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How to fit in exercise when you have young kids

fitting-in-fitness-with-young-childrenThere’s something about having young children that makes everything seem more difficult – including finding time to run. Maybe it’s because infants and toddlers are so unpredictable or maybe it’s the sheer exhaustion of caring for them, but I know I’m not the only parent facing this challenge.

These tips have helped me carve out time for regular exercise:

  • Change your attitude. No busy parent (and let’s face it, aren’t all parents “busy”?) has time to work out – you need to make time to be active. Caring for my son is my biggest priority, but caring for me comes in at a close second. My health is not something I’m willing to negotiate, which means I put fitness near the top of my priority list. This means I skimp in other areas of my life – I let laundry and dishes sit for a while, I don’t always pick up my son’s toys, and I rarely get a full eight hours of sleep.
  • Work out when your kids sleep. My go-to hour for exercise is 5:30 a.m. It’s not easy to get up at 5 a.m. to run, but I remind myself that it’s often my only “me” time each day. This works because my husband doesn’t leave for the office until 8 a.m., so even if my son is awake, my husband can care for him. For some of you, this may mean exercising after your children go to bed at night.
  • Invest in home gym equipment. If having your partner watch the kids isn’t an option, a home treadmill is a great – albeit expensive — idea. If you can’t stomach the price tag, invest in some free weights, kettlebells, or fitness DVDs. The more convenient you make exercise, the more likely you’ll be to do it. Here are some tips for an at home yoga practice and getting fit without a gym.
  • Make good use of nap time. Like I said, the dishes can sit. Take advantage of “free” time by doing a quick weight circuit. Even if you don’t have more than 20 minutes or so, remember that some activity beats none at all. 
  • Work out in front of your children. I’ve been doing jumping jacks, planks, push-ups, lunges, and squats in front of my son since he was a newborn. Now he “works out” along with me. I hope he’s always this eager to exercise! 
  • Get moving with your kids. I’m a big fan of the jogging stroller. Even before my son was old enough to be taken for a run, we still took walks nearly every day. Now that he’s older, he always says “faster mommy, faster mommy!” So you may get a better workout than you bargained for.
  • Join a gym with childcare. Many gyms offer childcare as a perk for members. These tips can help you brave the gym childcare if you have a child who doesn’t do well away from you.
  • Schedule time for fitness like you would any other important meeting. If you work full-time, play around with your schedule. Can you run during lunch? Or pick up your child a little later from daycare and hit the gym on the commute home?

Parents: how do you make time for running? I’ve already shared that my husband and I alternate training seasons (here are more tips for couples who run together) so only one of us is training for a big event at a time. This allows us to spend more time together as a family.

Written by Jen Matz.

Related Running tips for new moms | more tips for active families