Exercise as a Mom of Littles

Hey guys! I know it’s been forever, but I think that’s how this blog is going to be for a while. Scarlett is now four months old, and while I’m sleeping more and some things have gotten much easier, I’ve still got my hands full. So sorry to be pretty sparse and scattered on posts, and that Freezer Meal Friday has fallen by the wayside (for now! I will definitely bring it back), but I’m a mom first and a blogger second.

A few weeks back, though, you might remember me writing about how I’ve been thinking extra about my daughters lately. I want to be a GOOD example to them. I want to help them steer clear of some of the struggles I’ve faced if possible.

They watch my every move and (GULP) already imitate me and want to be like me. That is a LOT of responsibility!

Why I Work Out

It’s important to me to get my workouts in for two big reasons. The first is that it keeps me SANE. I haven’t talked about this much here and don’t know if I’m ready to in depth, but something I’ve struggled with to some extent with all three babies is postpartum anxiety and OCD.

For me, medication has been a huge piece of the puzzle. I feel like it is something of an ON switch. Pre-medication, things like working out, taking time to do spiritually uplifting things like read my scriptures, and getting out of the house didn’t even make a dent in how I felt on my worst days. Yet with medication, all of those things actually DO help me feel better. And the biggest hit of feel-good I know of, next to seeing Scarlett’s chubby smile, is a good workout. So along with the medication that’s been so helpful to me, I make sure to take actions—like exercise—that help keep my negative symptoms under control. Medication alone isn’t the answer for me, but medication coupled with positive actions like exercise has gotten me to a really, really good place 🙂

So. I make time to work out regularly, and I make sure my daughters see exercise as a fun, positive part of a balanced life. I try to model healthy behaviors and attitudes about exercise so that they’ll see it as a way to take care of themselves, not a punishment for food they’ve eaten. I don’t ever talk about it in terms of “should,” “have to,” or “because I ate so much X yesterday.” I tell my girls that I work out because it makes me happy. And that’s totally true!

Is fitness about how I look, though? I’d be lying if I said no, not at all. I like that my body is finally back (within 2 pounds!) of my pre-Scarlett size and shape thanks to my workouts paired with mindful eating. It’s fun to see my shoulders tone up and my booty round out when I’m exercising consistently. But it’s secondary to the reasons I listed above. When I talk to my girls, I’m careful to emphasize the former reasons (“Wow! I sure had fun doing my workout today! I like feeling strong.”) because they’ll be fed the lie that workouts are all about getting skinny soon enough without hearing it from me. And I want them armed and ready to combat that fallacy.

But How Can You Work Out with Little Kids?

Lately a LOT of people have been making comments like, “Wow! You must be SuperMom! I don’t know how you work out with such little kids.”

And that’s nice of people. But here’s the thing: I’m not that super. I’m just an ordinary mom whose kids’ rooms resemble a black hole crossed with a Toys R Us and 5 loads of unfolded laundry. But here are some things I’ve learned through trial and error that help me get it done.

#1 —You Can’t Do It All

Yes,  I work out for 45ish minutes six days a week. That’s something I choose to do with whatever precious time I can carve out because it’s so key to my feeling happy and well.

But you have to make CHOICES if your children take up 95% of your waking time, as mine do. Suppose my baby naps for a total of 3 hours a day. I could spend those three hours showering, doing my hair and makeup nicely, cleaning my house, blogging . . . there are lots of choices. But there hasn’t been a day since 2011 that I’ve had enough free time to do all the things I wanted to do.

I choose to use the first available baby-free time in my day to work out and take a quick shower. That means laundry often takes a few days to get folded, my kids’ beds are usually unmade, this blog isn’t getting updated 2x a week like it once was, and I haven’t mopped my kitchen floor in waaaaay too long. I’ve had to make peace with having to make choices. I’d rather exercise daily than have a super clean house, so my house is often messy and I deal with it.

If you decide working out is important enough to you, you too will likely have to decide to let a few other things go. There’s no way around it.

