As a Fitpro, I HATE the #noexcuses hashtag. Because, as any mum will telll you, there are excuses. (Other people have excuses too, but I’m focusing on mum ones here.) This attitude does not inspire me, and I’ve written about it before here.
I love working out. It used to be a big part of my life, and it took a while for me to accept the fact that, post-baby, I just didn’t have that much time for it any more. And that’s cool. One day the kids will be bigger and I can get to the gym again: this is just a phase of my life. And it’s a phase where I have other priorities, like looking after the children, cooking dinner, and work.
Also, maybe you just don’t want to look like that! Hell, some people could have all the time in the world and they still wouldn’t spend it down the gym sculpting themselves into whatever shape the media has decided we should aspire to.
So no, you don’t need an excuse not to be at the gym getting super fit. BUT, being healthy and being fit are different things.
Having priorities other than the gym doesn’t mean my fitness has to suffer. I may not be as fit as I used to be, but I’m fit enough, and for now that’s fine with me.
Quite frankly there’s a limit to how much I can balance. Which brings me to my tips on how to stay fit and healthy when your time is monopolised by small people.
Soft play and playgrounds.
Yes, I realise other people’s children in an enclosed space with the fragrance of sweaty socks floating through the air may closely resemble hell for some of you. But if you’re there anyway, make the most of it.
GET MOVING! Chase, throw, roll with and generally play with your child. They will love you for it, and there are health benefits to any movement.
My favourite isn’t a soft play centre, but toddler time at a local leisure centre.
Try carrying an 18mo through that bouncy castle course 5 times! And when it’s quiet runningup the slide at the end is more fun and effective than a treadmill any day. Then repeat for 2 hours.
Similar thing for playgrounds in general- climbing frames, tunnels, monkey bars. Want a leg workout? Try pushing off on a see-saw against someone less than half your weight.
Any walking. Just leave the car at home. I’ll save banging on about the benefits of it for another post, but I honestly think it is one of the BEST forms of exercise. For added challenge find some good hills. I was in Winchester a few weeks back and climbed up and down this one:
And I was carrying the toddler for added ‘ow’ factor. But, as before, much more fun than the treadmill or stairclimber!
This is a basic skill we should all have, but few do. So good for upper body strength, it helps with scapular (shoulder blade) stabilisation (and I see many people who struggle with this) and is great for shoulder mobility.
I use my chin up bar and Olympic Rings at home (although as you can see I have to wait my turn):
But again, the beauty is you can throw in some hangs when you’re at the park with the kids. (Yes, I do get the odd funny look.)
They don’t even have to be long. My youngest doesn’t sleep very well, so any intense workout is liable to be interrupted, even in the evening. Plus, I’m flipping knackered by that time anyway, so can’t usually face anything mega.
I have a few little routines that I can do in 10 or so minutes. Sometimes I just work through some dynamic mobility, to maintain flexibility, and because I feel good after. I can increase or decrease the intensity to make it challenging to my strength too, and it gets my heart rate up a bit.
Ok, so these alone won’t get you fit. But the ‘potty squat’ is another basic movement we should all be able to do, yet many can’t. It’s good for mobility, strength, even just sitting in it is beneficial.
Again, I could do a whole post on the squat. But it’s already been done, so head here for more benefits and beginners tips. I’m just pointing out that by squatting to pick up the hundreds of toys strewn across the floor, instead of bending over and straining your back, you can cram a LOT of reps into your day, whilst simultaneously cleaning. Hooray! Which reminds me…
Yeah, I don’t do this one much. But apparently it’s a great calorie burner.
Yeah I know, I kind of cover this on soft play. But, for anyone a bit more advanced, locomotion is a great way to goof around with the kids, doing animal walks, while getting strong at the same time! Hip hip hooray! See here for a beginners routine. Just don’t be fooled by the inclusion of the word ‘beginner’ (some of this is quite advanced and should NOT be attempted by anyone who has given birth recently, or who is not already in pretty good shape).
Also, this isn’t really playing, but since some of those are a bit hardcore anyway, single leg squats can be done pretty much anywhere- think standing around while the kids are playing. Don’t waste time standing! Single leg squat!
Okay, I think I’m done. Hopefully these are some useful tips for getting more movement into your life when time is not your friend.
P.s. I know this is for busy mums, but if you’ve just had a baby or still have any core or pelvic floor problems some of these suggestions won’t be suitable. Remember, you are post-natal FOREVER and even if you measure your child’s age in years, not months, you could still have weaknesses resulting from pregnancy if you haven’t gone through a good restorative core programme.