Fit & Fabulous: Busy Mums Make Time For Fitness

By Anabela Mok 2021-04-06 14:43:33

It is easy to embark on a fitness programme, it’s another thing when it comes to sticking to that plan. We have all been guilty at one time of eating one too many bites of cake or drinking one too many bottles of wine, and then cancelling gym class—or, postponing it to tomorrow, which leads to postponing the class until the week after and so on, you know how it goes. Pretty soon, you are back to where you have started.


Does this sound familiar? It is pretty much how my exercise routine begins and ends. Now as a working mum, it takes a lot of magic to get me to the gym. I wish calories burnt from running around Mini Mars could count as a fitness routine, but sadly it doesn’t. Or, if I could wave my imaginary wand and turn my cancelled classes into finished classes, I would already have the abs of steel I was aiming for two years ago.



In a city where you have an abundance of fitness facilities and competitive events, it is certainly the place to get inspired and excited about exercise. In my journey of motherhood (so far), I have met some incredible mums who can juggle kids, a full-time job, and date night! It makes me wonder. Is there a secret to their success?


I caught up with some of the city’s active mums and sought to discover how they manage their time balancing a thriving career, being a mum, being active, and most of all, finding the motivation to stay fit and fabulous.


Siri Nordheim



Kids: 3 kids; 6-year-old, 4-year-old & 2-year-old

What sports activity do you do? Fitness classes & gym workouts

Occupation: Co-owner of Z&B Fitness and co-founder of MYBarre Fitness


“It can be hard sometimes, but I always feel so much better afterwards. And it’s that post-workout feeling that keeps me going each day.”


What is your workout routine?


I teach about 10 MYbarre classes a week. MYbarre is a really great, high energy group fitness class inspired by ballet and has elements of Pilates. It’s pretty physical to teach and I am moving non-stop for the whole hour. However it’s not my workout, and as the instructor my main role is to motivate, set the pace, and encourage the students to correctly do the moves.


It’s really important for me to make it to the gym about three times a week for strength training. My aim is to increase my strength and shape my body. I also try to regularly join other teacher classes. I love Yoga, BODYPUMP, and BODYJAM. At Z&B Fitness we have four locations and more than 400 classes a week, so it’s easy to find a class to join when I’m not teaching.


How do you manage your time with work, gym, and kids?


I usually plan my workout around my kids’ schedule. The kids have all left for school by 8 a.m. so for me, this is a good time before I teach my morning classes. Sometimes I take a class right after mine while I am still high on energy and motivated to do more.


The kids often have hectic weekend schedules with play dates, and I like to have family time. So, I try to keep the workouts around the weekdays and Saturday mornings. I find this works well to balance both and feel like each has my full attention. We do however often do mummy and me workouts or dance sessions at home on the weekend if I want to get our bodies moving. This is always fun!


It can be hard sometimes, but I always feel so much better afterwards. And it’s that post-workout feeling that keeps me going each day.


What was the biggest challenge you encountered when incorporating exercise while raising children?


Finding the time to workout. Balancing mum life with work and workouts.


Dorys Fierro Bernal



Kids: One, 2-year-old

What sports activity do you do? Cycling, Triathlon

Occupation: Global Project Manager – EDS International


"Be stronger than your excuses and choose to challenge yourself every day.”


What is your workout routine?


I wake up at 4 a.m.and go cycling outdoors from 5 to 7 a.m. during the week (weekends can be much longer). If there is a storm or the outdoor pollution level is too high, I will cycle indoors at home on the smart trainer. The early mornings are perfect for me to work out because my husband and son are sleeping.


I live in Xuhui and work in Minhang District, I commute to work by bike, because it’s faster. I wouldn’t consider it a workout, but it’s the time I get to relax my mind and body (if I do a high-intensity workout in the morning, this will help me to release stress in the muscles). If possible, I also use my lunchtime to do exercise. I work in an area with no places to go for lunch, and I don’t like to spend my lunchtime inside the office (unless it’s extremely cold or raining). Last month I used this time to run, but now I am also cycling. It will be a relaxing ride, around 30 kilometres, just to explore the area and take a mental break from work. After work, I will do a quick stop at the gym for an ab workout and stretching.


Usually, my exercise routine will be planned around the goals I want to achieve, for example, if I am preparing for a race or an event.


How do you manage your time with work, gym, and kids?


I have a routine that I follow according to my goals and I am 100% focused on the activity I am doing. If I am exercising, I am fully exercising. If I am working, I am fully working. If it’s family time, it’s fully family time. Of course, you can have exceptions but that’s what I always try to do, to be present, to be focused.


What was the biggest challenge you encountered when incorporating exercise while raising children?


With children, your plans are sometimes more uncertain. If they are not having a good night, or if they are sick, that also affects you directly. Then you just need to adapt and incorporate those changes in your routine. Maybe that “bad” night with your children will be your exercise “rest” day, or you go easier on the following day’s workout. The important thing is to adapt, incorporate the changes, and keep moving.


