Working Out When You Have Small Children
P90X is totally messing with my psyche. All the workouts are a minimum of one hour. All of them require me to work out in my basement in front of the TV. And the program requires me to work out six days a week. Translation: If I work out for less than an hour, do anything away from the television, or *gasp!* skip a day, I feel a twinge of guilt…an inkling of “this isn’t good enough.”
Maybe it’s because I don’t like to quit anything. Or maybe it’s because my husband’s body is transforming into that of a Greek god, and mine is not.
Or maybe it’s because one of my favorite exercise mantras has always been “Something is better than nothing.” For the last 12 ½ years, I’ve been trying (and succeeding) to stay fit with babies and small children in tow. As a mom, some days I just do what I can, and I move on. For that reason, I’m finding that perhaps P90X isn’t the program for me. Or maybe it’s just not for me right now. (insert twinge of failure here…ouch!)
But that doesn’t mean I can’t work out. And it doesn’t mean you can’t work out, either. I’m convinced that we will make time for things that are important to us. If physical fitness is high on your priority list, you will do it. Period.
It’s not a good idea to wait until your children are older or out of the room before you break out your gym shoes. For me, it’s important for my kids to see me working out and to join me when it’s practical to do so. This isn’t just for my well-being. I’m hoping some day they will be physically fit, too!
So, fully understanding the challenges associated with having small children, I give you a short list of things that have worked for me over the last 12 ½ years:
1.From the time your children are born, you can put your little ones in a stroller or a pouch and head outside for a long walk. I used both, depending on the kid. When Noah, Rebekah and Elijah were babies, I lived in Florida where I could walk year round. I also lived in a huge neighborhood with miles and miles of walking trails. We walked every single day, and it was wonderful. For two years after we moved to Kentucky, Rebekah attended school across the street from a beautiful park. Also wonderful. But some of you don’t live in a warm climate or near good parks. And that, my friend, is why God created THE MALL. Sure, you may have to dodge the elderly mall-walkers so you don’t run them over with your stoller, but all that darting and swerving will increase your upper body strength. As my children multiplied, I purchased a double stroller (doubly hard to push, too!) Now, the older kids ride bikes while I push Elliana in the stroller. But, please don’t try that one in the mall. You may kill the elderly mall-walkers.
2.Baby/preschool years are very challenging. But one of the many benefits of this unique and short season is not having to contend with a school schedule. When Elijah was a baby and Rebekah was a toddler/preschooler, I was a crazy woman and got up at 5:30 am to go to the gym. It was difficult and exhilarating all rolled into one. I would drag my body out of bed and roll into my work out clothes. Standing blurry-eyed over my coffee maker, I would slowly wake up. Then, I would drive away from my house in the dark with my giant mug of coffee in hand. I would exercise in a nearly empty gym and return home at 7:30 am, just in time for Jon to leave for work. I knew if I accomplished nothing else that day—and that was usually the case—at least I had worked out. I was in excellent shape back then, I must say. Now that the kids are in school, I can’t do that any longer. Unless I want to get up at 4:30 am and return by 6:30 am. I’m crazy, but I’m not that crazy. Maybe evening works better for you. The point here is to find a time to go to the gym while someone at home is watching your children. And preferably not in the middle of the night.
3.Work out DVD’s are a young mother’s answer to fitness prayers. (Fitness prayers?) Trust me on this one, if you want to keep your children entertained, pop in a work out DVD and do it with them in the room. The music. The people dancing. The grunting and panting. It’s truly amusing! It’s especially funny for them when you start to sweat and you can’t answer their incessant questions. I admit, this option takes a little more planning. For me, I need to fetch a drink and a snack for my little one and set up some favorite toys. But if you are a mom, you’re used to this. Sometimes I need to stop to tend to a need…no biggie… that is the beauty of the “pause” button.
3.Home gym equipment poses some inherent dangers, but like every other hazardous thing in your home, you simply teach your child appropriate boundaries. We had a Nordic Track since we got married, so our kids got used to staying off the exercise equipment. Now we have an elliptical, a universal weight machine and several sets of free weights. It takes a little training, but children will learn to stay away from the treadmill while you are on it. Use your scary mommy voice when they get too close. That always works for me.
4.Using gym childcare is not an option I’ve used yet… but I’m about to. I just joined a gym for the first time in over five years and I plan to use the childcare at least twice a week. I’ll let you know how it goes. Many facilities offer free care while you work out. And if you envelop your child in bubble wrap and bathe them in hand sanitizer, they might not catch any diseases while they are there.
5.I am all about the nap time. I go to extraordinary lengths to protect this sacred ritual in my home. All of my kids napped or had one to two hours of daily quiet time alone, in their rooms, through kindergarten. Why? Mainly because in a 15-hour day, it is most likely the only kid-free break I get. And if my children want a functional Mommy, they know better than to ask me to pull an all-day shift, day after day after day after day after day. I understand this hour or two is PRECIOUS. It’s hard to know what to save that time for…your shower, your devotions, you blogging time, your phone calls…YOUR OWN nap. Or your work out. I personally use nap time as a last resort. When my oldest daughter was taking two naps a day, I often used the first one for my prayer time and the second one for my work out, and that was nice. But it was very short-lived. Just know, it’s an option, and one I recommend if that works well for you.
