Sticking with an exercise routine is hard enough for anyone. But, once you have kids, it can feel next to impossible. I mean, if you can’t even find the time to shower more than once or twice a week (and only 3-minute speed showers at that), how are you supposed to find the time to get in those all-important 30 minutes of physical exercise every day? Add months (or even years) of sleep deprivation to the equation and you pretty much throw all willpower out the window. I’ve been there all too often myself as well, but, over the past four years, I’ve learned a few things that have helped me prioritize fitness. Read on for my top 5 tips for staying active with young kids.
[ 1 ] Work out with your kids
If trying to find time to schedule a workout into your already über-busy day seems like an impossible task, the best thing to do is exercise with your kids. Make it a part of your routine and your kids will start to get excited about the prospect of working out with you, which is the best kind of motivator to get your butt into gear. (It’s basically just to keep those tiny humans happy, amirite?) And as an added bonus, your kids get to see you prioritize being active and this very important lesson will hopefully stay with them for the rest of their life.
Whatever exercise you’re doing at home – incorporate your baby or toddler in some way or another. When babies are really young, it’s easy to just strap them into a baby carrier and do various upright exercises like squats, lunges, and arm raises. Once they’re more mobile, use them as a great alternative to weights for lots of strength training exercises (like balancing your baby on your legs while you do crunches). And you can even teach your older toddler or preschooler to do some of the exercises themselves. Isabelle loves trying yoga poses with me and now even wants to start doing family yoga classes together.
If you’re itching to get outdoors, one of the easiest ways to get a good sweat session in is strapping the kid(s) into a stroller and going for a run / rollerblade / bike ride. The earlier you can get them into stroller workouts, the better to get your baby used to just relaxing in the stroller and enjoying the ride. I trained for a half marathon when Isabelle was still a baby (I started at about 6 months) and I was even able to get long 2-hour runs in if I timed it perfectly. I would start close enough to nap time but not too close, so she’d be awake for a little while longer, would then fall asleep for an hour nap, and wake up with about half an hour left to my run. When she started getting antsy, I’d stop and grab her a pretzel (we lived in Munich at the time), and she’d happily suck on that until we got home.
A good stroller is key if running is your cardio drug of choice. I love Mountain Buggies for their abilities to be both jogging strollers and everyday strollers by locking and unlocking the front swivel wheel. We had a Terrain when Isabelle was a baby and are now using the new Urban Jungle, which I’ve really been loving for solo runs (aka with only one child) or for faster family walks with Isabelle on a scooter. The maneuverability is absolutely amazing, including a very easy curb pop, which is a must when running with the front wheel in locked position. The ride is also very smooth for your passengers thanks to a great rear-wheel suspension system.
Another feature I really, really love is the handlebar height. One of my biggest problems with running strollers is that they often have a fixed handlebar height that is too low for tall parents like me or the handlebar rotates upwards to become taller, which brings you closer to the stroller, which is not ideal for a tall person’s long stride. The Urban Jungle handlebar rotates upwards as well, but it starts out at a nice and high position so, at 5’11” (and even my husband at 6’4″), we can easily use the handlebar in it’s middle position (as shown in the picture). The new luxury collection houndstooth fabric is also right up my monochrome-loving alley. And the new smaller fold of the entire Mountain Buggy line means it’s way easier to get into our car. With the old Terrain, it took up the entire trunk of a small SUV (because we had to put it in diagonally due to the length), but this new Urban Jungle takes up a fraction of that.
[ 2 ] Shorten your workouts
You don’t need to do hour-long or even half-an-hour-long exercise sessions. Breaking your workouts into shorter intervals and, instead, aiming for a combined total amount of active exercise per day is a lot easier than trying to find the time (or toddler patience) for long workouts. If the run to your playground / beach / local park is 15 minutes, run there, take a break while the kids play, then run back. Just make sure that you do your short intervals at a relatively high intensity to get the same physical benefits as one longer session per day.
[ 3 ] Stay active all day
Even on days that you can’t fit in any structured exercise, stay active anyways. Do stuff around the house instead of sitting in front of your laptop, walk to the nearby grocery store, or take your kids to the park / science centre / anywhere you’ll need to move with them rather than sitting and watching them play.
I find wearing a fitness tracker to be great for this, especially if your partner has one too and you make it into a bit of a competition. I’m so much more inclined to continuously move throughout my day if each step is being counted – e.g. I’ll actually run upstairs to grab something I need in that moment instead of telling myself I’ll just get it later, I’ll do more chores around the house because it gets me on my feet, and I’ll pack up the kids to go to our local grocery store because I am missing one ingredient for dinner rather than just working around that missing item. My husband and I have a competition where whoever takes more steps throughout the week is on diaper duty on the weekend. (Our kids poop a lot so this is a huge incentive lol.)
I love the iFit Duo for its unique ability to rotate between a digital fitness tracker and a traditional analog watch face so you can confidently wear it to a business meeting and then flip it over when you’re ready to hit the gym or the pavement. The watch face is very sleek and stylish and I absolutely love the white and rose gold combo.
Beyond the aesthetics, the iFit has an impressive list of features. It tracks steps, distance, speed, calories burned, and even your sleep cycles. You can enter the calories you’ve eaten directly into the watch or manage everything from the iFit Coach app. Their state-of-the-art technology auto-detects whenever you change activities, so you’ll never miss the stats that count the most. If you’re like me and always forget to actually press the start button at the beginning of your workout, this is a very important feature! The Duo can also show you an on-screen notification whenever you get a call or text, which I find highly useful since I never know where I left my phone (and it’s usually still on night mode because I forget to switch it off in the morning, so I never hear incoming calls.)
[ 4 ] Workout when your kids are sleeping
Working out is usually the last thing I want to be doing when the kids are asleep (drinking coffee during naptime and watching Netflix at night is my preferred child-free activity), but sometimes a solo workout is exactly what you need. Alternate with your partner in the morning or at night so one of you can get a sweat session in while the other does a household chore like laundry (that right there will make you always fight over who gets to go for that run lol). I also like going through a few yoga poses while the kids nap. It’s a great way to destress and work on my flexibility.
[ 5 ] Make exercise fun
Probably the most important thing when it comes to exercise is to make it fun. If you’re dreading whatever exercise you’re planning on doing, then it’s probably not the right exercise for you. Personally I’m a big rollerblader and my kids love it too since we go so much faster than when I’m running. I’ve also recently gotten into hot yoga which I swore up and down that I would never do again after my first disastrous class 10 years ago. This is harder with kids since I can’t take them with me, but my local studio has early morning and weekend classes (when my husband is at home) that I try and go to as often as possible.
Making exercise fun applies to your kids as well. My kids aren’t always into sitting in a stroller for periods of time or even walking for long periods of time so I love taking a scooter or balance bike with us. This Mountain Buggy Freerider is unique in that it turns into a ride on board when your little one gets tired! Such a great idea. You can mount it offset to one side so you’re still able to walk next to the scooter when you’ve got it in ride-on board mode.
What’s your favourite way to stay active with your kids?