Lisa Hou



Kids: Two, 4-year-old and a-year-old.

What sports activity do you do? Pilates, marathon training, HITT, spinning, EMS

Occupation: Pilates Instructor/Pre- and Post-Natal Fitness Specialist


“For me getting in a workout is like my cup of coffee.”


What is your workout routine?


I practice Pilates in the studio or at home on a daily basis and supplement with EMS for toning once a week. When I’m not training for a race or marathon, I try to do cardio workouts four to five times a week such as outdoor runs, HITT classes, spinning class, etc.


How do you manage your time with work, gym, and kids?


Even in my youth, I have always been an active person. For me getting in a workout is like my cup of coffee. Now that my second child is no longer an infant and is on a set schedule, I always aim to squeeze in a morning workout. I find the workout not only enriches me with energy throughout the day, but it also serves as a sort of meditation. I can clear my head and better prepare myself to tackle the day ahead, whether for work or juggling my kids’ busy schedule.


What was the biggest challenge you encountered when incorporating exercise while raising children?


Nursing and pumping. The workouts I do favour are heavy cardiovascular exercise and, as such, I burn a lot of calories. During the first couple of months, I found myself exhausted. Running around with the kids and teaching made it challenging to find the proper time to nurse and pump. I adapted by setting a clear nursing schedule while also ensuring I nourished my body with proper meals and nutrition. I also listened to my body, resting when needed and hydrating constantly. Adhering to sound nutritional health habits while designating set times to nurse and pump assisted me in weathering my breastfeeding journey, as well as maintaining my sanity.


What tips do you have for mums who are planning a workout?

Need help getting started? Here is what you need to know when it comes to planning your workout programme.


1. Jeya believes, “plan and stick to it. If you’re an early riser, go for that F45 class before or after you drop the kids at school - or go for a run before work. If you’re not a morning workout person (like me!), aim to finish your errands or work by a certain hour and go for that run! You can always go back to your report or PowerPoint after the kids are in bed, or after that workout session. Plan the workout as a necessary part of your day, not as an option.”


2. Having support is very important. Dorys attributes keeping her workout schedule with “have[ing] an ayi that you can trust and love your children. Arrange your plans with your husband and get him everything prepared in case he will be alone without ayi.”


3. Lisa recommends new mums to be prepared, “the first workout back will be challenging. Your body has shifted post-delivery and there will be muscle weakness. Rome was not built in a day. It will take time to get back to your normal self. Start off slow. And, as all of us with kids know, some nights will be bumpier than others. Listen to your body when it tells you to get rest, it is imperative to recovery. Getting out of the house is important, even a stroll with the baby outside counts as a workout and can do wonders for your mental health!”


4. “If you want to jump-start your routine, find another mama who has the same goals or also needs the motivation and plan to go to a class together.” Siri also adds,“the community we have at Z&B is amazing and you will for sure find other like-minded mamas there if you need.”


5. Sandra suggests trying out a few places before making a commitment. “Gyms are always open to free, trial workouts to see if it’s your ‘cup of tea.’ Try a few fitness concepts (F45, OTF, Pilates, yoga) until you find what works for you!”



Jeya Ibrahim-Lecomte



Kids: Two, 6-year-old and a 4.5-year-old

What sports activity do you do? Running, cycling & swimming 

Occupation: Entrepreneur


“ Every time I went for a run, I always came back more relaxed and less stressed, which is the version of me that I want my children to see.”


What is your workout routine?


Since I started working from home to start up my own company, I try to do two to three runs a week, with a swimming class once a week. But winter has been a great demotivator!


Now I am trying to get started again, aiming to do at least two runs a week, with a minimum of 15 km each week. I recently started cycling with Les Louves - a group of ladies who do social rides once or twice a week. I was always a nervous cyclist, but I truly enjoy it now! So this will (hopefully), be part of my weekly routine. We ride at least 20-30 km each time.


Swimming has always been my Achilles heel (fear of depth doesn’t help! ). But hopefully by the end of 2021, I’ll be ready for a sprint or OD triathlon. I take hourly swim classes once a week.


How do you manage your time with work, gym, and kids?


As my company is still in the final stages of incubation, I work all hours on it, so planning is key. I’m grateful that I have a gym and swimming pool in my compound, so I cannot really make excuses to cancel swim class when it’s literally a one minute journey downstairs. The children also like to see me on the treadmill when they play near the gym, as they know I’m around but just working out.


I also work from home, so when the kids come home from school, I try to spend 15 to 20 minutes catching up on their day before going back to my desk. Having a husband who is a triathlete helps as well, he supports my workout endeavours! When I cycle, it’s always an early morning start (6 a.m.!), so he’s on toddler duty till I come back from the ride.


What was the biggest challenge you encountered when incorporating exercise while raising children?


I used to work in a highly demanding office. As a working mother of two toddlers with a husband who travelled very often for work, I always felt guilty leaving for a 30-minute or hour-long workout when I could spend that time with my kids. But every time I went for a run, I always came back more relaxed and less stressed, which is the version of me that I want my children to see. Exercise is the key to making me a better mother and person, so I gradually accepted that I need to take that time out not just for myself, but for my kids too.