What challenges do you have with finding time to work out? Let’s discuss and see if we help each other think outside of the box.
Great post Sandy!
After a few days of P90x I realized it wasn't the right fit for me right now for many of the same reasons you shared. I am doing Power 90 right now instead. The Phase 1-2 workouts are about 35minutes and not so intense. I have lost 3 lbs and 2.5 inches in 2weeks.
My biggest challenge is all in my head. I want to get my workout done first thing in the AM. I don't want to shower and then have to shower again and there is a nagging in my brain until I get my exercise in.
Right now that is working out alright with Ori in school and Jocie still taking a morning siesta.
Dare I say I look forward to the day when both girls are in school????
Hi Sandy 🙂
This post is perfect for me….with my 3 year old and 3 month old – working out is hard. It's weird though. I'm finding that time isn't what's hard for me (i'm sure it will be when my kids are old enough to get into activities and such – now they just sit/play and watch me) – what's hard is that after I workout nowadays….I'm sooo tired afterwards. Which isn't good when I'm tending to little ones allll day long. Maybe it is because I'm still pumping breast milk or something – I don't know…. but I'm just SO exhausted after exercising – like never before. Maybe I'm low on some type of vitamin or something. Who knows 🙂 Having a baby does weird things to you body 🙂
As always..thanks for the encouragement!
Have a great weekend,
"something is better than nothing" is the mantra I must live by these days.
I've always exercised, always (for the most part) stayed fit . ..and yet it's been a challenge this time around.
With the twins, I not only gained twice the baby weight and had a c-section (delaying weight loss start), I have an extremely severe diastisis that limits what I can do. No abdomen exercises and watching stuff that works the core. From someone who loved Jillian Michaels workout dvd's . . .that's been a hard pill to swallow. And yet, by God's grace, I do find myself on the homestretch (although it's a stubborn homestretch). : )
I have noticed it helps when I stop just worrying about the weight, etc and focus on building strength, stamina and my physical ability to perform my God given taks. Celebrating what my body can do and thanking God for it.
It's been a journey as carrying and birthing twins took my body on a journey it's still not quite recovered on. : )
I, too, try to protect my one nap break of all 3 girls down for a shower and my devotions and any catch up. Nap is also my last resort to exercise. We have a gym with free childcare that is my friend : ) but with germs, weather and all else, we haven't made it there quite as much as I used to. So I'm having to get more creative at home.
I'm a big believer, though, in trying to let your kids be present in the active part of my life. Whether that's a walk outside together, having her (my 2 yr old) play around me while I work out (she often likes to "join" me : ) ) or just seeing activity a regular part of my life.
I always say Jillian Michael's 30 Day shred dvd is a mom's friends. You can do it 30 minutes and get a complete workout. It's great on the days you don't have alot of time. I miss it as I can't do it right now.
I so understand you saying it's hard to no be able to do P90x right now, but thanks for helping us all be reminded that there will be different stages through our lives and we can always do something.
I've always appreciated your heart for Godly fitness and health – it wasn't always something I kept healthy and praise God that's a change He's made in my life.
Ok, enough of a book. : )
Once again… you make me laugh! Fitness DVD are an answer to fitness prayers… YEP! My 2 year old daughter loves to stand beside me trying to do the workouts herself. It is usually when I pop in their favorite movie…. OR I continually tell Avery, "I hear one of your babies crying, I think she's hungry!" It works everytime!
As for the gym childcare… been there, done that! Once our house is completed I might do it one day a week again so I can take at least one spin class. But the germs…. Oh the GERMS!
And when you are talking about naptime… I was on my end of the computer saying "AMEN SISTER!" This is a time of day for me that I usually work (I work from home). It's also my blogging time, sometimes, my reading time, but ONLY my workout time if I'm DESPERATE. It's sacred in this house too!
Michelle: I have the same problem. But I also want to get my prayer time done first thing in the morning…and my housework. Impossible. Mid morning works best for me right now. But that changes with the seasons of life.
Kate: I'm guessing with a 3 month old, you are probably not getting a full 8-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night. That alone is enough to make me feel exhausted after a work out. I would do my best to get proper rest and nutrition and a TON of water before I worry too much about getting in a daily work out. You are right…having a baby does really weird things to your body! Just do 15 minutes a day, or go for a walk. Something is better than nothing.
Amber: I love your "book!" And I totally agree that the 30-Day Shred DVD is golden to a busy mom. That's why P90X is throwing me off so much! It's just too long. Like Kate, take care of your nutrition and rest first. And it's OK to not work your core really hard right now. That's why I'm such a big fan of walking. It's perfect for moms with babies. And you can vary the intensity as you go.
Sarah: You are a fitness goddess. 🙂
Sandy, you always crack me up with your sense of humor! Love this and especially fitness prayers; LOL. I'm at a different season in my life but it I had small ones at home all day, I'm sure nap time would definitely be part of our routine.
Keep writing with your unique Sandy style. I love it and you friend.
My children are much older now (11,13), but I can still find excuses to not exercise. Transporting them to practices, games, church functions, and other family events and functions get in the way. By the time the day is done, I'm tired, so you know what I do that doesn't allow any excuses? I put on some music and dance like I think I can dance! Rain or shine I can always find time to shake a leg and this works for me. It has also lowered my blood pressure.
Have a great weekend!