One of the questions I get most is how I manage to workout with a baby and a toddler. Probably because, before I had kids, it was unusual for me to only workout once in a day let alone skip a day! Zip right to my tips below or, if you’re interested, here’s a little background on my workout journey since then. I stayed very active while pregnant the first time and I attended a group fitness class with my daughter on literally the day I was cleared to workout. I jumped back into working out more days than not but they were usually mini at-home workouts. I also started teaching just a few classes again but a couple months into that, I felt awful. I had no energy and my daughter had her worst-ever stretch of sleep so my workouts started to decline again. After a couple months of this, I found out I was actually pregnant again! Everything made sense but it didn’t make me feel any better, physically, and keeping up with a busy baby coupled with a rough pregnancy meant my workouts pretty much dwindled to non-existent.
After my son came along, my recovery took a bit longer and having two so close in age has been a wild ride! I have experimented with several different strategies to workout over the past several months and although I haven’t been super consistent with any single one of them, sticking with a combination of the list below has been working for me anytime I’m in a stretch of good sleep. For a long time, I had to prioritize sleeping over working out whenever possible since I was working with some extreme sleep deprivation (to the point that some days, I didn’t drive anywhere because I didn’t think it was safe!). Now, I’m happy to say baby is sleeping better so I’m sleeping better and working out more!
Assuming you’re getting some sleep, here are my tips to workout with babies and/or toddlers!
- Do Micro-Workouts & Know that Every Little Bit Counts: This is my first tip because your days of setting aside a full hour to workout might be gone for a while so squeezing in shorter workouts or making it to cycling once per month instead of your previous once per week still counts. It’s still worth your time and your whole family will be better for it every time you can get some exercise. If nothing else, then when you’re rocking baby, throw in a few squats and engage your abs each time you change a diaper to sneak in core work.
- Take Mommy & Me Classes: There are many options to bring baby with for a workout these days. Postnatal yoga and ‘mommy & me’ classes are great for younger babies, usually before they are very mobile. These classes seem like an obvious answer to the ‘how do I workout now?’ dilemma but expect to get distracted a lot during class so mommy & me is a lot different than the ‘me time’ you used to get in a group fitness class.
- Sign up for Stroller Classes: FIT4MOM offers classes that welcome and even incorporate strollers into workouts. These work for babies of any age and young kids and the instructor will incorporate songs and activities for the kids to keep them entertained. If you work full-time, check out weekend options!
- Find a Gym with Childcare:The childcare at gyms can range from a corner with baby gates and a teenager just making sure kids don’t escape to fully-licensed preschools at high-end health clubs so it really comes down to what you’re comfortable with and what your child will tolerate. I know my daughter did not appreciate going to any style of childcare until she was around one so I felt awful leaving her and neither one of us had any fun.
- Find a Studio with Childcare: This is different than a gym with childcare because studios are often much smaller settings and when I’ve brought my daughter to the childcare at my favorite barre studio, I can actually peak out of the class and see her but the way it’s set up means she doesn’t usually notice me. Again, you’ll have to check out your local options but this option often works well for moms that like to keep an eye on kiddos or at least be just steps away.
- Workout While Baby Sleeps: My big caveat here is that you are getting enough sleep. If you have a newborn or you’re behind on sleep, sleep when the baby sleeps!!! I’m sure you’ve heard it a million times and, if you’re a first-time mom, you probably aren’t doing it but do it now! When you have more than one, you won’t get the chance as often and you will be tired. So tired. Anyway, assuming you’re lucky and sleeping a decent amount, Squeeze in a short mini workout while you’re kids are asleep. If you’re even luckier and your kids sleep in, workout before they get up. My children start stirring before 6 almost every morning so this isn’t a realistic option for me but I have done many quick workouts during naps and, a few times, after their early bedtime. For this option, you’re limited to at-home workouts and the equipment you have around the house but you can absolutely get an amazing workout at home. I’m planning a post for next month all about at-home workout gear so stay tuned if you’re someone who likes to (or has to) exercise without having to leave the house!
- Invest in a Running Stroller: Before I had a baby, I had no idea how complicated running with a baby strollers were or how you can’t just pop any baby in and run out the door. You need to do some research and purchase a stroller specifically made for running and make sure your baby is ready. Some babies are ready earlier but, usually, 6 months is the minimum and smaller babies might not be ready for a run until 8 months or older. Check with your pediatrician and the stroller itself for more specifics. I always like to point out that stroller names can be misleading and most models under the popular brand Baby Jogger are actually not safe for running. I love my Baby Jogger City Mini for around town and for travel but the Baby Jogger Summit X3 is their only stroller appropriate for jogging. For running, I use the Bob Revolution Duallie and I love it!
- Let Dad & Baby Bond While You Workout: This isn’t as obvious as it seems and I put it last because if you’re dependent on someone else to workout, that just adds in one more hurdle. Perhaps you’re a mom-to-be reading this and you think, ‘duh, I’ll just leave baby with my husband and head out the door.’ Some dads are way more overwhelmed than moms in the beginning and some babies do not want their mom out of sight for a single second. That being said, it is very healthy for you to get a little alone time and head out for a quick walk or jog so nip the mom guilt as early as you can! The earlier you can set a standard for self-care in your family, the better and the more likely it will actually happen!
I have also written several articles for other sites and publications about postpartum exercise. If you are curious about more than just how to squeeze in a workout, including how your body will or has changed, what’s safe and what’s not and more information about running with baby, check out this article I wrote for SHAPE that dives deeper into 9 Things You Should Know About Postpartum Exercise (and Probably Don’t).
Enjoy your workout!