Exercising With Kids

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The Great Fitness Experiment: One Year of Trying Everything

Charlotte and I met while I was in college. Since that time, she has gone on to do many wonderful things, including creating a popular exercise blog (The Great Fitness Experiment), writing parenting columns for Redbook and Yahoo!, and writing a book--among other things. 

Char is mother to five and wife to one. She is very witty and fun to read. To give you a taste of her writing, she wrote this post just for you on exercising as a parent. If you love it, be sure to check out her blog and her book, The Great Fitness Experiment. Ohh...psst...and at the end of the post, you might find a giveaway.


Sometimes when a man and a woman love each other, they make a baby. (I know you were confused; you're welcome.) Unfortunately that may be the last thing you do that actually makes sense. Babies, even before they make their grand entrance, turn every part of your life upside down. At no time is this more true than during that first year. Between the sleepless nights, extra trips to the pediatrician "and baby makes three" ...times the laundry, hitting the gym often falls to the bottom of the priority list. But you don't need a gym, fancy equipment or even a lot of time to get in a good sweat so here are some moves you can do at home with your little one.

The New Mommy (Or Daddy) Workout

1. The Pick-Up-The-Baby Squat. Being unable to hold himself up, your little bean lays around just like, yes, a sack of beans. But a sack of beans that gets heavier every single day. To prepare for this, do goblet squats. First pick a weight resembling your baby (in weight, not looks - if you have a baby that looks like a dumbbell you have bigger problems than stomach flab.) Then double it. (Do twins run in your family too?) Squat down, pick up weight gently off the floor and slooowwwly stand up. Squat back down, returning weight to floor. Once you've mastered that, swap out the dumbbell for your baby. That's one rep. Repeat 12-15 times, for 3 sets. Be sure to keep your weight in your heels and BOTH hands on the baby/weight. To add difficulty try to pick up dirty burp cloths off the floor with your toes.

2. The non-dominant arm curl. Are you right handed? Then your left bicep is probably bulked out like the Incredible Hulk in the episode where he candy stripes at the hospital nursery (they did that one, right?) because you are constantly holding your mini-me in your left arm so that you can get stuff done with your right arm. To prevent looking as lopsided as an Iranian election, start doing bicep curls on your non-dominant arm. Pick a weight as heavy as you can manage for 8-12 reps, 3 sets. To make it as realistic as possible, hold a carton of eggs in your other arm at the same time. If you end up with quiche, call CPS.

3. The colic lunge. New babies cry. Some of them cry a lot. Like, a lot a lot. Thankfully you can make lemonade out of your little lemon. Not only can you get quads of steel doing this move but you'll earn extra bonus points with your spouse for letting him or her get some sleep. First, plant your feet just wider than hip width apart in a sumo squat. Then holding your swaddled (the swaddle is key!) dumbbell/baby very tightly, lunge vigorously from side to side. This is not the time to be namby-pamby. When I say vigorously, I mean there is no such thing as too much motion to your baby. (Not to be confused with shaking your baby. For the love of Tiger Woods, never ever shake a baby.) Repeat for hours, any time anywhere. Ignore the evil looks from people who think you shouldn't be taking your newborn to the movies, much less lunging like a maniac in the aisle. You may be a parent but you're still a person and are therefore allowed by law to leave your house.

4. The chest press to throw up. Babies are masters of physics. They come out of the womb knowing that what goes up must come down and therefore anytime you hoist your little petard above your head, vomit is going to come raining down. Into your open mouth if you're really lucky. To prepare yourself for this eventuality, lay on your back holding a dumbbell in each hand. Press straight up. At the top of the movement have someone jump on your stomach and then drop a couple spoonfuls of cottage cheese on your face. Surprise is the key to honing your reflexes along with toning your pectorals. Repeat 8-12 reps for 3 sets.

