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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.