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.

3 Ways to Tell If You’re Getting in Shape for the Wrong Reasons

Are you getting in shape for the right reasons? Each year, millions of people decide to turn their bodies from flab to fit, yet only a few actually accomplish this goal. Why is that? What makes it so hard to accomplish the goal of losing weight or getting in shape?

The main problem is that they do it for the wrong reasons. So what are your reasons? If they’re anything along the lines of the following three quotes, then you’re getting in shape for the wrong reasons.

  1. “I’m getting ready to get that summer body back!”

Time and time again, I hear people say this, and it makes me shake my head. Last time I checked, your body needs to be taken care of in the fall, spring, and winter as well. Ladies, what good is it to be in shape in the summer, just to wear a bikini a few times? Fellas, what good is it to get great abs for the summer, only to go back to a beer belly by winter?

If you’re serious about getting in shape and living a healthy lifestyle, then looking good for the summer becomes nothing more than a bonus. The important thing is to feel good and be in shape all the time. Period.

  1. “I want to lose X amount of weight in X amount of time!”

As a New Year’s resolution, most people make the crucial mistake of deciding how much weight they want to lose in a given time. That’s like interviewing for a new job and demanding a salary higher than person interviewing you. In other words, you’re setting yourself up to fail. Your body is unique; therefore, there is no way to tell how much weight you will lose within one month, three months, or a year. You can bank on one thing though: If you consistently follow an effective diet and exercise plan, you will lose weight. Give it time.

  1. “I want to have a body like (insert celebrity name).”

Saying you want to look like anyone else is a surefire way to sabotage your weight loss efforts. Again, your body is a unique vessel, and so is that celebrity’s body. Have you ever noticed that everyone’s abs look different? If you Google “abs” right now, you will see hundreds of different shapes and lines, each pattern unique to its owner. Why is that? Because genetics! Even identical twins with the same DNA don’t come out as carbon copies. You simply can’t expect to look like a celebrity, or anyone else, because you’re not that person. You’re you. And that’s enough. Embrace it. Besides, if you get in great shape and that same celebrity someday sees your abs online, they could very well be jealous of you.

Here’s the main thing: Remember that getting in shape and living a healthy lifestyle is a journey, not a destination. It’s supposed to take a lifetime. The day you stop rushing to get results is the day the results will begin to show up.

Too Busy to Be Healthy: Working Out

Yes, you’re busy. You’ve got work, school, kids, hobbies, parents, projects, and maybe a long commute as well. Plus, somewhere in there you’ve got to find time for a significant other, and maybe even date now and then, if you’re lucky. How do you spend an hour on exercise, when you’re so slammed you can’t even take a decent lunch break anymore?

How can you not?

Working out at least three times per week might seem like an extra, like a luxury item you can add in when it’s convenient, someday. But it’s not. If you don’t learn how to make the time to get this done, you risk losing your health and everything you’ve built upon it: your career, your lifestyle, your future, and your happiness. The first step to fitting a workout routine into your schedule is to stop looking at it as an option. It’s not an option. It is a basic building block of life as a human. You’ve got to move your body to keep it alive.

Normalize it.

If you’re going to be consistent with your workout schedule, you’ll need to find ways to incorporate it seamlessly into the other things you absolutely have to do. Anchor it to your day like you would a meal, or sleep, or wake times. Here are a few strategies for hanging your workout times on the pillars of your schedule:

Tie it to your bedtime:

Not a morning person? Then prep for your workout before your head hits the pillow at night. Line up your sneakers by the bed. Wear your workout shorts and top to sleep. If you need a DVD or weights or other equipment for your session, get them lined up and ready to go. Find a slot for your workout prep to belong forever, like right after you brush your teeth at night, or right before you set your alarm clock. Then wake up and hit the ground running.

