How to exercise while caring for young children

“I’m blocking off tomorrow morning for a dance class,” I informed my husband, leaving all kid duties to him while I work out a sweat. I had been slacking with exercise the last several months and needed something fun to kick me back into gear. With taking care of a toddler, working, and a slew of other lame excuses (“I’d rather watch How I Met Your Mother” and “I just ate dinner” among them), exercise wasn’t a priority.

Not that it was ever a huge priority to begin with. See, ask me to run around the block and I’ll be ready to pass out in five minutes tops. I was good during pregnancy though, when I scheduled appropriate workouts like walking, stationary-cycling and cardio workout videos at home. But now that I have a kid, I regret not taking advantage of working out when I had a zillion more hours to myself.

That’s why I’m excited to introduce Erika from You Just Did What?! whom I interviewed for this very topic. You might remember Erika from the guest post I wrote on her blog, and she’s now paying us a visit here at Sleeping Should Be Easy.

Erika explains the importance of finding activities you want to do (hence the dance class) instead of those you don’t. She’ll also describe how she went from barely running for two minutes to running several races—all while parenting a two-year-old. She’s an inspiration to any mother who has ever doubted her abilities and strengths, and I couldn’t wait to feature her story.

Who knows, maybe I’ll give running a second chance after this:

Sleeping Should Be Easy: How did you get into running? How would you compare yourself now to when you first started?
Erika: I ran off and on since college, running a couple of miles here and there. It wasn’t until after having my daughter that I took exercise seriously. Needing to shed the beloved “baby weight” I had gained during pregnancy, I joined Strollers Strides, a group fitness class designed for mamas. The group happened to have a couple of runners, and I wanted to get back into running. On a whim, I signed up for the Tinkerbell Half Marathon at Disneyland. At this point I could barely run comfortably for 2 minutes, and the race was only seven months away.

During my training, I signed up for a shorter 10k and realized how much I enjoyed running, so I kept signing up for more races. It can definitely become an addiction.

I have changed a lot over the course of my running journey. I am stronger both physically and mentally. My endurance is greater, and running has provided me with an outlet to relieve tension and stress—perfect when raising a toddler!

SSBE: Speaking of toddlers, I can’t imagine exercising regularly while taking care of a young child. Clearly it’s possible since you’re a great example, so how do you make time to exercise with a toddler in tow?
Erika: I am asked this question all the time! Exercise makes me feel good, so I make it a priority. With that in mind, it’s easier for me to stick to my guns and make sure I squeeze in a workout. When I was training for my Half Marathon, I had a specific training plan in place—I followed the same routine every week and made sure I had babysitters lined up on those days.

I’m not training for anything at the moment, so when I do workout, my daughter comes along with me. She will ride in the Bob Stroller if I’m going for a walk or jog. Or I take her to the gym where she plays in the kids club. I also take her to Stroller Strides. And I often wake up at 5am to get my workout over with before anyone wakes up!

SSBE: What’s a typical day for you and your daughter?
Erika: We wake up around 6am and see my husband off to work. We lounge around until about 8am, eating breakfast and playing quietly. If I decide to work out to a video, I’ll do it then while my daughter plays quietly or joins me.

If I don’t work out then, we’ll hit the gym or go for a stroll. After that, she gets in her outdoor play time at the park or with friends. We head back home for lunch and nap time. When she wakes up, we usually play in the backyard (and now that it’s summer, we love to turn on the sprinklers!). I’ll also get chores done in the afternoon and head over to the store to run errands.

We eat dinner once my husband comes home. Then, we start the bedtime routine at 7:30pm. The next day, we get up and do it again!

SSBE: How do you stay motivated when you just want to quit?
Erika: Ha ha—good question and one I am still trying to learn. Exercise makes me feel good so I try to keep that in mind. I’m most motivated when I’m working towards a goal (I usually have a training plan set out for me, so knowing what I need to do and having my workouts planned makes it easier).

I’ll also add that nothing has helped me more than the support of friends and family. I would much rather work out with someone than by myself. It’s so much easier (and way more fun) when you have accountability partners who are going through the same thing!

SSBE: What advice can you give moms who are just starting to run or exercise?

  • Find a community of other mothers who enjoy working out. Tons of mother running clubs out there cater to moms getting together, becoming healthy and having fun. Plus, they are sure to have some Mom Night Outs, as well.
  • Set a goal for yourself and don’t be afraid to dream big (for instance, sign up for a half marathon when you know you can only run 2 minutes at a time).
  • Get a babysitter. Try to reserve some workout time for yourself.
  • If you work, try to get up early and do a short 30 minute workout (if only for a week). My favorite runs are in the morning, when the air is cool and crisp.
  • Find an activity you enjoy and mix it up. You don’t have to do the same thing over and over again! Don’t let yourself get bored. Exercise should make you feel better afterward. If it doesn’t, rethink your activity.

Thank you Erika, for sharing your story and hopefully offering other moms the inspiration they need to exercise and be healthy. I know I’ve since made working out more of a priority. Even if on most days my workouts consist of brisk walking or simple cardio videos, my heart is pumping, my muscles moving, and best of all, I feel so much better for it.

Do you exercise regularly, or whenever you can squeeze it in? What workout goals are you trying to reach? How can you involve your kids in your workouts?

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