Back to All Stories

How to Make Exercise a Priority as a Busy Mom

Try one of these at-home workouts, recommended by Tonal moms.

At-home workouts for moms on Tonal

From getting kids ready for school in the morning to late-night baby feedings, busy moms don’t have much time in the day to exercise. “Our children always come first,” says Michelle Grabau, Tonal’s Director of Curriculum and Programming, and mother of a 17-month-old daughter. 

At-home workouts for moms on Tonal make it easier for even the busiest parents to squeeze in a workout during naptime, after bedtime, or any time they have to spare. Below, Grabau and five Tonal members with children share how they balance their family and work obligations with exercise along with their favorite Tonal workouts and programs. 

1. Know Your Why 

Exercise offers physical and emotional benefits for everyone, but moms have unique reasons to get stronger. 

 “We want to make sure that we’re strong so we can get on the ground with our kids, pick them up, and jump over Legos,” says Grabau. Building strength and endurance ensures you’ll be able to keep up with your little ones as they grow.

Working out has been proven to reduce feelings of depression and anxiety, and stressed-out moms may especially need this relief when they’re trying to balance it all.

“With the mental load required as a mom, I found that working out gives me that little piece of the day when I can focus on myself, shut off my mind, and take a moment to center and balance my whole being so that I can be a better person for me and for my kids,” says Tonal member Darci Crain, a mother of two from Plano, Texas.

2. Set an Example 

Taking time for yourself to exercise isn’t selfish–it’s a chance to model healthy habits for your kids and create a family culture of body positivity. 

“Kids are little sponges, they’re observing everything,” says Grabau. “I want my children to have a healthy mindset around moving their bodies and seeing exercise as part of life. And the best way to do that is by modeling that behavior myself. As parents, we have this huge opportunity to instill a positive mindset around exercise and around our bodies.” 

For moms who didn’t grow up feeling good about their bodies, showing their kids that exercise can be fun and not punishment or a chore is an opportunity to break a negative cycle. “I grew up in the era of Victoria’s Secret, Photoshopping, Weight Watchers, and Slim Fast,” says Tonal member Katie Gozdawa, a mother of three from Bristow, Virginia. “I do not want to pass that toxic culture on to my kids.” Gozdawa’s kids often hang out with her as she works out so she’s able to lead by example, demonstrating that fitness can build your confidence—not tear it down. “I love that they think being strong is cool,” she adds.

Moms of Tonal
Tonal Moms: Heather Renae Pocorobba, Darci Crain, and Katie Gozdawa.

3. Prioritize Yourself

Putting your own needs first can be tough for moms, but the Tonal moms we spoke with agreed that it’s necessary if you want to make exercise a habit. “When I work out, I choose me,” says Gozdawa. By doing so, she stays “healthy and sane” to take on all her tasks as a busy mom. 

“I had to take a hard look at the ever-growing task list in my life and finally move myself to the top of that list,” says Lisa Daitoku, a Tonal member and mother of two from Phoenix. She advises other mothers to let go of the “mom guilt” they might feel for making themselves a priority. “Week by week, you’ll feel yourself become happier and more capable.”

Even if you only have a few minutes to dedicate to yourself, you can still enjoy the benefits of getting in a workout. One study shows it only takes 13 minutes of resistance training three times a week to build strength, and Tonal offers hundreds of Quick Fit workouts that are 15 minutes or less.

4. Make a Plan

As Grabau explains, moms spend a lot of time planning, whether that’s mapping out their family’s meals or scheduling all their kids’ activities. While you’re doing your regular planning, she recommends also penciling in time for your weekly workouts. It’s a strategy that several moms say has helped them stick to their routines. 

“Pick a time that you’ll be able to hold yourself to 90 percent of the time,” says Heather Renae Pocorobba, a Tonal member and mother of two from Springfield, Virginia. “Utilize your support system to help you keep that time for yourself or have your kids play nearby.” 

