Photo: Kristin Van de Water

I can’t push four kids in a jogging stroller. It’s too hot or cold or rainy. I showered last night and don’t want to waste time showering again so soon. I don’t want strangers watching me sweat.

These excuses flooded my mind every time I tried to return to my pre-kid routine of running in Central Park. Seven years into motherhood, I have finally found a workout that silences those voices in my head.

To jumpstart my exercise plan post-kids, I had to start small, be consistent, and eliminate as many obstacles as possible. I needed a no-excuses environment.

Excuse #1: I Can’t Get to the Gym

I’m watching the kids, there’s a blizzard outside, my workout clothes are out of date, and a gym membership is too expensive.

Thankfully, in 30 seconds flat, I can transform my bedroom into workout central. I open Pandora, roll out a yoga mat, and grab some dumbbells from my nightstand. My routine mainly involves yoga, dance, and calisthenics, so the only equipment really required is my body.

My only audience is the occasional kid who peeks around the door, sizes up my Downward Dog, and proclaims, “That’s easy!” My preschooler loves to unroll a yoga mat, twist her little body around, and exclaim, “Check out this move!” Plus, at home, yesterday’s t-shirt and thread-bare yoga pants work just fine.

Excuse #2: I’m Not a Morning Person

Exercise is more likely to happen in my early hours. By the time I’ve wrestled the kids into bed, I’m ready for Netflix. Once I realized I could free up precious evening hours by exercising and showering in the morning, I became even more game for sunrise workouts.

I don’t have to be fully awake to begin my exercise routine with simple stretches on the ground, which can naturally progress into leg lifts and crunches. Then I greet the day with a Sun Salutation, flow through Warrior poses, and breathe through planks. I get my blood pumping with jumping jacks and kickboxing moves, finish with lunges, and voila! Breakfast time.

Excuse #3: I Just Don’t Feel Like It

Start with the smallest, easiest exercise routine imaginable (like 10 jumping jacks, five crunches, or balancing on one foot as you brush teeth) and build from there. Once the routine becomes second nature, add on more components.

A few months into my routine, it has become addicting. Even on my “rest” mornings, I crave movement. Snuggle-in-Mommy’s-bed time is perfect for stretching and “flying” kids in the air with my feet to work my abs and quads. Once I’m up, I dance around while getting the kids ready for school to sneak in some bonus cardio.

Excuse #4: I Don’t Have Time

Starting my day with exercise makes everything more productive. I can’t lounge around in a fog when I know I only have one hour to fit in a workout, shower and breakfast.

It’s mornings when we need to leave on a tighter schedule that I find the time and motivation to exercise. If I only have 20 minutes, I’m more likely to just unroll my mat and get moving than on days when I could afford to sweat for a solid hour. Long workouts make me fret about wasted time. But if I’m just signing up for 20 minutes every other day—yeah, that’s doable.

Excuse #5: Kids Get in the Way of a Traditional Workout

A workout doesn’t have to look “normal” to count. Waiting for your kid to use the bathroom? Try some standing push-ups against the door frame. Riding the elevator? Squeeze in a few Kegels. Folding laundry? Add some squats. Standing on the school pick-up line? Engage your core (which my OBGYN recommended to treat my diastasis—because stretched out tummy muscles don’t magically repair after twins).

My health goal is to age well by actively combatting a sedentary lifestyle. As Grandma said, “Motion is lotion!” From this perspective, a life full of kids is an advantage. Forget conserving energy to make it through an exhausting day. Rather, look for ways to make daily routines healthier and more active. Push your massive stroller up hills, carry groceries, lunge to pick up toys, scoop up your toddler and jog to make the traffic light. Give the monkey bars a solid attempt and push swings with gusto.

Kids can also inspire fun moves to add to your intentional workout time. Skip with an imaginary jump rope, move your hips hula hoop-st‌yle, use your dresser as a ballet barre, and break out your crazy dance moves.

Excuse #6: My Commitment to Exercise Doesn’t Last

To follow through on your exercise commitment, make it about more than just physical results.

For me, that meant modeling for my kids how to take care of my whole self. So, I chose to couple exercise with devotional time. Adding a soundtrack of praise songs was a peaceful and uplifting way to get in a good workout and a surefire way to start the day on a positive note. Now I look forward to exercising as a time to get re-centered while worshipping God. Good for the mind, body, and soul!

You could make exercise meaningful by using it as quality time with a friend or spouse. My friend calls her mom to chat while she runs. Perhaps you pair your workout with a tasty meal or healthy shake afterward. Or, try a money motivator. Join a gym or book a spin class. If you’ve already paid for something, you may be less likely to hit the snooze button and skip out. You could also “pay” yourself each time you exercise and use the stashed cash to splurge on a treat or donate to a favorite cause.

With my newfound motivation and efficiency, I can incorporate exercise into even the busiest of days. Sure, I give myself a free pass every now and then. But most days I kick my excuses to the curb and just get moving.

So, what’s your excuse?