This is a post for all the parents out there. I get it, believe me. Parenting is tough. Probably the toughest job on the planet, without a doubt. It's exhausting, time consuming, physically and emotionally draining, and can take you on the craziest roller-coaster ride of your life. With young kids, there are days it seems like you don't have time to pee, or eat a full meal for yourself (hey, kinda sounds like being a nurse!). Then as kids get a bit older, you are the taxi service, policeman of their social media and internet access, and much more. You are never done. It's NOT easy!!!
It seems like as parents we would clearly get a pass when we say we didn't have time for a workout. How can we possibly be expected to fit that stuff in when we are in charge of these little humans all day? There is too much to do. People are quick to use there busy kids as the first excuse for why they can't work out. Well I'm here to tell you that being a parent is even MORE reason why you should me making time for regular physical fitness in your life. Today I am sharing 3 very important reasons why that is, and 3 helpful tips to get it done.
Why it's important:
1) They are watching you. Kids learn from what they see. What are you showing them? How do you want them to grow and develop in their own lives? It's not a secret that kids (and even adults at times) learn from example. So not only are you in charge of your own health, you are modeling healthy living to your kids. Why should they care about taking proper care of themselves if we aren't even doing it? It's like having parents that smoke and telling their kids not to smoke. Or drinking in excess and then yelling at their teen for coming home drunk from a party. That whole "do as I say and not as I do" model of parenting is certain to fail. If your kids don't see you make something a priority in your own life, then they certainly won't see the need to do it for theirs. Albert Schweitzer said "Adults teach children in three important ways: The first is by example, the second is by example, and the third is by example". And don't worry if, at first, they act like they don't care or have no interest at all. I promise you, after a while it WILL have an impact on them. You just might be surprised, but you can't give up with the first sour face or attitude you get! Stick with it.
2) You will be a happier parent. Parenting can be maddening at times. Let's face it, kids can make your good mood go right down the drain some days. You can start off with the best of intentions, and then... BAM. No one is listening, the fighting and yelling breaks out, and chaos has ensued. Even with the greatest planning, any given day can make you a bit crazed. When you get exercise, you are releasing those pain-relieving and mood-enhancing endorphins that are such a wonderful treat! Not that exercise will get rid of all your parenting issues, but it certainly does wonders to help us cope a bit better. It won't magically change your child's behavior or ward off all disasters, but it can give you enough of a buffer to make it through tough days without losing it. And I bet your kids just might appreciate a happier parent as well. :-)
3) You will have more energy. Who can't use that? Kids or not, we could all use a bit more energy sometimes. It sounds strange to say you can get energy from expending energy, but it is true. Organized exercise or actual physical play with your kids is much more energizing than chaotic busy stress that does nothing but zap your energy. Especially if you have very active children, don't you want to be able to keep up with them? Of course. That certainly makes life a lot more fun for everyone involved. Parenting is busy and exhausting. Get energized the right way so you can get it done!
How to get it done:
1) During nap times or a short TV show: With very young kids, nap time is precious time that needs to be used VERY wisely! Don't get me wrong... there are some times when napping yourself is exactly what you need to do during that time. But if you can start a habit of getting in some quick exercise for yourself at nap time every day, this will be such a valuable thing in the long run. Or, if your kids are past napping age and are watching their allowed TV time for the day, that is your chance to sneak off somewhere else in the house and get it done. 20 minutes on a treadmill, a quick workout video, or your own routine you prefer. You will be so happy that you did if you can do this.
2) Early in the morning, while they are at school, or after their bedtime: There is always the option of getting up early before the kids get up (if you have kids that sleep late!). This takes dedication, but so does anything worth while. If you have school-age kids and you are home at all during the day, that is your chance with zero distraction. Yes, there are tons of other errands to do as well... I know. But if you don't make this a priority, it will not get done. Period. It needs to be just as important as cleaning, doing dishes and grocery shopping. This is your health. After the kids go to bed is also another possibility if they still go to bed early enough. It's never a great idea to workout too close to your own bedtime because it will make it difficult for you to wind down yourself (unless it's relaxing yoga!).
3) Involve your kids. This can be done in many ways! With very young kids, this can just be throwing a ball and running around the yard with them. Try doing tag sprints across the yard with your kids. Make up a simple but fun obstacle course to do together! Cheer them on, get them excited, and have fun with it! Show them that physical fitness is FUN and that feeling strong is amazing. Once they get a bit older, but all means, involve them in more mature workouts. Don't think they can't do it because their "just kids". You would be amazed what kids can and will do when they are given the challenge! I like to let my own kids make up the workout for the day. We do all kinds of fun stuff in our yard like squat jumps, running with high knees, push-ups against the fence, farmers' carries with some weights or light kettlebells, etc.
It's never too late to start either. I don't care if your kids are in high school or college. They are still being molded by things around them every day. They aren't done making all their lifetime habits at this point. And maybe, just MAYBE, they aren't done listening to mom and dad. :-) To make an impact on their own future health and help yours out in the meantime, this is just too important to push aside.
Not to mention, time spent exercising together is time bonding with your child. You are improving your health and spending quality time with them at the same time. That is priceless.
It's time to stop using your kids as your first excuse for not working out, and start making them the number one reason you do!
Terri Wentzell is a registered nurse with more than 20 years of experience. She is also a certified personal trainer, wellness coach, fitness nutrition coach, and sport yoga instructor.