5 easy ways to integrate exercise into your life
No time to work out? Join the club! Here are five ways to stay fit while keeping small humans alive.
Before I had kids, I was a fitness fanatic. I ran five days a week and ticked a full marathon off my bucket list. I was even one of those annoying women who exercised until the day I gave birth to my first daughter.
For the first six months of her life, I went for long walks and worked out at the park while she napped. But by month seven, the sleep deprivation from waking several times a night to breastfeed her suddenly kicked in. I felt shaky, anxious and depleted, so I stopped exercising. Big mistake.
Noticing how skinny and nervous I’d become, my husband asked, “Have you been exercising much lately? You told me when we first met that if you stopped running, you’d be a mess.” LIGHTBULB MOMENT.
Since that day, I’ve never let my fitness slide again. Of course, with a four-year-old and 18-month-old twins, I’ve had to learn to be flexible and accept that some days my workout will only last five minutes. But I’m OK with that now – I’ll take what I can get.
Here are my top five tricks for integrating exercise and momming.
Pushing a 50lb weight while you run might sound like your personal version of hell, but if you liked jogging before you got pregnant, you’ll get used to it and you may even end up enjoying it more (gasp!). Forget about beating your old personal record – go slow and steady, and chat to your little one about the birds and the trees you see along the way. They’ll love watching the world fly by and you’ll soon hear them crying, “Faster, Mom!”
Be aware that you shouldn’t run with your baby in the stroller until they’re at least six months old and can hold their head properly. Talk to your pediatrician to get the all-clear before you take your little babe out for a spin. Until then, you can push the stroller up and down hills at a walking pace. You’ll have Wonder Woman glutes in no time!
- Do body-weight exercises at the park while you play with your kids
When I finally accepted that I would never get a full hour to exercise like I did pre-kids, I decided to kill two birds with one stone and exercise at the park. Two of my babies started to copy me doing squats as soon as they could walk (so cute!), which helped me stop feeling guilty that I was doing something for myself while I was with my kids. Happy Mom, Happy Life.
Here are a few exercises you can try, but make sure to get the green light from your doctor before starting any exercise program after giving birth.
- Do star jumps, jump squats and high knees while you push your child on the swing – you’ll get bonus giggles!
Use your little one as a prop:
- Hold them under the arms and lift them above your head while keeping your core engaged. Bring them back down to your waist level and squat. Return to standing and repeat.
- Strengthen your core while playing “Airplane”. Lie on your back, bend your knees and lay your child on your lower legs while holding their hands. Keep your core muscles tight as you spin your legs from side to side.
- Lie them on their back on a mat and do yoga poses over them.
- Do planks or Mason twists while they play independently.
- Join a “mommy and me” exercise class
There are so many great mother-and-baby exercise classes these days. From yoga and aqua classes to boot camp, strength training and stroller workouts, you can do almost any class you enjoyed before baby. The social aspect is a huge bonus, too – you’ll get to meet like-minded moms in your area and have some actual adult conversation in-between sets.
- Use a fitness app while they nap
As soon as you put that child down for a nap, go DIRECTLY to the living room or backyard. Do NOT pass GO. Do NOT pick up that dirty diaper. You may only have 15 minutes before Sleeping Beauty starts to wail, so you have to make the most of it.
You’ll already be wearing your workout clothes because you planned ahead (smart cookie). All you’ll have to do is hit “Start” on your favorite workout app and off you go. I swear by Sworkit, but there are plenty to choose from.
It selects a random sequence of exercises for me (burpees, mountain climbers, jump squats, diamond push-ups, and so on), and I have to perform each one for 30 seconds before moving on to the next.
I love that I can do a solid, full-body workout with absolutely no equipment in my living room in just 15 minutes (or even five if that’s all I have). So simple yet so effective.
- Involve the whole family in your fitness routine
Although I’m not at this stage of life yet, many of my friends with older kids make fitness a family affair. They take their children cycling, hiking, running, stand-up paddleboarding, skiing, and so much more. One of my friends even makes sure that all their family getaways are “active vacations”.
I can’t wait until I can get my girls involved in my running races. There’s often a 1K or 2K kiddie race at big running events and I’ll be so excited to watch them race across the finish line. I won’t pressure them into it, but I’d love for them to have a passion for fitness because Mommy modeled it.
Getting back into fitness after having a baby takes time, so be patient and kind to your body. You’ll get there!