5. Running away from your responsibilities cardio. At some point after your wee one is born, it will hit you how much work, time, money and sleep you are losing in this deal. You will want to pull a John Edwards. This is a bad plan. So the next best thing to running away is to simply run. For added resistance, put the baby in a jogging stroller and take him or her with you. Just make sure your music isn't turned up so loud you can't hear him or her cry. Start with 30 minutes a day 4 days a week, working up to daily sweat fests by the time the kid is old enough to make you have to stop and hold him over the biffy seat in the park for 20 minutes before he decides he's too cold to poop (hey it's a great move for your shoulders!).


You can win a copy of The Great Fitness Experiment! Leave a comment about how you work exercise into your day now that you are a parent. 

The winner will be chosen Saturday, March 5...you have until I pick the winner (via random.org) to enter!


Valerie, also known as The Babywise Mom, is the mother to four children. She has been blogging on Babywise and general parenting since 2007. She has a degree in technical writing and loves using those skills to help parents be the best parents they can be! Read her book, The Babywise Mom Nap Guide, to get help on sleep from birth through the preschool years. You can also find her writing at Babywise.life, Today Parenting, and Her View From Home. Read more about Valerie and her family on the About page. Follow her on FacebookPinterest, and Instagram for more tips and helps.

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  1. Kecia
    February 22, 2011 / 5:07 PM

    Netflix has some watch instantly 10 minute workout video's. I do one or two 10 minute work out's each day. They are short enough that I usually, well, sometimes, can get through the whole workout without having to stop to help a little bitty with a glass of milk or a diaper change or whatever else. At this point, even though it isn't a long workout, I'm just glad to be able to keep the habit going!

  2. A Wee Irish Family
    February 22, 2011 / 5:08 PM

    Working fitness in is super easy… I just stick with yoga and simple stretching exercises while baby's sleeping and then we go for 2-3 walks/day. It's a cinch!

  3. Brett and Vivienne Caudle
    February 22, 2011 / 5:46 PM

    I make working out look fun so my kids always want to join me when I pop in a exercise video. We take lots of walks and through out the day I saw lets exercise and tell them to do push ups, sit ups, and boxing. They love it!

  4. Trevino Family
    February 22, 2011 / 7:20 PM

    My baby girl gets up at 7, so I find that if I get up at 6, I have enough time to work out (I'm currently in the midst of the "Insanity" workout series) and shower before nursing her. And on the days that I "happen" to oversleep, the videos are only 40 minutes long, so I have time during her independent play time to bust one out. We also do a lot of walking now that we're living in Asuncion, Paraguay (South America) and don't have a car. You try strapping an 18 pound baby to your chest, and hauling home a weeks worth of groceries in 90+ degree, humid weather and tell me that's not a workout! Ha!

  5. Heather
    February 22, 2011 / 8:03 PM

    Usually I put her in the stroller and go for a walk. She loves being outside and I get in my workout. If the weather isn't so great (which, in England, it tends to lean to the not-so-great side fairly often), I either hit the gym with her–they have a GREAT "mommy" room–or fit in a video at home while she's napping.

  6. Mrs. Lay
    February 22, 2011 / 8:08 PM

    I can't stop laughing! She is soo witty! Can't wait to read her book! Anyway I am a teacher and my room is upstairs and the office is downstairs so I make it a point to go to the office at least three times in my day…it may not be much but going up and down stairs several times a day makes me feel like I've accomplished some sort of physical activity in my day, because once i'm home I'm ready to just be home and relax with my little girl and hubby!

  7. Kristin
    February 22, 2011 / 8:08 PM

    I'm someone who needs the group workout experience, so I go to the gym at lunchtime when I can get away from work. It's nice to have a class (kickboxing, step, hip hop) that has a defined start and end time to get me there. I've always preferred working out after work, but that's all changed of course. When I miss class, I sometimes find workouts on-demand at home and my DD joins in!

  8. Katie
    February 22, 2011 / 8:18 PM

    My husband and I take turns going to the gym. I also, after Baby E goes to bed at night, do my stretching and yoga before bed.

