My legs were edgy… I was keen to move.
My neck was a little tight… I was keen to stretch.
My shoulders and back were tired of sitting…. I was keen to get outside…
I stood up to put my sneakers on, and then I remembered:
That report! Arggghhhh!
I rushed to finish it… now was my time… then I checked the time… arghhhhh… time to pick up the kids! Foiled again!
Exercise is so important. We all know it. Our mental and physical wellbeing are so reliant on it. Yet two big barriers to finding the time for many people including me is work and family.
A large part of my work over the past two decades has involved impressing on people the importance of exercise, and encouraging them to overcome this through creativity. Now, as a father of two, I was sitting with the exact challenge others so often acknowledge. How do I fit this in?
So once I picked up the kids I said: “C’mon guys. We’re heading to the park to exercise”
I had no idea how it would go, and as my five year old girl cried at her sixth attempt at a pair of socks “not feeling comfortable” and my one year old clung to my leg crying “dada, dada!..” I nearly gave up. But eventually, at the pace of a glacier… we got out the door and onto the bike.
Once outside there were more tears from said five year old who was too tired, too thirsty, too hungry…. Too warm….
But they love the park. And they love the bike (see picture)
The park had a playground, where the five year old live wire could swing, run, climb and slide. The oval next door was perfect for my partner and I to take turns doing barefoot laps and core exercises. The one year old was happily climbing about. The weather was perfect. It all seemed to come together.
We did core exercises while our kids copied and laughed (and occasionally climbed on us). When they got bored we made the exercises more silly or asked them to give them names. It was working!
We did running races on the grass (which our little girl won every time).
Pushing on the swing was doubled with sprints and hammed up squats to avoid the little girls legs (much to her delight).
We had fun. We exercised. Our mood improved. We vowed to do it regularly.
It got me thinking about safe and fun ways to exercise with toddlers and babies in tow.
Fun and safe exercises ideas with toddlers and babies
Many of these have been mentioned already in the story above. The type of exercise you use obviously has to be a good fit for you and your child depending on the age of the child, their attention spans, and much more.
Below are some ideas:
- Get a bike like the one pictured that fits all the kids (we get a third kid in there too when needed)
- Hill walks with prams
- Piggy backs and shoulder rides with toddlers (providing your neck and shoulders are strong and flexible enough to manage this).
- Running races on the grass
- Doing core exercises and getting toddlers to copy.
- Using the regular motion of the swing to time you for sprints and/or repetition exercises such as squats.
- Trampoline bouncing while holding hands
- Role playing as a horse or a tiger and having races
- Gentle swings in the air while practicing perfect manual handling strategies of bent knees, straight back and core muscles switched on (Who needs Pilates?)
- Playing in the pool with toddlers.
The barriers to be overcome
As outlined, family and exercise can be juggled with some creativity, but I’m not suggesting this is easy. The barriers to be overcome can loom large… but they are worth overcoming.
The mood of the kid/s
Who could claim to be an expert on this??
All I will say, is sometime the change of environment, especially getting outside, can shift things for the better.
Get to know your indoor exercise options, which may include:
- A room in the house with carpet and open space
- A friendly neighbours house with carpet and open space
- An indoor pool
- An indoor play centre
- An undercover trampoline
The fatigue factor
So getting up three times with the baby during the night and then being woken by the toddler at 5:30am hasn’t left you with much zing? Fair enough.
Often pushing yourself to exercise can help more than you would imagine, especially when the fatigue factor has led to an irritable mood. Pace yourself when your energy is low and see how some gentle exercise affects you. You may get a pleasant surprise.
Exercise can also help you sleep more deeply with the precious time you do have.
Being too busy
Yes, definitely an issue for many of us. Especially those juggling family and work.
But let me leave you with one thought…
If you don’t make the time to feel well. You will likely eventually have to make the time to manage feeling unwell. Which would you prefer?