Vanessa V., a Tonal member, registered nurse,  and mom of a 2-year-old son from Los Angeles shares similar advice for other moms:  “Work it into your schedule as part of your routine,” she says. “Whatever that routine looks like for you, solidifying and blocking out the workout time is the first step in developing that habit.”

It’s also important to be flexible with your plans and not be too hard on yourself when a sick kid or work emergency disrupts your routine. “Be ready to roll with the punches if it doesn’t go exactly as planned,” says Brooke Holliday, a mom of three and Tonal member from Buckley, Washington. “Give yourself grace. We are doing all the things and no one is perfect.” 

Along with being able to work out at home (which saves commuting time and childcare costs), Tonal’s unique offerings and programs help you make the most of your limited time. With Programs,  your workouts will be planned in advance so you won’t waste any time deciding what to do when you finally get your free moment.

Tonal also offers Programs+, a customizable program format in which you can select a different duration or difficulty level for each workout. “That’s so helpful for me since my availability of workout time varies so greatly,” says Gozdawa.

She wasn’t the only mom to rave about Programs+. “I love the Programs+ in general because I can customize every day for my time allowance and how intensely I want to push myself,” says Daitoku. Pocorobba agrees, adding “If life is chaotic—and honestly, when is it not?—the Programs+ are great. I loved being able to adjust the time and intensity to fit how much or little sleep I got the night before.”

5. Get Your Family Involved

If you can’t arrange childcare during your workout time, consider including your little ones. You’ll get a chance to show them exercise can be fun—and keep them occupied. 

“Make it fun to get them involved,” says Grabau. For babies and very young kids, she suggests setting up a play area in your exercise room—a safe distance away from where you’ll be working out—with special toys that your kids only get to play with while you exercise so it feels like a treat. 

Older kids can even get in on the action. “My youngest likes to ‘work out’ before I do with the Family Fitness [workouts on Tonal] so he is included in the fun, too,” says Daitoku. “It’s a great way to wear him out as well.” 

Gozdawa invites her whole family to her sweat sessions. “One of the things I love about Tonal is the Partner Workouts which allow my husband and I to work out together,” she says. “Sometimes my kids hang out with me while I’m on the Tonal. This often turns into them becoming added weight for bridges, push-ups, and wall sits. They love that they can sit on me while I’m working out.”

At-Home Workouts for Moms on Tonal 

Early Postnatal Core – Coach Amy Schemper

Early Postnatal Core - Coach Amy Schemper; at-home workouts for moms

Early Postnatal Cardio – Coach Amy Schemper

Early Postnatal Cardio - Coach Amy Schemper; at-home workouts for moms

If you’ve recently given birth, your body needs time to heal before jumping back into your old routine (or beginning an ambitious new one). Once you have clearance from your doctor, start with bodyweight exercises and build up gradually as you feel up to it. 

“You can do simple movements, reconnect to your core, do your breathing exercises, and some light mobility,” says Grabau. Tonal offers a series of postpartum workouts that can help you safely relearn movement patterns. The two sessions above include gentle, low-impact exercises ideal for healing and rebuilding. 

Quick Fit: Naptime Tune Up – Coach Amy Schemper

Early Postnatal Cardio - Coach Amy Schemper; at-home workouts for moms

When you’re ready to add resistance, don’t stress about not lifting the same weights you could pre-baby. 

“I would recommend doing a recalibration [re-doing the Strength Assessment on Tonal] or at least bringing down your weights or using Recovery Weight for a significant period of time until you’re ready to return to your full strength,” says Grabau. She stresses that there’s no need to rush this process which may take six months or longer. 

This short workout adds two weighted moves—a deadlift and overhead press variation—that Grabau says are especially helpful for new moms. She explains that deadlifts are all about “safely bending over and picking up something heavy,” which moms do every day with their growing kids. “We’re constantly holding our kids which tends to front-load,” she adds, explaining that deadlifts strengthen the posterior chain to even out your body. She also likes the shoulder-strengthening overhead press as it works the muscles you’ll use for common movements like lifting your kid up into a car seat. 

