As any parent will tell you, caring for another person full time is hard work, and can feel like a full-time job. Sometimes, it can be hard to find the time to dedicate to yourself and your fitness goals and nutrition. Woodside Personal Trainer Tika Castilleja shares some advice with parents that might find it hard to add regular exercise into a busy schedule. Most importantly through, she shares why it is important and beneficial to your children and family that you do. Read more from Tika below.

What motivated you start a new fitness regimen and how did you personally stick to it?

I was strong and active for so many years prior to having my son. Naturally, after becoming a mother life took on a different pace and my body took on a different shape. There finally came a time when I just knew I was overdue for self-care.  That realization was incredibly motivating for me to get into the gym again — I knew that I needed that time for my mental health, and that it would not only positively impact my health and fitness, but also my energy.  Exercise makes all the difference in my moods. Being happy and staying happy is an incredible motivator to me. It also helps me better serve my family and the people around me. Remembering my reason for working out and what I get from it helps me stay motivated even on my toughest days.

How did you start to make time for this new routine and what did the process look like to getting there?

When I decided to start forming better exercise habits, my son was still little. I was up several times in the night with him, taking care of him all day, and working a labor-intensive job in the evenings. I was rebuilding my fitness from scratch, which meant I could barely do two push ups, and a 10-second plank made me sore for two days when I first began. But I knew that I couldn’t let myself get discouraged. If I put the effort in, I would get stronger and healthier.

Rebuilding my fitness from the bottom-up during a chapter in my life when I was so low on time and energy taught me to change my perspective on working out. I had to do what I could, when I could.  I re-framed the way I thought about time – I was living by the idea that every minute was precious and any and all movement mattered. I would squat while I brushed my teeth or would plank while toast was in the toaster. It’s important in the beginning to remember that it all adds up. The 10-second plank and 10 squats count. That one push up is the foundation for 20 push ups further down the road.

Nutrition also plays a large part in a successful fitness journey. How did you start to integrate making changes to your diet as well through your journey?

My favorite word to use for this entire journey is gradualism. To ensure success, I cut out the obvious culprits of weight gain in my life and allowed myself to have them once a week to stay sane. My relationship with food has always been a struggle, so to combat myself and the habits I had, I learned to just simply not buy junk. I can’t have it around. A few months into my new fitness journey, I hired a personal trainer for new workout ideas, but they also motivated me to start meal prepping. Without realizing it, this advice completely changed my life. I won’t sugarcoat it: it’s a lot of work, but a few hours, or even a whole day prepping in the kitchen left me with more time during the week to do other things. Additionally, it keeps me on track — I am personally way more successful with a plan. I don’t leave the house without my lunchbox, which might sound extreme but that’s what I have to do to keep myself strong. I’ve been meal prepping religiously for four years now with no end in sight. I know this can sound and be overwhelming when you first start. I suggest, again, starting small.  Prepare all your lunches for the week or maybe even just preparing servings of vegetables for meals throughout the week. You’re a lot more likely to eat well if you invested the time in your meal prepping.

Is meal planning and prepping something you also do with your son? 

Absolutely! He has helped sort and rinse beans, spice things, stir things and he’s finally at an appropriate age to peel carrots. Admittedly, it makes everything take way longer but the exposure to healthier foods and cooking should pay off. It’s also a great way for us to spend time together. Cooking is a crucial life skill I’m determined to pass on to him. The exposure to cooking, and cooking clean and healthy foods, is good for him; he has a great palate and appreciates vegetables. Hopefully we can keep that up!

Do you have any advice for parents that might be struggling to put their health and fitness first? 

Simply put: you can’t pour from an empty cup. How can you fill your family’s cup if yours is always empty? Eventually, you have to come to terms with the idea that it is okay to occasionally put yourself first. When I got a wave of guilt for being at the gym, I would have to remind myself that being there and exercising would give me more energy and patience for my family later on. I know there were, and still are plenty of days I will leave the house in a mood reminiscent of Cruella de Vil, but then *bippity boppity boo!* after the gym, I come home as sweet as Cinderella, maybe a little more sweaty though. Replenish your cup at the gym, and you’ll have more to pour into your family. Exercise is scientifically proven to make people more energetic and happier. Happier people have happier families. So ultimately, when I’m at the gym, I’m there for my whole family.

To learn more about Tika or schedule your free hour with a trainer, click here.

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