Fitness 101 For Busy Mums Over 35

Let’s face it, if you had the same amount of spare time to spend in the gym and in the kitchen as half of the fitness pages you follow on Facebook and Instagram you wouldn’t be reading this blog post.

In saying that, if you’re reading this it means that you’re ready to start making more time to take care of yourself and kudos to you for doing so.

It’s not easy taking time out for yourself without thinking of a million other things that need to be done first but the truth is, if you’re not happy and healthy, you can’t take care of anyone else, so you need to put yourself first every once in a while and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

One of the most common complaints I hear from busy mums wanting to lose weight and tone up is that they’ve tried other diets or exercise programs before with minimal success.

The meal plans they purchased looked great but the ingredients for them were expensive and having to cook 2-3 times a day and different meals for the whole family just isn’t practical in the real world.

Or the diet plan they went on was super restrictive and the exercise program was too intense they couldn’t keep it up for longer than a few weeks without falling off track.

If that sounds familiar, don’t worry, you’re not alone and it isn’t your fault.

The fitness industry has created a culture of short-term, high intensity weight loss challenges that promise quick results but aren’t sustainable and while they promote their amazing before and after photos at the end of the 4/6/8 week challenge, what you don’t see is the after, after photo where these people have regained almost all of what they lost less than a year later because they couldn’t maintain the extreme diet and exercise regime.

Sidenote: I think if I hear another 38-40 year old mum that wants to lose 5-10kg’s and is doing high intensity circuit classes twice per day I’m probably going to start losing my hair.

Here’s the rundown on what every busy mum over 35 needs to know about losing weight, getting fit and toning up her body without slaving for hours in the kitchen and living in the gym.

Join The Right Tribe (#1)

When it comes to exercise and finding something you can stick with for the long-term, a lot of it comes down to joining the right tribe.

Love the thought of running? Awesome! Find your local walking/running group and join them for a month to see how you like it.

Miss playing sport and want to train in a competition driven environment? That’s great! Find your local crossfit gym and talk to them about training and the competition aspect of Crossfit, join them for a month and see how you like it.

Like the idea of feeling fit, strong and powerful? Fantastic! Find yourself a gym like us (Holeshot) that runs a program focused on building strength, confidence and improving fitness, join for a month and see how you like it.

There is no single best workout program for everyone and unless you’re highly motivated and happy to train at the gym by yourself, most of us thrive on being surrounded by the right people, with goals like ours and coaches that genuinely want to help.

Find a place that makes you feel welcome and an exercise regime you enjoy and stick with it because consistency over the long-term will always beat short-term intensity.

Nourish Your Body, Don’t Starve It! (#2)

Women are far more guilty of this than men but it’s through no fault of their own. Everywhere you look online or in retail stores you’re shown images of the perfect body, whether it’s celebrities endorsing products, clothing or supplements to online fitness profiles flaunting their natural beauty.

You can’t escape it, so you think, if they do this, and look like that, I’ll do that to.

It’s only natural to think that way, but sadly, the majority of the images you see have been edited to perfection and the models in these images aren’t always the pinnacle of health and very rarely are they educated enough or qualified to give out nutrition advice.

More often than not, even though these celebrities and social media profiles have good intentions, the information the spread is often misleading and factually incorrect.

Almost every woman I’ve worked with over the past 7-8 years has said in one way or another that they want to lose weight and toned up. They’d like to have a flatter tummy, some muscle tone in the arms, legs and shoulders and smaller thighs and waist.

And almost every woman I’ve worked with that’s wanted to achieve that has also thought that they needed to starve themselves and do hours and hours of cardio to get there.

Unfortunately, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

To have visible muscle tone and definition, first you must attain some muscle mass in those areas.

Want more muscle tone in your arms, thighs, bum? You’ll likely need to attain some muscle mass in those areas first.

Without attaining some added muscle mass, there’s nothing to see once you lose the layer of body fat that’ currently hiding it.

