Get fit with a toddler in tow

Posted 21/08/2015 in Parents of toddlers

Maintaining a good exercise program isn't an easy thing to do. Maintaining one with a toddler underfoot is even harder! But there are many little things you can do to make working out with a toddler easier as well as fun. Here we will take a look at some great ways to maximise workout effectiveness, exercise with your toddler, regain your core strength, and much more.

Maximise your workouts

As parents of toddlers, we don't have much time to dedicate to exercise. When (if) we do get a chance to work out, we definitely need to get as much as possible out of each exercise session. The best way to do this is to make sure you are doing the right exercises, as there are some exercises which you will definitely find much more effective than others.

HIIT (High intensity interval training)

Get the most out of every cardio workout by using high intensity interval training (HIIT). This is where you put 100% maximum effort into a quick burst of an exercise, followed by a short recovery period, then repeat. For example, sprinting as fast as you possibly can for 30 seconds, followed by a 45 second period of light jogging or walking, then back sprinting again, and so on.

By doing these high intensity bursts of exercises, you are burning calories much faster than if you were simply jogging the whole time. You get a lot more out of a much shorter exercise session - and that's just what parents need!

You can apply HIIT to many kinds of exercises - running, cycling, jump rope, star jumps, squats, jogging on the spot, etc. Find what works for you and give it all you've got!

Compound exercises

If you are working on muscle definition, choose exercises that employ large groups of muscles rather than one at a time. Instead of doing things like bicep curls, leg extensions, lateral raises, etc (which really focus on one muscle at a time), do things like pushups, chin ups, squats, lunges, etc. Try to choose exercises which require you to move more than one joint at a time - for example squats move both the hips and the knees. Pushups move the elbows and shoulders. These exercises workout several different muscles at once, making them much more effective both for your body and your workout time.

Work out with your toddler

Set up healthy habits for your toddler early on by having them exercise with you. There are many ways you can incorporate them into your workout routine.

  • Let your toddler join in, they will love watching you perform various exercises and trying to copy you. This works great for things like yoga and pilates, and you will probably find yourself envious of your toddlers perfect flexibility!
  • Are they learning to count? Have them practice by counting your reps with you.
  • Do exercises like leg lifts with them sitting on your legs, and running on the spot while holding them in your arms. The extra weight will make the exercise much more effective.
  • Have a dance session. Clear the floor, put on some music, and get moving with your kids! They will have a blast, and you will get some cardio in at the same time.
  • Go to a playground and really play with your toddler. Climb on the equipment, crawl through tunnels, play chasey with them, etc. Afterwards you will wonder how on earth your kids can do it all day.
  • Does your toddler still sit in a pram? Buckle them in and take them out walking or running. The extra weight of the pram makes you work harder and your toddler will love being out and about. For some extra intensity, find a hill to push the stroller up. Really focus on maintaining your posture as you push it up the hill, this will really work the muscles in your legs and arms.

Getting your tummy back!

A common fitness goal of mothers is to regain strength in their tummies after having kids. With the right exercises and some dedication, you can regain that strength in no time at all!

After I had my second child I couldn't even do one situp. Not even half of one situp. By the time my son was a few months old, I could easily do twenty as well as a bunch of other ab exercises in a long workout. The following exercise routine is the one that worked for me, and it worked very quickly!

Keep in mind that even though you may not be able to do most of these exercises at first (you should have seen me flailing about trying to do them with my broken mummy tummy!), just try to do them as best you can. If you can't do a situp, just raise your shoulders off the floor. Can't do that? (I couldn't!) Then just bring your head up and contract the muscles in your tummy as much as you can. As long as you are putting in as much effort into each rep as you can, then you will be making big progress!

After doing each exercise, move on to the next without taking a break between them.

