It’s hard enough to think about exercise when you’re single. When young children are suddenly underfoot, there are so many more factors to consider. Babysitters can be hard to find, or too expensive. Never fear, however. Fitness is still possible as a mother of young children. The key is to remember your responsibility to one key person in your life.
Children are so small and helpless, or active and distracting. It can be very tempting to spend all your time in taking care of this tiny new person. Still, you must resist for both your sakes. Enlist the help of your spouse or partner, your parents or friends…anyone who is trustworthy and willing to help. Exercise and rest done moderately will rejuvenate you for the hefty workload you have taken on, and will allow you to enjoy the process better.
Here are some tips to follow:
When you have an infant at home, throw aerobics out the window. You are the last person on earth who should be thinking about losing weight right now. Your body’s just been through the workout of a lifetime, and even if you feel good, you will need some time to recover. Light stretching or postpartum yoga is a good idea. Look for a video you can do at home. Walks with the baby in a good jogging stroller will get you back in shape, weather permitting. Large workout equipment such as treadmills or bench equipment will have to be considered with an eye to safety.
After my first son was born, we invested in a treadmill, but all our responsible warnings fell on 2-year-old ears. He promptly inserted his finger in the moving treadmill, and ground a sizeable amount of skin off one small finger. Be warned. As the children grow and become mobile, they will want to get involved with you in your exercising, just like they will want to get involved with you in everything.
Young children make wonderful play partners, but lousy workout partners. You will have to work out away from them in order to work out at a strong enough intensity to lose weight, but it’s still worth it. Being able to keep up with them is worth it. Enlist help for babysitting, or get up early when you can, before they wake up. Find a gym that offers babysitting, if your budget will allow that. If all else fails, engage in more lifestyle workouts. A lifestyle workout is another term for moving more. Set aside an hour a day for a lifestyle workout. Put your folded laundry away one piece at a time. Make your bed military-style. Mow the lawn with a push-mower. Take up gardening, whether or not you actually succeed in growing anything. Sweep vigorously.
Overweight people have a tendency to try and save energy and conserve movement when they move. Thin people tend to waste a lot of energy, so concentrate on being inefficient. Watch how your children move. No one is more physically inefficient than children at play. Try playing with your very active children for one hour, moving like they move. You will be drenched in sweat, and your kids will have a blast. You may have to cut back to twenty minutes, and that’s okay. You’re a grownup. Consider what you like to do when you exercise. Your traditional Kathy Smith and Denise Austin workouts are not for me, but that’s okay.
There are so many low-cost options available today if you just take the time to look. I love to dance, so I look for workouts that are dance-related. Martial-arts-style and kickboxing workouts help me feel safer (even though I’m probably not, but it’s still a great workout). There are lots of belly-dancing workout tapes available now, and it’s a very womanly workout (not necessarily a good one to do around the kids, but my husband gladly volunteers to babysit for me so I can belly-dance!). We live very close to our elementary school, so I walk my kids to school and walk them home every day we can.
Sometimes the kids and I just put on some fast music and dance for fun until we fall down laughing. If you exercise at home with little children around, expect to be interrupted, and don’t get stressed out about it. You’re going to be exercising for a long time. More than once, I’ve sat meditating with my small son snuggled into my lap, or doing the cat pose with children hanging off my back, pretending I’m a pony. There are times when I tell them that Mommy needs her exercise time, and they know to leave me alone. There are other times when I allow them to play around me while I’m exercising, as long as I’m not doing kicks or anything that will harm them. Sometimes I find them copying me during or after the workout, and my heart just glows to see it. That’s a good moment, when you see children developing habits that will support them their whole lives.
Exercise is a challenge to do no matter what your life situation is, but the benefits are always worth it. Look at your own situation and start brainstorming. There’s always a way.