A baby changes everything. Have truer words ever been spoken? Our sleep, free time, and even our sanity wane in the early months of parenting. Always active before baby, I suddenly found myself too fatigued to enjoy running, biking, and hiking like I used to. My biggest hurdle to getting back to my workouts was finding the time and energy. However, I knew I needed to do something soon, or my health would suffer.
Why It’s Important To Workout After Baby?
Excuses to ditch the workout abound once the baby is in the picture. However, this might be the most crucial time in your life to keep up with your exercise regime. We all know the benefits of a regular workout routine such as improved sleep, stress relief, and increased energy levels. It can also be beneficial in preventing postpartum depression in new moms.
But To Recite The Classics “That’s Not All!”
- Regular physical activity reduces to risk of many common diseases. Example include diabetes, different cardiovascular disorders, and osteoporosis. I want to be able to run with my kid when he turns ten so working out isn’t even a choice but a necessity for me
- Carrying around extra weight increases pressure on your bones and joints which combined with weaker muscles may lead to pain. Therefore, maintaining a workout routine may help to prevent chronic pains, which means that you can be a more active parent for your kid
- Regular workout routines also increase your basal metabolic rate (BMR) by increasing muscle mass. Your BMR is the rate at which your body burns calories while at rest. About 25% of that energy goes to muscles. Unquestionably, raising your BMR will help you to burn more calories even when you are sleeping
Isn’t Exercising With Baby Only For Moms?
Though many of us mostly associate postpartum workouts with women, studies have shown that they are just as important for men. In fact, men often gain weight during pregnancy along with their partners. There are many biological and behavioral reasons for this happening.
Studies like this one show that after becoming involved dads, men have increased cortisol and decreased testosterone levels. Lower levels of testosterone make weight gain easier for fathers. These two factors also mean that the muscle mass of men will probably decrease (and so too the BMR).
It’s logical because his body is preparing new dads for child-rearing instead of reproducing.
That said, the biological factors combined with less time and energy will surely have a negative effect on a man’s health. Which means it’s time to start working out!
How To Find The Time To Workout With Baby?
Ah, that is the question. I had no idea how much time raising a tiny human could entail. Finding the time or energy to workout between work, feedings, sterilizing, and clothing and the diaper changes (So. Many. Diapers.) felt impossible. I, finally, realized that the issue wasn’t finding the time, but instead making time. The following ideas are ways in which you, too, can make time to workout. Word of warning though…you may have to make some hard choices.
Divide You Routine Into Smaller Junks
An important factor to consider is that three 10-minute workouts each day are just as good as one 30-minute workout. This means that you can break up your workouts into smaller time increments and still get the benefits.
Take Advantage Of Nap Time
” Nap when baby naps.” This piece of advice will come at you from everyone you know. It’s totally tempting to lie down with your little one to catch up on your own missing ZZZs. Nonetheless, we all know this is just going to end up with you waking up face down in your own drool even more sleepy than you already were.
Why not squeeze in a workout instead? Log a mile or two on your treadmill, throw around some free weights, or do body weight exercises. You could even follow online workout routines. Sure, it’s going to take some serious digging to find the motivation, but the sense of accomplishment will be well worth it.
Tag Team With Your Significant Other
This seems easy enough. You can also be each other’s, accountability partners. Set a time each day to take turns working out while the other watches baby. This sort of teamwork and accountability encourages you to maintain your routine.
Find a Gym With Daycare
This seemed like a brilliant, yet unreal idea for so long. I, for one, am happy to say gyms with daycare is now a beautiful reality.
You will want to take tours of different facilities to make sure they meet your standards for childcare. For example, do you mind if your child is sitting in front of a TV watching cartoons while you workout, or would you prefer a gym daycare that offers interactive learning or play?
Find Ways To Workout With Baby
I mean, he’s right there with you anyway, so why not engage in a little baby bonding with exercise? Incorporating your baby into your exercise routine is easier than you might think. Keep reading the next chapters to learn the best exercises to do with baby.
