Healthy Mind

Charlotte Hawkins: How I Work Smarter, Not Harder

For busy mum Charlotte, getting creative with her time and fitness is essential during the summer holidays – here, she tells us how…

With the arrival of the summer holidays, it’s that time of year that brings joy to the smallest members of the family with the prospect of weeks of freedom. For parents though, the change in schedule can mean a big upheaval, making it harder to stick to all the usual healthy eating and regular fitness habits. Finding a spare moment to do anything for yourself, like nipping off to the gym, can be tough. It’s at times like this though, I know I need to make sure I juggle things to keep it up – not just for my body’s sake, but also for my mind. If you’re finding it hard to organise things to grab a bit of time to yourself, then take a look at how you can really focus your workout to get the maximum results. It doesn’t need to take long; it’s been scientifically proven that short bursts of intense exercise really works. So blitz it in the time you do have, to maximise efficiency. Whether you’re running or out cycling, short, full-on bursts with a brief rest in-between will reap rewards. After taking part in the Sport Relief Boat Race challenge, I discovered one of my favourite exercises is on the rowing machine, where just a few bursts of intense rowing does the job and I can really feel the difference. Just a word of warning though, if you’ve got any pre-existing medical conditions then do check with your doctor before trying this one.

If you don’t have time to fit the gym in because of childcare, then kill two birds with one stone and get your children on board as well. Now I have a four-year-old who gets excited about these kinds of activities, but I think at whatever age, once you get going and manage to prise them away from their computer games or the TV, they’ll get so much out of it. One of our favourites is going for a forest walk, where we combine den-building with a woodland workout; Ella Rose balances on tree trunks while I do bench presses, tree hops and burpees. If you prefer something closer to home though, there are any number of ways you can easily fit in some exercise – sprinting up and down the stairs, skipping, lifting weights while watching Peppa Pig! After I gave birth I found it hard to find the time to work out as much as I wanted, so I would do squats while brushing my teeth twice a day, and also with Ella Rose, while I was rocking her to sleep in my arms! Make the most of the opportunities you get, and you may even start to wonder why you ever bothered going to the gym. Here are my top tips for scheduling in fitness as a busy mum:

1. Make it count

Really focus your fitness. Just a few minutes of intense exercise can make a big difference.

2. Get fit together

Set yourselves challenges, targets and have competitions. Put together a plan over the holidays with a chart and rewards, so you can track your progress.

3. Be creative

There are so many options these days – whether it’s parkruns, mini marathons, doing your own dance performances or circus shows together!

4. Use your environment

Woodland workouts; at the playground; hill sprints; a family hike with a picnic.

5. Try something new

Visit a treetop adventure experience, try surfing or horse-riding – the options are endless. Have fun!

Health & Wellbeing