Get Your Workout in with Kids in Tow

I used to feel trapped by parenting. My two kids were wrapped around my ankles 24/7, like a double-headed ball and chain. They put a serious cramp in my fitness routine.

In the good old days, I used to jog. I would go out on my lunch hour or right after work - before I threw dinner in the microwave - as carefree as a vagabond.

When I switched careers to parenting, things became complicated. There were no breaks, and the shifts were 20 years long. How was I supposed to maintain my mental and physical machinery with no scheduled outages for upkeep?

I tried to just suck it up, but I couldn’t. The kids drove me crazy with their late-night wake-ups and constant demands to have food shoved into one end of them and wiped off the other.

I hardly recognized the nuclear wasteland that had once been my body and brain. Something had to give.

But that something needed to be magical; it needed to be affordable on my salary of $0 per annum, and require no more than the 0 minutes per week that I had available for me-time (that ruled out joining a gym, getting a personal trainer, and burning any calories).

You know how they say that necessity is the mother of invention? There is a lesser-known corollary that states that a mother’s desperation can turn her world upside-down (in a good way, if she takes aim).

I made up my mind to get moving during the day or die trying! I started taking my oldest to preschool in the jogging stroller. I saved my shower until her baby sister and I were back home and she went down for a nap. This small change paid off with a triple win: Our hellish ‘get out the door’ routine got simpler, my morning dread got smaller, and my whole week felt 80 pounds lighter, thanks to those regular endorphin boosts.

I know that when things are running at the speed of family, it feels like there is no room to breathe. I promise you, there are nooks and crannies in your life that can be transformed into healthy release. That is why I’m sharing this list to get your inventive juices flowing. I can’t wait for you to find your magical formula. Those little doses of oxygen and sweat will bring precious relief, and your whole world will feel better. 

Parenting jobs that can become workouts 

Travel time:

  • Walk, jog, or bike to nearby errands instead of driving.

  • Take a self-propelled trip to your local library, pet store, child’s school or their extracurriculars.

Playground time:

  • Schedule a walking playdate with friends or extended family on pathways or at the zoo.

  • Play tag.

  • Play follow-the-leader all over the playground.

  • Run up a hill and roll or sled back down.

  • Pull kids (or your diaper/snack/toy arsenal) in a wagon.

  • Use monkey bars: swing or do chin-ups.

  • Use a stair or a bench to do step-ups or inclined push-ups. 

Indoor play:

  • Give your kids piggyback and pony rides.

  • Drag the kids across the floor on a blanket.

  • Have an animal walk race. Challenge your kids to move like a bear, crab, frog, snake, and spider (sounds easy, but walking like a crab is tough as well as a great workout).

  • Create an obstacle course with whatever you’ve got: skipping rope, hoppity-ball, books (to jump over), tables (to crawl under), and utilize your stairs.

  • Challenge your kids to balancing contests in yoga poses: Tree, fierce, lunge, warrior, triangle, and one-legged dog.

  • Set a timer and do lunges and animal walks up and down your hall until the timer rings. 

During kids’ downtime:

  • Jump on the treadmill or elliptical during the kids’ screen time.

  • Find a workout video on YouTube while the kids are napping.

  • Strengthen with weights or plyometrics as soon as the kids are in bed.

  • Do some quiet yoga or slip out for a walk before the rest of the family wakes up.

Family time:

  • Every evening, go for a family walk or bike ride after dinner.

  • Have the family take a movement break for every 30 minutes of screen time.

  • Do homework or paperwork standing at a counter instead of sitting at a desk or table.

  • Do household chores along to music (wiggle as needed and take a dance break every few songs). 

Extracurricular time:

  • If available, enroll your kids in sports that offer concurrent classes for parents.

  • Go for a walk or run during the kids’ music lessons or homework time. 

Soothing the baby:

  • Wear your baby when going for a brisk walk.

  • Whenever baby is in your arms, pull down your shoulders and draw in your abs; hold as long as possible.

  • Do bent-over rows with baby in their car seat.

  • Every time you pick them up or put them down, do three controlled squats.

Manufacture you-time:

  • Join a gym that offers babysitting (bonus points if it also has a sauna or a hot tub).

And if all else fails, shuffle around the house dragging those little ‘ball and chains’ for resistance; they make decent ankle weights.

Digital Trainers: Online Resources for When You’re House-Bound and Sweat-Deprived

I call YouTube my personal trainer because it provides me with so much workout inspiration and fun. I have tried all kinds of video classes, from belly dancing and ballet to martial arts conditioning and yoga. One of the best features of this database is that there are a variety of workout durations; even if you only have eight minutes of precious quiet time, you can call up a clip that will get you moving.

Here are just a few great channels to subscribe to:

GymRa - GymRa is like having your own personal trainer (for free) at your fingertips! GymRa covers a wide variety of workouts including yoga, Pilates, HIIT, dumbbells, and more. You can even choose a workout that specifically targets your abs, legs, booty, etc. For more information, visit youtube.com/user/Gymra1/featured.

Yoga with Adriene - Search for this fitness angel by name on YouTube, or visit her site to access dozens of free yoga videos. Her classes are encouraging, embracing, and just the right amount of exhausting. She specializes in creating classes and multi-day challenges that target particular body areas and stressful struggles. I always walk away from her videos feeling great. For more information, visit yogawithadriene.com.

Beachbody on Demand - If you have some money budgeted for fitness, but can’t get to a gym, you might like Beach Body on Demand. You get access to a variety of Beachbody’s branded workouts, such as P90x, Insanity, and more added each month. A friend of mine squeezes Beachbody workouts in between working three jobs; she loves the intensity and motivational surge she gets from these whip-cracking video coaches. For more information, visit beachbody.ca.

Millionaire Hoy - He will definitely get you working out hard and sweating at no cost to you! Even his ‘beginner’ workouts feel advanced, but can’t think of a better way to motivate yourself to build up and improve your fitness level. Your reward at the end of his workouts? His notorious and inspirational (“Boom!”) Fist Bump for a workout well done. For more information, visit youtube.com/user/yaboymillhoy.

Laurie is a mom and a writer who thanks heaven for her jogging stroller, but prefers to exercise out of sight and earshot of her talking ankle weights.

 

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