The Soccer Mom Fitness Trap

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."

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