How can I fit exercise in with young children?
Are you like many women I talk to that tell me how active they were pre-kids but find it very difficult to get back to pre-kids fitness? I know there are women out there who bounce back extremely quickly and run marathons within months of having a baby but I also know that for most of us it’s not that easy!
First of all there is the pregnancy that can chip away at your activity levels. There is plenty of research to tell us that it is good to stay as active as you can during pregnancy. On my first I did a triathlon (although I didn’t finish) and kept up my long spins on the bike to about 7 months but…I was still nowhere near pre-pregnancy fitness.
Then there is the haze of the first year or so where the intentions might be there but the lack of sleep quickly depletes any thoughts of more activity than walking to town to get baba to sleep so you can have a sneaky cuppa!
Past the first year there are glimpses of the light at the end of the tunnel but it takes a much different path to get there than previously. Planning (if you didn’t understand this word pre-kids I bet you do now!) and commitment and the keys to getting through the tunnel and out the other side.
For me personally, exercise has always been a big part of my life. Both pre and post kids it is my sanity fix – well, most especially post-kids. So, for me it is a high priority to fit my exercise in so I can parent well and also so I can set a good example for my kids. We might think that the sports heros of the day are the ones that influence our children’s activity levels but in fact it is us (yes, as if you hadn’t enough responsibility already!). So, if you are not convinced you need to fit exercise in for your own health – do it for your kids!
Children of one active parent are 3 times more likely to be active and children of 2 active parents are nearly 6 times more likely to be active.
So, here are some tips based on my experience that might help:
First off, just to mention, rest, rest and rest until after your 6 week check-up – we all recover differently so the key is to listen to your body. Lack of sleep can be more of an issue in the first year than anything else, so be kind to yourself. Follow your bodies energy levels and adjust your exercise accordingly. So, assuming you have the all clear and you are functioning a level above zombie then here are some tips that will help you get back on track.
- Invest in a sling – you can walk, hike, dance, play in the pool and do all kinds of fun things while baba is happy out in the sling. For advice on how to choose a good sling go to https://www.facebook.com/babywearingireland/
- Exercise videos or Youtube – there are tons of videos you can watch from yoga to dance routines that you can do in the convenience of your own home, when baba is happily engaged with something or sleeping.
- Find friends/ a group to be active with. There are lots of mum and baby support groups but most of them revolve around cups of tea and sitting. Why not suggest meeting up before or after the group for a walk? Also motivation for exercise videos can be difficult so why not invite some friends around to join you?
- Swap babysitting with a friend and take turns to exercise. If you prefer to get out on your own for a break, have a friend mind your baba for an hour while you get your exercise in and then return the favour.
- Consider investing in some equipment. Aside from the sling, there are lots of gizmos you can use to help you get active with your baby – jogging buggies, bike trailers (and when baba can sit unaided bike seats), hiking back-packs etc. You can often find these second-hand so keep an eye out. I have used all of these at different times.
- Check out what’s happening in your local area – you might be lucky enough to find a mums and babies yoga class or a fitness class.
- Schedule time for you exercise, for me it was first thing in the morning before hubby when to work (not the easiest in the first year though) or in the evenings or at the weekends when you might have more support – try to fit your sessions in then.
As the kids get older then here are some additional things to consider:
- Getting the kids out active with you – my 7 year old comes cycling with me while I run now. I also have a connector to attach her bike to mine so if we cycle and she gets tired she can hook onto my bike and then I get a good spin in too.
- More active family fun – as your kids get older they can try out new activities with you. I have enjoyed kayaking and body boarding with my girl this year and it was so much fun to be able to share the experiences with her. Even things like playing in the garden, trampolining, football, catch etc. are fun for everyone.
- When they start doing their own activities, (and you become a taxi!) plan your exercise around their sports times. When my daughter goes to GAA, I run for the time she is there and then am back to pick her up. Saves time around as by the time I’d get home and have to leave to pick her up again, I’d hardly have the kettle boiled!
I hope these tips will help you get a bit more active – you may not reach your pre-kids fitness for a while but you can improve from where you are now. It gets easier I find as they get older (mine are 3 & 7 now) and I am even contemplating doing an ironman next year. Might be a bit too much of a commitment still so may postpone for a year or two but just even considering it makes me feel like I am coming through the tunnel! Just to show it can be done, I have to mention my friend Sinead (aka supermum!) who has 7 children and she did a half iron-man this year! Must do an interview with her for another blog!
So decide what you can do differently this week to get a bit more active and build on that week by week- before you know it you’ll be full of energy and enjoying feeling fit and healthy again : )