Many “Today” readers wrote to us about the difficulty finding time in their hectic lives to get in shape, let alone train for a marathon. So as part of our special series, “Today Runs a Marathon,” we asked Stacy DeBroff, founder of Mom Central, a Web site for mothers, and author of “The Mom Book: 4,278 Tips for Moms,” to share some of her tips for busy parents who want to work in some workouts — without feeling guilty that they’re not spending all their time with their kids. No more excuses!
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All of us parents feel that we do not have enough time to exercise. Whether we are exhausted taking care of a newborn, chasing after toddlers, doing endless driving and field sidelines for school age kids, a day can end without any exercise in sight. Plus, we feel guilty taking time away from the kids to do a structured workout.
With our busy lives, you need to set aside time for exercise every week, because it never happens if left up to chance! Working out gives you more energy, helps you lose weight, improves your circulation and your mood, tones your muscles, and makes you healthier. You owe it to yourself and your family to stay as healthy as you can. Even 10-minute increments make a difference, and getting your kids and partner into the act makes it that much easier. To jumpstart your workouts, here are some insider tips to finding the time and bringing fitness off the back burner:
21 top tips to a fitness jumpstart
1. Take advantage of napping with a jog stroller. Nothing like a quick run or fast walk with a jog stroller while your baby or toddler conks out for a late morning or afternoon nap. The larger wheels of a jog stroller offer less resistance, making the stroller easier to push and putting less strain on wrists and shoulders. Plus, you get in some cardio while your child gets fresh air. Even if your child wakes up early from napping, the walk home becomes an activity in itself. Limit running or fast walking to 45 minutes to avoid shoulder strain from pushing the stroller.
2. Adopt a workout buddy. Nothing like a friend to call you up and say, let’s go for a jog or meet me at the gym for this class after dropping the kids at school. You can even trade off babysitting to make time for each other's workouts.
3. Combine playtime and exercise. Shoot hoops. Kick around a soccer ball. Go bike riding with your kids or have races to see who can make it across the yard fastest. Or jog along as your kids ride their bikes or trikes. When at the playground, don’t just sit and watch the kids play. Join in! Or, run around the area, so that you can go for a jog while always keeping the kids in sight.
4. Dance the pounds away. Dancing is terrific exercise with major calorie burning and cardio workout built-in. Put on your favorite dance music, call out to the kids, and start a rock or boogie party in the family room. Or need some inspiration: Rent a dance video and pop it in for inspiration.
5. Have family fitness fight obesity. Also with rising obesity among our children and cutbacks in physical education programs has made family-oriented fitness a priority. Walk the dog together. Pick up a family hobby that involves exercise: from hiking, to biking, to tennis, to skiing. This can then become a focus of weekend activities together to family vacation destinations.
6. Take up sports as a family. Try to make exercising together a regular part of your family life. Come up with physical activities your family loves to do together, be that hiking, skiing, bike riding, rollerblading, canoeing, kayaking, rock climbing, swimming, skating, playing golf or tennis, ice skating, or even walking the hallways of a nearby science, children’s or art museum. Join a community center or gym where the whole family can swim, exercise or take different classes, whether it’s a local recreation center, the YMCA, or a Jewish Community Center where options are abundant.
7. Turn to the library. Libraries now stock up on all sorts of exercise videos: check a couple out a week to mix up your workout routine at home and keep things interesting.
8. Make date night start with fitness together. Hit the treadmill, go for a long walk or jog, play tennis, go on a bike ride: Do something you can do with your partner that builds in time together with exercise for you both.
9. Trade off workout times with your partner. Take turns watching the kids on the weekends to carve out some exercise time for you both.
10. Find a gym with great day care. Ask how young they take kids, tour the facilities and look for hands-on counselors rather than DVDs running nonstop during the hour you exercise. Ask about blocks of day care coverage, as many gyms offer packages that include pay-as-you-go sitting coverage at a discount. As most gym-based daycare will only take kids up to two hours, go for a combination of 30 minutes each of cardio and strength training, with time to cool down, stretch, and shower before picking up your kids. That way you feel completely refreshed and ready to go.
11. Combine errands and exercise. Bike ride with your child, pull your child in a wagon, put him in a back carrier, or walk to the places you need to go. Don't circle to find the closest parking spot in the mall: walking counts as exercise! Instead of squeezing in a lunch date with a friend, exercise together. This will save money and calories, and still allow for quality time together.
12. Morning lift off. Getting up a few minutes earlier in the morning can provide you with some quiet time to exercise before the kids wake up. If you’re not usually an early riser, start with a yoga DVD to slowly wake you up and get your body energized. Start walking your kids to school. This is a great way to get a few minutes of movement in the morning, and still spend time with your children!
13. Take advantage of TV time and phone time. If you have a favorite television show that you watch regularly or find yourself watching a movie with the kids, don’t just sit on the couch during it. Yoga positions, leg lifts, sit-ups, push-ups, or stretching enable you to get in your exercise time as well. Talking away on the telephone? Take advantage of the time to stretch!
14. Make chores count. Build exercise into daily chores: Stand on your tiptoes while making dinner or do squats while folding laundry.
15. Working parents: exercise over lunch or on the road. Join a gym near work and exercise over lunch, or use lunchtime to walk or run. Even a 20-minute swim can leave you feeling re-energize and ready to face the rest of the workday! Traveling for work: Pack some sneakers and shorts, and hit the hotel gym first thing in the morning.
16. Take classes together with your kids. Enroll in a class with your child: I did as I found myself bored week after week sitting in the hallway outside my kids' karate class. My kids thought it was a riot when I joined the class with the master instructor's permission, especially given my pathetic punches and kicks at first! But, then four years later my kids were cheering me on as I earned my brown belt alongside them! So from tennis to yoga, enroll together.
17. Enroll in a “mommy and me” exercise classes for new moms. These classes enable you to exercise with your baby, along with introducing you to other new moms who can become workout partners as your children get older.
18. Enlist help from a trainer. You can even split training workouts with a friend. Having an hour of exercise directed by a physical trainer can really jumpstart strength and cardio training. Even a few sessions can jumpstart you into a more structured workout routine.
19. Gardening counts. Go out, dig up some weeds, plant some fall mums, and start raking up the early leaves: all exercise while you do not even pay attention. Gardening involves squatting, lifting, digging, bending, and hauling yard refuse bags.
20. Give one exercise-related gift at birthdays and the holidays. From a new bat or bike for your child to three sessions with a trainer for your spouse, having one exercise-related gift makes a great family tradition and reinforces the importance your family places on staying fit and healthy.
21. Even little things can make a difference. Always take the stairs instead of the elevator at work. Or park at furthest end of the parking lot when going shopping. The extra walking can count as part of your workout! And remember this: if you work in just a 10-minute workout each day, by month's end you will have exercised over 300 minutes!
Stacy DeBroff is the founder of Mom Central and author of several parenting books, including “The Mom Book: 4,278 Tips for Moms.” For more information on parenting, check out Mom Central’s Web site.
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