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12 Ways to Find Work-Out Time

How to balance a fitness routine and a baby

By Sasha Brown-Worsham |

If there is one thing we parents fantasize about, it is having more time to ourselves. So when the current American College of Sports Medicine recommendations say we should do “moderately intense cardio thirty minutes a day, five days a week, or do vigorously intense cardio twenty minutes a day, three days a week and do eight to ten strength-training exercises, eight to twelve repetitions of each exercise twice a week,” we ask: what parent has time for that?

Often, somewhere between getting the kids up, dressed and fed in the morning and fed, dressed and put to bed at night, many of us are unable to find any alone time at all, but we should. Because we are happier, better parents and all-around better humans when we find the time to break a sweat. And besides, if we are honest with ourselves, very few of us are really happy carrying the extra post-baby pounds. As an added bonus, by taking the time to exercise, we impress upon our kids the importance of fitness and health. And even more, exercise can be a lot of fun – if you let it work for you. While we may not have time to do the three hour circuit training sessions we used to enjoy, we can still get our butts moving, break a sweat and raise our heart rate with these ideas. – Sasha Brown-Worsham

  • Join a gym with good childcare

    This one seems obvious, right? But the range of childcare options at various gyms is astounding, from the windowless, basement-level childcare I encountered at Bally’s in Cambridge, Mass, to the bright, beautiful, well-appointed, curriculum-heavy childcare at Sports Club LA. For a small additional fee, many clubs offer in-house childcare and will allow you to tour the facilities, chat with the childcare pros and learn the ropes before you join. The age ranges also vary, so make sure you ask. Do a trial membership; check out a spinning class while the kids play. Many places offer weekend (and evening) hours that allow you and your spouse to work out together or allow working parents the same opportunity to bust a move that their stay-at-home counterparts get. As for the kids, they may cry a little when you leave, but ninety minutes later, after a spin and a shower, you will think it was all well worth it.

  • Mommy and Me Classes

    For those of us not comfortable with the straight drop-off and who have younger babies (read: non-crawlers), there are a host of Mommy/Daddy/Caregiver and Me classes that offer cardio/toning opportunities for the adult and socializing, play and nursing opportunities for the infant. After my daughter was born in 2007, we had a weekly date with Tara who taught Mommy Bootcamp at Healthworks in Boston and with whom I credit the return (and subsequent demise due to a surprise second pregnancy caused by said abs) of my abs.

  • Stroller-robics

    Stroller Strides is a lot like the Mommy/Daddy/Caregiver and Me classes, but it is outside and offers the opportunity to play with the baby while simultaneously dipping, squatting and skipping in public. Yes, you will get weird looks, but there is safety in numbers. All of us look dumb together and besides, our glutes will have the last laugh.

  • Babysitting swap

    If you stay at home with the kids, find someone else who does as well and swap an hour or two while you run/bike/swim or do whatever it is you need to do to maintain fitness and sanity. Then the next day, you do the same for them.

  • Pull Carrier/Bike Seat

    Biking in the city can be a scary endeavor, especially with children strapped to the back or trailing behind. But once you get over the initial fear, biking with kids can be fun. Pulling a kid also means extra core work, both because of the increase in weight and the added balancing challenges.

  • Jogging Stroller

    The jogging stroller really is a one-way ticket to freedom for parents. I have the BOB Ironman Duallie and spend a lot of time running to and from the various parks around town. Some kids are content to sit idly while you run, others demand a dangling carrot, so run to a park and while the kids play do pull-ups, chin-ups and ab work. Then run home.

  • Playground fitness

    The playground is awash with opportunity to work your core, arms and glutes while also playing with the kids. Make it a game. Let them dangle on you for extra weight while you do pull-ups. Run “underdog” as you push them in the swing fifteen times in a row. Be creative. Get the heart pumping.

  • Use Naptime

    I am loathe to suggest using naptime (or “quiet time” for those with older children) for anything other than staring at the wall, but the time can also be used to uncover some of those workout DVDs you said you would do but never got around to trying. If you want to try before you buy, Netflix offers a number of hour-long workout videos (and ten-minute increment ones) that can be accessed immediately and as often as needed. Invest in a treadmill, exercise bike or elliptical if you have the space. Craig’s List, yard sales and Ebay are great sources to find home workout equipment on the cheap. Pop the ear buds in, crank up the iPod and dance in the living room.

  • DVDs that incorporate the kids

    If you prefer to save naptime for actual sleeping, then there are also workout DVDs that incorporate children. Fusion Pilates is one of my favorites because it is relatively short (twenty minutes) and uses the baby as resistance. When combined with a walk/jog, it is a stellar workout. Plus, my pre-school age daughter straps on her own doll in her mini Baby Bjorn and works out next to me.

  • Ten minutes here and there adds up

    Remember: it does not have to be one hour-long workout. The ACSM recommendations can be accomplished in ten-minute bursts. Run up and down the stairs a few times during naptime. Jump rope while the kids play. Do jumping jacks during commercial breaks after the kids go to bed. I did all of my nursing on an exercise ball. I know that sounds insane, but if you make fitness fit your life, it becomes easier.

  • Find a workout moms group

    Check out See Mommy Run and various other online meet ups for moms who want to work out. Many times the pressure of having to meet someone provides the motivation you might lack by yourself. Besides, the more active people you know, the more active you will become.

