When my kids were very young I used to take them to the National Zoo often, pushing them up and down the incredibly steep hills of Rock Creek Park in a double stroller, occasionally asking my daughter to walk next to me at the steepest parts to give my legs and back a break. Whether I liked it or not, our jaunts to the zoo were an incredible workout for me. Now that they’re eight and nearly six years old, finding ways to sneak exercise into my time with them is becoming more difficult. We recently visited the zoo over Spring Break, and while I still walked those crazy hills, I walked at the pace of a five year old, no stroller to push. There are still ways to enjoy time with my kids while sneaking in a bit of exercise, though, and these are a few of my favorites:
1. Paddle boats: Plop your kids safely into the backseat of paddle boats at a park near you and while the kids relax and soak up some Vitamin D, you can paddle till your heart’s content, which it will be thanks to the hidden cardio workout you’re receiving.
My paddle boat riders
2. Teaching Kids to Ride a Bike: While at my house teaching my kids to ride their bikes takes more debate strategy than exercise, I hear that most people spend tons of time running up and down the street while their kids are pedaling and learning to balance.
3. Dance Party: My kids often ask me to play the piano while they run in circles around the room, which they consider very elaborate dancing. However, I also love to blast music and dance with the kids, or even better, play the “Just Dance” series of Wii games with the kids, which leave us all sweating and exhausted and happy.
4. Swimming: This idea is certainly dependent on the seasons as well as geography, but I love taking my kids to the community pool in the afternoons in the summer to get a little hidden exercise. While they dive for colorful sinkers and practice their strokes, I use the pool wall to do push-ups, leg lifts (ooh, ab work!) and more, all while avoiding the strange looks from the other moms who are quietly reading books in the shade of their umbrellas.
5. Coaching a Sports Team: My husband doesn’t have any time to exercise because after spending nearly three hours a day commuting plus nine hours at work, he really just wants to spend time with the kids. Thankfully, he has found a way to both exercise and spend time with our son. Coaching our son’s soccer team has given him the chance to run around for an hour on the soccer field, sneaking in some cardio and getting some fresh air at the same time!
6. Your Kid, Your Free Weights: Yes, I occasionally lift my 45 pound five year old just to prove that I can curl him like a free weight without breaking my back, but you don’t have to be that wacky to take advantage of your children’s existence to sneak some weight training into your day. Just pushing your child on a swing for 15 minutes can be a great work out to your arms!
My friend Shannan from From Cribs to Carkeys also suggested that it’s great exercise to allow your two year old to get out of his stroller. You’ll have to practice sprinting, hand eye coordination, and doing more than two things at once to be able to keep him safe while he’s out of the confines of his stroller.
Happy exercising, um, I mean family time!