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Fitting in Fitness - Finding the space to be healthy after baby and beyond

Updated on April 19, 2014
Getting your kids involved in your exercise helps everyone be healthy.
Getting your kids involved in your exercise helps everyone be healthy. | Source

You Can Fit it In

I have exercised in some form or fashion on a regular basis since I was eighteen-years-old. While I was in college, I ran and lifted weights. In my twenties, I ran, biked, and trained for events - adventure races and one sprint triathlon. When I got pregnant at thirty-one, I relaxed my regimen a bit but continued walking and going to prenatal yoga. Six weeks after I gave birth to our first son, I was ready pound the pavement again. I laced up my running shoes, strapped the baby in the jogging stroller and set out. It was…awkward. I felt like I had forgotten how to run. With my joints and ligaments still loose from pregnancy and the extra weight, I felt like I was flopping all over the place. I told myself to be patient, though. The weight loss would come. I committed to running at least three times a week and going to yoga once a week. I weighed myself once a week and tracked my progress on a piece of paper on the wall, alongside my husband, who was on a mission to lose his baby weight as well. Ten months later, I was back down to my playing weight. Since then, my fitness has evolved with the ever-changing dynamics young children bring to life. I have used a treadmill, run up an down the stairs in my house, gotten intensely into hatha flow yoga, done Pilates, taken various exercise classes with and without my children, jumped rope, and done push ups and crunches in my living room. All of these things fit my life at various times. Each time something changes - one kid drops a nap, the other starts school, work gets extra busy - I have to rethink my fitness and where I can put it in my schedule. I know you're busy. I know there are kids and work and school and groceries to buy and bills to pay. But, if you are committed to your fitness and employ a little creativity you can get it into your schedule, even with little ones running around your life.

Because You Deserve It And So Do Your Kids

"If momma ain't happy,ain't nobody happy." I have read it in books and felt it in action in my own house. When I am crabby, upset, or depressed, my kids feel it, even if I am working very hard to hide it. Our children's moods are often reflections of our own. Raising children is stressful and not the only thing you have going on in your life. You don't have to work out hours a day, seven days a week to see mood benefits from exercise. When you are exercising regularly, your mood will be better, your energy level will be more consistent AND you will work more efficiently and productively. So if you really want to exercise more but think you don't have time, I'm telling you that you don't have time NOT to work out. You will be a better parent, spouse, and employee for it. Plus, you'll be setting an excellent example for your family. If you get your kids involved, you're spending quality time with them at the same time you're working on your fitness.

Quick Workout Video

Jillian Michaels Yoga Inferno
Jillian Michaels Yoga Inferno
This video combines yoga for stretching and flexibility with cardio. It has two all-in-one, thirty-minute workouts for busy people. It's best for people with at least some experience with yoga.

Tips for Getting in a Workout

These are tricks I've developed over the years for making sure I get my exercise in each week, even on the days I really, really REALLY don't want to:

  • Take a muti-sport approach. Everyone gets bored running the same jogging path every day. Try running it backwards, come up with a new path, or do something completely different, like biking, or swimming.
  • If you don't know when you'll be able to fit in your workout, because the day is unpredictable, dress in your workout gear first thing in the morning. The sooner you get in the exercise, the sooner you can take a shower and put on regular clothes.
  • If you're feeling really tired, tell yourself, "I don't have to do the whole thing. I'll do four laps and call it good if I'm still tired." Odds are, you won't be too tired after four laps, and you'll figure you went to all the trouble to get to the pool, you might as well make the most of it and finish your workout.
  • If you feel sluggish before a workout, lie down for a fifteen-minute power nap. When you get up, have a cup of coffee and start with slow stretches, slowly working your way up to a serious sweat. It's easier to get started with a nap and a little caffeine. Starting slow is more palatable than thinking you have to be running right out of the gate.
  • Buy new gear. I'm always more inclined to exercise when I've got new cute, comfy stuff to wear.
  • Have a backup plan. You had every intention of making it to Pilates, but now you've got a sick six-year-old at home. With children, there's a wrench in the works more often than not. Any day I can't get to my classes, I pull from my small library of exercise videos at home. Usually even a sick kid can lie on the couch while you jump around in the front of the tv for thirty minutes. The baby inexplicably skipped her morning nap when you planned to hop on the treadmill? Put her in the stroller and sprint to the park. You get your exercise, and she gets to play at the park at the end.
  • Be open to breaking your workout into smaller chunks. On really busy days, when I literally don't have thirty minutes at a time to spare, I'll get up fifteen minutes early and do some yoga, then run the stairs for ten minutes when I get time, and finish up later with a few minutes of crunches and pushups before starting dinner.
  • Going is better than not going. There are times I am tempted to skip my workout, because I can only cram in fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes is way better than nothing. Go big, but if you can't go big, don't go home, go for whatever you can manage that day.