Tie it to your commute:

You’ve got places to go, so why not use your body to get there? If you live close enough, maybe you can run to work each morning and walk home in the evenings. Or take the train there and jog home. Even if you work far from home, you might find a place to park the car and ride your bike the rest of the way. Other ways to make the most of getting there:

  • Take the stairs, not the elevator
  • Park at the far end of every parking lot you use
  • Walk to your favorite cafe at lunch
  • Get up and go to your coworker’s desk instead of emailing or calling

Tie it to mealtimes:

Even if your meal breaks are brief, they still have to happen each day. That makes them perfect moorings for your workouts. If you can squeeze in just ten minutes of cardio activity around each meal, that adds up to thirty minutes a day. Plenty. It could be ten minutes of Zumba after breakfast, a short run after lunch, a brisk walk after dinner– whatever you enjoy. This doesn’t have to be perfect. If your lunch hour gets sabotaged by meetings, just add a little more effort to your after-dinner jaunt. Throw in some strength training every other day, and you’re well on your way to a long life in a healthy body.

Change your “too busy” thinking.

If you’re not used to working out regularly, it will take time to change your habits. Start with small goals, like 90 minutes of cardio each week. Set consistent times to get it done. Most importantly, listen to the things you say to yourself. All of those “too busy” reasons to put off your workout are old friends. They sound right, and it’s easy to give in to them. Replace them with new thoughts:

  • I’m too busy to get sick.
  • I don’t have time for heart disease.
  • This is the hour (or half hour, or ten minutes) I set aside for my health.
  • My people need me to make this happen.
  • I deserve to feel good in my own skin.
  • This is an investment in my life span.

Then get out there and change your life and body for the long haul.

Is Keeping Track Getting You Off Track?

The Pros and Cons of Collecting Fitness Data

Beep! Beep! Beep! It’s 6:05AM and your alarm clock is screeching at you to wake up, get out of your comfy bed, and start your day. You consider the snooze button, but instead slam it off and calculate that you slept a solid six hours and approximately twenty-seven minutes. You stretch while your feet hit the floor before walking nine steps to the bathroom. You change into your workout attire, slip on your favorite pair of running shoes, and head out the door in less than five minutes. Scrolling through your music you find the play list you’re looking for, titled “Run, Forrest, Run”. It’s perfectly timed at 43:20 for 5.4 miles, running at a consistent eight-minute pace. Before clicking “play”, you double check that your mile tracker, heart rate monitor, and calories burned counter are set. Then you’re off!

Exactly 43 minutes and 20 seconds later, you’re rounding the block and sprinting through the door, sweating and breathing hard. The mile tracker logs 5.4 miles, the calorie counter says you burned 573 calories, and the heart rate monitor marks your heart rate at 167 beats per minute. Breakfast consists of three egg whites (75 calories), tomato slices (22 calories), and one slice of whole-wheat toast (70 calories), washed down with a glass of unsweetened almond milk (30 calories), which you make sure to log. Followed by a seven-minute shower. The standard two and a half minutes devoted to brushing teeth. So on and so forth. You continue to track out your day.

It’s an extreme example, but with the rise in health and fitness apps, more and more people are beginning to track a variety of health and fitness stats. Why is this data relevant? What is the value of inputting this information in an app? How does this help people reach their fitness goals?

There needs to be a balance between tracking metrics and genuinely striving for success.

The Major Tracked Stats

There are a plethora of health and fitness apps and devices available, most notably are the following:

  • Number of steps
  • Miles run
  • Calorie intake
  • Heart rate

Some people diligently use specific apps to track these stats, but according to Persuasive Technology for Smartphone Apps (2013) the average use of such apps is 2-3 times per week. Of those using wearable fitness trackers, almost half wear them daily while another third use them a few times a week (CEA, January 2014). Using these apps inconsistently or infrequently has the potential to relay unreliable information.