#2 —DVDs and Streaming Are a Must

I don’t know how I’d make it to a gym and back any day of the week but Saturday. Having to figure out a sitter for my kids as well as taking the time to get to and from a gym would be waaaaay too hard in my current situation.

However, there are SO many great at-home workout options. You know that my current favorite is PIIT28. It is AMAZING, guys! So fun. So efficient. I’ve purchased the follow up programs PIIT 2.0 and the newly released 3.0 as well to move onto next. PIIT28 is absolute proof that you do NOT need a gym pass to get in a killer, quick, effective workout.

Other options I’ve liked in the past include T25 and a variety of Jillian Michael’s DVD programs. They’re great because they are tough but short, so between warmup, workout, and cool down, they’re short enough for you to do an entire workout as well as shower in under and hour.

#3 — Enlist Help

Right now I’m working out while my baby naps. For the most part, it works. But before my baby was on an ish-regular napping schedule, I was working out in the evening while my husband held onto my kids.

I was lucky in at least 2 ways: first, my husband is awesome and willing to help, and second, his former job allowed him to be home around 5pm each night. I took advantage of both, and thanks to him, I was able to work out 6x a week from the time Scarlett was about a month old.

Talk to your spouse or significant other and explain that working out means a lot to you. See if you can come up with some sort of game plan so that you can get the daily exercise you need in without spreading your partner too thin.

If that’s not an option, see if you’ve got a friend with young kids who would be willing to do a babysitting swap. When I was training for my first half marathon, for example, my friend Heather and I traded kids a few times a week so one of us could go run while the other watched the babies. It was AWESOME.

I think we as women are sometimes shy to speak up and ask for help because we don’t want to impose on others. But a little help could be SUCH a game changer in your being able to fit workouts in as a mom of little people. So speak up!

#4 — Entertain Older Kids

If you have kids little enough to nap, using naptime for your workouts is often your best strategy. But what if you have older kids who aren’t napping anymore yet are still little enough to make workouts tricky?

I’ll just admit this first: Netflix is awesome. Yes, I park my kids in front of the TV for an hour or so a day fairly often. That used to be my go-to plan for exercise, in fact. I’d get child #1 off to AM kindergarten, get baby down for a nap, and let my preschooler watch Daniel Tiger. I don’t think that’s the end of the world if done judiciously, so don’t feel guilty if that’s what works best for you.

However, I was starting to feel a bit of mom guilt over it and came up with an alternate plan I like even better. I made each of my daughters (ages 3 and 5) and “exercise box.” I filled each with a coloring book and crayons, a new toy, and a few things from Target’s dollar section. And the rule is the boxes come out whenever I’m working out, but ONLY when I work out. That helps these toys stay special and exciting, and my kids stay happily occupied with them for the 45ish minutes PIIT28 takes me daily.

#5 Let Kids Join In

I definitely prefer having my workout time be a kid-free sanctuary where I can focus in on working hard and take a few minutes off from being mommy. But sometimes that doesn’t work.

My rule for my older kids is that if they wander into the room during a workout is that they can exercise with me if they want to as long as they let me keep going. I can’t get them a drink or do their doll’s hair in a braid until my workout is over, but they’re welcome to be with me. 🙂

Honestly, it’s adorable to see them try to join in. I think it reinforces that exercise is a fun and positive thing. And, most of the time, my kids usually lose interest in 10 minutes tops and wander back to their exercise toy box or show on Netflix before long, so my workout becomes totally mine once again after that short stretch.

And, if the dreaded baby monitor light comes on mid workout (why Scarlett sometimes naps for 15 minutes then wakes up screaming bloody murder is still a mystery to me), having a bouncer or high chair nearby is a good last resort plan if your baby decides to join in on your daily exercise session. Haha.

So there you have it! I hope a few of these things can help you figure out how to carve out exercise time for yourself, even if your #1 priority right now is being a mom of little kids. What other tips and strategies do you use to fit exercise in? Please comment away! 🙂