A Fitness Plan for Parents (And Anyone That’s Overworked and Overtired)

By on May 12, 2023

Check out the full Functional Parent routine HERE.

If you’re a parent, then you know that some things get hard. Like training get’s really tough. I made a video explaining how and why this is – and why a lot of YouTube doesn’t seem to get it – a while back. But to quickly expand on that and recap…

Being a parent means that you’re never “off duty.” Most people have a hard day, come home, and get to relax on the couch.

cognitive load

Not us. We have a hard day, come home, and have to immediately be “Daddy Dinosaur.” That’s if we are lucky enough to be the ones going to work in the first place! Then we need to clean a nappy. Then we have to make dinner. Then we have to make the kids eat dinner – which usually involves about an hour of negotiations.

Then it’s bed time. Which is the witching hour when the kids go mad. 

We wrestle and clean poos and – surprise – one of the poos has leaked! Now you have to clean the kid who is trying to run away without transferring more poo to them or the floor.

When they’re eventually all in bed – hours after they should have been – it’s still not time to relax. Because you haven’t done any other chores: the kitchen needs tidying, their clothes need washing, you need to fill out that random form. 


This is exhausting. It’s great too – playing with the kids is so much fun and every minute they do something else hilarious or cute or amazing. BUT it leaves you with so little “you” time. And the you time you do have, you spend exhausted.

Meet Kel the baby kettlebell!

I can’t over-emphasize how awkward they are at everything! You ask a kid to step backwards so you can open a door and they will spin round three times and run into the door. The simplest things become this massive challenge.

Things get even worse when someone is sick, which is all the time because kids bring home all kinds of diseases. 

And even when you are physically relaxing, it’s hard to stop worrying about your kids. I’m worried as I write this because my daughter fell and hit her head yesterday and now she’s at preschool. I really hope nobody knocks her head and that she doesn’t start feeling woozy. It’s great.

Workouts with kids

So, energy wise, we’re pretty spent. And time wise it’s not much better. Because if you work during the day, that means your partner is probably responsible for the kids (at least while they’re preschool age). It’s also time you’re not spending with your kids or your partner.

So, while it might seem like a great idea to go to the gym after work, that means your partner has now been in charge on their own for 9 hours or 10 hours instead of 8. It also means you’re going to get home with just enough time to see them before bed.

You could train when they’ve all gone to bed, but then there’s that tiredness issue. And 

You could train in the morning… Haha good luck!

Not even sleep is a refuge – as you’ll be taking it in turns to get up with the kids in the middle of the night bobbing them or lying on the hard floor next to them begging them to sleep. Then the other one wakes up at 5am. Which, to be fair, is only an hour before you’d need to be up to get them ready for preschool, anyway.

Then there’s the fact that being a parent is extremely physically taxing. You’ll be heaving the kids this way and that way as they wriggle and fight you, wrestling prams into cars, bending over them at awkward angles to change their nappies, playing with them… And no, they do not accept board games as a form of playing.

It’s important to note that ALL of this is wonderful. It would have to be, otherwise we wouldn’t do it. For those of you who aren’t at this stage yet, or who are on the fence: keep in mind that no parent would trade any of this. Kids are fascinating, hilarious, adorable, and amazing. You fall completely in love with them and it’s unlike anything else.

But when you find yourself scraping the third poo off a vest in a row, at 4 o’clock in the morning… it’s really hard to keep up morale. 

Now we’ve outlined and crystlised the challenges, how do we go about handling all this and STILL being in shape? Let’s take a look.

Train Functionally

As a parent, functional training will become invaluable. This will be a test of true fitness, and if you have a weak back or poor mobility, it will make itself known. Likewise, some decent cardio will go a long way toward helping you cope with the long, long days. 

If you’re a parent to be, then I highly recommend that you work on these areas as preparation. If you’re already a parent, then incorporating some more of these sorts of exercises can make a big difference.

Here are some things I recommend including, if you haven’t already:

  • Glute Bridge
  • Jefferson Curls
  • Reverse Hypers
  • Dead Bug
  • Deep Squat
  • Crab Reach
  • Single Leg RDL
  • ATG Split Squat
  • Sandbag Carries

Sandbag carries, in particular, are great because they mimic closely the experience of carrying a wriggly child in a front-loaded position for a long duration

I’ve made dedicated videos on many of these things previously, so check them out!

Consider Your Plan, Holistically

Something I have always wanted to accomplish on this channel, is to blur the line between “training” and time outside of training.