Utilize a Jogging Stroller Or Hiking Backpack
Jogging strollers and hiking backpacks are just two mechanisms adapted for taking the baby along with you on your workouts. You can also find carts and seats to attach to your bicycle to ride with the baby. The best part is that the extra weight of carrying baby, pushing a stroller and baby, or pulling a cart with your bike is that you are sure to burn way more calories than you would if the baby wasn’t with you. You can find more information in the next chapters.
Mommy/Daddy And Me Classes
Mommy/Daddy and Me classes are basically everywhere you look and offer a variety of activities to do with your baby or toddler. Many local YMCAs offer such programs at affordable prices. Not only will classes get you and baby out of the house and strengthen your bond, but they will also allow you the opportunity to meet other new parents like yourself.
Though not structured classes, I’ve found groups of parents living in the same neighborhoods who workout together with their children. Social media is a useful resource for finding groups like these in your area. These groups not only give you time to socialize but also allows your baby to begin developing social skills with other children.
Make Everyday Chores a Workout
Of course, if the baby is still too small to take along jogging or to classes, you can always turn your chores into a workout:
- Do simple calf raises while working in the kitchen
- Instead of walking from room to room, do walking lunges. You could do leg lifts while baby sits in your lap
- One of my friend’s favorites is folding the laundry downstairs and transporting it all upstairs separately. This means she makes multiple trips up and down the stairs but gets a workout in a while putting laundry away. Score!
Walk As Much As You Can
I am lucky to live within a mile of a grocery store, so I’ve begun walking there with my baby in a stroller. Of course, I cannot buy a ton of groceries this way because the basket of my stroller isn’t huge. Still, that’s a part of my plan. Now, I have to go back in the next day or two, requiring another walk.
If you don’t happen to live close to places you frequent, that’s okay too. You can still get out and walk. Your baby’s senses are heightened, and any exposure to outdoors can be thrilling to him.
Many parents make excuses during winter that it’s too cold outside for babies. Parents in Scandinavia actually let their kids sleep in strollers outside during winter (read more about it here). So let’s be honest here…the cold is just an excuse, isn’t it?
Choose a Quicker Routine
HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, workouts are a great option for the time-deprived parent. HIIT workouts are typically fast, fun and only require your bodyweight. They can be modified to your level of fitness as you get into better shape. Here is an example of a quick HIIT workout.
Workout On Your Lunch
Working out on your lunch break is highly dependent on the type of work you do. If it is possible to catch a workout over a meal, do it! You can always pack a healthy lunch to eat at your desk before or after your workout.
This allows you to exercise without cutting into time at home or time with the baby.
If you need an accountability partner and extra motivation, then convince a co-worker to join you on this venture.
We have a gym in our hospital, so sometimes I’ve managed to squeeze in a quick HIIT session into my lunch break. I don’t enjoy the nervous feeling that comes with only having 30 minutes of spare time, but sometimes you just have to make time.
Wake Up Earlier
Yes, I am serious!
I did list this option last because it is the least preferred choice, especially if your baby is under six months old. It’s going to be difficult to crawl out of bed when you’ve only been able to catch an hour or two of sleep here and there. However, if this is the only time you can find to get your workout in, it must be done.
In the end, waking up earlier to exercise will help you sleep better and give you more energy during the day (trying to be positive here:) It may not feel like it right now, but the benefits will shortly outweigh the inconvenience.
I’m NOT ONE of those people WHO LIKES to work out in mornings, but I’ve done it. And so can you! Power through!
Choosing a Suitable Workout Routine
Maybe you didn’t work out before baby but have decided exercise is imperative to maintaining your health and sanity these days. That’s great, but where do you start? You are reading this article right now, so you are in the best place you can be.
Different Types of Workouts
Workouts generally fall into two categories: Strength and Cardio
Strength training involves utilizing weights to essentially break muscle fibers down and rebuild them while at rest. Strength training is better at raising your BMR and keeping it elevated for longer periods.
Cardio, short for cardiovascular, workout involves elevating and sustaining your heart rate. This helps to burn fat and increase stamina.
There are many types of cardio routines available. They are usually aerobic, but can also be anaerobic.
