Parenting three boys is a big endeavour (strangers always like to say when they checkout my crew, “well you’re busy.” Yes.) and there’s little time for activities outside of this, but one thing I’ve always managed to do is make time to exercise. I exercise to maintain and improve my health not to lose weight. I am not training for a marathon or to be a muscle model (I know, you’re shocked). I am a lifelong fitness lover so it is not drudgery for me to work out but I know people who weren’t physically active until adulthood and now can’t imagine a sedentary life. If you hate working out, it’s all about baby steps. Buy a pair of runners, go for a walk and maybe use these tips for introducing exercise into your routine.
1. Parenting small children involves a lot of grunt work but not necessarily cardio. One way I fit cardio into my routine is going for bike rides. We have a great bike trailer but the truth is I prefer to go for rides by myself. It’s liberating to pedal fast, wind in my hair, unburdened from extra weight. To find time for a bike ride Ben and I have an arrangement. If we are going somewhere in the city as a family, the boys and Ben take the bus or van and I meet them on my bike. This means I either leave early or arrive a little late but Ben is more than capable of handling all three boys for 20 minutes without me (In fact he is the master of going on great adventures with the kids sans mommy).
2. Another arrangement Ben and I have is that after dinner, in that hour leading up to bedtime I get to exercise. In the summer that has meant hoping on my bike and riding to the beach for a swim. It’s a slice of heaven to dive into the salt water on a sweltering day. I try to be home to kiss the boys goodnight and then once they’re in bed, exercising doesn’t cut into the time that Ben and I have together. During the Winter when it’s pouring rain, Ben entertains the kids while I hide out in another room doing an exercise video. The truth is, I also love going for winter walks in the rain, getting soaking wet, and then warming up with a cup of tea.
3. Ahhh, exercise videos. I am a video fanatic but I play favourites. These videos have been key to getting my body back to pre pregnancy fitness levels. The ones I swear by are Winsor Pilates, Physique 57, Tracy Anderson Youtube videos and the iPhone app, Pocket Yoga. Winsor Pilates is the first video I turn to after having a baby because of the focus on strengthening the core. I have several of their videos but some are as short as 20 minutes and the results are still fantastic; going from flubber to flat (mostly. Some things will never be the same. Amen). Physique 57 and Tracy Anderson will hurt you but in that good way where you feel you’re butt morphing into a hitherto unknown shape. Physique 57 includes weights in most of their videos to get in a bone density building, isokinetic workout. Pocket Yoga is an amazing app. I use it at the end of stressful days and I prefer it to yoga classes because it excludes the spiritual focus of some yoga practices which I don’t necessarily see eye to eye with.
4. The end of the day. I know you probably feel downright exhausted by the end of the day but rather than making me more fatigued, taking time to do a half hour yoga session completely relaxes me. It works out all the kinks and tight muscles from heaving and hoeing kids all day long. Because my body begins to feel so much better as I stretch it, I find my mind clears up to be able to pray. Some of my best times of prayer have been when I’m prostrate on the ground. I usually save yoga for the nights that Ben has band practice and other work engagements. Otherwise I do it as soon as the kids are in bed so Ben and I have a chance to wind down separately before coming together.
5. During movies. I think being a parent has made me physically incapable of sitting through an entire feature film or even a TV episode. Ben enjoys those moments of vegging in front of the tele but I get restless. Once we’ve cuddled for a bit I get on the floor and do a sit-up, push-up and tricep routine. Any exercise is always better than nothing!
6. With the kids. Exercise as a family is so important for teaching kids how to live a healthy lifestyle. We love to go for forest walks as a family and the boys take their run bikes so that Ben and I get to walk at a good clip while pushing Ezra in the stroller. Levi is starting to enjoy running so him and I will go for little runs or do sprints at the park.
7. While going for groceries. I often walk with the boys to the grocery store but if I’m going without them I still take our stroller. I run to a store about 2 KM away, fill the stroller with groceries and then run home. People sometimes give me weird looks in the store, but whatevs, I feel fantastic.
8. Move like your kids. Have you ever noticed they don’t stop moving? They can easily outlast me in a dance off and it’s some serious cardio.
Here’s a few more ways to find time to exercise from other moms. One friend takes her children to the gym with her because most gyms offer childcare. Another friend starts taking her kids on hikes almost from the moment they can walk. For moms who work outside of the home it’s especially hard to find time to exercise because at the end of the day you want to be with your family. However, I know many moms who walk or bike to work or exercise during their lunch hour.
Most of all I want to encourage you that it is possible to find time. We have huge responsibilities as mothers and we have to take care of ourselves, so God-willing we can take care of others. When I’ve exercised I return home a happier, healthier version of myself and that benefits the whole family.