By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer
I have a fair number of clients that have stressful jobs, long commutes and small children at home. It’s also a common scenario to see a client come in and say “I used to work out all the time and in the last year I haven’t been working out much.” Invariably I ask, do you have a one-year-old?” It’s not always the case, but often the answer is “Yes, how did you know?” The time of having a new baby int he family is an exciting and exhausting time. For a few months (to many months) this can mean sleep deprivation, more time needed at home to care for your child and of course the joys of seeing a new life, a new smile and bonding with your new son or daughter. But all this change can also bring a halt to mom and dad’s workout routines.
I am a big advocate of incorporating regular activity into our daily lives. But having a new baby or small children at home makes it difficult to workout like you did pre-children. That doesn’t mean you can’t work out at all. It just gives you an opportunity to try something new, think outside the box and modify your workout routine without taking too much time away from your family. One of the things I tell my parent clients is that working out and being fit is one of the best ways to role model healthy physical activity behavior to your children. And taking your kids along on your workout, while a bit tricky, can be a great way to spend time with your family without giving up time for your own health.
How to Incorporate more physical fitness into your life without sacrificing family time.
• Used to going on long bike rides but can’t get away for long enough to get your rides in? Add a bike trainer to your own bike or buy a spinning type bike and put it in your basement, garage, workout room, where ever it is out-of-the-way but easily accessible for riding. If you need motivation to keep you from being bored, put the bike in front of a TV and use the SpinRider, an indoor cycling DVD that simulates an outdoor bike ride in different locales. Each DVD includes 3 bike rides filmed from the rider’s point of view. The videos take you to the countryside, city streets, beaches, and back alleys, while the onscreen subtitles and bonus features inform you about the destination’s history, people and activities. Spinrider releases a new 3 ride DVD every September, December, and February. Individual DVD’s are $19.95. Subscribe for 3 DVDs $44.95. Order here.
• Are your children old enough to be bundled up and go outdoors but too small to go on long walks? Pack them up in a stroller or bike carrier and either hike with them or bike with them.
• If you kids are old enough to bike but not old enough to keep up with you on your bike, let them cycle while you run or roller blade with them.
• Make family fitness a regular activity. Each weekend plan to explore a new forest preserve, a new lake, river or scenic outdoor setting. The Chicago area is chock full of small and large forest preserves. And children that experience and interact with nature will be more likely to be comfortable experiencing and protecting nature as adults. Check out the Little Red School House for your children to explore Chicago area wildlife and go for a short hike together before the winter covers the woods with a blanket of snow!
• If you absolutely must leave your family to get in a workout, obviously, you want to minimize your time away. So if you join a gym, find one close to home, or put on your jogging shoes and go for a run. Adding a small workout room to your basement or spare room also means less travel time and less time away from the family. AND you kids get to see you role modeling good fitness behaviors. (Versus role modeling sitting in front of the TV eating cookies!)
• If you children are a bit older (say 7 or 12 years old), you can also have them join you in using Wii Fit or following along on beginner’s yoga videos.
• As your children hit the teenage years, it’s more likely that mom and dad are chaffering the kids around to their sports and athletic events more so than joining in on your children’s activities. But that doesn’t mean you need to go your separate ways when it come s to working out. If your children are old enough to do resistance training, you can work out together! If your son or daughter is a good swimmer, hockey player, roller blader or snow boarder, you can plan day trips or weekend trips to areas where the whole family can enjoy your favorite sports together.
• Take a dance class with your kids. Hip Hop is an easy dance to learn and a great aerobic workout. I’ve taken Hip Hop classes at the Old Town School of Folk and enjoyed every sweaty minute of it!
• If you have Dance Dance Revolution, make a game out of playing it with your kids a few times a week.
• In the winter, go ice skating or sledding with your kids.
• Ask your kids what they want to do to have family fitness time each week. They may come up with answers that you all will love and that you might never have thought of without them!
- Fitness for all the family (telegraph.co.uk)
- Exercise for Mom: How to Get Fit with Your Kids (brighthub.com)
- Reviews of Top Recumbent Exercise Bikes (brighthub.com)
- Runners: diversify your workouts (nationalpost.com)
- Incorporating Kids into Your Exercise Routine (maplewoodbootcamp.com)
- Learning to Walk to School (fitness.suite101.com)
- Balance Bikes — Best Way to Teach a Child to Ride a Bicycle (bicycle-types.suite101.com)
- Why public transportation is good for kids (grist.org)