Working out with kids can be a challenge, but it's definitely doable! Here are some tips to help you get fit while spending time with your little ones.
One of the struggles of returning to fitness after having a baby or with small children is those same children. Managing childcare or lack thereof makes approaching fitness difficult! So let's explore some ways we can approach maintaining our fitness with small children!
Schedule Childcare for Workouts
Usually, the easiest way to get a workout in without distractions is to arrange for childcare. However, this is not always the most accessible option. For example, there may be time limits to how long your child can be in the gym childcare, or there may be limitations on whether your baby can even be in the gym.
You may feel uncomfortable leaving your baby in the gym childcare, or they may not accept children under a certain age. My problem when trying to work out after my son was born was the gym childcare didn't take babies under 18 months! So I ended up only being able to go to the gym when my husband was home from work.
So, this could be another option: coordinate with your partner on workout schedules. For example, some will wake up before their partner leaves for work to exercise, and others will work out when they get home.
Scheduling childcare will be the easiest way to work out but is not always the most accessible. So let's explore some ways to approach fitness with your kids present at your workouts.
Remember your fitness goals
First, it's important to remember your fitness goals. When I am working out, my kids are more demanding, and I get frustrated because I want to finish this round or this set in my workout. So I have to remind myself what my fitness goals are, and it helps me accept that some days my workouts are not going to be like they were pre-kids.
My overall fitness goals are to stay healthy and strong enough to play with my kids, pick them up without issues, and be physically capable in all ways necessary as a mother. My goals aren't to be a high-level athlete, so I can give myself grace as I approach my fitness journey.
Next, it's equally important to discuss safety when having small children in a workout space. There is some level of baby-proofing required to keep small children safe around equipment that could fall on them.
In our gym, we secure bumper plates onto racks so they cannot be pulled off easily by a toddler. We use clamps that we bought at a hardware store.
We surround kettlebells on a storage rack with a baby gate since a toddler could easily pull it off. Likewise, we surround specific cardio machines with a baby gate, such as the air runner. Take a look around your workout space and determine what you would not want a baby or toddler to get into and secure it.
It might be helpful to create a safe space for your baby or toddler to be in during your workouts, such as a pack and play or gated-off area.
Containers for Baby
When working out with a tiny baby or a non-mobile baby, having different containers to rotate the baby through can help entertain them. This could include a play mat on the floor, swing, bouncer, walker, or anything you can place baby into that could entertain them for a few minutes.
When our son was about 3-5 months, we would rotate him through different containers every 10-15 minutes to keep him entertained during my workouts. We find this most helpful in our gym for our non-mobile babies!
If baby does not want to be in a container and is not feeling entertained by toys, sometimes babywearing them is the best option to get your workout done! When babywearing, there are a few things to consider:
- ABCs of babywearing
- Airway: Ensure the baby's airway is open and air is circulating around the face. Their face should be visible and close enough to kiss.
- Body Positioning: Support baby's head, if needed, and look at their leg positioning. Their legs should be in an "M" shape, with the knees higher than the butt.
- Comfort: the carrier should be comfortable for both you and your baby!
- Keeping cool is essential too! Be mindful of what baby is wearing and how hot your environment is while babywearing.
- If baby is still in a front carry, it would be beneficial to avoid belly-down postures, such as push-ups, as their head may not be able to support the position.
- If baby is in a back carry, it would be best to avoid supine positions, such as bench press.
- When modifying exercises due to babywearing, focus on the intent of the exercise. So, if push-ups or bench press are not ideal, try a standing banded or cable chest press instead!
- Be aware of baby's head! Some movements may involve too much jumping or bouncing for baby's head! Be mindful that you may need to do more strict or slow movements while babywearing.
Toys, toys, toys
The next thing for entertainment will be toys! When I work out, I make sure my kids have their tablets and favorite toys that they get to pick out before my workout to bring into the gym with them. Sometimes my kids will watch a cartoon my entire workout, and sometimes they will shift between watching a cartoon to playing with their toys. Just another way to help entertain them!
Babies usually are more into toys around 3-4 months, so you may notice that your workouts are easier to finish once your baby can be entertained by something other than you!
All the snacks
On the other hand, toys are snacks! Having all the snacks available for your toddler can help entertain them! Sometimes you may need to pause your workout to feed your baby. If you can, time the feeding breaks for a good time to rest during your workouts!
Kid Size Workout Equipment
The more your kids are exposed to fitness, the more they will consider it a regular part of their daily routine. My kids love going to the gym and equally love being involved in my workouts. We have kid-size workout equipment that allows them to copy my workouts with me! It demonstrates to them how fun exercise can be, and we can enjoy it together!
Workouts with kids can be challenging! We may not always have access to childcare to workout kid-free, and our workouts with kids may not be the same as pre-kids. It will likely be filled with interruptions and pauses mid-set. Focusing on keeping your kids entertained with different toys, snacks, and containers can be helpful. And then allowing them to be an active part of your workout is a great way to foster a positive outlook on fitness as a family!
By: Gina Conley, MS Exercise Science, Owner of MamasteFit