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How to Stay Fit When You're a Stay at Home Parent

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Updated September 18, 2007

One thing I've learned after years of training clients is that trying to squeeze in exercise while staying at home to raise the kids is not easy. Even the best laid plans can be flushed down the drain for any number of reasons. But, it is possible to get some exercise in, even on your busiest day. To prove it, I went straight to the source...my stay at home clients. I was impressed with the ideas they came up with and their creativity. Below are their best tips for staying fit.

Wear Your Workout Clothes All Day

One common issue many of my stay-at-home clients have is finding big chunks of time for workouts. Even trying to hop on the treadmill or do a quick 30-minute video while the kids nap can be tough.

One of my clients, who has two young kids, gets around this by putting on her workout clothes as soon as she gets up. Doing this:

  • Gets you in the mood. Just wearing your workout clothes may motivate you to work harder even if you're just doing chores around the house.
  • Makes workouts easier. You're always ready for a quick workout or walk whenever time allows.
  • Reminds you of your goal to exercise. Wearing your workout clothes is a reminder to get some kind of exercise in, no matter how short.

Make Everything Count

If you find you don't have time for continuous exercise or that you've missed a workout, that doesn't mean you can't get in some activity. Below are some ideas to burn more calories with everyday activities:
  • Run the stairs. One client mentioned adding a few extra laps on the stairs when doing chores or chasing the kids around.
  • Add more walking. A client races through the grocery store to burn extra calories. In the winter, she walks with the kids at the mall.
  • Incorporate strength training. One stay at home dad does pushups with one of his kids on his back. Another client does a lunge every time she bends over to pick up toys or clothes.

It all counts. What ideas can you come up with in your own life?

Have Workout Ideas and Options Ready

Part of staying in shape when you have a hectic schedule is being ready to take advantage of a few minutes here and there. The trouble is, what's the best way to use that time and get the most out of it? Short bouts of exercise can be effective if you work hard enough. One of my clients does these timesaver workouts throughout the week: I have other clients who keep it simple and do body weight exercises (pushups, squats, lunges, etc.) for a minute each followed by a quick run on the treadmill or a staircase. The point is to do something and work hard at it. If you have a plan, you'll be more likely to follow through.

Exercise with the Kids

Now, I know this one isn't easy. After all, I've held a fair share of babies while clients are exercising. But, I've also had kids participating in the workouts and they often have a lot of fun exercising with mom or dad. Some ideas:
  • Include them in the workout. Create rolled-up sock "dumbbells" so they can copy your exercises. Or they can count your reps for you.
  • Take them for walks or bike rides. It is a great way to teach your kids to be active every day.
  • Add some fun to outdoor chores. One client has her kids help her in the yard and they have contests to see who can rake the most leaves or sweep the sidewalk the fastest.

Work with a Personal Trainer

If it's within your budget, consider working with a trainer once a week or once a month in your home. It isn't for everyone, but in-home personal training is convenient and is becoming more common and affordable. My stay at home moms and dads find it's a great way to get workout ideas and stay on track. With an in-home trainer you get:
  • Convenience. The trainer can work around your schedule and you don't have to drive anywhere for an appointment.
  • Customized workouts. You'll get workouts that fit your schedule, goals and equipment and workouts you can do on your own as well.
  • Motivation. It's easier to work hard with a trainer pushing you a little.
If money is an issue, consider doing partner training with a friend to save money.

Involve your Friends and Family

If you have a spouse or family around, you may be able to negotiate some exercise time during the week. Some ideas:
  • Negotiate with your spouse. I have married clients who alternate weeks -- the dad works with me while his wife watches the kids and they switch off for the next week.
  • Take advantage of family. Many of my clients have grandma come over once or twice a week to spend time with the kids so they can get to the gym for a workout.
  • Get to know your neighbors. I have one client who has a deal with her neighbor. They watch each other's kids once a week while the other goes for a run. They also walk together once a week to keep each other motivated.
Not everyone has this kind of support but, if you do, take advantage of it.

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