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Back-to-School Fitness Tips for Moms

As a kid, I loved heading back to school because I was excited to meet my teachers, see my friends and delve into all that luscious learning. As a mom, I love shipping my kids off to class not only out of enthusiasm for them, but also because it means more time for me to work, do errands swiftly on my own and—perhaps most important—spend more solid time working out with less rushing. This is the perfect time of year for parents to not only gear up the kids for a tighter schedule, but also to home in on it ourselves. Some parents have additional little ones in the household, while some are on their own during school hours. Similarly, some parents prefer working out at home, while others prefer the gym or the outdoors. Depending on your specific situation and preferences, there are a plethora of effective, fun and fabulous options for getting your workouts in. The importance of taking care of your health first is best likened to the emergency advice on an airplane before takeoff: Put your oxygen mask on before assisting small children or others. Exercise matters. It matters a lot.

No matter your circumstances, inspire fitness with these three strategies:

Schedule it.

Plan your calendar around your workouts. If they're not a priority, it's exceedingly easy to skip them. Momentum is key for maintaining fitness, so recognizing the benefits and experiencing them on a regular basis is a wonderful, self-perpetuating positive feedback loop. The more you stick to your workouts, the better you feel and the more eager you will be to continue feeling that fantastic. It's a win-win cycle. Exercise is extraordinary for enhancing energy to keep up with your kids and your life; for stimulating immune function so you can stay healthy; and for stress management. Make "exercise appointments" at least four to six times per week, 30 to 60 minutes each, at home, at the gym or outdoors. Make your engagements specific, realistic and detailed. If you only have a few minutes here and there, try Parenting's Easy 10 Minute Workouts for Busy Moms.

Find and do what you love most.

If you love dancing, dance. If you are inspired by a sport, play it. If moving metal is invigorating, hit the weights. There are myriad methods of moving your body in a productive way. The best exercises are the ones you enjoy doing and the ones you look forward to. If you prefer solo ventures, run, hike, walk, swim, bike outdoors or work out at the gym on your own. If social support motivates you, take classes, enlist a friend in your fitness ambitions, join a group or hire a trainer. Motivate yourself with new exercise equipment, clothing, a DVD, an online workout video, signing up for an event (such as a 5K, 10K, mud run or triathlon), or a fitness logging app. The process can morph and meld over time, which is part of the pleasure.

Emphasize all components of fitness by varying your workouts.

Variety is the spice of progress. Incorporate cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, balance and coordination by testing and playing in multiple manners. Up the ante with increasing duration, intensity and frequency. There is always a way to kick it up a notch, and your body will recognize the difference. Make every move count. Want to focus on your abs? Try Parenting's The Best Ab Workouts for Moms.

Remember that you'll never regret exercising, and that it's one of the best investments you can make in your physical and mental well-being. Make yourself a priority by committing to your fitness.

Julieanna Hever, M.S., R.D., C.P.T., is a registered dietitian who specializes in weight management, disease prevention and management, and sports nutrition. She is the host of Veria Living Network's "What Would Julieanna Do?," author of the best-selling book "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition," and the nutrition columnist for VegNews Magazine. She is co-author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Gluten-Free Vegan Cooking," which she wrote with chef Beverly Lynn Bennett.