There are few people busier than parents trying to do a good job raising kids while also keeping themselves o the pointy edge of fitness.
Yet somehow, from elite Crossfit competitor moms like Tanya Wagner to fast Ironman triathlon dads like Roger Thompson, there are parents out there who have really cracked the code on keeping yourself fit while raising kids.
I’ve personally developed my own set of little tips and tricks I use through the day to keep myself fit while taking care of and homeschooling my twin six year old boys. Here are five of my biggest fit parenting wins:
While coffee does have health benefits, multiple cups per day to try and be a super-parent is way overrated and unhealthy.
I personally use a half-half blend of decaf and caffeine to keep myself from overusing caffeine and completely stop drinking coffee for 2-3 days if I find myself getting out of bed in the morning and feeling like I need caffeine no matter what.
Caffeine, energy drinks and adrenal stimulants mask fatigue and overtraining, and a good way to wind up as an injured, overtrained and exhausted parent is to make a habit of fighting through exhaustion during a workout.
By not relying on stimulants, you’ll ensure your body rests when it needs to rest and you’ll stay more in tune with your true energy levels.
Since standing can upregulate lipase and enhance fat burning, while also keeping your metabolism elevated and training those tiny feet, hip and core muscles, I recommend standing whenever you can, even when other parents are parked in comfy chairs or laid out on picnic blankets.
I am “that guy” at my boys’ soccer games who is working on the soft tissue in my hips with a lacrosse ball, doing lunging hip flexor stretches and throwing in random sets of push-ups during the game.
Defy the social norm of planting your body on your butt during your kids’ activities and you’ll inject doses of daily fitness into your routine without ever stepping foot into a gym.
I want to spend time with my kids and be awake when they’re awake, so I sleep when they sleep.
Afternoon nap? I’m down. Kids falling asleep at 8pm? Early bed time for me.
The family that is awake together stays together, so when my kids are up and around, I’ll toss them in the jogging stroller or bike trailer for a run or bike, take them to the gym, go hiking, visit the park, or do other fitness activities with them – but when they’re asleep, I rest.
Not only is it easier to fall asleep when other people are sleeping in the same room (this is related to alignment of your heart rate variability and heart-brain signal alignment, a complex topic you can dig into at the HeartMath website), but it’s also the one time the house is quiet enough to throw down a quality power nap.
Let’s face it. There are some pretty childcare intensive days during which you’re not going to squeeze in a formal 45-90 minute workout, no matter what.
On days like this, I make it a goal to get at least three 10 minute workouts in. For example:
Equipment: 1 pair of dumbbells and a chair, step, stairs, or box.
Instructions: Warm-up with 25-50 jumping jacks, then complete 10-12 repetitions of each set of exercises twice, back-to-back with minimal rest, and move on to next set.
Instructions: Complete this routine as a circuit, one time through, with minimal rest between exercises. No warm-up required.
Instructions: Complete this routine as a circuit, 3 times through, with minimal rest between exercises. No warm-up required.
The twins and I were recently driving to the gym where I planned to run on the treadmill while they played in childcare (thank God for the YMCA, as this is another free babysitting workout technique I’ve used quite often).
But as we drove by a grassy park bathed in sunshine, I made a slight change of plans. Instead of running in the stale, indoor gym setting, I decided to make my boys part of the run workout.
So I pulled into the parking lot and we proceeded to do the following after jogging around the park for 5 minutes to warm-up:
By the time we finished the boys were hilariously giggling, I was completely gassed, and we had both had a great workout.
From me carrying one of the boys on my back while swimming laps in the pool to tossing a 50lb weight vest on my chest and an elevation training mask on my face and taking them on a hike, I always find at least one opportunity each week to get in a quality workout with the kids.
So that’s it: don’t mask fatigue, stand as much as possible, sleep when your kids sleep, do mini-workouts, and include your kids in some of your bigger workouts, and you’ll be well on your way to not being able to do your kids’ laundry on your abs – or at least be able to keep up with them without huffing and puffing too much.
Ben Greenfield is an ex-bodybuilder, Ironman triathlete, Spartan racer, coach, speaker and author of the New York Times Bestseller “Beyond Training: Mastering Endurance, Health and Life” (http://www.BeyondTrainingBook.com).
In 2008, Ben was voted as NSCA’s Personal Trainer of the year and in 2013 was named by Greatist as one of the top 100 Most Influential People In Health And Fitness. Ben blogs and podcasts at http://www.BenGreenfieldFitness.com, and resides in Spokane, WA with his wife and twin boys.