I gained well over 60 pounds during my pregnancy with my daughter. I stopped weighing myself after I surpassed my husband’s weight. As an avid athlete before my pregnancy, I was very eager to lose that weight once I got the green light to exercise by my doctor.
To my surprise, I hit a brick wall when I realized that spending two hours in the gym was no longer an option. No one tells you that working out after childbirth can be very difficult, and sometimes, non-existent — especially for working moms. Between work, meetings, house chores, daycare/school needs and church, there was just no time for getting fit.
Luckily, I hurdled through that challenge like I was back in track and field, with a sound plan, one day at a time, one hurdle at a time. What moms need to understand is that while working out is undoubtedly important, you also have to be realistic and responsible if you want to be a fit mom — realistic with the time you’re going to put into getting fit and responsible with obligations at home.
Hence, I learned the art of working out with kids. I had mommy guilt during the infant stages when I left my baby home with my husband or grandma so I could go for a run or a brisk walk. I never got the full workout “high” I expected because I felt rushed. And for nursing moms, this can be a challenge too. I did not like inconveniencing others or working out around others’ times. So I decided to bring my daughter to workout with me any opportunity I had.
Exercises with baby
I learned some clever exercises to do with my baby. Here are a few:
First, get your kids outdoors. Once you are outside, the chances of your getting an aerobic workout are greater than staying home.
If you have younger children, then you can use the baby stroller as resistance when you go for a walk/jog. If you want to increase the intensity of your workouts, then lock the stroller wheels and do a set of squats. To further isolate the quad-muscle area and hamstrings, then you can do lunges while the stroller is in the lock position. You do not always have to jog with your baby. You can simply do standing exercises like those mentioned above. You can use your baby as a light weight while doing sit-ups or chest/bench press. Do dips on a bench at the park while baby naps, too.
If you have toddlers, the playground is the best. Get your tot outdoors and start chasing or play tag. What toddler doesn’t like to be chased by mom? I loved going to the playground with the kids because this is where I got the most variety of exercise.
For starters, the monkey bars were optimal for a good upper body workout. Even if you cannot pull your own weight, at least trying each time you go to the playground will increase your strength. I remember attempting pull-ups, and all the kids in the playground would stare and wait for me to get done so they could give it a try, too! One pull-up became two, and two eventually because three. Another idea in the playground is to do sit ups and core exercises. Push your kids in the swings too.
Ages 5 and up
If you have kids ages 5 and up, then you’re in better luck. Older kids will probably take interest in what you’re doing and would want to join you. My stepson watched me, and he would immediately attempt to copy my exercise routine. You can do sit ups in the playground and have your child assist you by holding your feet, and then alternate to take turns. If your older kids have a sport interest, then play with them a bit…soccer, softball, basketball, football, etc. Even if you’re not an expert, a little bit of exercise is better than not doing any.
Push-ups will always be the easiest and my favorite outdoor exercise since you do not need equipment. Also, push-ups are a type of exercise you can do with your kids and make it a competition or a fun family bonding time. Boys particularly like a challenge, especially if it is coming from a girl — in this case, mom! In my family, we would try and see who could do the most push-ups. This always got the kiddos excited about working out.
Other times, I would take my kids to the track or soccer fields and use them as weights on my back for added resistance. Each weighed 35 and 45 pounds, so I carried them piggy-back style and squat with each child 10 times for two sets, or until I could not do anymore. If there are benches in the playground or field, then you can do arm dips for your triceps as well.
The goal is to get outside and do any type of exercise when you’re out with the kids.
Set an example
Let’s face it, being a parent is sacrificial and that usually means putting yourself last in your to-do list. But as good parents, you want to also lead by example. Being a fit mom also means making good choices with food and diet. After a good and brief workout with the kids, hydrate tons with water and stay away from juice and sodas. Especially for older kids (10-teens), they understand how to read labels and how to compare ingredients in food. I teach my kids to look at the list of ingredients in food. If the list is very long or hard to pronounce, then chances are that food is not whole or good for you. The smaller the list of ingredients, the cleaner it is for your body.
I also tell my kids to eat from earth. If it comes from earth (meaning not frozen or processed), then that means God made it. And if God made it, it has to be good!
Remember, if you are eating junk food, then so will your kids. And if you’re buying them junk food, more than likely, you will end up eating it too.
Kids learn more from what they see, than what they hear.
Moreover, busy moms, don’t be hard on yourself if you can’t go to the gym like you once did before kids changed your life. Simply adjust to that hurdle. Have real expectations of your workout plan, and anticipate a realistic schedule so you’re not discouraged. Remember, exercising with kid should be fun, and your kids should be able to see that working out is worth it, both mentally and physically. Besides, some exercise is better than no exercise.
So on weeks that I can only get maybe 30 minutes of any type of exercise, I don’t beat myself up. You don’t have to go to the gym for 2 hours and hire a sitter to stay fit. Take your kids outside this summer. Working out with my kids may not be the most intense, but at least I’m teaching my family how necessary exercise is to me. Most important, I am teaching my kids how important it is to be a good steward of our earthly temples.
Linda Romero Nuñez is a wife, mom, step-mom, and a full-time teacher who enjoys writing recreationally. Email [email protected]