Tuesday, March 21, 2017

11 ways moms of little kids can get in a good workout

When I was younger, I worked out all the time. Maybe even too much. I took dance classes and I tried cheerleading. I played basketball and volleyball in middle school. I took more dance classes in high school, and an aerobics class for credit one semester. At one point I was dancing six days a week. I took an hour-long dance class as an elective at school M-F, took two evening dance classes during the week, and had Nutcracker rehearsals on Saturday. I graduated high school and found myself running 5ks and training for triathlons. I took pilates and various dance classes in college, and a general fitness class that basically gave me credit to plow through books on a stationary bike or treadmill. Ryan worked on Saturdays and I enjoyed a run on our apartment gym’s treadmill before picking up our groceries. Sundays, my were a great day for bike rides or hikes.

When we took off in the travel trailer, there was a small gym at our first RV park. I rode my bike to work most days, but I used the gym when I didn’t. Then I got pregnant and found a prenatal aqua aerobics class, which I loved. I got two pregnancy aerobics DVDs and did those on the days I didn’t have aqua aerobics.

The baby came and I rested for six weeks, then we took walks every day. I did workout DVDs. We put him in a carrier on our chests and we hiked. I started attending the aerobics class at my church twice a week while Ryan had one-on-one time with our boy. I found a nearby pool and enjoyed the occasional alone day water-jogging at the side of the pool while I read a book.

Then the second baby came, and then the third. Somewhere along the way, working out became more of an obligation than an enjoyable habit. There’s just always so much going on, you know? I have a three-year-old, two-year-old, and nine-month-old. I’m tired. I’m busy. I mean, I’m writing this during nursing sessions and my sick baby woke me up four times last night. I fall asleep with everything on my to-do list crossed off, like, once a month.

I love good food (calories), I love feeling good, and I love the idea of my children growing up perceiving fitness as a natural part of their daily lives. So. Back on the wagon. Just in case you’re in the same boat as me…

11 ways moms of little kids can get in a good workout…

1. Get a gym with a daycare. Not really. Everyone knows this one is crap because a)your kids will just suck on nasty toys in there and get you too sick to work out b)they’ll be too sick to be allowed in like 80% of the time, which is ironic because they were never sick until you started coming to this gym, and c)they’ll just page you when your kid won’t stop crying after five minutes.
It is possible I’ve tried this like 47 times. This is on the list because someone will leave a comment suggesting it if I don’t.
   1a) Just kidding. No one comments here anymore.

2. Get a piece of home equipment. It seems like exercise equipment isn’t actually that hard to come by- you just have to have the money at the right time. I once mentioned to a co-worker that I was looking on Craigslist for a cheap used elliptical runner and she said, “Would you want a treadmill instead? I’m moving next weekend and I’ve been dreading moving it. I’ll give it to you for whatever you were going to pay for an elliptical.”
Then last year I found a recumbent bike on Craislist and emailed the lady to see if she’d give it to me in exchange for free Christmas portraits instead of the cash. She agreed, and now I use it several times a week.
I’ve also owned a mini elliptical and a mini bike pedaler when we were traveling, and I’ve seen those little stands that make your bicycle a stationary bike.
I find that the most enjoyable way to use my recumbent bike is when the baby is sleeping. I set the big kids up with coloring books, puzzles, or Legos, and then I either read my own book or read a chapter from one of their books (currently The Cul de Sac Kids and the Double Dabble Surprise) while they color/play.

3. Hike. There are bears where we live so I’ve only been brave enough to hike without my husband a handful of times, and always on the same over-crowded trail so it wasn’t that enjoyable… but in general, I think hiking is a really great way to get in a good workout with the kids. My three-year-old usually outlasts me so as long as we’re each wearing one of the girls we don’t even feel all that slowed-down by the kids.

4. Swim. Again, no way would I ever go by myself with all three kids… but I recently took my three-year-old swimming for our one-on-one date and we both had such a blast! Ryan is not a huge fan of swimming but that sometimes works in my favor when we all (rarely) go to a pool together. He is perfectly content to hang out on the steps with the kids and even though we mostly all stay together, I get to go swim away for some real laps for a while before I come back to help wrangle our little (sea)monsters. We have a big road trip vacation coming up and I am pretty excitedly anticipating a family swim session and a few nights of solo swim time.