  9. Kristina H.
    February 22, 2011 / 8:18 PM

    I have never been a "fitness person" but I actually do more exercise now, at age 38, with 4 kiddos, than ever before in my life!! I've done Jillian Michaels' 30 Day Shred DVD (with kids watching/participating/climbing on me). I love that DVD because it's only 27 minutes! Right now, I am almost halfway through the P90X series (very tough!!) I've also attempted to run on the treadmill…but when it's the middle of winter and 4 kids plus hubby are staring at you, with fireplace blazing, as you sweat in a sports bra and shorts, with comments from the peanut gallery like, "wow mom, is that another baby in your belly??" and "oooh look at mama's jiggly belly!!", let's just say I'd prefer to run outside! LOL

  10. Colleen Eve
    February 22, 2011 / 8:37 PM

    I do sit ups while playing on the floor with my daughter. All the time we spend on the floor equals lots of work on Mommy's abs.

  11. Leigh Anne
    February 22, 2011 / 8:41 PM

    My fav workout videos are from Lindsay Brin. Once I get baby STTN, I try to get up a bit earlier than baby and get in a little workout. She is a mom too who has had several kids so that inspires me. My abs were more toned after 2 kids and her videos than before kids 🙂 Now I'm preggo w/ #3 so I'm looking forward to getting my body back soon!

  12. Stephanie Rawlins
    February 22, 2011 / 8:45 PM

    When we just had one or two kiddos, we did a great deal of hiking. Also pushing the kids in the stroller a mile or so to the park where they can run around while I rest up before pushing them back has been a great work-out, too.

  13. Aymee
    February 22, 2011 / 8:50 PM

    When the weather is nice I put LO in the stroller and take him to the park, which is 20 minutes away walking, he plays for 30 minutes and then we talk a longer walk around the neighborhood, walking is fun! During winter LO and I dance to music, well, I jump and clap while he moves his bear and says "hey!" with the music, lol

  14. Mickey
    February 22, 2011 / 8:51 PM

    before i was pregnant my husband and i traded off days running while the other watched our kiddos.

  15. Kimmer
    February 22, 2011 / 8:55 PM

    Exercise?! Ha! Practically non-existent. When baby was newborn I popped him into the Bjorn and walked on the treadmill in the evenings. That was the best I could do with multiple kids around.

  16. Ashlee
    February 22, 2011 / 9:07 PM

    I make lots of extra trips up & down the stairs carrying one or 2 children.

  17. karen
    February 22, 2011 / 9:42 PM

    I love the writing style of this! Gabulous!I usually pop in a video while the girls are playing. They often try to do the video with me, at least for part of it. I fully confess that my 6-year-old is way better at yoga than I! 🙂

  18. Jamie
    February 22, 2011 / 9:56 PM

    That was hilarious! I see a personal trainer twice a week. I must make an appointment with somebody to make the fitness thing happen.

  19. D & H
    February 22, 2011 / 10:14 PM

    I do yoga during my 12-month-old's morning nap. When he drops his morning nap, I'll do it during independent playtime. I do it every weekday so that it's a habit and so I don't put it off.

  20. Michelle
    February 22, 2011 / 10:22 PM

    I recently decided to have a weekly plan in our home. With a 22 month old & a 7 month old – I am one busy momma! I wake up an hour earlier than the kiddos and get my workout it – typically 30 day shred or p90x. It's draining most days, but the reward will soon come! (or so I hope anyway!)

  21. Sasha
    February 23, 2011 / 1:03 AM

    I use "mama wants her body back" DVDs. I wake up an hr before my DD wakes up and work out to the DVD. there's also a bonus work out on the same DVD – 'mama wants her abs back". there are other dvds too, "mama wants her booty back" is my fav

  22. Ember W
    February 23, 2011 / 1:57 AM

    I put my kids in the jogging stroller and go for a brisk walk. I also count dancing in the living room with my 2 year old as a workout.

