You were fit in college – maybe even an athlete. You ran. You worked out. You ate whatever you wanted, and yet you were still in shape.
Now? Not so much.
Or, more accurately, much more. You’re a parent, and being a parent is a full-time job… plus, you may have a full-time job, too. You probably still eat whatever you want, but you feel guilty when you do, and often you eat things shaped like stars, covered in cheese, or that were once parts of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches cut into fun shapes.
What about the working out part?
You don’t run anymore, and when you do workout, it’s not as intense or long as it once was. You meant to run the other day, but your kid had that thing. Then you were going to dust off the bike, but your other kid had that other thing. You know how it goes – you don’t get to exercise because of your kids.
WHOA, hold up!
Let’s look at that – you don’t get to workout because of your kids?
My friend, that’s exactly why you should – because of your kids. They need you to be there for them for the long haul, and be a role model of health and wellness. That’s how they learn their habits. The reason you don’t get to workout is that you haven’t figured out how to balance being a parent and exerciser.
4 Ideas to Stay Fit and Healthy After Becoming a Parent
So I can sit here and make you feel bad for not prioritizing your time differently, or for not waking up early when you mean to, or I can help you find ways to both be a parent and be fit (and work full-time, if that’s something you also do). As a parent, I’m speaking from personal experience. As a certified personal trainer and a coach, I’m speaking from the experience of helping others turn around their lives, including people with kids. So, basically, I know it can be done, and it’s easier than most people think it is…
Idea 1 – Kids Come Along for the (Self-Powered) Ride
There are a few options to bring your kids with you as you workout. Jogging strollers, those little buggy things you can tow on your bike, add-on seat-and-wheel-thingies (the official name, of course) for your kid (or even a tandem bike) – there are options to run or ride and still spend time with your child. Their age will dictate some of what you can do – you’re not going to run with a 15-year-old in a Bob Stroller, now will you? But that 15-year-old can lace up with you. Think you need to bond with your kid, I promise you there are few better ways than going for a run, hike, walk or ride together. The point is, you can spend time with them and get exercise (for both of you).
“Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them” – James BaldwinTweet This!
Idea 2 – Put ‘Em to Work
Similarly, kids find things like yard work and shoveling snow very fun. I know, they’re nuts, right? Shoveling snow? They obviously didn’t live in Boston last winter. But they do love this stuff. So, guess what – let them join you. No, I don’t mean to let them run the power equipment with sharp, spinning blades, but let them rake, shovel, weed, etc. Don’t make them do the work alone, but let them do it with you. And don’t worry about them not doing it right – the point is to have them out there, with you, moving and participating (and you doing the same!). This is another way to get active, and have your kids active with you so you’re spending time with them and getting done the chores you need to get done.
Idea 3 – CUYOP (Commute Under Your Own Power)
This is a term I coined a few years ago, and it means Commute Under Your Own Power. I use CUYOP to run or ride to work so I can kill a few birds with one stone:
- I get a longer cardio workout than I would otherwise get, and can opt for 2-a-days by doing it to and from work
- I am not away from home or cutting out on work to fit in the workout
- I don’t have to wake up super early to get some cardio in since I’m just substituting time in traffic with time on my feet
- I save gas, parking and other commuter costs
The one cost to CUYOPing your way to work is that you need a shower there (some gyms let you join just to use their shower at a lower cost…most don’t, though). Or at least I do. I sweat a lot. You may be a magical, sweat-proof exerciser. Or you may not be working hard enough to get a benefit. If you do need a gym membership, remember that most health insurers and many employers give you money toward gym membership, so you can defray some of the cost that way. And you may need a good running backpack (works well for cycling, too) so you can bring your clothes. OK, that’s actually two costs. A nice trick is to use days you don’t CUYOP to leave a few outfits at work if you can.
“Walking the walk is one thing, but it is so much more powerful if you can talk it as well” – Robin HoyleTweet This!
But CUYOPing doesn’t just have to be for you to get to work. This year, my son started elementary school about a mile from our home. I walked him to school once a week, and it was awesome. We walked for 20 minutes to get there, and then I could walk, run or skip (FYI – I never skipped) home (or somewhere else to extend the exercise). A 20-minute walk is pretty good for a six-year-old, and we moved at a good pace, but we also talked a ton, and he learned a lesson about not just driving everywhere, He loved it. You can CUYOP with your kids to all kinds of things – sports games and practices, ‘running’ errands (literally), going out for dinner, and more.
Of course, this is dependent on where you live relative to where you’re going, but there’s no rule that says it has to start and end at your home. For example, when I CUYOPed to work by running, I’d almost always ride my bike to the train station (about 3 miles away), and run from there (or take the train part of the way – depending on how far I wanted to run that day). Then I would either take the train back to my bike to ride the rest of the way home or train it part of the way, and get a nice little run in the evening before hopping back on my bike. I can’t tell you how much I appreciated that in the spring and summer as a way to enjoy the later sunsets, get some time to think, clear my mind, and be ready to give my all to my family. You’d be surprised how much working all day and sitting in traffic takes away from your ability to walk in the door and be your best home-self.
Idea 4 – Be Coach Dad or Coach Mom
You can also be involved in your kids’ physical activity by volunteering to coach a team they play in. The trick here is to actually take part in practice yourself. Demonstrate the drills, run the lines and get into it. Don’t sit there with a clipboard and direct, but really engage. I promise you that you’ll get so much more out of the experience, you’ll connect with the kids better, and you’ll get some steps to register on your fitness tracker.
If your kids don’t play a sport, or there are no coaching positions open, look at family sport options. Pete at Runblogger does karate with his kids and yoga with his wife, and loves both (the activities, I mean…though I’m sure he loves his kids and wife). I have wanted to be a ninja since I was about my son’s age, so joining him in his Kenpo class would be amazing. Unfortunately, it’s kids-only now, but I do plan to start taking it this fall, so we could do it together when he gets old enough to be in an all-ages class.
The Point is to Make a Point of Being an “active” role model for your kids
The point to all of this is that it can be done – you can be a parent and be someone who is active. Your kids and their schedules aren’t the reason why you can’t. Your kids are absolutely the reason why you should, and now it’s up to you with all your adult smarts and ingenuity to look for little ways to work in healthy activity every day. The best thing is, you’ll find quickly that it’s self-perpetuating, so any heavy lifting you think you have to do to make it work soon won’t feel so heavy, and novel and fun ideas will present themselves. Now go have fun!
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Bryan Falchuk is the founder of newbodi.es health and fitness coaching and training. He spent the first 2/3 of his life overweight or battling being overweight before transforming his life into one focused on health, fitness and happiness. He coaches and trains people looking to change their lives, has an active YouTube channel and podcast, and shares his own health journey and inspiration via his blog, Instagram and Twitter.