Exercising with kids can be hard. Finding the time while managing the crazy...can be....more than crazy....it can be -- cray cray. But in our journey to Ironman with two little kids...we learned some things that we think can help you get those workouts in and have fun doing it.
Here is our best advice along with a practical tip to get you started. Hope this helps!
1. Have a plan.
One of the things that really helped us stay committed to the volume of training for Ironman was a plan. We entered this plan into our daily calendar, which includes other things like kid's doctor appointments and play dates. If your workout is seen as an extra commitment on top of your work and home life, it’s bound to be squeezed out of your busy day.
Practical tip: put it in your calendar.
2. Make it fun for your kids.
If you’re a runner, push a jogger to the park so the kids can play. If you’re a Jillian Michaels DVD kind of girl, pop it in and let the kids jump on you while you do crunches. If you see your workouts as an opportunity for your kids to play, you’ll be more likely to do them and feel less guilty about spending time away from your kids to workout.
Practical tip: make every workout fun for the kids.
3. Shorter workouts are better.
Now, because of the goal we set to do an Ironman, many of the workouts didn’t fall into the “short in length” category (they ranged between 1 and 2.5 hrs/day during the weekday). But, most people don’t have a goal to do an Ironman, so your volume of exercise doesn’t need to be high (i.e. you don’t need to workout for an hour). Thirty minutes of solid, focused, and higher intensity exercise can do more for you than simply “getting in an hour” workout. With kids in the mix, it’s easier to get a 30-minute workout in rather than an hour.
Practical tip: Follow a program that incorporates H.I.I.T for 30-40 minutes…google it if you don’t know what it means.
4. The art of bailing.
It’s important to bail on workouts. Yes, we’re serious…bail. Sometimes, things come up in the day that make exercising simply impossible, and that’s ok. Feeling guilty about missing a workout will only demotivate you further. So just bail today and try again tomorrow.
Practical tip: Be ok with bailing, but not ok with bailing two days in a row, being sure that on the second day you don’t “do a bit more” to make up for the day lost. Just lose that day and move on. Your body will never know the difference.
5. Sign up for something.
If you’re into Crossfit, sign up for a competition. If you’re a runner, sign up for a road or trail race. If you’re a cyclist, consider a charity ride. If you’re a walker, try a walk-a-thon. It’s not about competition (at least for us), but it is about having a goal and seeing it through. And make it not just your goal, but one the kids can get excited about with you. There will be times when the kids will say, “I don’t want to get into the jogger,” or “Why are you on the bike trainer again?” See these as opportunities to talk about your goal, and how they are helping you to accomplish it. We often talked about the Ironman race and described what the day would be like for the kids to watch it. Soon, whatever goal you set will become your family’s goal too. And when you finally achieve it, everyone involved is a winner.
Practical tip: Sign up for something that scares you a little and involve your family it.
6. Stop exercising to look or feel good.
We found that because we have little kids, we always feel tired. They take so much energy. Looking good is not our priority when we wake up with bags under our eyes and feeling tired always trumps feeling good. If our goal was to look good or feel good, we would have given up a long time ago. But we do workout to be healthy. And because this was our goal, it changed the way our family eats and, we think, has helped us to be emotionally and even spiritually healthier…and yes, we think we look and feel better now than we ever have – a nice bonus but never the goal.
Practical tip: Ask your spouse, “What changes can we make for our family to get healthy?”
7. The art of distraction and reward
If you’re running pushing a jogger, keep special books, toys and iPods available for the kids to play with and don’t take them inside the house once you’re done. Leave them in the jogger. It’ll be their special stash. Also, during longer workouts (like over an hour), buy something fun and sweet (or whatever your kids may like that you normally don’t give them) and give it to them in the final quarter of your workout. Our kids got fruit loops or goldfish. Other types of distractions we used included working out during meal, snack, or nap times. And many of our workouts had a built-in reward at the end by arriving at the pool or park where the kids could play.
Practical tip: choose your best distraction and your sweetest reward, and that double-edge sword will give you ninja status
8. Think tomorrow’s workout today
Every evening before bed, we set out the things we needed for the next day’s workout. Sometimes it meant setting-up one of our bikes on the trainer in the living room or having the whole family’s swim gear packed and ready by the front door. Doing these little things saved us lots of time when the hardest part is getting the family ready for the day so that we can exercise. This will prove especially helpful on days you roll out of bed feeling extra tired and unmotivated. It’s harder to talk yourself out of exercising when it’s all prepped and ready for you.
Practical tip: Set your gear out the night before, even down to your socks in your running shoes, and your water bottle already filled.
9. The babysitter balance
We didn’t want someone else watching our kids every time we worked out because we wanted to do this as a family. But we also didn’t want fear using a babysitter also. Some of our babysitters are like second mommy’s to our kids now, and we are so thankful for the relationships our kids have with them.
Practical tip: Utilize, but not over utilize, your babysitter.
10. Make your workouts fun for you.
If you hate running, don’t run. If you love walking with a friend, give ‘er. If P90X is fun for you….go for it. If you like rock climbing…join a rock gym. We’ve found that a happy experience of exercise makes for better parenting and it inspires your kids to want to try it for themselves!
Practical tip: try a few different things until you find something that you can get psyched about. Once you find it….working out will be something you look forward to.