Before I had kids I thought that I would exercise all the time once I had kids and I was at home more. I was sorely mistaken. I don’t know what planet I lived on to imagine that I would have more time for anything once I had kids. Clearly I was dreaming.
As someone who has struggled with anxiety and depression, I know that exercise is absolutely essential to my wellbeing. I tell my 3 year old when we go for walks and pass by the playground, “Mommy will be much happier and nicer if I exercise for a while and then we can play.” This seems to make some sense to him. Everybody wants mommy to be happy!
So I’ve gotten creative, really creative. Especially in the winter, when walking or jogging is difficult, I’ve had to come up with ways to exercise with my 3 year old who does not take a nap anymore. (A moment of silence for the loss of naps.) We used to have high energy dance parties that included loud music, disco lights, and me tossing him around. Then, we started doing a Mommy and Toddler exercise video that he absolutely LOVES! It is super silly, and not the greatest workout ever, but he will do anything if I tell him we can do the video when he is done. I realized that what he loved about it was that he had my undivided attention and all my energy for half an hour. I also realized that I felt closer to him when it was over because we had spent such intentional time together. It also felt less like I was working out because all of my attention was on him instead of the strain.
I used this model to come up with other ideas for working out together. I got a rowing machine for my birthday last year. When my younger son was a newborn I would put him in the Moby Wrap and use the rowing machine. The rocking motion would put him right to sleep and we could cuddle while I exercised. Now he is 8 months old and my 3 year old and I exercise while he is taking a nap. We go to the basement and have grand adventures upon the ocean while I row our boat. We escape from sharks, talk to mermaids, go whale watching, rescue polar bears, scout out beaches, find pirate treasure, get stuck in hurricanes, and all the other things that can happen while at sea. I can even sword fight while rowing. Sometimes he sits on my lap while I row (added resistance), and we bring a telescope for better spying (a paper towel tube.) I recently found that it adds to the drama if I turn on the Pirates of the Caribbean sound track.
Now he loves exercise time, and looks forward to it every day. I do too. As a mother, I am always looking to multitask in some way in order to make good use of the little time I have. The more birds I can kill with one stone the better. When my son and I can exercise together, we are spending quality time together, he is active, he is getting smarter by using his imagination, he is entertained, I get the exercise I need, I get to have fun while I exercise, and I am distracted from the pain of working out. (Sharks are great motivation for rowing faster.) It has been a time that I look forward to during the day as a break from all the things I “should” be doing: laundry, cleaning, dishes, emails, grocery shopping, cooking, etc.
As my kids get older, we will be able to do more and more things together (ride bikes and such). Right now, here are some of the other things we do to work out together:
- Play tag
- Little Boy Soup (My sister and I used to play Little Girl Soup with our dad when we were little. He had to keep us in the soup pot and cook us for dinner. When one of us escaped he would have to capture us and carry us back to the soup. Of course when he went to get one of us, the other would escape. It definitely works better with two kids, but you can also leave to collect vegetables.)
- I give him underdogs on the giant tree swing we have in the backyard.
- We go for a walk and have races.
- I just got a yoga memory game where you assume the pose if you get a match.
- We have a broken electric jeep in the backyard that we haven’t been able to fix. Sometimes I push him around the yard and we pretend to be on safari. It really gets exciting when the lions start to chase us.
- Playing soccer.
- I am hoping when he gets a little older he will join me in playing Just Dance on the Wii (which works with a baby in a carrier by the way), because that is one of my favorite ways to exercise.
I would love to hear any ideas you have for working out with your young kids. I have definitely learned to enjoy this time. So much so, that I don’t like exercising without my son anymore.
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