The Show Up – Coach Allison Tibbs

The Show Up - Coach Allison Tibbs; at-home workouts for moms

Once you’re out of the postpartum period and back to your full strength, you can explore Tonal’s full range of programs. Godzawa recommends The Show Up, a four-week Programs+ program that includes full-body strength training and cardio conditioning. It’s a five-day-per-week program divided between two upper-body days, two lower-body days, and one high-intensity day, so you’re giving different muscle groups time to recover between workouts. 

The Power of You – Coach Gabby Sansosti 

The Power of You - Coach Gabby Sansosti; at-home workouts for moms

Daitoku is a fan of this four-week, lean-muscle-building Programs+ program. With three workouts each week, the program includes plenty of core work, upper- and lower-body lifts, and plyometric moves to get your heart rate up. You’ll burn fat and improve your body composition as you get stronger. 

Beginning Strength Fundamentals – Coach Amy Schemper

Beginning Strength Fundamental – Coach Amy Schemper

For a beginner-friendly option, Grabau suggests this four-week program. She explains that it’s excellent for moms who are recommitting to themselves and are newer to fitness. You’ll get in a full-body workout while practicing foundational movement patterns—such as squats, rows, and lunges—that are staples in any resistance training routine.

20-in-20: Metabolic Burn – Coach Ash Wilking

20-in-20: Metabolic Burn - Coach Ash Wilking; at-home workouts for moms

Moms of Tonal also love the 20-in-20 series because the workouts are short (20 minutes or less) but still effective. “It’s easier to fit those into busy schedules,” says Pocorobba. Try this four-week HIIT-style program designed to build power and strength while torching calories. The workouts are led by Tonal coach and personal trainer Ash Wilking, who knows how empowering it can feel to gain strength as a woman. As she said in an interview with Tonal, “When we look in the mirror and feel strong, that allows us to see ourselves in a different way.” 

20-in-20: Shred and Sweat – Coach Tony Horton

20-in-20: Shred and Sweat - Coach Tony Horton; at-home workouts for moms

Vanessa V. is a fan of programs in the 20-in-20 series with Coach Tony Horton such as Shred and Sweat. “They’re quick, full-body workouts that leave me energized for the day and not drained,” she says.  

Quick Fit: Upper Body Pump – Coach Tanysha Renee 

Quick Fit: Upper Body Pump - Coach Tanysha Renee; at-home workouts for moms

Lower-Body Quick Fit – Coach Kristina Centenari

Lower-Body Quick Fit - Coach Kristina Centenari; at-home workouts for moms

Quick Fit: Core Balance – Coach Tim Landicho

Quick Fit: Core Balance - Coach Tim Landicho; at-home workouts for moms

If you’d rather not commit to a multi-week program, moms also love Tonal’s Quick Fit workouts. These usually focus on one or two muscle groups and can be done on their own or paired together on days when you have a little more time to yourself. These mini workout “snacks” easily fit into small windows of free time—like when your baby goes down for a nap or you have a few minutes before picking up the kids from school.  

“I’m a big fan of shorter duration, superset type workouts,” says Crain. “They target specific muscle groups and get your heart rate up. You are in and out of your workout before the kids notice you’re gone.” Add these three to your weekly routine for a mix of upper-body, lower-body, and core exercises. 

Powerhouse Pilates – Coach Frances Flores

Powerhouse Pilates - Coach Frances Flores; at-home workouts for moms

For a bodyweight workout that you can do anywhere—useful for moms on the go—Vanessa V. loves the Pilates offerings on Tonal. “Pilates is great for me because it’s everything I’m working to improve,” she says. “It’s body awareness, alignment, flexibility, and mobility.” This low-impact session targets the core, back, and glutes.

For even more workout recommendations, advice for balancing fitness with all your other responsibilities, and a support community, join the Tonal Moms group on Facebook to connect with fellow moms. 

The information provided in this article is for educational and informational purposes only. Individuals with pre-existing health conditions, injuries, or concerns should consult with their healthcare provider before trying a new exercise or nutrition regimen.

Read More