By peoplestaff225
Updated December 08, 2020 12:46 PM
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Maria Kang

Maria Kang’s kids are used to seeing her exercise. In fact, when her 2-year-old son Gabriel refused to eat his scrambled eggs one morning, she pulled her stationary bike up to the table and rode it until he finished.

“As much as I wanted to go to the gym, I was adamant that he eat a full, healthy breakfast,” says the Sacramento-based Kang, whose Facebook post of her toned physique and three young sons accompanied by the tagline “What’s Your Excuse?” hit a nerve when it went viral last year.

Kang was accused of fat-shaming other women, and — for prioritizing exercise — of being a bad mom. Actually, she says, that’s what makes her a good mother. “Kids model their behavior after their parents,” she says. “I don’t spend hours at the gym. I work out for 30 to 60 minutes, four or five days a week by squeezing it in when I can.”

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And sometimes that means a quick sweat session in the backyard, where Gabriel and his brothers Christian, 5 and Nicholas, 4, play alongside her. “They don’t think it’s exercise. They think it’s fun!”

But Kang admits that staying active is only part of the equation — healthy family eating is just as important.

“I believe in the 80/20 rule. The boys have their pizza parties and their snacks after soccer, but at home I try to make everything from scratch.” Her specialties include turkey meatloaf and even a broccoli salad that her kids love. “I don’t sneak veggies because I want the boys to know the importance of healthy eating.”

But she also realizes the limitations of modern motherhood: “Sometimes I’m able to buy organic, but most of the time, I’m not. I always say, buy in bulk, on sale and in season.”

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Kang, who is married to former marine David Casler, now leads a No Excuse Mom movement of 700 free workout groups for busy moms. The group just released its 2015 calendar featuring real moms who have transformed their bodies by committing to fitness. “The No. 1 gift you can give your child,” says Kang, “is being a healthy parent.“

Check out the easy-to-master core-strengthening workout Kang created for PEOPLE below.

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—Stephanie Emma Pfeffer with reporting by Aili Nahas

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