One of the most common questions I’m asked is how to stay active while raising young children. For many moms and dads, childcare, gym memberships, even five minutes alone can feel unattainable. So how do we put time and energy into our health, goals, and mental stability when life seems unstable? How do you show up for yourself when you have little ones you always seem to show up for first?
As parents, we live in the tension between what is best for us and what is best for our families, and often we think we need to choose one over the other. I hope these next few thoughts give you some ideas on how to include your kids in your fitness journey, which I believe will make you a better version of yourself and a better parent as well. These are some things that have helped me along the way. Some may resonate with you, others may not work; the goal is to share our journeys openly and honestly, so we all grow and feel supported along the way.
① Get the kids involved with your goals
They don’t need to love it, they don’t even need to like it, and they may even fight you on it for a period of time. Change is hard for kids, especially when it comes to boundaries around our time with them. One thing that has worked for me is getting the kids involved with my plan for the day. If I know I’m going to have to get a workout in with them, I explain what I’ll be doing, ask them to be a part of it, and continually express how important it is for Mommy to sweat it out and feel strong. 90% of the time the kids do the workout with me for the first 10 minutes and then move on to building Lego right next to me. This didn’t happen overnight, but by consistently communicating my goals and how they can help, I’ve seen a positive change in their reaction to my workout times.
② Start small
Don’t jump into the workout process with kids expecting to get 30 minutes or even 5 minutes in without tears or meltdowns. Maybe your kids will rock it, but mine literally see me move out of the snack prep area of the kitchen or notice I’ve shifted my attention away for 2 minutes, and someone is clinging to my leg, asking for a snack, or tackling a sibling. I focus on small wins. 10 minutes a day can change your body, improve your health, and boost your healthy hormones. In the beginning, I would celebrate 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes during nap time (add it together and it’s 10). Anything above 10 minutes is a bonus!
③ Make it fun
I have “my” workout music and I have “mommy” workout music. “My” workout music typically consists of heavy rap (it really helps me work through that last set haha) and my “mommy” playlist is happy songs to get the kids involved and excited to move their bodies in any possible way that will make time for me to get in one more set of push-ups. They love to pick the songs and I find that by allowing them to help me plan my workout programs they feel ownership and excitement about what I’m doing.
④ Celebrate together
Hitting a new personal best in my workout or running faster than I have before gets me so pumped up, and I want my kids to understand and feel the excitement of these achievements. Because of this, our family is constantly celebrating together! Whether it’s trying a new donut place, hitting up a new climbing gym, or planning a special movie night, when I hit my goals it’s a celebration for the whole Doell team. This has taught our kids that being strong and healthy can be fun, exciting, and rewarding.
I hope these few thoughts spark some of your own ideas to implement in your house. And if you just pulled out your calendar and are trying to find a day that will be good to start some of these things, burn your calendar and start today. No day will every feel like the right day to start, and every day will have its different challenges that make it easy to push this to the next. Oftentimes the biggest challenge is overcoming the fear of starting something. Here’s your next step: put this magazine down, grab your kids, put some music on, and start moving your body!!
Photos by Britney Gill
Rachel Doell is an instructor, personal trainer, mother, and wife who loves health and fitness. Her fitness company, Daily Routine Fitness, features simple ways to fit living a healthy life into your everyday routine.
Article was published in The Good Life magazine.