Many aspects of your life change when you have a child. For fitness-minded parents, this includes the ability to work out when, where and for however long you want. But just because your exercise routine changes, it doesn't mean it needs to take a backseat.
I've learned that being active and spending time with my family is not mutually exclusive. I try to minimize the impact my running and exercise regimen has on my family by getting up and exercising before the day starts. However, there are days when that's just not possible; so instead, I focus on ways to spend time with my family while being active.
I view my day as a giant puzzle board: Meals, school for my little guys, naps, chores, errands, family time and exercise are all different pieces of the puzzle that I need to shuffle around. It may take some creativity, overlap and prior planning to get them to fit together, but there is usually a way to make it all work.
Here are some things I keep in mind and ways I combine exercise with family time:
Plan for Easy Days
I try to avoid including my children in workouts on my "hard" days–where I'm running a specific number of miles or hoping to run a certain pace. Doing a tempo or interval workout is challenging enough for me without the added concern or distraction of my little guys
Don't Press Your Luck
Figure out how much time (attention span) you can safely hope for from your child and plan for that. Keep in mind that you want the experience to be fun for both of (or all of) you. If you ask too much of your kids, it will take away the fun factor.
This is my go-to during the warmer months. It's a great way to exercise while spending interactive time outdoors with my two young boys. We listen to the Disney Channel on Pandora, play games, sing songs, or they read books while I run and they relax—and sometimes nap. And, running with a stroller is so much more than a cardio workout: Not only are you running, but you're also getting a core and arm workout at the same time.
Ride-Along with Bike
This is a great option for parents with older children. My oldest son is becoming more comfortable on his bike, and once he can safely and independently ride on his own, I hope to combine some of my short runs with bike rides for him.
Make it a Family Event
My husband and I have gotten in the habit of going on one family run a week. We have a double stroller and we switch off who pushes the stroller and who sings and plays games with the boys.
Head to the Track
There are a number of runners I know who take their children to the track with them. Their children stay on the grass inside the track and the parents can focus on running during each interval and interact and chat with their kids during their recovery. It's a great way to get your workout in while getting the entire family outside for some fresh air and exercise.
- 6 Ways to get Kids Ready for Their First 5Ks
- How to Get Your Kids to Exercise at Any Age
- 6 Reasons to Encourage Your Child to Run
Find activities for kids near you.