Cardio exercise is considered aerobic if your maximum heart rate stays below 80% of your maximum and so the body uses free oxygen to generate energy.
Running, hiking, swimming, rowing, and jumping rope are just a few examples of cardio exercises which can then be used for different types of cardio workouts.
Which Workout Is Right For You?
Strength and cardio workouts are often used in conjunction with each other. This will help you reap the most benefits from both.
That said, it all depends on various factors like your goals, health, time and preferences. The best workout routine for you is one that you can stick to. Therefore, it is important to find something fun that also touches most major muscle groups.
Very general advice:
- If your goal is to lose weight, then do strength training
- If you wish to increase stamina, then opt for aerobic cardio training
Whichever workout regimen you choose, it’s essential to start slowly and to listen to your body.
Injury often occurs when people try to lift too much weight too soon, and when they overdo cardio workouts.
If you need more structure or prefer more guidance, contact a local gym to see if a personal trainer can meet with you to help you plan the right exercise routine for you.
Follow The “Rules” When Exercising With Baby Or Toddler
The rules are more like guidelines. These guidelines ensure you keep injury at bay while working out.
Rule 1 : WARM-UP
Always warm up for 5-10 minutes before any workout. Loosening muscles, tendons, and ligaments can help to prevent strains and sprains. A simple warm-up is jogging at a slow speed for 5 minutes.
Rule 2 : HYDRATION
Stay hydrated. Is there anything worse than passing out from dehydration in the middle of the gym? I’m asking for a friend. Seriously, with all the other chaos in your life these days, maintaining proper hydration is essential.
Rule 3 : STRETCHING
Always stretch after your workout. The first thing you probably want to do after working out is to get a high-protein smoothie or take a cold shower. However, it is vital to spend a few minutes stretching first. If you haven’t worked out in some time, you will be sore. Stretching helps to minimize this soreness by allowing your muscles to release stored lactic acid. It also signals to your body that you are no longer working your muscle groups, so they can begin rebuilding and repairing tissue. This rebuilding process is actually how your body builds muscle mass.
Workout With Baby: Strength Training With Baby
It almost seems wrong to say these words together in the same sentence. All the same, it can be done. If your baby is too small to leave with the gym’s daycare or for Mommy/Daddy and Me classes, you can still do simple strength exercises with your little one. The following are some of my favorites.
Word of warning though! Unlike your average dumbbell, a toddler likes to run away:)
Decide how many repetitions (reps) and how much time you will need to rest between sets.
Reps and Sets
Reps are the number of times you do the exercise in a row (set). For example, if you are doing bicep curls, one rep would be raising the weight up one time.
A general rule:
Less than 8 reps per exercise help to grow muscle bulk
More than 8 reps per exercise will help to build leaner muscles (endurance)
People usually shoot for 3-5 sets per exercise!
For example, you can do five sets of 10 reps of bicep curls with one-minute rest between sets.
Strength training usually means doing 3-5 sets per exercise. After that, you can have a little rest and continue with another.
Generally, 45-60 seconds is adequate rest between sets and exercises.
Bodyweight Circuit Workout
Does throwing the word circuit into this workout make it just a bit intimidating? It shouldn’t. A circuit workout is similar to a workout of sets and reps, but with circuit training, you complete the entire list of exercises and then begin at the beginning of the list again for a certain number of “circuits.”
I prefer circuit training as it’s more efficient when it comes to time management (and as parents we rarely have too much of it). That said, if you wish to build big muscles, then it’s probably more efficient to stick to the regular plan.
You should aim for at least three circuits for the training to be effective.
Placing your back against the wall, slowly slide down until you are in a sitting position, or your legs are bent to a 90-degree angle. Holding your baby while doing this exercise gives you extra weight. Your knees should not go over the line of the toes.
Muscles: Thigh muscles in the front (quadriceps femoris muscles)
Hold your baby or make use of that baby carrier you got for a shower gift. Take one large step forward bending your front leg to a 90-degree angle and push yourself up. Repeat these steps for the opposite leg.
You can also dip your back knee as low as is comfortable without touching it to the floor. I can’t do it very well because I’ve got bad knees (welcome to the 30s).