  23. britneytai
    February 23, 2011 / 2:00 AM

    I have a 21 month old daughter and a nearly 5 month old daughter. Both love to be held (arm/core/back strength). The oldest loves to dance with me (all over workout). And we do this thing where I lay down on my back and let her "fly like a birdy" on my feet, which is a good leg and ab workout. For a while I was doing the "put the paci back in baby's mouth every time it falls out during a nap" routine (NO MORE!) so I would get a great workout walking back and forth from the play room to her bedroom.

  24. Kelly Ford
    February 23, 2011 / 2:31 AM

    I DONT exercise! Which is why i NEED the book! lol.Um, in all seriousness, i'm 6 months preggo with baby #2 and after work, i pretty much come home to take care of our 21 month old DD and then after shes in bed around 7:15, i am almost zombie like on the couch until bedtime. I know… i thought the 2nd trimester was supposed to bring more energy, too!?!But this little guy is just sucking all my energy. So this book would be great 🙂

  25. The Wettstein Family
    February 23, 2011 / 2:54 AM

    Love you Char! Planning on reading the book!! I find that leaving home to workout just doesn't get done! So I pop in a video while the baby is sleeping or jump on the elliptical and hold her while she's crying. She likes that. I can't get more than 20-30 minutes in before I'm needed… for now.

  26. twinsx3
    February 23, 2011 / 3:13 AM

    I do Jillian Michaels Shred It while helping my kids do homework in the evenings. 30 minutes is all I can work in at this point in my life :)[email protected]

  27. The Kairdolfs: Lucas, Lori, & Layla
    February 23, 2011 / 3:43 AM

    Stroller Strides! The kids come along and are required to stay in the stroller. For an hour 3 times a week I get to talk to other moms about anything! Most importantly my children see me make myself and exercise a priority. I love watching her later trying to repeat our stretches or get in plank position to work her abs:)

  28. Aubrey Jane
    February 23, 2011 / 4:06 AM

    I go on walks and jogs with a jogging stroller, walk with my son in a baby carrier, do short workouts like Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred while he is napping or during independent play, a couple times a week he plays at the gym daycare while I exercise and I go to yoga in the evenings after he is in bed. My husband and I are excited for warmer weather so that we can go on hikes and bike rides as a family! P.S. My son thinks it's hilarious when I dance. I love the Wii Just Dance game and when he was smaller I would strap him in the Baby Bjorn and dance away :). Thanks for the great post!

  29. Andy-Sarah Jackson
    February 23, 2011 / 4:12 AM

    Great suggestions and love the humor! My 3 girls under 2 yrs and I live off workout dvds and walks since dragging 3 little ones to the gym would be a wicked form of torture for mom! Now that my 2 toddlers are older, they have become very into mimicking mommy so they add extra resistance to all my workouts..my how Jillian & Bob would be proud! Also having next to no tv time is a great way to keep you and your little ones active!

  30. The Aussie Mommy
    February 23, 2011 / 10:06 AM

    DVDs at 5am… and swimming/walking/parking with the kiddo! 🙂

  31. The GreenRoom Girl
    February 23, 2011 / 1:00 PM

    The BOB has become our new best friend. He sleeps, I burn calories! Win-win-win!!

  32. Kristin and Adam Salvia
    February 23, 2011 / 4:10 PM

    I run on the treadmill while baby is napping or we take a walk around the neighborhood together in the jogging stroller when the weather is nice!

  33. amber
    February 23, 2011 / 4:43 PM

    Once my husband gets home from school and we get our daughter in bed I go to the gym to workout. Sometimes I go before she's in bed and it's a nice time for my husband to have some time with his daughter. 🙂

  34. Marthalynn
    February 23, 2011 / 6:21 PM

    I DVR workouts off of the channel FitTV. Most are 30 minutes, but by the time I fast forward through the commercials, they're around 20 minutes. They are surprisingly effective and fun! My favorite part is that there is a huge variety of workouts so I never get bored.