  • Hire a trainer

    If all else fails and you still are unmotivated, hire help. A trainer can offer workouts tailored to your personal schedule as well as extra motivation to move on sluggish mornings. The price is often high, but the return – a new, happy, svelte you – can be worth it.

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About Sasha Brown-Worsham

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Sasha Brown-Worsham

Sasha Brown-Worsham's writing has been published in Runner's World, Parents, Parenting and many more publications. She also writes a marathon blog for Fit Pregnancy. She lives and works in Boston, Mass., where she also tries to keep her pre-schooler from killing her infant.

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16 thoughts on “12 Ways to Find Work-Out Time

  1. PlumbLucky says:

    Well written piece with good advise; I was very happy to see this was not another piece of advice to “get up an hour earlier”…seen too many of those, too many “inspirational tales” of women who decided they would start exercising, get up at 5 a.m, get in 7 miles of running before work, etc. I laugh out loud when I read those pieces…I already get up at 4:30 so I can be to work at 7….
    Definitely get a jogging stroller…we’ve put miles upon miles on ours! Currently, with our household budget, we use a lot of community ed through our school district (i.e. exercise classes for little money) with one parent staying home with the munchkin.

  2. KD says:

    I second the “join a gym with good child care” suggestion. Our local YMCA is great for that. My kids love going.
    For me, the other thing that works is “taking a quick jog/doing a quick workout” after work a couple days a week. I find if I wait until I get home it never happens. But (especially if I can sneak out a few minutes early) working out after work I only get home a few minutes later than I would otherwise, and I find that I am much happier and able to focus on my kids than if I don’t work out and carry the stress of the office home with me.
    PlumbLucky, I agree that mornings are impossible. I’m tired enough as it is! :)

  3. seriously says:

    Okay, good suggestions, but what about working out after they go to bed? Not all of us are stay at home moms who can do the T/Th 10:30 am stroller-obics at the park, you know?

  4. Julia Kozlov says:

    Great article. As a working mom, I agree that reading articles that say “just do it” or “just get up an hour earlier” is not always feasible.
    I wrote an article that address work outs for all times of the day, including after the kids go to sleep (that’s when I work out), located at http://www.examiner.com/x-18925-San-Fernando-Valley-Working-Moms-Examiner~y2009m8d11-Time-to-work-it-out

  5. jennypower says:

    @seriously and @Julia, I found a 24 hour gym was the only way for me to fit in a workout. I work full time, and my husband works extremely long hours. We don’t eat dinner together until 9:30, so I usually end up working out between 10 – midnight after we’ve had a small amount of family time.

  6. jojo44 says:

    That is amazing, jennypower.  When do you sleep?  I hope you don’t have babies or toddlers!

  7. ann05 says:

    After my child was born I decided to start playing soccer again. The last time I had played was fifteen years prior. Having a team I was responsible to (most of whom were also moms!) and a reason to run made exercising fun. I now play indoor and outdoor and even when I’m feeling lazy I have to get up and go because I know my team is counting on me. Picking up a sport again (or trying a new sport) was my most successful way to get more exercise.

  8. SAHM108 says:

    I’m sorry but tell me something I didn’t know. This is all such obvious stuff, I was hoping for some innovative ideas.

  9. ohplease says:

    Innovative like, “don’t be an anonymous and obnoxious internet flamer and get out and move your butt”?  How’s that?

  10. Babydragons Mom says:

    A note about childcare at gyms: some gyms offer a discounted membership if you help with childcare. I haven’t tried it myself but a friend got a membership for almost free for helping out a couple times a month. Not sure where her kid was during this…
    I want to try the stroller park thing, but haven’t gotten around to it. My husband & I do take time to go for a walk with the little guy several times a week. it’s good for all of us to get outside!

  11. mbaker says:

    One way I’ve mitigated the cost of a personal trainer and found motivation was for my husband and I to train with the trainer at the same time. Our trainer charges the same rate to train both of us at the same time and we’re able to remind each other of what our “homework” is between sessions. We exercise at home using small equipment we bought at a local sporting goods store and an elliptical machine we bought at a used sporting goods store. I found that to be more doable than trying to go to a gym. I can workout during nap time, after bedtime or sometimes my husband will watch our son when he gets home from work so that I can run into another room and work out. My husband usually prefers to get in his workout after bedtime.

  12. exhausedmom says:

    Wonder what those of us who are INSANELY busy are supposed to do? I work 6 nights a week at a desk job, am enrolled full-time in nursing school, have a husband who travels for work, and a 4 year old. I’m lucky if I can get my son picked up from school on time and squeeze in 2 2-hour naps a day – one after class/before pickup, and one after dinner on the couch, subject to his needs/whims (that’s what I call “sleep” for the next 2 years)

  13. Lore says:

    Hey, that’s the geratset! So with ll this brain power AWHFY?

  14. FabFitMOM says:

    What a great article! These ideas are great! I turn to ExerciseTV’s Video Download to help me get in shape during my pregnancy and after my baby was born! Healthy Body, Healthy Baby is a great video that helps you lose weight and also stay happy! Get yours today http://bit.ly/iGt3rB

  15. angieandnevsmamama says:

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  16. angieandnevsmamama says:

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