One of the biggest paradigm shifts you have to go through as a new parent is adapting to a general lack of alone time. You are never alone, even when you’re out on a date and the kids are with a sitter. It can be hard to adjust to this fact, so it’s no wonder one of the most common questions I hear from parents is, “How do I work out now that I have kids?”
Benefits of Working Out With Kids
Of course, there are a lot of ways to work out on your own when you have children. A lot of gyms have child care. You might be able to do an exchange with a friend once a week. But rather than always seeing your child as an obstacle to your own fitness, try to find a way to integrate him or her into your workouts when you can. This practice is beneficial for a few reasons:
- You will have more time to work out. Instead of blacking out the time when the kids are around as “no workout time,” you can add that time to an already existing exercise regimen.
- Exercise is good for your kids, too. Exercising with your child and throwing in a bit of play can help him or her develop motor skills from a young age.
- It’s great for bonding. Playing and exercising with your kids can help instill a sense of comraderie and fun. This doesn’t just go for older children, either. You can learn a lot about a baby’s personality by crawling around on the ground for a while.
How Do I Start?
I recommend starting from the very beginning – during babyhood. A simple way to do this is by working out while wearing your baby. As I wrote in my interview with Katy Bowman, carrying your baby is a great way to develop strength for yourself and your little one. However, I’m also a big fan of babywearing, particularly for easing into your workouts after delivery. If you start while your baby is young, you will naturally progress in weight as your child grows. And it can also be a great solution for the baby who refuses to nap.
Here’s a great exercises for new moms to regain upper and lower body strength while also wearing their babies. You’ll notice I’m using a Moby wrap. I’ve tried a lot of other wraps and Moby will always be one of my favorites. Not only are the wraps affordable, but they also keep baby close and, with proper tying, offer excellent support. Avoid carriers that place excess load on the spine (yours and the baby’s), and always keep baby’s legs tucked into the wrap (not dangling) for optimal infant support.
The Babywearing Workout
3 -5 rounds, 1 minute rest between rounds
- Walking Lunges x 20
- Farmer’s Walk (with kettlebells or other weights) x 1 minute
- Bodyweight Squat x 15
- 30 sec. Hang – experiment with different types of grip for each round
- Cossack Squat x 1 minute
- Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat x 10 per side
- Monkey Bars (if you don’t have monkey bars, you can use a tree branch to do this, as demonstrated below and in this video) x 15 – 30 seconds
- Side Plank x 30 seconds per side
- Walking Split Squat on Beam x 1 minute
For an added challenge, use a log like the one above to add a bit of instability.
- Hold Deep Squat on Beam x 1 minute.
Some of the videos I’ve seen of babywearing workouts make me cringe. Not only do you need to be sure your baby is safe while wearing him or her, but you also need to make sure you have excellent form while wearing your baby, particularly if you plan to wear him or her during a workout. Here I am with my eight-month-old son demonstrating a few Dos and Don’ts for the exercises listed above.
Keep your ribs stacked over your pelvis, and take a big step forward or backward. In the first two photos, my lunge is far too shallow and my torso is not in proper alignment. The third photo shows correct form. Be careful not to let your baby’s weight carry your torso forward, as shown in the second photo.
Keep your lats and shoulders engaged. In the photo on the left, I am passively hanging without engaging my core and lats. In the photo on the right, everything is tight and activated. This is how you should be throughout the whole thirty seconds. If you can’t hang easily for at least thirty seconds without your baby, skip this exercise for now. If this is too easy for you, you can work on your your weighted pull ups!
In the first collage below, my squat is too shallow and there is excessive leaning in my torso. Just like with a lunge, make sure your torso remains upright throughout the movement. Take a wider stance if your knee starts to collapse as you can see in the first collage. The second collage demonstrates proper form.
Don’t Forget the Baby
Not only do you need to be sure your own form is correct, but you also need to ensure your baby is being worn properly. Here are a few tips for safe, pain-free baby wearing:
- Wear your baby high on your torso. Close enough to kiss is a good rule.
- Keep baby tight. If your baby falls out of the wrap when you lean forward, you need to tighten it up.
- Support baby’s head if necessary. If you have a newborn, use a wrap that allows you to support the head hands-free.
- Don’t allow baby’s feet to dangle. This offers more support for baby and also your own low back. Your baby might revolt at first, but once you get moving he or she will probably quiet down.
- Make sure baby’s face is always visible. Keep two fingers of space between baby’s chin and chest, particularly if they cannot yet lift their head.
Enjoy the workout, and let me know if you have any questions!