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Busy Parent Fitness Challenge: Start Here

by Karen Ung
Getting outside is easy, but finding time to workout with small children is easier said than done. When the girls were portable, I used to push them in a stroller or tow them in the bike trailer and was stronger than ever. Things changed when they started self propelling at their own pace. Although I didn’t gain much weight, I could see my body getting flabbier and flabbier as the months went on. I started carrying a skipping rope to the playground, but jumping was dangerous unless I wanted to invest in boxes of Depends (adult diapers). Same for running on the spot or jumping jacks.
It’s slow going when they’re little, but how cute is this?
My husband always does strength training on the playground equipment – pull-ups, for one, but not the toilet training kind – so I decided to do the same; well, almost the same. I modified a lot of the exercises he does or scrapped them altogether. As much as I appreciate the benefit of pull-ups, I just don’t have the upper body strength right now! (Hope to change that.) The kids didn’t like it at first because they were used to having me by their side at the playground, but they adapted, and now let me be for a few minutes because they know that’s all I’ll take. Sometimes, they even do the exercises with me!
The kids love to join in. Here they are attempting Downward Facing Dog.
I started researching exercises for different muscle groups, and found that I could target one area (upper body, core, or lower body) with 3 exercises in about 15-20 minutes. From there, the Busy Parent Fitness Challenge was born. All the exercises can be done without any special equipment. You may, however, wish to bring a yoga mat to the park or playground if you’re exercising outdoors (and I hope you are!) for your own comfort. I usually improvise and do “mat” exercises on a picnic table or bench since I have sexy grass allergies.
As these exercises are meant to be done in one place, while watching your children, they do not include any cardio. Try to do 20-30 minutes of cardio at least three times a week for your general health. How can you do this? You don’t need to run; walking also counts. If your kids are old enough, let them ride their bikes or scooter to the park and speedwalk or jog alongside. Since my kids started biking, we’ve been able to go further, faster. I love it! Walk or bike your kids to school or errands and stop at a playground on the way.
I have to RUN to keep up with this one! Where are my diapers?

Finally, remember to stretch after your workout. Stretch the exercised muscle group gently and hold each stretch for at least 20 seconds. If you have to forego stretching (cranky kid meltdown), do it when you get home or when you shower. The hot water on your muscles will loosen them up.

You can do this! We will do this! Post up your pictures and comments here, on Twitter @playoutsidegal or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/PlayOutsideGuide. Use hashtag #BusyParentFitnessChallenge. I’d love to hear what’s going well, what areas you’d like to focus on, and what inspires you.

I’m going to post daily for 30 days. What are your near-term fitness goals?

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