5. Stroller walk/jog/run. The easiest, of course. I have three strollers. Is that ridiculous? Yes, it is. It’s okay. I have a great single stroller that holds our car seat, a simple umbrella stroller we got during an “emergency,” and a nice double stroller that is the main thing I’d take with me on a desert island, assuming it wasn’t all sand. Anything else we need, we can get using that double stroller. Bring food: Where are the kids?! Bring stroller: Here, strap them in here while I climb this tree and get us some coconuts.
I used to wear the baby and put the big kids in the double stroller but she eventually started to get too heavy for me to wear her every day. So usually now the girls go in the double and the three-year-old either walks or rides his balance bike beside me. Once in a while I wear the two-year-old on my back because, even though she weighs a few pounds more than her little sister, she is the lightest of my three children by far. Why is that, physicists?
We walk around our neighborhood, on a nearby paved walking trail, along a beautiful little park a few miles away, and sometimes through our (basically completely empty) mall.

6. Bike ride. I’m on the hunt for a good, cheap, two-seat bike trailer. We miss bike riding and have so many great areas available to us, it seems crazy that we never go! But alas, the baby is not a biker just yet and the two-year-old is the slowest balance-biker ever.

7. Exercise DVDs. I find these are best to do when the baby is napping. When she was really little I’d just put her in her bouncy seat but now she’s outgrown that. Sometimes the big kids will do the workouts with me, but mostly they just play in their room while I do them. When I get in workout DVD mode, I usually get one or two from the library each week to supplement the ones I already own. (Favorites: 1 // 2 // while pregnant, and admittedly sometimes when I'm just feeling lazy: 3 )

8. Dance/Yoga party. I really like to make fun 30-ish minute playlists and have living room dance parties with my kids, which is where I do self-led aerobics and get to enjoy their playful spirits coming through in the form of crazy dances. At the end, during cool down, we walk like certain animals (“Now let’s stomp like an elephant!” “Now let’s prance like a deer!”) and eventually stretch like certain animals… cat/cow, downward dog, etc.

9. Mommy-and-me class. There are mommy-and-me dance and yoga classes all over the place, toddler gymnastics classes that encourage parent involvement (though I’m guessing you won’t break a sweat here?) and whatever it is they do at the Gymboree classes that apparently take place in every single town except for the four I’ve lived in since my first baby was born.

10. Play! A few weeks ago we tried out a trampoline park and oh my word, so fun! I was seeing if I could still do toe-touches (yes, still got it!), doing wild and crazy leaps into the foam pit, you name it. I also like to play kickball or mini basketball with the kids, and sometimes when the tennis courts are really empty we’ll play tennis on one side while our kids play on ride-on toys (that we bring from our backyard, is that loser-y?) on the other side of the court. So far no one has been hit by a tennis ball, though I admit it’s probably coming. They’re too little right now but you better believe we will be inviting all their friends and their friends’ families over for big family dodgeball games when we get that barn I’ve been dreaming of.
A few months ago we went to the park I was running around and playing with the big kids while the baby napped in the stroller in my line of vision. I thought to myself, self, you should work on your upper arm strength. Go do the monkey bars. So I went over there to try. I did fail, but also one of my children ran out in front of my swinging legs and got kicked in the face. I’ve only ever told Ryan that story because it’s so embarrassingly awful. But in my defense, kid, why would you put your face in front of some swinging shoes? You should never do that.

11. Workout playdate. I plan one of these like once a month, then thankfully come to my senses and realize I’m not social a few minutes before actually inviting a friend over.
Maybe this is more your thing? Invite a friend over, send your kids off into their room to go beat each other with sticks, and enjoy six glorious minuets of workout DVD or something until someone comes running in shouting “HE HITTTTTT MEEEEEE!”
Talk about magical, right?

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Thanks so much for your comments! I always read them, don't always have time to answer quickly. Sorry about that!