How do you include your children in your fitness activity?

1. Let them see you exercise. Jeya was “not big on exercise before having children. But my husband started getting into triathlons when I was pregnant with my first born. After my second child was born, I decided to join a relay team with two friends for a triathlon. That was how I started running. I ran my 1st half marathon after four months and I couldn’t have done it if my husband didn’t support me. Now, our children are so used to seeing us lacing up for a run or taking our bikes out. My oldest has gone for a couple of runs with me, and I’ve started to plant ‘seeds’ of suggestion for the kids to go running, or take their little scooters while I run come spring.”

2. Incorporate your fitness routine with their interest. Dorys modifies her cycling workout because “the high speed in the bike can be very dangerous for [my child] but I do many activities with them related to cycling that also includes family rides (with the mama bike), or I just go around the neighbourhood and parks so my son can ride his own bike.”

3. Go to a mummy workout class! Lisa teaches a mummy workout class where babies are welcomed. “My 1-year-old son has been to every one of the classes with me. We put the babies in the baby carriers and do the movements with them strapped in. As the baby gets bigger, the class gets more challenging- talk about great strength training exercise!”

4. Have fun together. Siri tries to “combine letting my kids join a class while I join an adult class or head to the gym” or, “do dance sessions at home where we pump the music up and move our bodies and shake off all the crazy energy three kids can have. My kids love to dance so this is always a winner.”

5. Sandra loves competitive events and “as young as 5- years-old, my kids and husband would join my events. They would walk and jog the 5 km event while I run the half marathon event. I absolutely loved seeing their faces at the finish line and they loved the medals I’ve collected over the years. At age 10, our second child participated in a Mudrun obstacle course with other kids within her age group. These family runs continued for years. We ran the local Turkey Trots, San Francisco 80’s run and many other fun events. I believe it is important to lead by example, to show our children that a healthy lifestyle is important in life, and fun!”


Sandra Rosenberg




Kids: Two, 21 -year-old and a 17-year- old

What sports activity do you do? Gym workouts, running & obstacle running events

Occupation: Director of Sales in the pharmaceutical industry in San Francisco


“I believe I’m a better parent when I have a moment to run or hit the gym to clear my thoughts of work, etc.”


What is your workout routine?


When my children were young, I was quite busy working in the pharmaceutical sales leadership team so getting my workout in bright and early was vital. I would wake up at 5:30 a.m. to head to my 6 a.m. spin or fitness class. Then get home to wake up my daughters for school, shower while my husband feeds them breakfast and I’d take them to school every morning. This routine allowed me to stay healthy and mentally prepare myself for the busy day ahead. Today, I work out at OTF at least four times per week and will supplement with other training to prepare for an upcoming Spartan event in May.


How do you manage your time with work, gym, and kids?


Balancing my career with travel, fitness, and family is not a challenge. Rather, it’s a mindset to be able to prioritise the ever-changing tasks. For instance, I was very active at my children’s school, working on the parent board and tasked to manage the large fundraising events while also being a room parent responsible for executing all the kids’ parties. If I had a busy week at work and school activities, I would skip the morning workout and hit the pavement to run at least 5 km around my neighbourhood before dinner. While travelling, I would hit the gym in the morning before meetings. Being agile is important, I workout at least four times per week.


What was the biggest challenge you encountered when incorporating exercise while raising children?


Prioritising the needs of everyone including myself. As parents, often times we prioritise the needs of our children at every stage as they grow, and this is important. However, as parents we need to prioritise these needs and allow ourselves the time to get an hour of fitness in a day without feeling guilty. I believe I’m a better parent when I have a moment to run or hit the gym to clear my thoughts of work, etc.



What else do you do to make sure you are in top health?


When it comes to staying healthy, getting the proper rest is important. According to Lisa, “I [also] believe a good night’s rest is fundamental for sound physical and mental health (when our babies allow it). The more I rest, replenish, and recover, the better my performance is during a workout and subsequently, the more productive I am throughout the day.”


To fuel her active lifestyle, Dorys believes in addition to regular health checks, “nutrition is very important to have the energy necessary to workout, to work, to be a mum, and to be always at the top.” Eating healthy also means eating ‘cleaner’ at home. Jeya uses time at home to “make staples like pasta sauces, stocks for soup, jams, fish fingers, chicken nuggets. This allows us to have meals free from preservatives, MSG, sugar. Of course, we still order takeout, but just having the staples on hand have really helped us to maintain our weights and a more balanced diet.” If you are not a chef, don’t worry. Siri suggests “getting healthy foods delivered to your door,“ and “don’t forget the supplements such as a multi-vitamin, B12.”


Staying healthy also means having “date nights to keep our marriage healthy.” Sandra adds, "the importance of hanging out with genuine friends on your free time is important to decompress, catch up, share some laughs and a glass of wine.”