10 Ways to Work Out When You’re Surrounded by Tiny People: Fitness for Busy Moms

Most moms have these quicksand years that fall between birth and the first day of kindergarten, or longer, if you keep having babies. And during those quicksand years, your feet are pretty much constantly tied up by little arms and legs. And that’s okay.

But it can put a damper on your plans to get fit and work out.

If you’re one of those lucky mamas who has a grandma next door, or a husband with a super flexible schedule, you might be able to schedule gym time or a run every day. But you’re probably just like the rest of us, who have to get desperate creative with our fitness routines. (Welcome to the party. We’re glad you came.)

If you’re new to the busy mom fitness game, we’ll give you a head start. Here’s a quick and dirty menu of 10 workouts for moms who just don’t have the time, or the free limbs:

  1. Chase those monkeys.

You’re probably doing this anyway, so why not get a workout out of it? Release your little wildlings into the yard or a fenced park, and then run after them. If they’re the brave sort, make growly noises to increase the speed of the chase. Creep up on them slowly for rest periods. Boom. Interval training.

  1. Play video games.

Many of the new gaming systems give you tons of options for active play: Wii Boxing, Just Dance, Kinect Yoga… Find one that you and your little ones enjoy, and play together. Or put the baby in the swing and let her watch you get funky in the living room.

  1. Toddler dance party!

Crank up the Laurie Berkner station on Pandora and dance it up. After ten reps of “We Are the Dinosaurs” you’ll both be all marched out. If you’re up for something a little more intense, try swing dancing. (Don’t drop the toddler.)

  1. Trampoline games.

So many ways to make the trampoline work for you:

  • Play several rounds of Crack the Egg, in which your kiddos are the eggs, trying to hold their knees to their chests, and you are the egg cracker, trying to bounce them loose
  • Have a jump-sit contest, to see who can do the most consecutive jump-sits
  • Play animals in the wild, and take the role of the hungry lion chasing antelope on all fours (core burner, and easy on your knees, too!)
  1. Capture the Flag

This classic schoolyard game is surprisingly tough in the aerobic department. If you can get some older kids involved and play in a big field or a forested area, it can lead to hours of running, walking, crouching, sprinting, and tail whooping. Definitely not for beginners, and make sure to warm up properly. Those sprints can kill your hamstrings if you’re not prepared.

  1. Bike + Trailer (BOB day, as Rerun would put it).

Oh, the places you’ll go when you hook up a handy-dandy tot trailer to your bike. An on-bike infant seat or attachable extension seat will work, also. Some moms swear by the bike trailer for fussy toddlers who have gone sour on naptime. Just pop them into the seat on a warm, spring day, strap on helmets, and pedal off to the store, the library, the park—wherever your liberated little heart desires. You might find they’re all contentedly snoring by the time you arrive.

  1. Naptime yoga.

Trying to do your usual yoga routine with a herd of small humans in the room is… well… ambitious. If you can pull it off, you are a paragon of motherhood, and you should be proud. Most of us would rather not become human train tunnels while trying to breathe through Downward Dog pose. And it’s just not fair to get through the entire routine, only to have your final savasana interrupted by a sippy cup in your face. That’s why it’s a good idea to do yoga during naptime, or else seriously alter your expectations for how this is going to go down. Or become a mommy-yogi and train those hoodlums to practice with you.

  1. Teach a sport.

Were you a soccer star in college? Were you ever into tennis, softball, football, dodge ball…? Pass the love along to your littles. You get a workout while you demonstrate and practice together, and they catch your enthusiasm for the sport you love.

  1. Geocaching on foot.

It’s the new national pastime, especially for avid weekenders and urban families. Take your kids along with you the next time you start the hunt. Pack the baby in a sling, wrap, or mei tai, and let the bigger kids follow along with the GPS finagling. Family adventure time!

  1. Nature walks.

This one is a classic, no-fail recipe for shared fitness fun. Use local trails, parks, even your own neighborhood to get outside and take the world in. Ditch the stroller, and wear your baby as you go. Studies show that infants take a much keener interest in their surroundings when they feel close to mom and secure. Give small children words for everything they take an interest in. Share facts and encourage the observations older children make about plants and animals and insects on the way. If you do this regularly, your kids will grow up with an incurable scientific thirst, fueled by curiosity, wonder, and an insatiable need to explore. You get to be part of all those little ‘aha!’ moments, and get fit as a bonus!

The Best Part

When you get moving with your babies, you don’t just make a healthier future for all of you. You also make volume after volume of memories. Your kids will grow up with the fun mom. The one who plays with them, and dances like a dinosaur, and helps them explore the world. When you look at it that way, it’s hard to feel bad about losing all those pre-baby days at the gym. Besides, you’ll have that free time back before you’re even close to ready for it.