When my daughter was born I learned in practice what I already knew in theory: Children are tiny black holes. They suck up time and energy in a manner that science has been unable to fully quantify or explain.
Yet what a parent needs more than anything is energy. It’s one of life’s great ironies that when parents most need the benefits of exercise is when they least have the time or energy to do it.
I’ve learned, though, that I’m a much better parent — and an all around nicer person — when I get some exercise.
So I went looking for tips on how to squeeze exercise into the busy life of a parent, with the particular focus on parents of young children, the worst black hole offenders.
Here’s what I came up with. Some of these tips are courtesy of the staff at the Everett Y. The rest are gleaned from my interrogations of friends, family, blogs and more.
Give this list a look. Embrace the ideas you think will work for you. Ignore the rest. And when all else fails, remember that you can always count walking the floor with a restless baby as exercise. For new moms, check in with your care provider, who can help you figure out when you’re good to return to exercising.
Join a gym with child care. If expense is a concern, consider joining one of the local Ys, which offer some financial assistance for those who need it.
Take a class. Exercise classes are a great way to cram in a good workout in a small amount of time. You’ll also get the chance to meet new people. As a final bonus, a lot of the skills you learn you can put into your own workout at home when time is really tight.
Take your kids swimming. You’ll both get some exercise splashing around.
Take a walk. Put your child in a stroller or carrier and get moving. The additional weight of carrying your kiddo can help you burn more calories and gain fitness.
Have fun during commercials. If you’re watching TV together with your family, do something silly and active during the commercials. Make it into a game. Do jumping jacks or crunches. As a bonus, it’ll distract your kids from the commercials.
Baby boot camp
Here are some exercise suggestions from Gale Thomson of the Everett Y:
Push ups, for improving core and total upper body: On hands and feet in plank position or on your knees if better for you, hover over your baby face to face, bend your arms and kiss baby on nose or blow outward as you lower toward baby.
Baby airplane, for improving core and leg muscles: Lie on your back placing baby’s belly on your feet and holding baby’s hands. Balance baby on your feet, and try to bend and straighten your legs. You could even try to lift your hips slightly from the ground as long as you can still hold baby’s hands securely.
Squats, for legs: Place baby on ground between your legs. Bend at the knee and stick your bottom out behind you as you reach down to baby and tickle her belly.
Play with your kids: Go to the park and get involved. Chase them around. Make up games. Use the park equipment. Do dips on the benches. Do pull-ups on the bars. If you can’t do a full pull-up, find a lower bar and hang from it. With your feet resting on the ground, pull yourself up.
Get up earlier: Squeeze in your exercise time before the kids get up.
Go to bed a bit later: Squeeze in your exercise after the kids go to bed.
Take a lunch break: Make your lunch your workout time.
Take advantage of nap time: On days you want to exercise, get going the moment your kiddo goes to sleep.
Try a video for inspiration.
Trade off child care with other parents so all of you get some time for exercise.
Find a good baby-sitter. Pay him or her to keep the kids entertained for as long as you need to get some exercise.
Find activities you can all do, such as biking, hiking or swimming.
Try headphones for kiddos to keep them entertained in a stroller or bike trailer. Kids’ audiobooks or music can buy you some extra time.
Hula hoop. It’s fun, and it’s a good workout if you can keep it up.
A quick workout
Go to www.heraldnet.com/buildstrength for a series of 11 strength-building exercises that you can do in less than 10 minutes.