A common problem I have been approached with, is how to stay fit when you've got kids. It's something that I struggled with before I had my own daughter. My clients would often tell me they could not get in workout sessions at home because their kids prevented them from doing so. Back then my go-to answer was "If it matters to you, you will find the time." But that has changed now that I have my own child. Here's what matters most (in order): SLEEP, FOOD, EXERCISE. The first key to a good workout is getting enough sleep. If you have a small infant, there isn't much you can do about how much sleep you get. If you have an unruly toddler, I highly recommend getting help if they aren't sleeping through the night by 12 to 18 months old. For me, it took watching a few vidoes of the sleep genie lady to find something that really worked for my daughter. She now sleeps great!
Once you have taken care of the sleep thing, make sure you are eating well. Well-balanced meals and healthy portion sizes are not only important for your health and energy level, it's also important to set good eating habits for your kids. This will give them such an advantage in their lives, we don't want our children struggling with food issues.
Without the first two, exercise will be nearly pointless. You need sleep and good food in order to have the energy to exercise. There are a few ways you can get in a decent workout 4-6 days/week. When I first got back on the exercise wagon, I joined a gym with childcare and forced myself to go at least 6 days/week even if all I did was read while I did the stair master. For me, it was glorious free time... something I had not had since I had my daughter.
Now that she's older, and hates the gym childcare center with a passion, I don't go every day. I take her to a mother's day out program 2 days a week. During that time away, I work out, I train clients, and I do stuff I prefer to do without a child in tow. So how do I get the rest of my workouts in?
At home. With her.
Here's my argument as to why this is actually better than doing it all at the gym while she's in her version of hell (the childcare center): instead of just benefiting me, incorporating her into my workouts benefits both of us.
I'm teaching her that exercise is fun, she sees me (her favorite person to copy and mimic) exercising, and she wants to do it too! I don't want to see one more generation of couch potato computer addicted kids. I want to see kids playing outside, having fun, being in nature, enjoying life. And I especially want my own child doing those things. So at her age now,I show her fun ways to get her heart rate up and burn off some of that crazy 2-year-old energy!
So by now you're asking yourself.. how do I exercise with my child?
There are many ways. Often times, I make it a game. I'll say "Let's do pushups!" and my daughter and I will get on the floor and I will do pushups while she does something resembling pushups. Then I sing a song about jumping, and we jump around (this can last about an hour with her... she won't let me stop sometimes.. so note that this can be an intense cardio session). If I want more of a weight lifting workout, I use her as the weight. I raise her up and down for shoulder presses, let her sit on my stomach while I do crunches and have her help me count them, I teach her how to do squats and we do squats together, etc. I also like to get out my dumbbells and kettle bells and do chest presses, etc. on the floor while she chest presses her stuffed animals. It's really fun.
The older she gets, the more I can let her participate in my workouts. The biggest thing to remember if you do work out with your children, is that they should not be doing weight bearing exercises until they hit puberty at around 13 or 14 years old. It can stunt their growth if you let them weight lift before that. So most of what you want to do is jumping, running, sprints, body weight exercises, and that sort of thing.
I will soon post videos of my workouts with my daughter, and you can decide for yourself if you're up for the challenge!