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How to Get Fit (and strong) at a Toddler’s Pace

by Karen Ung
Like many moms, I do not have the luxury of a nanny or parents to watch the kids while I work out. I have always had to plan to exercise with my kids in tow. With Baby #1, I lost the baby weight in 10 months because I was pushing her in a stroller up hills and all over the neighborhood. After Baby #2, it was nigh impossible to get any real exercise. My oldest wanted to propel herself – hurrah! – but she walked soooo slowly. How do you burn any calories going short distances at that pace? By making the most of it: look at all the flowers, leaves, bugs and birds along the way; do some on-the-go exercises*; or put your kid on a balance bike. (Once your little one is good on a balance bike, you’ll be able to jog to the park!)
Baby loved to hike since she started walking!
Some parents give up and a) don’t walk anywhere or b) throw their kid in a stroller, but both of those options only delay the day your child will be able to do decent day hikes at a decent pace. Work workouts into your daily life and it will be good for the whole family. Our patience was rewarded when my oldest turned four and managed several 8 km hikes.  Now five years old, she could go further, but we choose to keep the hiking distances moderate (4 – 8 km) to give our 3 year old a chance to do most of the hike before being carried. Combination hike and bike trips (where you bike part of the way and hike part of the way) have also been a huge success allowing us to go further faster.
*On the Go Exercises
If you have limited opportunities to work out, do some on-the-go exercises. En route to/from your destination, try any of the following a few times a week for at least 20 minutes:
  • bum kicks – try to get your heel right up to your bum
  • march – lift your knees as high as possible
  • grapevines – jog sideways crossing one foot in front of the other; start slow so you don’t trip!
  • skip – without a skipping rope (save the skipping rope for when you are staying in one place)
  • hop on one foot, then on the other
  • walking lunges
  • squat jumps
I promise these on-the-go exercises will get your heart pumping. Who cares if people look at you funny for marching down the sidewalk? They will be looking at you with envy when they see how good you look after getting all toned and sunkissed.
Racing your child or playing tag will get your little one running, but depending on her coordination, you could see some skinned knees and palms. I prefer to let my kids run on grass at a park or field.
Stuck In One Place Exercises
At the playground or in your back yard, if the kids are engaged in safe play and not requiring your assistance (i.e. making “rabbit stew” with rocks and pinecones), try some stationary exercises such as:
  • Busy Parent Fitness Challenge workouts
  • running on the spot
  • step ups
  • skipping (with or without a rope)
  • pull ups on monkey bars
Equipment Needed
A park bench or picnic table works great for tricep dips and step ups. For other exercises, you may wish to bring an exercise mat or (clean) small, padded diaper change pad. The change pad is just big enough to cushion my hands when I do pushups and fits in a small backpack.
Ultimately, do what works for you and have fun! I would encourage you to do the Busy Parent Fitness Challenge in addition to on the go exercises (cardio). Cardio will complement the strength building exercises you are doing in the fitness challenge, burn fat, and enhance muscle tone.

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