Photo: Nicole VandeBoom

When I was pregnant with each of my boys, I was determined to continue to workout. I also promised myself I would not stop once I gave birth. I made that promise to myself because it was something I loved. As parents, we give up a few parts of our old lives. I knew this was not one I was willing to leave behind. Both pregnancies I exercised regularly until the day I went into labor. With my oldest I went to what ended up being my last prenatal swim class. With my youngest I ran and then spent the afternoon walking around a local fest, very much in labor (and denial.)

When the babies came and I recovered, I got right back into gentle workouts and eventually my normal routine. It was easier after my first was born and became more of a juggling act after my second. More kids equal more juggling. I promise you can do it. Six years later, I still workout daily. Here are my tips for squeezing in squats with your kiddos.

Distraction:

Make sure they are entertained. Toys, snacks, and when all else fails, a device of some sort. These all work whether you are doing Pilates at home or running while pushing a jogging stroller. If you keep the kids busy, fed, and distracted you will have a moment or two to get that heart rate up or flex a muscle.

Inclusion:

Kids love to do what their momma does. I am a certified Pilates instructor and to be honest, my six year old would have a good chance at passing his certification. As a matter of fact, he has helped me teach several mat classes. He even walks around correcting positioning. He started really paying attention to my workouts around 18 months old. My two year old loves to do any kind of inverted arabesque. He will randomly do these during the day.  Workout with them, in a safe manner. Show them how to plank. Pick them up and do arm curls, 30 pound arm curls, no big deal! Plank with them on your back. Teach them how to squat. Do a cardio dance party. Strap a little baby to you with a carrier and do a standing workout. Use a jogging stroller to go on runs. Let them explore while you work out at home. Give them a mat and tell them to have at it. My boys hop on my Reformer and Wundachair. I always make sure to keep an eye on them and keep the springs at a manageable level. We go over safety rules constantly. They just love to be a part of what I love to do.

Flexibility:

When I went in search of a yoga studio, the classes I wanted to take did not coincide with my childcare schedule. Ultimately, I went to a larger gym and got a membership. The gym has childcare and yoga classes. This was not part of my initial plan. I looked at many smaller studios, but I had to be flexible. Letting go of the concept that you are totally in control of life is an important part of parenting. This also applies to fitness while parenting. I did not set out to get a gym membership but if I wanted to take a yoga or kickboxing class, I had to go where childcare was offered.

Adaptability:

You may have to wake up a little earlier if you want a kid free workout. I know, I seem to be the bearer of bad news. I have been known to wake up at five a.m. to get some quiet time. Adaptability can also mean a variety of unstructured exercise activities. You can go for a long walk with the kids (maybe you end up carrying one), run around the park, play some soccer, climb the playground equipment, hanging sit-ups on the monkey bars, or some walking lunges in your yard. If you get moving and your heart rate up you are sneaking in a workout.

Teamwork:

Take a fitness class with your child. Look for a parent/tot boot camp. These are usually available through a park district. If your child is like my youngest and very attached (quite literally) then you spend the whole class carrying them while squatting, dancing, crunching, planking, and lunging. Some studios and hospitals have parent/tot yoga classes. You may have to do your research a little, but the effort is worth it if you can find a fitness activity to do together. This eliminates childcare woes.

Accessories:

Use your human accessories! What do I mean? Utilize the time when your spouse/partner/co-parent/babysitter/family member can take over time with the kids. Everyone’s support system is different, but if you have a support system, use that to your advantage. I like to go for long runs alone on Sunday mornings. My husband is home and we have no activities for the most part. I make the most of it and vanish for a while, alone. I come home totally drenched in sweat and usually very refreshed.

I promise that fitness with kids is manageable. I am six years deep and it has become such a core part of our lives. I am taking care of myself but I am also setting them up for a love of health and physical fitness. Never feel selfish for finding time to take care of you. By taking care of yourself, you are teaching your children to value their own wellbeing.