Exercising with a toddler in tow

exercising with toddler

by Stephanie Anthony |

So the days of mum and baby yoga are behind you and now your little bundle is tottering, tumbling and running in all directions. But if you're looking to fit in a workout it can still be done! Shakira Akabusi, fitness expert, Mumlister and founder of StrongLikeMum is here to explain how you can still get your me-time and keep up your fitness.

Mum to Rio, Ezra and twins Asher and Aryana, Shakira is passionate about empowering women to build confidence and positivity during pregnancy and postpartum. Alongside encouraging women to balance motherhood with a healthy lifestyle, Shakira is on a mission to shatter the stereotypes surrounding motherhood, in particular body image and mental wellbeing...

"Some days, keeping up with my son’s energy is a workout in itself, but other days I want to plan a more structured workout," says Shakira. Here’s an insight into how she gets it done!

Nap time

If you are lucky enough to have a toddler that wants to nap at a semi-regular time every day, then this could be the perfect moment for you to fit in a quick 20-30 minute circuit. However, after four children I know it’s never as easy as simply putting them down for a nap and having the energy to go.

Nap times, might be the only time you have to complete outstanding business deadlines, manage house-work or prep for the family afternoon, alongside this we need to prioritise rest and refuelling.

To help me manage this balance, I decided that on days when I wanted to workout I would prepare my food in advance. Having a healthy yet quick lunch option, meant I had more time for exercise and could still ensure I had a nutritious food option waiting. I originally learnt this lesson the hard way. I found that although my freezer was stacked with baby puree’s, I rarely had quality food for myself. My energy would dip every afternoon as I hadn’t refuelled with enough nutrients to sustain the energy requirements of my new lifestyle.

I made a conscious decision to change this and got into the habit of making sure I had some healthy snack and lunch options available ready in advance. Even something as simple as a nut-butter spread on wholemeal toast would be a quick but nutritious way to refuel after a workout. Eating enough at breakfast is also important to sustain energy levels if you want to exercise in the early afternoon.

Plan ahead

Prepping our food isn’t the only way we can prepare for a workout. Other small acts of commitments, like dressing in Athleisure wear at the start of the day helped me to feel ready when the moment came as well.

Planning the exercises ahead of time is also really important for sustaining motivation. If I don’t plan what exercises I want to do I often struggle to stay focused. As time is already tight when exercising during nap time, we don’t want to waste minutes thinking of what to do. Planning 6 exercises is enough. Each exercise lasting 1 minute and repeated for 2-3 sets will fill a 20-30 minute session.

Pram workouts

On days where my son just doesn’t want to nap, A walk in the pram would usually do the trick. He would settle and I found that once I was out, I felt a lot better too. Sometimes this would just be for a short walk, however if I was dressed and ready, I’d occasionally turn this into a run or buggy workout. Research shows that being outside can instantly affect our mood in a positive way and we can see an exponential increase of other health benefits related to exercise as well. Changing terrains can lead to increased natural work-rate meaning increased energy expenditure and more calories burnt. Fresh oxygen and natural sunlight have also been shown to improve our mood and boost our cardio vascular fitness.

Playing at the park

Who said exercise needed to be boring? Let’s allow our inner child out and enjoy exercise in a new way.

Getting outside is great BUT once we’re out where do we go? One of my favourite and most effective ways to workout with a toddler is by taking them to the park. Usually during school hours, when the park is quieter. It’s amazing how many reps you can fit in amongst a game of hide and seek, or failing that, just challenging your toddler to races and other games gets you both moving.

It was always important to me that I encouraged my children to enjoy being active outside, and playing together is a great way to achieve this whilst also enhancing our bond as we enjoyed the time together!

Making exercise a game like creating a bridge for my son to run under whilst I moved between downward dog and press ups, always had us both in a fit of giggles.

Dance it out

Do your kids like to dance as much as mine do? The problem is it’s always to the same song over an over and over BUT if you can get your head around endless cycle of the same chorus, then this is a great way to get moving with a toddler in tow.

Dancing is a great cardio vascular workout as well as improving strength, muscle tone, flexibility and better co-ordination.

Snacks

If all else fails, we can always trust snacks! I am yet to meet a toddler that wont happily sit, munching away for 10-15 minutes, allowing us to finish whatever exercise we’re in the middle of.

Combination

To be honest, I usually use a combination of all of the above. Children are unpredictable alarm clocks and no one day is the same. Depending on their mood, we’ll need to adapt how and when we workout.

The truth is, that exercising with a toddler can be fun. It can be energetic and enjoyable but at times we also need to accept that it has to what until another day. One of the lessons I’ve learnt through motherhood is to be flexible with my approach. On days where a workout isn’t possible I just relax into knowing that I’ll try again the next day!

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