While we know how important exercise is for our physical and mental health, it can feel so hard, practically impossible, to find ways to fit it into our demanding schedules. As moms, we can be so focused on making sure our partner’s and little ones’ needs are met that we forget our own. But exercise is one area that should not be ignored or disregarded—taking care of yourself is crucial to your role as a parent, both to be able to keep up with your children in the present, and to help preserve your health for the future.
Finding time for a good workout doesn’t have to mean hours spent at the gym–though some gyms do offer free child-care services, which can be a great solution. But even if that’s not an option for you, there are creative ways to find little pockets of time in the day to get your heart rate up, get some sweat glistening, and (most important!) relieve some stress and get those endorphins flowing. Here are our favorite three exercise hacks:
Queue up a Pilates or yoga video
There’s no secret to why yoga and Pilates are beloved by so many mothers (including athletes and celebrities!). These increasingly popular forms of exercise combine core strength, upper and lower body flexibility, focused breathing and low-impact cardio to make a wonderful full-body workout. Best of all, the only equipment they require is a mat! Yoga and Pilates DVDs, many of which have the workouts broken into naptime-friendly 15- or 20-minute segments, are widely available in stores and libraries, and many are also ready to go through cable television On Demand services, Netflix and YouTube.
Hit the playground
During outings to the park, get off of that bench and get in on the fun. If the playground is relatively empty, join your kids on the climbing equipment. Climbing rope ladders, swinging from monkey bars and squeezing through tunnels takes a surprising amount of core and upper-body strength. Hop on a swing and pump your legs for five or 10 minutes, focusing on using your core to kick your legs out and draw them back in, for a great abdominal workout. For some bonus cardio, challenge your kids to a race, or play a spirited game of tag. Kids can be really fast runners, and keeping up with them will have you pleasantly out of breath in no time.
Let your kids coach
Print out directions for a strength or circuit training workout that can be completed in 20 or 30 minutes, and let your kids play coach. Make a playlist of fun, high-energy songs, encourage them to get dressed up in athletic clothing and let them hold your workout instructions on a clipboard. Explain to them how many reps and sets you need to do, and have them count you down as you complete them, marking off each move that you finish. If you’re doing timed exercises (e.g. holding a plank position for a minute, or doing as many pushups as you can in 30 seconds), let your kids use the stopwatch function on your smartphone.
While it may feel a little awkward at first to work out in front of the kids, there’s no need for embarrassment. They’ll love being involved and getting to have a little authority, they’ll be impressed by how strong you are, and all the while, you’re modeling great fitness and healthy behavior for them. If your children are old enough and you deem the exercises safe, they can join you whenever they feel ready! If you turn this into a routine, you’ll also be accountable to them, which is a much harder commitment to break than answering just to yourself.
How do you find ways and times to work out during the day? Share your tips and hacks with us in the comments!