Perhaps someone logged approximately 1,200 calories on Monday through Thursday, but neglected to log the 2,000 calories he/she consumed on Friday (thanks to happy hour) or the 1,885 calories during Sunday brunch. His/her weekly calorie intake would not provide accurate information, so how does this prove helpful overall?

It’s important to evaluate your commitment to using these apps and understanding what the information tells you, as well as why it’s relevant to you specifically. On the flip side, those who daily track every aspect of their health and fitness accumulate an extreme amount of data, but how does this growing list of data benefit them? What is the value of knowing the number of steps they took in an entire day or their average heart rate over the week?

The Benefits of Health Data

According to a CEA study the top three reasons people shared for using wearable fitness trackers were the following (CEA, January 2014):

  • Motivation
  • Monitoring fitness goal progress
  • Monitoring physical activity levels/intensity

Inputting daily data can generate a certain amount of motivation by giving people a sense of control; they have the power to record their information. Fitness apps may also motivate people to remain committed to reaching their fitness goals because it holds them self-accountable, forcing them to be honest with themselves. Knowing about their progress may also encourage them to strive for more progress.

On the contrary, however, a lack of knowledge and understanding about the data that people receive could provide false assumptions and potentially lead to discouragement and slower progress. It’s important to know what your health data says about you and how it affects your health and fitness goals.

You should cross-reference your health data with a health care provider/doctor, trainer, and/or nutritionist. These experts can provide answers regarding the relevance of certain information to you and your health specifically. They can also help you adjust your regimen accordingly to assist you in seeing greater and lasting success.

There are some health stats that can be incredibly important, especially for those with health problems. For example, it’s imperative for a diabetic to be conscious of their sugar and insulin levels. Just as it’s important for people who experience problems with high blood pressure to know their blood pressure. Tracking this kind of information is critical to their health and well being. Again, it’s important that they share this information with their doctor and other health care professionals so that they may understand the meaning of this information and be prepared to know what to do with this information.

The “Naked” Concept

First off, this does not advocate that you start working out in the nude, (unless that’s what works for you and as long as it’s not in public, in which case carry on). The term “naked” here refers to exercising sans technology. Essentially, you are technologically “naked”. Chris Narbone, creator of the running tech blog Amplify and writer of “5 Benefits of Running Naked”, concludes that less is more when it comes to technology and runners. This idea, however, can be relevant to any mode of exercise because technology can become a distraction.

For example, Jason Gay, author of a piece titled “How to Run ‘Naked’ – and Love It”, admits that running with so much technology turned him “into an anxious robot”, even causing him to sometimes stop and check his email. He has recently started running “naked” and loves it because it puts him more in tune with his body, free from distractions (The Wall Street Journal, 2014).

By over complicating something that’s supposed to be simple, technology has the potential to distract and weigh you down. Exercise offers an opportunity to meditate and renew a connection between you and your body. Rather than listening to their bodies, however, people are more readily relying on their smartphones, or any other number of technical devices.

When these distractions occur there is the danger of losing the tranquil quality that physical activity promotes. There is value in treating your workout as quality time between you and your body, allowing yourself to become in sync to the rhythm of your body, rather than the familiar buzz of a text on your phone.

A Few Final Thoughts

This does not mean that people should be universally opposed to using health and fitness technology and apps. They can be great tools, when completely understood and properly used. They can provide useful information, when you know how to read the data. They can motivate and help keep you on track. In some specific cases, they can even keep someone alive. And these are all good things in the journey to attaining fitness nirvana.

In the end, though, it all comes down to you. Take charge of your health and fitness. Use available tools that gel well with your lifestyle and help you down the road to success. If tracking stats benefits you and your fitness goals, then keep on tracking, but be sure to know what you’re collecting and why this data matters to you.

Remember why you choose to live healthy and take care not to become more obsessed with tracking stats than with reaching attainable goals meant to increase your health and happiness. More important than updating your daily fitness log is that you think and feel better about the goals you set, success you achieve, and healthy lifestyle you build.