Getting A Workout In With Small Children

Posted on Posted in Children

Before I got married, I ran or swam every morning.  And many times I would head to the gym for a workout after work.  On the weekends, I’d jump in my kayak and hit the water.

Once I got married, things changed a little bit since I moved out to the country where there were  no gyms, I was afraid of the wilderness (sad, but true), and my Farmer didn’t have the time (or want) to work out.

I bought some gym equipment (treadmills, and elliptical, weights, etc.) and set up a space here at home.  There’s nothing like getting onto your treadmill and watching the sun come up.

But then I started having children…

There are no babysitters out here.  The obvious answer was to workout while the babe’s slept.  But seriously, do you know how loud a treadmill is?

I had to figure out something else…

I’ve never been as active in the sports department since having children as I was before.  I probably won’t be able to until the youngest is a teenager.  But I’ve learned how to get in some of that activity that I crave so much.

I’ve had varying degrees of success over the years, and with the dynamic of ages, temperaments, and number of children, it’s been a work in progress.  But I’ve come up with a few different ways to get in a work-out.  Basically, I either have to distract the children and settle for short bursts of work-outs, or include them in some low-impact work-outs.


Short-burst work-outs:

1.  H.I.T. workouts during breakfast

If I can have my treadmill, water, and work out attire ready to go by breakfast, then I can put an older child in charge of breakfast.  Once the grace is said, I jump on the treadmill for some interval training (one minute walking, two minutes running as fast as I can, repeat, repeat–or other pattern).

I make the rule on these days that no one can get down until everyone is done and the table has been cleared (by the oldest).  Generally, I’m fatigued by then–it doesn’t take long with H.I.T. workouts.

2.  High intensity work out during nightly bath-time

The Farmer claims bath and bedtime with the kids.  This is his hour to lavishly love his children, and I get this time to divide up between cleaning, prepping meals, and writing.  Now if I’m very organized, I can get a short work-out in while I still get all my other duties done.

This is usually in the form of power yoga or another high-energy workout.  One of my favorites is Jillian Michaels - 30 Day Shred .  It’s pretty unique in that you do a bunch of one exercise, and then move to a different one so you don’t kill your muscles.  You just keep moving to something else (although you do repeat exercises).  You don’t get time to get tired, and you really do feel like you’ve exercised for an hour when you’re done.

When I can’t exercise while the kids are distracted, then I must involve them.

Longer, slow paced activities:

1.    Family walks

During good weather, we can go for walks.  This involves strapping the youngest one to my back, putting up to two littles (under 4 yoa) in a double jogging stroller, and everyone else on a bike.  They could walk too, but usually I do a six mile walk, and no one else likes to walk that far.

2.    Leading a “PE” class

I have three exercise mats that I can get down and “lead” a yoga “PE” class with the littles.  Yes, they have to share mats, but I don’t think they mind. Even the three year old will do about 15-20 minutes, and then just lay on the mat until we are done.

3.    Aerobics

The kids, at various times, will ask to do aerobics.  I know they are too little to follow anything complicated or that moves fast, so we do some of the slower ones that are more for fun than anything else.

Our favorite is the Body Gospel collection.  They are pretty easy, the kids know all the gospel songs, and they are long enough that they all get their wiggles out and I can make my workout a little bit more challenging.


Mental work-outs

I need to remind myself that gardening, chasing the kids around, going on hikes, foraging trips, and leading the kids’ PE classes (post coming soon) are all physical activity.  When I am not careful to remind myself of these things, I tend to start to get antsy and feel sorry for myself.

Reminding myself that, Hey, we did get out and do something today, is just what I need to keep myself from going crazy at times.

I know when they get older, we’ll be able to go on long bike rides, swimming and even kayaking again.  But for now, this is how I’m getting it done.  Little by little.

I thought I could still keep up my super active lifestyle once I had kids. But things changed. Here's how I've adapted, and how I still get my workouts in.

How do you get workouts in without a gym or babysitter?


10 thoughts on “Getting A Workout In With Small Children

  1. Great suggestions! I’ve worked out regularly for most of my adult life. In fact, I exercised right up until my baby was born last October. Since then, though, I haven’t found a way to get back in an exercise routine.
    Now that it is warm, I have been taking my little one on walks. I’ll have to try some of your ideas, too.

  2. Great ideas! I’ve also struggled with finding ways to fit in a workout since becoming a mom. Short workout DVDs have helped a lot. A friend got me the 21 Day Fix set as a gift, and while I wasn’t convinced that the diet component was for me, the workouts were great and they’re short enough to do in the early morning before anyone’s up.

    We also like to go on family walks and sometimes my husband will take over so I can go on a more intense, walk-run solo.

  3. What great ideas, I especially like the PE class. Our younger two get plenty of exercise, riding their bikes and doing their chores, but it is still hard to find time to get out there. You’ve given me some good advice and I am sure this will benefit all readers. Thanks for sharing at Good Morning Mondays. Blessings xxxx

    1. So many farm chores! 🙂 In the winter with all the snow, I will admit the Farmer does more of the animal chores and we spend more time in the house. But I think he likes it this way.

  4. Great tips! I’m really struggling with this as well. I work full time and so finding the time for workouts with two little toddlers is something I really struggle with.

    1. I remember being there too! Fortunately the hospital that I worked at had an attached gym that they let us use for free after work. Since the kids were already in bed when I got off, I sometimes ran in there for a quick workout before heading home. Maybe your job has gym benefits?

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