Bike, Baby!

Biking with your kids in a child seat on your  is a great way to exercise and get some fresh air.  Toting the extra kid pounds makes it more challenging!
Biking with your kids in a child seat on your is a great way to exercise and get some fresh air. Toting the extra kid pounds makes it more challenging! | Source

What Do I Do With the Kids?

Get your kids involved. Find a mom and tot yoga class you can both go to, or encourage your children to do your at-home workout with you. Get them their own yoga mat or small set of weights to really make them feel included, so they're having fun instead of whining at you for your attention. Get creative with what you consider exercise. Jumping around the room to What Does the Fox Say? burns a lot of calories, and your kids will just think you're dancing for fun.

Whether you're taking the kids to a child-friendly exercise class or keeping them entertained at home while you exercise, get them all set to minimize interruptions. Send them to the bathroom or change that diaper beforehand. Give them snacks and break out some toys that might keep them entertained for thirty minutes. You might even keep special toys they can only have while you're working out, so they don't lose their novelty. After getting the kids set up, I usually announce, "Okay, I'm going to start my video, so if anyone needs anything, ask now."

Also know that it may take time for your children to get used to entertaining themselves while you exercise, if they're not used to doing so. If they are whiny and needy the first time you try it, don't give up. They will get used to it if you are consistent in telling them you are unavailable (except for emergencies) for the thirty minutes you're working out. When my kids approach me with problems or questions during my workout, they get the same tagline every time: "I'll talk to you after my workout." This works better with kids eighteen months and older. Younger than that, and you may want to stick to nap time for your exercise or routines that heavily include them. Incidentally, toddlers make great weights for building strength!

Quick-start to Working Out

  1. Decide you want to exercise more.
  2. Ask yourself why you want to be more fit. Write it down.
  3. Figure out when and how often you can fit it into your schedule. Write that down.
  4. Decide how to record your progress. Post your chart in a convenient place.
  5. Spend twenty-one days dedicated to forming a new habit.

Recording Your Progress

I toyed with whether or not to include this section. After all, writing down weights and measurements is a bit of a tangent off the idea of how to fit in a workout. But, part of getting exercise into your schedule is finding and maintaining motivation to do it. First figure out why you want to be in better shape. Do you want to have more energy? Feel strong? Sleep better? Be a healthier example for your family? Be more comfortable wearing a bathing suit? Odds are, there's more than one reason, but pick something you can record. Use the weight on the scale or measure your body parts, then chart your progress. When you start to see concrete improvement, you'll be motivated to continue working hard to schedule your workout. How often you weigh or measure yourself depends upon your personality. When I was trying to lose the baby weight the first time, I weighed myself once a week. My husband, however, has always been moved by weighing every day. Weighing every day made me paranoid about a half-pound of water weight one morning versus the previous. Some people don't weigh themselves at all and prefer to go by waist, hip, arm, etcetera measurements. Others simply go by how their clothes fit. If your method of recording progress isn't as straight forward as using a scale or tape measure, get creative. If it's sleeping better, write down every morning how many hours you slept, or how fast it took you to fall asleep. If it's your mood you want to improve, write down how you feel in just a few words at the same time once or twice a day. Whatever your method, recording the progress you make will help keep you going.

Workout on the Playground

Parenting Poll

How do you work exercise into your schedule?

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Take 21 Days

It takes approximately three weeks to form a new habit. So, if you work at working in a workout for twenty-one days, it ought to start feeling more natural to you. When pondering the next day's schedule, you will immediately consider when you can fit in some exercise, and you won't mentally try to weasel out of it (quite as much, anyway.) I know there's more to life than exercise and how you feel about yourself in a bathing suit. We all miss workouts from time to time, and that's okay. After all, you own the workout; it doesn't own you. Don't beat yourself up if you occasionally skip because your nine-month-old has a cold and kept you up all night, and what you really need, even more than exercise, is a nap. The key is the word occasionally. In those first three weeks of habit-forming, it's best if you don't skip a workout at all, whatever you've committed yourself to, be it twice a week or every day. Pick a fitness goal that's challenging but realistically achievable for your life. And, if your goal is to lose pounds or inches, measure and record your progress as a motivator. Just don't forget to be patient. Real, lasting improvements in fitness take time. Overall, if you can commit yourself to it, be a little inventive, and get exercise into your weekly routine in whatever form you choose, you will feel better, and your family will thank you for it.


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