  35. Great Googely Moogely
    February 23, 2011 / 9:04 PM

    This sounds helpful and fun (and funny). Would love to win a copy!

  36. Kristy Powers
    February 23, 2011 / 9:36 PM

    When the older guy is at preschool, I take the toddler in our jogging stroller. When they're both home, I run around after them in the backyard for a few minutes. We dance. Then add in housework and all those meal prep-and-serves and I'm sweating! For some reason my little one gets upset if I'm down on the floor doing an exercise DVD…so that can only happen in the wee hours. I like seeing what everyone else does!

  37. One Mother's Kitchen
    February 23, 2011 / 10:50 PM

    Exercise is what happens between the hours of 7am and 7pm every day with 3 under 4. Seriously the days that my firefighter-hubby's at work end in enough muscle soreness as it is. That said, I'd still be very interested in seeing how I can be doing exercise better. 😉

  38. Alexis
    February 23, 2011 / 10:52 PM

    Once a week I got to a weight lifting class with some girlfriends. My dear hubby does bedtime and gets some alone time with baby and I get a night out and a firmer bum! We both win! We make it fun and gab all class often getting scolded by the instructor but it gets us out of the house and back into shape.I also try to walk the dog at least once a day weather permitting. When My baby was younger I would time this walk to be one of her morning naps or the later afternoon nap. Now that she is 1 year we use it as part of her wake time.

  39. Emily
    February 23, 2011 / 10:57 PM

    I love getting outdoors if at all possible…hikes, walks,etc. It's even better if someone comes with me to keep it from getting boring.

  40. Kylee
    February 24, 2011 / 4:47 AM

    We go running with the BOB jogger…we have the weather cover which keeps him nice a toasty on cold days. He loves riding along (although he generally is snoozing by the end) and I love getting out in the fresh air.

  41. Kristy
    February 24, 2011 / 6:35 AM

    Get up before baby, I only have one. Go on walks when it's not snowing. Biggest loser last chance workout DVD. And yoga while baby has tummy time! That's my fave.

  42. Amanda
    February 24, 2011 / 8:44 PM

    I joined Stroller Strides so I could work out with other moms and take the kids!

  43. mikeandnat
    February 24, 2011 / 10:26 PM

    I workout while my daughter is in her jumper. I also chase her around the house. She loves running and it's good for me too.

  44. Lorri
    February 24, 2011 / 11:17 PM

    I get up in the morning before my two little ones do. I've got the motto-if you want something badly enough, you'll find a way, if not, you'll find excuses.I really believe its time we as mothers stop using our little ones as excuses for not taking care of ourselves. They should be the REASON we take the time for 'me' time. I can tell, on the days I don't workout that I am more irritable and cranky. My body has MORE energy when I workout.Right now I'm doing Beachbody Chalean Extreme while training for a half marathon in June. It can be done, I'm doing it. I have a 2 year old and an 8 month old and have a body that looks better than it did in highschool. I don't sacrifice naps or time spent with them or the husband and I feel GREAT!

  45. Jill
    March 4, 2011 / 1:30 AM

    I pull the children around the neighborhood in the wagon. Together they weigh 70 lbs!! So I pull them for 1 mile and it is an excellent work-out!! ~JillBoydFamily at pobox dot com

  46. Robin
    March 4, 2011 / 11:42 AM

    To get exercise, we go for daily walks with either the stroller or the wagon. I also get exercise by simply playing with my 20 month old =)

  47. Plowmanators
    March 7, 2011 / 7:09 PM

    Thank you to everyone for posting your ways of exercising while being a mom! Char and I greatly enjoyed reading them, and I am excited to try some of these methods out!

  48. Plowmanators
    March 9, 2011 / 7:40 PM

    Lorri, I love your thoughts!

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