Having a slimmer body with more visible tone or definition is a combination of two things;

  1. Attaining some more muscle mass in the target areas

  2. Losing enough body fat to unveil the muscle tone

In order to achieve this you need to do two things;

  1. Train with moderately heavy weights 2-3 times per week

  2. Nourish your body with enough protein, fat and carbohydrate to fuel your exercise sessions and provide your body with the nutrients it needs to reshape itself

Intentionally undereating or overly restricting your calorie intake won’t accelerate your fat loss. If anything, it often works against you. Here’s some symptoms of undereating and over exercising;

  • Decreased libido

  • Increased appetite and food cravings

  • Poorer sleep quality

  • Mood swings

  • Irregular/lost menstrual cycle

  • Lack of energy

  • Lack of motivation

  • Loss of strength

Your body will fight you every step of the way if you try and starve the fat off. Instead, you need to nourish your body with the nutrients it needs to reshape itself the way you’d like it to.

Short-term fad diets, detoxes, shakes, and fasts are not the answer. Yes, the may work in the short-term by restricting your calorie intake but how long can you keep that up before you fall off track and bounce right back to where you started? A few days? Weeks? Maybe a couple of months.

Ultimately you’ll end up right back where you started.

Your body needs enough protein to rebuild and repair your muscles from your workouts.

Your body needs enough carbohydrates for energy and for your performance during your workouts.

Your body needs enough fat for manufacturing hormones and absorbing vitamins.

Your body needs enough fiber, vitamins and minerals from fresh fruit and veggies for your overall health and well being.

Nourish your body and it will do what you want it to.

Sleep Could Be Your Magic Bullet (#3)

I say ‘could be’ because what I’m about to say all depends on your current quality and duration of sleep.

We all need between 7-9 hours of unbroken sleep per night. Sure, we can survive on less and some people get by on much less than that but it shouldn’t be worn as a badge of honor.

For every hour less than 7 you are accumulating what’s called a sleep debt. The greater your sleep debt becomes, the worse the symptoms will be.

Unfortunately we cannot store sleep credits the same way we store energy within our body. Sleeping in on a Sunday doesn’t make up for the 6-8 hour sleep debt you accrue during the week.

I know it’s easier said than done but getting a good night’s rest will make your weight loss efforts a whole lot easier.

Sleep debt is responsible for lowering your energy levels, reducing your concentration, decreasing your short term memory, lowering your libido, increasing your appetite, increasing your cravings for high carbohydrate and high fat foods, and reducing your bodies ability to recover from your workouts which increases the likelihood of injury.

If you’re trying to diet but your body is lowering your energy levels and increasing your appetite, how much harder do you think it’s going to be?

It’s something that most people overlook but getting a good night’s rest is the magic bullet for a lot of people.

So here’s a few tips for getting a good night’s sleep;

  • Have a consistent sleep and wake time, even if it means waking up to an alarm on your day off, the more consistent your bedtime and wake time is, the smoother your body clock will run.

  • Minimise screen time in the hours leading up to bedtime. The blue light in our electronic devices have a stimulating effect on our brain and can make getting to sleep harder than necessary. Instead of scrolling social media for an hour or so before bed, try reading a few pages of a book. Blue light filters and glasses can also be beneficial here.

  • No caffeine within 6 hours of bedtime. That afternoon coffee could be what’s keeping the chatter going in your mind when you’re trying to fall asleep because caffeine keeps you stimulated for around 6 hours give or take depending on the dose. Limit caffeine to no later than 6 hours before bedtime.

  • Do a daily brain dump and write down EVERYTHING that you’re thinking about or needs to be done over the coming days. Getting it all out of your head and onto a piece of paper will make it a lot easier to drift off to sleep and you won’t have to worry about forgetting anything because it’s already written down.

  • Learn to breathe with your diaphragm. You’ll be amazed at how calming 6-10 deep breaths can be when performed correctly. For a simple tutorial on this, watch this short video here:

  • Make sure your room is pitch black and free from distractions like devices or tv’s. If your partner uses their phone or watches tv in bed, it’s probably worth your while to purchase a sleep mask to keep the light out.

