In just four short months of parenthood, I have learned that I no longer have a personal schedule. Instead, I am subject to my son’s schedule. Owen decides when and if we will be late, or whether we will be attending at all, based on his need to eat, sleep, and…uh, other “duties.”
One area of my life that has been most greatly impacted by a new baby is my workout and training routine. My once simple and predictable pattern of waking up early, working out, showering, eating, and heading to work has vaporized. These days, I wake up when Owen wants me to wake up, and as any new parent can attest, babies never wake you up because they are overly content, and they are no respecters of the clock. Thus, my wife and I spend our mornings feeding, soothing, changing, and dressing Owen while trying to pack a diaper bag with the days survival supplies and get ourselves squared away for the day. That leaves little time for fitness. And here’s the real rub – even once all of the childcare stuff is done, we find we’d rather spend time playing and smiling with our baby than doing just about anything else in life.
That, as it turned out, proved to be the answer to the question:
How can we stay fit while raising young children?
Simple – exercise with your baby and turn it into playing and bonding time. Here is the fitness “mini” routine we follow in between those times when one of us actually can sneak away for a more in-depth workout. (Click on images for larger versions.)
No you won’t get the same depth in your pushup. But instead of going nose to the floor, go nose to nose with your baby. All the same principles apply, keep your spine neutral, chin tucked, and elbows tight to your body for more triceps work or out for more chest work. Rep out a few of these while you are playing with your tyke. You’ll enjoy the smiles you get from the new game you are playing and a quick chest and tri burn.
Here’s a great cardio and leg endurance exercise that will boost mobility and leave you winded. Be sure to back up so your feet don’t land anywhere near your baby. This fast pace exercise will keep both of you entertained, and if your baby starts giggling it is probably at you and not with you! Keep your hands shoulder width apart with a relatively neutral spine and alternate your feet as quickly as possible. If you’re not tired, you’re doing it wrong.
You and your baby can make faces at each other while you are boosting your core. Keep your elbows under your shoulders, your back flat, and wait for the burning and trembling to set in! This is also a great exercise to perform while promoting tummy time. Your baby doesn’t want to hang out down there by themselves, so join them and feel the burn.
This is another great core workout to add to your repertoire. Keys to form in this exercise are chin tucked, flat back, hands beneath shoulders and your knees under your hips. From here start by elevating one arm out until it is parallel with the floor, keep a tight core and pretend like a glass of your favorite beverage is resting your back. Don’t spill. To advance this exercise further, elevate one leg to parallel with the floor. If this still does not pose a challenge, elevate the opposite arm and leg at the same time. While form is important, don’t forget to keep your baby involved. Try rattling a toy or tickling them as you bring your arm back to the starting position in this core exercise.
Ditch those sit ups and crunches, and try this great spine-sparing, core exercise. Your baby can work their neck muscles while you chisel out your core. The keys to this exercise are keeping your chin tucked, one hand under the small of your back, one hand on your babe, and one leg up. From this position pretend like there is a rod from the top of your neck to the middle of your back keeping you rigid. Lift this rigid unit off the ground just until your shoulder blades are barely touching. Don’t be surprised if your little one starts giggling from all of the muscle shaking.
This is one of my favorite exercises because it gets your entire body in on the action. After a few sets of these your legs, butt, and core will be feeling the burn. This exercise is best performed by picturing yourself standing on a big clock. While holding your babe, first lunge forward at the 12 o’clock position, then to the side at 3 o’clock, and finally rotating back to the 5 o’clock position. Then repeat the lunges with your left leg at the 12, 9, and 7 o’clock positions respectively. Keys to this exercise are keeping a neutral spine, sinking through your hips, and keeping your knee behind your toes.
Yet another great exercise to activate your glutes. Many of my patients deal with “glute amnesia.” Their bodies have forgotten how to turn on their glutes, and they instead use other muscle compensations to complete the task at hand. This is a fun way to get your glutes firing again while playing with your babe. Perfect squat form is difficult for many of us to achieve, including myself. When I squat, I do not achieve enough bend at my foot and ankle (dorsiflexion). If you look at the first image you see that I am unable to sit back far enough in my squat. However, when dorsiflexion is taken out of the picture using the FMS board under my heels I am able to ease back into a nice looking squat. My approach to gaining dorsiflexion is by stretching out my calves, and increasing mobility in my mid-foot through manipulation. Keys to this exercise are keeping your babe at chest height, feet shoulder width apart, feet forward, neutral spine, and sitting back into the squat through your hips. With the weight through your heels, sink your hips down and back until your thigh is parallel to the floor. Make sure you are not leaning too far forward (image 1) and try to keep your torso and shins parallel to each other. This is a great way to interact with your babe while waking up those slumbering glutes.
Keep Moving, Have Fun
These are just a few quick and fun ways to incorporate exercise into your precious time with your little one. Staying active with your babe can easily be done with a little multitasking and creativity. Build fitness goals from these mini-workouts. For example, instead of just simply changing a diaper, make yourself pay a fitness toll. Do 10 goblet squats before you lay them down, then rep out 10 baby pushups, change them, and pick them up for another 10 goblet squats. The biggest key to all of these exercises is having fun with your baby.