Muscles: Thigh muscles in the front and back and buttocks
Cradle, your baby while performing squats. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart while squatting down like you are about to sit in a chair. Be careful not to squat down too far to make sure you and baby do not fall. You should keep your back straight and your knees should not go over the level of your toes. Ideally, you should go quite low, your hips should be at the level of your knees.
I’ve got bad knees so I can’t do an ideal squat (as you can see in the picture), but I do the best I can and my muscles feel it.
Muscles: Thigh muscles and buttocks
I mentioned calf raises earlier while doing everyday chores, but the beauty of calf raises is that they can be done almost anytime. Holding your baby while sitting in a chair? Calf raises. Walking around trying to soothe a tired baby? Calf raises. Do you see where I’m headed here?
Muscles: Muscles of the lower leg
This exercise may seem downright weak, but it can be quite effective. It is easy to do even while holding your baby. Hold your arm straight out from your side when you are sitting or standing. While keeping your arm straight, move it in a circular pattern. Imagine if you were painting circles on a canvas with your fingertips. After a while, your shoulders will feel the burn.
Muscles: Shoulder muscles (deltoids)
Using both hands to hold your baby, gently raise him above your head and back down again. My child had a blast doing this, always laughing when he was raised. It’s also easy to do nearly anywhere from sitting, standing, or lying positions.
Muscles: Shoulder muscles (deltoids)
Chair dips allow you to train back of your arms (triceps) at home. Grab the edge of your chair, extend yourself forward and lower yourself until you feel strain in the muscles. You can use your baby carrier to add some extra weight.
I’m doing this exercise without my little buddy because he refused to play gym weight any longer.
Muscles: Muscles on the back of your upper arm (triceps)
Planks can be done during tummy time. They target your core muscles which is beneficial for both moms and dads post-pregnancy. Simply get into a position like you are going to do a push-up. Then balance yourself on your elbows and forearms and hold the position for at least 10 seconds. As you get stronger, increase your hold time.
There are many variations out there. I prefer to stay in a push-up-position as you can see in the picture.
Muscles: Core muscles
You can make these sit-ups into a game of peek-a-boo with a baby. Simply sit him in his bouncy seat or other devices, and make your workout fun for both of you.
Muscles: Abdominal muscles
As you can see, strength training can easily be accomplished while spending time with the baby. As long as you are careful and use slow, fluid motions, your baby will most likely enjoy the movement.
It may be not that easy with toddlers because they like to run away, but at least your spending time with your kid.
Sample Workout For Parents
This guide was intended to show you how it is possible to work out once you have a baby. What kind of animals would we be if we didn’t provide a few sample workouts for you? My guess is that we’d be right on par with the honey badger.
Simple, Effective Strength Workout With Baby
I’m going to call this a baby workout because you can perform these exercises at home and use your kid as the free weight for most of them. You can scroll back up to see the examples.
TIP 1: If you haven’t been working out lately then do the first time without any weights, so you get to know your limits.
TIP 2: The number of recommended reps is quite high so that you can do it without extra weights. If you’re holding your kid, then don’t think about the numbers and do as many reps as you can.
- Squats—3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Lunges- 3 sets of 10 reps per leg
- Calf Raises- 4 sets of 12 reps
- Wall Sit- as long as you can, record your time to track your progress
- Push-Ups-3 sets of 12-15 reps
- Shoulder Circles-3 sets of 20 circles
- Military Press- 3 sets of 8 reps
- Chair Dips-3 sets of 12-? (do as long as you feel the „burn“)
- Plank- as long as you can, record your time to track your progress
- Crunches- 3 sets of 20 reps
Circuit Workout With Baby
So, for the next workout, begin at the top of the list with 10 squats and move to the next exercise. Continue down the list, and when you reach the end, start over at the beginning again. When just starting out, you could aim for 3.
Workout With Baby: Cardio Training With Baby
Running With Baby
Personally, running is one of my favorite things, and I miss it when it isn’t in my life. When we were expecting our son, I had visions of myself blissfully running along with him in our jogging stroller.