  • Lastly, if you’re a light sleeper like my wife Ashlee is, sleeping with some low volume white noise can be a life saver. Especially if you wake up at the drop of a hat. The white noise isn’t loud enough to drown out the sound of your children or the fire alarm but it’s loud enough to muffle out traffic noises etc and can be very soothing.

Forget The Calories Burned In Your Workout, Track Your Daily Steps! (#4)

Your daily step count says a lot more about how physically active you are than how many calories you’ve burned in your workout and to be completely honest, the majority of devices drastically overestimate the number of calories you’ve burned in your workout, so they aren’t the most accurate numbers to follow.

The other downside to the idea of track your calories burned per workout is that as you become fitter and stronger, your body becomes more efficient at exercise. This means that the fitter you become, the less effort it requires to complete a workout.

The fitter you become, the better your body gets at preserving energy whilst you train. This is great for improving performance, but isn’t so great when it comes to fat loss.

This is what makes tracking your daily step count so much more important.

The total amount of energy(calories) your body burns per day is called your Total Daily Energy Expenditure or TDEE for short.

Your TDEE is made up of your Basal Metabolic Rate or BMR for short, which is the amount of calories your body uses to stay alive and perform bodily functions like breathing and pumping blood. Your BMR makes up roughly 70% of your TDEE.

Next you have your Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis or NEAT for short, which is the amount of calories your body uses during normal day to day activities like working, fidgeting and yep, you guessed it, walking.

Basically any physical activity you do that’s not intentional exercise falls into the NEAT category. Your NEAT makes up roughly 15% of your TDEE.

Then you have the Thermic Effect of Food or TEF for short, which is the amount of calories your body burns during the digestion of the food you’ve eaten throughout the day. The TEF makes up around 10% of your TDEE.

Lastly you have Exercise Activity Thermogenesis or EAT for short, which is the amount of calories your body burns during intentional exercise which accounts for around 5% of your total TDEE.

Your BMR is predetermined by your age, size and body composition and the TEF remains at a constant of around 10% but your levels of NEAT and EAT can vary greatly.

Depending on whether your chair bound all day or working a physically demanding job can be the difference between burning 500 calories of NEAT and 2500 calories of NEAT as seen in the image below:

Image from reference #4.3

Instead of concentrating on the number of calories you burn per workout, focus on improving your physical performance at each workout by either doing more, or doing the same but in less time.

The sole aim of exercise is to improve your overall health, fitness, strength and ability so base your exercise goals around improving those physical attributes. As mentioned previously, simply chasing the calories burned isn’t an effective strategy because of two main reasons.

#1) Devices that predict your calorie expenditure have been shown to overestimate calories burned by 27% to 93%. Leading you to believe you’ve burned far more calories than you actually have. This false belief can influence your eating habits which may undermine your weight loss efforts.

#2) As you get fitter, your body adapts by becoming more efficient at using energy during that bout of exercise as well as reducing energy expenditure during other portions of your day to compensate.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t be exercising for weight loss, because you most certainly should. But the main focus of exercise is to create physical changes to your strength and fitness levels.

Focus on improving your performance overtime and make adjustments to your daily calorie intake via changes to your diet.

Chase Body Composition Changes, Not Just Changes on The Scale

The majority of mums I talk to tell me that they want to tighten up their tummy, tone their arms and thighs and feel comfortable in their own skin again. They usually have a goal weight in mind as well because at that weight, they felt comfortable.

That’s perfectly fine, but your weight shouldn’t be the only thing you use to determine your rate of progress. Girth measurements, clothing and progress photos are going to be far more beneficial ways of tracking your progress because they are a direct reflection of the goal.

If you weigh the same as you do right now but fit back into your favourite clothes why should you be worried about the scale?

Changes in your body composition are far more important than changes in your body weight alone and the leaner you are, the more important this is to know.

Have more muscle tone or definition comes down to having combination more muscle mass in that specific area and less body fat surrounding that area.

