Article By Alison Jones, Iron Mum
By the time the first fraught, sleepless, euphoric days of your baby’s life have settled into the busy daily routine of work, childcare, housework and general juggling, it’s easy to feel that you’ve somehow slipped to the margin of your own life. Just keeping up with each day’s endless demands can feel like a feat: the idea of taking on something new? Laughable. So women who didn’t exercise regularly before they had children (and most women don’t), often never do.
Which is a pity, because nobody needs the benefits of regular exercise more than mothers of young children: increased energy, better sleep, reduced stress, improved mental health, boosted libido, weight control, stronger immune system, reduced risk of disease and more self-confidence. And since studies have repeatedly shown that children of active mothers are more likely to grow up into active adults themselves, you can not only get those benefits for yourself, you can give your children the best chance of having them too.
But except for the fortunate few with a handy granny or a full-time nanny, regular exercise usually requires more ingenuity for mummies than it does for their child-free counterparts. Swanning off to the gym for a workout and leisurely sauna is probably out of the question, you can’t do much that qualifies as actual swimming when you go swimming with toddlers, and exercise classes with crèches provided can be pricy.
If you can find time to exercise child-free that’s great: it’s valuable me-time, and you’ll return refreshed, relaxed and with renewed energy for your children. But whether or not you exercise without them, making time for regular exercise WITH your children will not only be fun for you, it will give them the best possible chance of growing up active, strong, confident and set up for a lifetime of healthy habits.
Take a few minutes to think about three simple things you could do today to make you and your family more active. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Arrange to meet a friend for a walk rather than just for a coffee, or organise a childcare swap – take it in turns to go out for a run or walk while the children play together.
- Whenever possible, walk or even jog with the buggy rather than driving. If there’s a Buggyfit class near you, so much the better. @MakeshiftMummy suggests adding weights to the buggy (or indeed to yourself) as you get fitter, to increase the benefit.
- Put on some music and dance with your kids until everyone is out of breath.
- If your little one’s very little, can he nap in a sling while you go for a long walk in the country?
- If your little ones are slightly bigger, get them practising their bike skills in the park while you run alongside.
- Take a ball or Frisbee to the park, and make sure you do your fair share of running to retrieve it!
- Once you’re buggy-free, make a habit of taking the stairs rather than the lift at the shopping mall.
- Try a workout DVD with your kids for guaranteed hysteria – or try Wii Just Dance or Wii Fit. DVDs are also useful once the little darlings are in bed: try Pilates for a calm, core-strengthening workout.
- When you go to a play park, don’t just sit and watch your kids have fun, get up and run around with them. They’ll enjoy it more and so will you! Or why not use the equipment as an improvised gym while they play: instead of sitting on the bench, use it for triceps dips or as a step (you can make this an even more effective workout by holding your child at the same time); use the monkey bars to build upper-body strength; if all else fails run round the perimeter fence so you can keep an eye on them while you work up a sweat.
- Skipping and hula-hooping are both superb cardiovascular exercises, as well as being essential for playground credibility. Teach your kids while you practise yourself (if your kids can already do both, it’s time to get competitive).
- Do you take the kids to outdoor activities such as football or rugby? If so, can you use the time to exercise rather than simply standing and watching? Your children can always pretend they don’t know you as you pant up and down the touchline…
- Alternatively, if you’re looking for an indoor activity, why not try one that allows you to participate too, such as Movin Monkees , a karate class or even a family climbing session?
- Finally, teach kids one of the most useful life lessons: there’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing. Go out in wellies in the rain to jump in puddles, wrap up warm to sledge or have a snowball fight.
One of my favourite bits of the Iron Mum programme is our monthly kids’ night, when children from 2 to 12 turn up with their mums to join in the warm-up, go for a short run, and take part in a free Stretch-n-Grow session led by the wonderful Kate Scorse, who runs both Stretch-n-Grow and Little Pumas in Basingstoke. The children love it – not just because the session is such good fun, but also because they get the chance to warm up and run with the Iron Mums. In our duathlon event in September those same kids run alongside their mummies for the last agonising yards to the finish, cheering them on and sharing in their pride and sense of achievement afterwards.
The Olympics may have inspired a generation, but in your own way and for those you care about most, so can you. Where will you start?
Alison Jones, a working mum of two, is one of the organisers of Bramley Iron Mum, a free, structured training programme in Bramley, Hampshire, which starts when the clocks go forward and spring and culminates in a friendly duathlon event in September. Over the last four years over 200 local women have discovered they’re capable of far more than they ever imagined, and have made good friends and had lots of laughs along the way. She loves running partly because it’s good for the soul, and partly because she really, really, REALLY loves chocolate.
Find Iron Mum on Facebook: www.facebook.com/BramleyIronMum
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