In other words, acknowledge that what you do outside of the gym impacts what you can do IN the gym and vice versa. For example: if you are struggling with sleep then you will very likely need to cut back on your training. And you should maybe avoid the more technical lifts. 

And being a parent in general will likely mean you need to back off from your training ever-so-slightly if you were going all-out before. Don’t see this as a setback or admission of defeat – it is a simple re-allocation of resources. And you can ramp it back up gradually as you feel able. 

Farmers Walks

It may be that there are other commitments or resource drains that you can remove from your schedule so that you have more time and energy for your family and for your workouts. 

Training Consistency and Versatility

Easing up on training doesn’t need to mean slowing your progress. Instead, it could mean training smarter, not harder.

Training efficiency is crucial here, then. And this is something that will come from age and experience. Hopefully, you’ve learned what really works for you and where you need to devote your time. You also, hopefully, know what you’re genuinely most interested in. 

Time to stop with the lifts that you think you’re SUPPOSED to do and to start focussing on those that you like doing and that bring results. 

Handstand at Home

Another tip is to find ways to fit your training more seamlessly into your day. One way I’ve done this is to make different versions of my workouts for different locations and tools. For example, if it’s push day, then I have a version of push day I can perform in the office (where I have dip bars, a bench, and some light dumbbells), a version I can perform from home (where I have push up stands), and a version I can perform at the gym.

Likewise, my workouts feature “key” exercises that I consider to be the most important. If I’m in a rush and I only have ten minutes to train, these are the ones I will focus on most.

And, with that said, I’ve been switching to a much more “full body” routine as that not only leaves me less taxed and sore than going to town on just a few muscles; but also means I can hit the same muscle group more times per week AND suffer less if I miss a session.  


I would also say, at this point, that focussing on convenience is extremely important. That means, for example, that you should choose the gym that is closest to your home. Who cares which gym has the best facilities – proximity and ease of use is THE trump card.

And then find points in your routine where you CAN train. Even just for a few moments. That might mean training for 30 minutes on your lunch break. I often train while Hannah is going through the shower before bed. That’s, again, just 20 minutes. And it’s at 11pm. But I make it work!

See also: Low Effort Workouts: The Immense Value of Easy, Simple, and Fun Training

Oh, and to have the energy to train like that, after a long heavy day, I always start with the gentler exercises. I’ll do some stretches. Maybe some handstand practice if I can build up the energy. 

Only if I start to feel it will I then gradually up the ante. 

Modular Training FTW

This is where another one of my favourite training strategies comes in: modular training.

I now often break my workouts into multiple parts. A mobility part, a push, pull, legs, and core part. A skills part. Then I can train various combinations of these throughout the day. 

These days, as I’ve said recently, I HAVE been prioritising training as an important part of my work. So, I do get to work out most mornings, properly, at a gym. But they’re still a bit rushed and when I’m on holiday, or the kids are sick, or whatever else… that goes out the window. 

Sandbag Carry

Having the option to train in this modular fashion really makes all the difference. 

I even have a short workout I do with my kids sometimes – getting them involved is a fun way to sneak in extra training. 

I’ve even made “bathroom mobility” a consistent part of my training. I’ll do horse stance brushing my teeth, shoulder openers against the wall, hamstring stretches on the toilet… 

But most importantly, this constant movement does wonders for my energy. It means I don’t completely flag and helps me to stay alert. 

Lean Into It

Finally, with the best will in the world, this IS going to be a challenge from time to time.

So, what I’ll say, is to try and enjoy the challenge. That might be easier said than done, but there is a romance to training late at night. Or doing quiet stretches while drinking lots of coffee. Try and find the fun in it!

About Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki, AKA The Bioneer, is a writer, personal trainer, author, entrepreneur, and web developer. I've been writing about health, psychology, and fitness for the past 10+ years and have a fascination with the limits of human performance. When I'm not running my online businesses or training, I love sandwiches, computer games, comics, and hanging out with my family.


  1. John says:

    perhaps it’s time for a SuperFunctional Training 3.0 revision? with an even more streamlined approach to the programming, putting an emphasis on time-efficiency for the busy people ????

    • Michael says:

      I’ve just started this fitness plan and it’s definitely a challenge considering I used to do different movements altogether. Skipping is essential and even just 5 minutes of doing it feels like a lifetime for me as I am still new to all of it. I will keep up with this fitness plan!

  2. James Parsons says:

    Is it possible to add the NEW Modular Training segment as a Printable PDF?

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