  • Situps x 10 - Lie flat on your back with your knees bent 90 degrees and with your feet flat on the floor. Raise your arms off the floor and point them towards your feet, parallel to your body. Keeping your butt and feet on the floor, raise your torso off the floor and curl towards your thighs. Slowly lower back down to complete one rep.
  • Lying leg raises x 10 - Lie flat on the floor on your back with your hands under your glutes, palms down. Keeping your legs as straight as possible, contract your abs and bring your legs up perpendicular to the floor. Slowly lower them back down to complete one rep.
  • Scissor kicks x 10 - Lie flat on your back and place your hands under your glutes, palms down. Keep your legs straight and raise them off the floor by about an inch. Contract your ab muscles and bring your left leg up about a foot or two up in the air, keeping the right one about an inch off the floor. Slowly lower your left leg back down, simultaneously bringing your right leg up. Once you have brought the left leg up and down, then the right leg up and down, you have completed one rep.
  • Bicycle crunches x 10 - Lie flat on the floor with your lower back pressed into the floor. Place your hands either side of your head (do not lock your fingers behind your head or pull your head up). Lift up your knees to a 45 degree angle. Slowly do bicycle pedal motions with your legs, alternately touching each elbow to the opposite knee as you bring each knee up. Try to touch your elbow to your knee by twisting your torso, rather than bending your arm at the shoulder. Touching your elbows to both left and right knee completes one rep.
  • Alternating pikes x 10 - Lie flat on your back and raise your right leg straight up into the air, keeping your leg straight. At the same time, reach your left arm up to meet it. Lower back down, and do the same with your left leg and right arm to complete one rep.
  • Russian twist x 10 - Sit down on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lean your torso back to create an imaginary V shape with your torso and thighs (it can be helpful to place your feet under something to keep them anchored to the floor, or even get your toddler to sit one them). Hold your arms straight out in front of you. Slowly twist your torso to the right until your arms are parallel to the floor on your right. Twist back the other way until your arms are parallel to the floor on your left. Return to starting position to complete one rep.
  • Plank dips x 10  - Get into a plank position on your elbows and toes, keeping your body straight and your elbows directly under your shoulders. Slowly twist your torso and lower your hips to the right, almost to the floor. Bring your hips back up, then lower them to the left. Bring back up to compete one rep.

Once you have completed these exercises back to back, take a few minutes break and do them all over again. Aim to do this ab workout 2-3 times a week.

Don't be discouraged if you can't do these exercises properly at first. As I said, just focus on doing the best you can and that will be enough to make progress. Before you know it, you will be looking for ways to make this workout harder! So keep at it.

Other fitness tips

  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. By choosing to drink water instead of sugary juices or sodas, you are cutting out a lot of unnecessary calories. Proper hydration also helps to detox the body, combat fatigue, clear the skin and reduce high blood pressure.
  • Make clean eating a priority. There are plenty of amazing nutrition plans available on the internet that will help you smash your fitness goals. But if you are a parent who strives to feed your toddler healthy, wholesome and nutritious foods then there is an easier option than sticking to a strict meal plan - just eat the same thing your toddler eats, when they eat it. If your toddler's morning snack is a plate of fruit, cut up extra for yourself. Chicken and avocado for lunch? Perfect. The ideal toddler diet is made up of wholesome foods free of artificial additives and excess sugars and salt. You already have clean eating down pat, just apply it to yourself as well.
  • Eat plenty of protein - your muscles need it to grow stronger. If you are toning up then you need to make sure you are feeding your muscles, otherwise a lot of the effort you are putting in to your workouts will be wasted. Some high protein foods include chicken, eggs, tuna, cottage cheese, peanut butter, beans, nuts, chickpeas, oats and tofu.
  • Grab small opportunities throughout the day to do some quick exercises. For example, you could keep a couple of dumbells in the bathroom and do some bicep curls while your little one is having fun in the tub. If at some point through the day your toddler is preoccupied playing with toys by themselves, take the opportunity to do some quick bodyweight squats and lunges.
  • Seek out other mums to form an exercise group. Help keep each other motivated and exercise while your kids play together. Go for walks and runs together with your toddlers in their strollers.
  • Follow fitness groups and pages that interest you on social media. Seeing the fitness related posts will help to inspire and motivate you to reach your own fitness goals.

Finally, and this one is very important, don't pay so much attention to the scales! Instead of setting yourself a weight goal, set yourself performance goals. Today you can only run 5 blocks - make your goal to be able to run 10 blocks. Can you only do one pushup? Make your goal to be able to do 3, then 5, then 10. If you can't touch your toes, you can work towards this goal by doing flexibility exercises such as stretching and yoga.

If you put all your effort into your workouts, performance goals like these will not take long to achieve. You will have fun reaching them, and will get a great feeling of accomplishment when you do. Focus on setting and reaching positive goals like these, and your hard work will pay off on the scales as well.

Just do your best and have fun!




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