We very well know that to be balanced and take care of ourselves, exercising is extremely important. But how do we include workouts or gym sessions into our already busy schedules as parents?
Personally, at the end of the day, when the children are in bed, I find it very difficult to find the courage to start working out. Even though I feel good after exercising, I’m not the kind of person who enjoys working out so much that it will be at the top of my priority list when I finally have time for myself. Even when I manage to find time for regular workouts, I will usually stick to it for two or three months before abandoning – and feel very guilty about it.
If you know this feeling too, keep reading! I will share some tips and strategies that I use to put the pressure off me and still make sure I get enough exercise as a parent.
1. Get a fitness tracker
The first tip that I can give any person who wants to make sure they are getting enough exercise is to use a fitness tracker. It doesn’t need to be an expensive, sophisticated smartwatch. Actually, even a simple pedometer or smartphone app will do.
I bought my first Fitness tracker about three years ago, and it has helped me substantially increase my level of physical activity. I have set my goal to 10,000 steps a day and still find it’s an achievable objective. In the beginning, I would put myself under pressure to reach the 10,000 steps each day – even jogging at home to make sure I reached them. Today, I use this goal more as an orientation. E.g., if I have only 3,000 steps in the afternoon, I know I should be moving a bit more that day and might consciously include a walk or some other physical activity. On the other hand, if I don’t reach my goal on that one day, I know it will be compensated on other days where I move more.
2. Have fun
Try to find activities that you like instead of torturing yourself through a workout just for the sake of exercising. Even going for a walk or riding a bike are good ways to move your body.
Try different activities until you find one that suits you. You could also pair up with a friend to make it more fun.
3. Include Your Children
You don’t necessarily need to wait until you have time alone to exercise a parent. There are actually many ways you can fit in physical activity during the day with your kids.
Plus, exercising with your kids has many benefits:
- You are killing two birds with one stone: Not only you but also your kids get physical exercise
- It’s fun and can be a good balance to the sometimes stressful day
- It’s an excellent way to channel the children’s energy
- You are building healthy habits by teaching your children the importance of regular physical exercise
- It’s a great way to bond
- Dance it out: Turn on the music and just dance! It’s incredibly fun and allows to release stress.
- Workout with your children: I was astonished to see that my boys (4 and 12) really enjoy the workouts and even ask for them. We just find a guided workout on YouTube and do it together in the living room.
- Play ball: You can use a plush ball to play ball safely inside (maybe not near the crockery cupboard though). My boys love to play soccer, for example. One goes in front of the wall, and the others try to score.
- Yoga: Not only is yoga great to release stress and channel the kids’ energy, but it helps them increase their awareness and accept themselves. You don’t need to call it yoga if you think it might turn off your children. You can have fun doing breathing exercises and yoga poses. For instance, we have been using children’s books like this one to wind off before going to bed. You could also try having fun creating a yoga parkour as it’s suggested here.
- Indoor playground or trampoline park: These are interesting alternatives when the weather is bad. Why not play with the kids and try out the slides and trampoline?
- Sports and games: Even if you are not always in the mood, actively participating in your children’s games such as jumping on the trampoline, playing tag or doing sports with them outside will delight them and get you moving at the same time. Personally, jumping on the trampoline or skipping make me feel like a child again and are efficient cardio workouts.
- Walk or cycle instead of taking the car: See if there are trips for which you can leave the car at home and walk or cycle instead. Even if it will take you longer, it’s nice to show our children that walking can be enjoyable. Remember, the journey is the reward.
With my sons, we love walking – sometimes just to get some fresh air and sometimes we have a specific destination (e.g., having an ice cream, go to the playground). My little one didn’t use to enjoy walking very much until recently so he would take his bike or scooter and his older brother and I would walk.
- Race: Challenge your kids and race them to go to a specific point.
Top tip: Instore a rule according to which everybody needs to go out at least once a day despite the weather. My elder son particularly enjoys walking through the rain and then getting back and cuddle on the sofa.
4. Walk, walk, walk:
- With your children: As I already mentioned, going for a walk with your children is a nice way of getting exercise as a parent.
- Alone: Walking on your own can help you relax and find yourself.
- Walking with a friend: Walking can also be a good alternative to sitting around a cup of coffee when meeting a friend. Ideally, it will allow you to spend time in nature, meet someone you appreciate all while getting physical exercise.
5. HIIT or the ideal parent workout
As the name suggests, HIIT (High-intensity Interval Training) refers to a short, intense and highly-effective workout.
Why I consider HIITs as the ideal parent workouts
- They are short but effective: Even a 10-minute workout done on a regular basis can bring results
- They require little to no equipment: The routines are mostly based on bodyweight training
- They can be done almost everywhere: They require very little space. I’ve done HIITs in my living room, in one of the kids’ rooms, at the hotel, outside, etc.
- You can include the kids to the workouts: Obviously, depending on their age, they will just mimic your movements
- The workouts can be adapted to any level of fitness
Where to find workouts
In my opinion, the best resource to find HIIT workouts is YouTube where there are many channels offering routines of all lengths/intensities and for all levels. Another alternative can be to download an application to your smartphone or tablet. They often include workouts, descriptions, videos, and reminders.
As you can see, being a parent doesn’t necessarily mean giving up on your fitness. There are numerous ways to exercise as a parent be it with or without your children. Obviously, not all the tips will work for every family but I hope this will inspire you and help you build in more physical activity without putting too much pressure on yourself.
Do you manage to get as much exercise as you want? How do you fit it into your schedule? I’d love to hear which tricks you use to be a fit parent.