Raising young kids can be stressful. Sleep schedules are erratic, arrivals and departures are delayed by tantrums and misplaced mittens. Tasks that once seemed simple suddenly require an afternoon to complete—or never happen.
But adding a workout to your schedule to keep fit—while not easy—is not impossible as a parent. Alyssa Schultis is the mother of three boys, ages 3, 4, and 9, but still finds time most days to get a sweat on. “During some of the most stressful periods in my life, having the gym has been so important for my mental health as well as my physical health,” she says.
When her kids were infants, Alyssa brought them to the gym and they mostly slept while she worked out. Now, if she can’t schedule her workouts during their daycare, Alyssa brings her boys to the gym—where they read, draw, or play on an iPad. “I like that my kids see my working on my fitness,” she says. “You can talk about values with your kids, but it’s important to show them that you live those values too.
So how do parents sneak workouts into their days without sacrificing family time? Every situation is unique, but here’s some solutions that have worked for a few busy parents:
- Make fitness non-negotiable.
For Minneapolis mom Jessica Scherer, fitness is a priority—even with two kids. Sometimes that means getting up before dawn or negotiating with her husband to carve out time to get to the gym. It also means sacrificing some things. “I don’t see my friends as much because I need this time,” Jessica admits.
- Use the time you have.
If you have a free hour, that’s great. But a 15-minute workout (or even just 5 minutes of burpees) is better for your overall health than no movement at all. Pinpoint the gaps in your day while your sipping your morning coffee: When can you work out? Do you really need to shower right afterward or can you push that to later on? Get creative with time.
- Sweat where you are.
Practice pushups at the playground while the kids run around. Keep a kettlebell in the car and do deadlifts when you’re early to an appointment. If you can’t get to the gym, try a workout in your driveway. Visiting a fitness facility is important if you need special equipment or some social stimulation—but when you can’t find a sitter or don’t have time to energy to get the kids in the car, a simple home or outdoor workout (think three exercises in rotation, or toggle between an upper body movement and a lower body one) will definitely suffice.
- Bring your kid to the gym.
Gyms can be dangerous, so we’re not advocating you let your toddler run free in a fitness facility. But the best gyms are also communities filled with real people, and some, like AQ, recognize that kids are part of the family package. If your kids can entertain themselves, don’t be shy about asking the staff if your children can hang out in the lobby or watch the class while you work out. “It’s ok just to show up with your kid,” Jessica says. “Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, you just go home.”