Sadly, I haven’t been able to run properly because of knee problems. So this section is written by one of my friends who doesn’t have these issues.
My friend said: „The reality was me gasping for air while trying not to trip over the stroller. I struggled to keep my stride, pushing what felt like 100 pounds of baby and buggy up hills. I do not want that for you, so here is some information I compiled on jogging with strollers.
What’s a Jogging Stroller?
A jogging stroller is designed to make running with baby smooth. They use three large, air-filled tires, a lightweight frame, and a five-point harness for safety and efficiency when jogging with your baby.
Best jogging strollers have both a foot brake system, as well as a hand brake mounted on the handlebar. Additionally, there is a safety tether to attach to your person ensuring the stroller does not get away from you.
The front wheel is either stationary or can be locked into place. This feature ensures the stroller will not veer off course while running.
Jogging strollers typically fold up easily, so you can take your run wherever you go. They sometimes have shocks which make the ride comfortable for baby whether on or off-road.
Tips For Using a Jogging Stroller
The following tips will ensure both you and baby enjoy your runs.
It does take time to feel completely comfortable with a jogging stroller. You are now pushing extra weight instead of freely running, and you will feel it. Give yourself time to adjust to the difference of running with a stroller, and do not expect to pick up your normal pace right away.
The following are a few other tips that can be helpful when venturing into the realm of the jogging stroller.
Run on Appropriate Terrain
While your baby is still very young, it is best to run on smooth surfaces such as roads, sidewalks, or paved walking/jogging trails. This minimizes jostling to your baby’s head and neck. Save the off-roading and trail runs until your baby is at least one year old.
Your runs with baby will be completely different than when you used to set out for miles by yourself. Expect that there will be stops, or that you may sometimes need to cancel your run and head back home.
Bring Snacks And Drinks
For older babies and toddlers, snacks are essential. You are, after all, a tiny human’s snack caddy now. Snack crackers, natural fruit snacks, and sugar-free suckers are all exceptional items to keep on hand in case your little one suddenly finds himself famished.
For younger babies, bring a bottle of milk or formula in case of hunger hits mid-run. This can be one of those stops that require flexibility.
Don’t forget to bring water for yourself since your stroller runs will most likely keep you away from home for more extended periods. Luckily, most jogging strollers come with ample cup holders.
Should your toddlers bore of the fresh air, green grass, and towering trees (if you are lucky enough to run in such an area,) have some game ideas ready. Ask your child to find something blue on your route, sing the ABCs together, or count the number of birds you see.
Obviously, your games will need to fit into your environment, and this is assuming that you are not struggling to maintain your own breathing.
Purchasing Your Jogging Stroller
Determining the best features for you, your baby, and your jogging style is crucial to finding the right jogging stroller. For example, if your child no longer utilizes an infant car seat, a car seat adapter is not necessary. This article has some great information and reviews of the best jogging strollers out there.
Routine Without Baby
You’ve found free time to workout alone?
Well, if you are a hardcore runner, biker, or hiker, your decision is mostly made. You’ve probably learned by now that although doable, running, biking, and hiking are way easier (and dare we say more enjoyable?) without the stroller, bike seat, or backpack.
If you prefer to use the time for strength training or a combination of strength and cardio, where do you start? Consider whether your free time will find you heading to the gym or doing a workout at home. Either place you go, remember to follow the rules I’ve mentioned before.
Our guide would not be complete without briefly touching on proper nutrition. Did you know that what you eat is 80 percent responsible for weight loss, while exercise is roughly only 20 percent?
The following list is a quick rundown of the simplest changes you can make in your diet now.
- Stop drinking sugary drinks including soda, juices, and energy drinks
- Try to eat clean, unprocessed foods
- Increase protein intake to assist with building muscle mass
Working out or training with baby IS possible. There are tons of ways to find the time and summon the energy to get back to your exercise routine.
I hope the DadProgress guide gave you exercise ideas and suitable workouts that can easily fit into your lifestyle. Whether running, hiking, or strength training with baby, exercise provides myriads of health benefits that are especially essential at this point in your life. The best part is that you don’t need to miss out on bonding time with your little one.