arms gave out.
  • 34:19 Rachel: That’s pretty good. They’re what, 35 or 40 pounds?
  • 34:31 Ben: Of course, you can do your workout while your kids are doing other activities. We live in a cul-de-sac, so our kids like to go out in front and run around. I could get out there with the running stroller, put Asher in it, and I could run around the cul-de-sac. I did some measurements to find out how many times I would need to go around the cul-de-sac to equal one mile.
  • 35:02 Rachel: I think we did that a while ago because we were thinking of doing it while they were sleeping so we never had to leave sight of the house.
  • 35:12 Ben: It was something like 26 times. You would have to do a really good job of keeping track.

Work Out Videos

  • 35:39 Work out videos can be done while you’re watching the kids or while they’re doing another activity, or it’s a convenient way to get a work out in while they’re napping and you can’t leave the house.
  • 35:52 Rachel: This is pretty much all I do. Every now and then I can get out for a run, but I pretty much only have the ability to do work out videos because I’ve always got the kids here.
  • 36:04 Ben: There are a few different ways you can do this. YouTube has tons of free work out videos. We invested some money in a few work out programs that were specific to the kind of muscular work out we wanted to do. Rachel has Moms Into Fitness. You’ve actually purchased a few programs from them.
  • 36:26 Rachel: Yes, the Pretty Fierce. They’re all really good.
  • 36:34 Ben: I’ve done some of the Moms Into Fitness work outs with Rachel and I can’t keep up with her. I have a work out program I do called Insanity. It’s pretty insane. Sarah mentioned the Dollar Work Out Club, where for one dollar per week, you can get five days worth of work out videos. They also give you recipes and tips. This is something you can subscribe to and the work outs are relatively short. I haven’t tried that out but I’ve heard good things about it.
  • 37:49 I like these activities that favor doing the work outs in front of the kids, just to demonstrate how important fitness really is. It’s a vital piece of your lifestyle and it doesn’t necessarily have to look like going for a run or doing a work out video. Maybe fitness for you right now in this stage of your life is going for a walk. Maybe it’s keeping a set of weights beside your desk and while you’re waiting for something to render or load, you do some curls.

Whatever activity it is, make exercise a part of your daily experience.

  • 38:41 I love the idea of doing this in front of the kids in a way that helps them not just see it as, “Oh, this is something I should do,” but to think of it as, “That’s just a normal thing we do,” the same way they think of our bed time routine. Reading together is just one of the things we do. Sitting down to eat a meal together is one of the things we do. I want it to be that consistent for them.
  • 39:17 Rachel: We’ve also gone on a family run. Obviously, we couldn’t run very far, but the boys ran all the way down to the school and back with us. That was a really fun time too because our boys really enjoy running. It’s half a mile to the school so by the time we got back to the house, they had run a whole mile. It’s fun to get them doing stuff like that.
  • 39:48 We play with them and we exercise, but there’s also value in showing them different forms of exercise. I feel like the best work outs you can get are when you play like a kid, but the reality is when you’re an adult, you don’t often get that chance. You have to go outside of our normal stuff and make time to work out. We have to do that more now because we’re so sedentary.
  • 40:24 Ben: You mean just in general as a society.
  • 40:30 Rachel: Yeah, like we don’t walk anywhere anymore. We walk our boys to school and I don’t count that as a work out, but I know it’s good for my heart and good for my body. Even if it’s raining a little, we’ll still walk to school because it’s good for them to be out and exercising and it’s good for me too.

Working Out When You’re Busy

  • 40:57 Ben: Eric asks, “How are you able to set time to work out when you have work to be done?” This is similar to the next question, but I wanted to throw in an idea here. I heard this one from Aaron and I put my own spin on it. He keeps weights next to his standing desk. This is where I got the idea before, where if you’re waiting for something to render, instead of taking that opportunity to get distracted on social media, do curls instead.
  • 41:45 My spin is that I do some pushups now when I’m waiting for something to load. By the end of the day, I’ll get four or five sets of pushups in and because I’ve made it more of a habit, it doesn’t feel like I had to intentionally set time aside to do five reps of 15 pushups. It was something that gradually happened throughout my day, but I can already see the results from that—I feel how much stronger I am.
  • 42:24 Rachel: I usually don’t wait for things to load—I’m just writing on a computer. I wonder if between transitions I should start doing something like that. I would probably focus more on pushups and abs.
  • 42:39 Ben: Maybe the takeaway here is there are probably little places like that. These smaller sections of time throughout your day where you could do a little bit of multitasking. Maybe while you’re taking a break you do a quick yoga work out. The idea is making it a habit so you’re no longer thinking about it, it’s just, “Oh something is loading, it’s time to go do pushups.”
  • 43:10 Charline asks, “How do you justify working out when overlapping and hustling?” There’s always so much to do. This just goes back to what we talked about in the beginning. I think so much about the long-term aspects of this. If, because of the skills I have and the experience I’ve gained over the years, the work I’m doing today is more meaningful than the work I was doing in the past and that trend continues, it stands to reason that my future self will have even more to offer.
  • 44:00 I want to make sure my future self is as ready as possible to be able to deliver on the kind of value I have to offer the world. Maybe your end game is that you’re going to hustle for a while and then you’re going to travel for the rest of your life. What kind of state do you want your body to be in when you’re traveling? Do you want to be healthy and fit so you can really enjoy it, or do you want to travel while also having to nurse some long-term injury you sustained because you weren’t taking care of yourself? That’s the way you think about it.

It’s not a matter of how to squeeze exercise in, it’s a matter of exercise being as important to you as other things you’re working on.

  • 44:56 I would rather sacrifice some of my short-term gains I could make in my business today so that I’m ready and capable for the long-term things I have to do.
  • 45:07 Rachel: That’s a good mindset. I have trouble taking actual work time and doing a work out in that. My work out happens when I’m watching all the kids so it feels like it’s not taking time away from work I would be doing anyway.
  • 45:30 Ben: With the integrated work outs you can still make that time you’re spending with the kids meaningful while doing something good for your body. I think Charline’s question was coming more from the side of someone who doesn’t necessarily have kids but has a lot going on. Even if you don’t have kids, if you’re really hustling and you’re trying to do meaningful work, there’s no less the feeling of, “Wow, there just aren’t enough hours in the day.” That’s a universal feeling, so really it just comes down to the way you think about exercise and the role it plays in your life.
  • 46:10 Rachel: I remember last week there was a day I felt really overwhelmed with everything that needed to be done and I actually skipped my work out because it was a 40 minute work out. I remember my attitude and the way I approached the day were completely different. I didn’t get near as much done as I needed to. I probably would have gotten more done had I just done the work out and then gone to work.