You can in fact lose body fat and gain some muscle mass simultaneously if your diet and training program are setup correctly.

I’ve had plenty of clients drastically change the way their body looks and feels with only minor changes on the scale.

The scale can be a useful tool when you’ve got large amounts of weight to lose but even so, the most accurate way to use it is to weigh yourself at the same time each morning and then at the end of each week, use your daily body weights to calculate your weekly average weight.

Day to day changes in scale weight are due to changes in your body stores of food, water and poo, not fat gain or fat loss.

However, changes in your weekly average body weight are generally due to more consistent changes in your body composition.

If you’re only using the scale to measure your progress you won’t be doing yourself any favours because the scale doesn’t tell you if you’ve lost fat or gained muscle. It simply tells you what your total body weight is and this changes daily and if you don’t fully understand why it changes daily, it can be incredibly upsetting.

Don’t worry if your weight is different day to day, it should be and it’s 100% normal for it to fluctuate up and down daily. This is why we recommend, if you’re using the scales, to track your body weight daily and calculate your weekly average weight at the end of each week.

Over the course of a few weeks you’ll be able to see a trend or a pattern forming and this will help give you some clarity, but you’ll need to take progress photos and girth measurements to have a much clearer indication of how your body is changing.

1 kilo of muscle mass and 1 kilo of body fat both weigh the same. If you lose 1 kilo of body fat but gain 1 kilo of muscle mass in the process, you will still weigh the same, but you’ll look different.

Do you want to weigh less or look and feel different?

Use the tools you need to track your progress that best aligns with your actual goal, it makes the process a whole lot more enjoyable and rewarding when you can see visible progress rather than just focusing on numbers.

Lastly, Schedule Your Time Like You Would For Someone Else

Mums are awesome at taking care of everybody else but it’s not uncommon for them to feel a little guilty for wanting to take some time out for themselves.

The truth is that if mum is unhealthy and unhappy, the whole family suffers as a result. The whole family would benefit far more from a happier, healthy mum and that means taking some time out for yourself.

The best thing you can do is schedule in your workouts into your weekly planner the same way you would for any other important appointment.

I’ve had mums tell me that they feel guilty for taking the time out for themselves and that they also feel jealous at times when everyone else gets to do what they want but they feel as though they have to miss out because that’s just the way it is.

It shouldn’t be that way. You deserve some time for yourself as well.

Take a look over your weekly schedule and see where you can fit in some 45-60 minute time blocks for dedicated self-care.

You can use that time for workouts, reading, meditation, walking or just some time to think without being interrupted.

You’ll be amazed at how much better you’ll feel when you make the time for self-care.

You’re amazing, and you deserve to look and feel good.


All things considered when it comes to losing weight, getting fit and toning up in your 30’s and 40’s know that you don’t need elimination diets, detox programs, shakes or ridiculous high intensity workout programs to reach your goals.

  1. Find your tribe.

  2. Nourish your body.

  3. Improve your sleep.

  4. Focus on what’s really important.

  5. Schedule time for your own self care like you do for everyone else.

Do those 5 things consistency and you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish. Just remember not to be too harsh on yourself.

It’s ok to not feel like doing the things that need to be done, do them anyway, because future you will thank you for it.

Coach Ben


#1 Exercise, physical activity, and self-determination theory: A systematic review:

#2 International society of sports nutrition position stand: diets and body composition:

#3 Insufficient sleep undermines dietary efforts to reduce adiposity:

#3.1 Relationship Between Sleep Quality and Quantity and Weight Loss in Women Participating in a Weight-Loss Intervention Trial:

#3.2 Influence of sleep restriction on weight loss outcomes associated with caloric restriction:

#4 Fitness trackers accurately measure heart rate but not calories burned:

#4.1 Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT): a component of total daily energy expenditure:

#4.3 The Role of Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis in Human Obesity:

#4.4 Constrained Total Energy Expenditure and Metabolic Adaptation to Physical Activity in Adult Humans

#weightloss #Nutrition #Womenshealth

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