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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 those extra post-baby pounds. So while we may not be able to do three-hour circuit-training sessions, here are some practical ways we can get our butts moving.
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Join a gym with good childcare
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 so you and your spouse can work out together and so working parents can have the same opportunity to bust a move as their stay-at-home counterparts.
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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, or Caregiver and Me classes that offer cardio/toning opportunities for adults and socializing, play, and nursing opportunities for infants. I credit a weekly Mommy Bootcamp class for the return of my abs — and also for their subsequent demise due to a surprise second pregnancy caused by said abs.
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Stroller Strides is a lot like Mommy, Daddy, or Caregiver and Me classes, except its held 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.
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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 can do the same for them.
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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, its actually a lot of fun. Pulling a kid also means extra core work, both because of the increase in weight and the added balancing challenges.
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The jogging stroller really is a one-way ticket to freedom for parents. I spend a lot of time running with mine to and from the various parks around town. Some kids are content to sit idly while you run, and others demand a dangling carrot, so run to a park and do pull-ups, chin-ups, and ab work while the kids play. Then run home.
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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.
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I am loath to suggest using naptime (or "quiet time" for those with older children) for anything other than staring at the wall, but those minutes can also be used to take the dust off some of those workout DVDs you never got around to trying. If you want to try before you buy, Netflix offers a number of hour-long workout videos (and 10-minute increment ones) that can be accessed immediately and as often as needed. Want to take it a step further? Invest in a treadmill, exercise bike, or elliptical. Craigslist, yard sales, and eBay are great sources to find home workout equipment on the cheap.
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DVDs that incorporate the kids
If you prefer to save naptime for actual sleeping, there are also workout DVDs that incorporate children. Fusion Pilates is one of my favorites because it is relatively short (20 minutes) and uses the baby as resistance. When combined with a walk/jog, it is a stellar workout. Plus, my preschool-age daughter straps on her own doll in her mini Baby Bjorn and works out next to me.
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10 minutes here and there add up
Remember: it does not have to be one hour-long workout. The American College of Sports Medicine recommendations can be accomplished in 10-minute bursts. There are plenty of quick, at-home exercises you can try. 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.
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Find a workout moms group
Check out See Mommy Run and various other online meet ups for moms who want to exercise. Often the pressure of having a workout buddy provides the motivation you might lack by yourself. Besides, the more active people you know, the more active you will become.
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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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