Finding time to exercise when you have kids is no easy feat, but modeling regular fitness is such a vital part of teaching our kids to be healthy and to develop lifelong fitness habits. It’s my biggest motivation every day. The easiest times I have had in exercising have been when I have kept a regular schedule (exercising at the same time each day) or when I have incorporated my little ones into my routine. Below are some tips to help busy moms stay fit for the long haul and some ideas on how to incorporate your kids and even the entire family.
- Keep it simple. Elaborate routines and plans usually do not work and end up leaving you frustrated and with a quitter’s attitude. While I understand that this type of exercise is not for everyone and may not be as accessible to everyone, the easiest workout I have found is to jog on a treadmill at home (on your own time of day or night!) or in your own neighborhood. If you prefer, do a workout video before everyone wakes up in the morning, after they have all gone to bed or during nap time.
- Do something you enjoy and vary it up every once in a while. Habits are much more easily formed when doing something fun, and not something that feels like work. Try not to count reps – it keeps it more casual and light!
- Enroll in a gym or fitness group. When you pay for a membership to a gym or a class, you are more likely to follow through. Joining a stroller boot camp, a mommy and me fitness class or a running club is a great way to get out there with your little one(s).
- Along those same lines, (for most of us) when you buy the right exercise gear (clothes, shoes, equipment), it will motivate you enough to actually use them. If you do go the jogging route with your little one(s), choosing a good jogging stroller is a really important part of running – it can make or break your workout.
- Recruit a friend or enlist the whole family. When you have other people involved, it is much easier to get motivated and keep each other accountable. Plus, when you have a good friend or your family, it becomes more fun and you don’t even notice you are working out!
- Adjust as needed. Rarely have I exercised after having kids when I haven’t needed to adjust something – whether it is allowing extra time for a fussy child or an impromptu playground stop in the middle of my run, or stopping my workout for the day altogether. Some days, more often than not, I have had to exercise intermittently throughout my day instead of in just one shot. You’ve heard of HIIT-type of workouts, right? Well, this is taking it to the next level! 😉 Do 10 minutes at a time throughout your day – or in 5 minute increments or even 1 minute chunks. Do these intervals while doing the most mundane of tasks, like washing dishes or brushing your teeth.
So we’ve established a few tips to get started and motivated, but what about those moms that don’t have a babysitter during workouts? Here are some ideas on how to incorporate the kids (and your family) into your workouts.
Instead of telling them to get out of your way, have the kids join you in whatever you do. It’s amazing how much kids will do with you if you let them.
- Buy them their very own set of 1 pound or 2 pound weights (or heavier if they are older) and put on an exercise DVD. Let them copy you – they’ll love it!
- Dance to some music or join the kids in jumping on the trampoline.
- Have a jump rope contest to see who can jump the most amount of times.
- Play a simple game of tag or catch with the entire family.
- Walk, bike (put little ones in a bike trailer), run or hike (strap little ones on your back) as a family.
- Like team sports? Join an adult league with your husband or just play some soccer, basketball, or volleyball (try it in the pool for extra fun) as a family.
- Go bowling or skating together.
- Race your kids in the backyard, sprinting as fast as you can.
- If you prefer going to a gym, there are usually plenty of classes and programs for adults and for kids. Or, if your kids are not old enough (and you prefer not to leave them in the care of the day care area of your gym), you and your spouse can alternate turns – you can take a class while he walks/jogs with the kids in a stroller outside, and then switch.
- Sign up for a road race as a family and train together. There are plenty of races that also offer a kid’s race 9as young as toddlers!), so they can actually participate in the training as well.
- Whenever possible, use the baby or young toddler as a weight. Do modified versions of your old tried and true exercises – lunges, squats, crunches, dips, arm curls, etc. Have a fussy baby? Do deep knee bends while holding him to calm him to sleep. As soon as baby can hold his head, get on the floor & do abs while holding him up in the air. He’ll love the face time as well (just beware of possible drool falling towards your face). I have even had my kids hop on my back while doing pushups (okay – pushup because I could only manage to do ONE with them on my back!).
- Do yard work together.
- Do household chores to music together. Supercharge it by making it a race!
- If you like to jog with the jogging stroller, make it extra fun for the kids by stopping at a playground or smoothie shop along the way.
- Play gym or boot camp with your kids. Have your kids pretend to be your trainer (or drill sergeant), complete with a whistle, and have them think up exercises (even new and funny ones!) for you to do.
- Little kids are especially pretty active, so follow in their footsteps for a day. Instead of watching them play all day long, JOIN them! It’ll tire you out for sure!
Making exercise a priority is essential for our health and for the future health of our children. Making exercise a family affair can build lasting memories as well. Don’t wait – there is no better time than today!
Valerie is a God-fearing coach’s wife and stay at home mom of five bright-eyed little ones. She is the original founder of A Nation of Moms, a “one-stop shop” blog-azine of resources and advice for all moms who, like Valerie, just needed a little help.