By Dr. Kayla Borchers, a Physical Therapist, Pre/Postnatal Corrective Exercise Specialist and mom of two
Hey there, mama! I see you and your lofty goals for the New Year. January is always an exciting time to take stock of our existing lifestyle wellness patterns, and dream of ways we can change such patterns to better support our optimal health and wellbeing.
Perhaps you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed on where to start, though. Just how are these goals going to fit into your family’s existing routine? When can you set time aside for yourself to move? How can you incorporate your family into your exercise goals?
No matter where you are on this goal-setting journey, or which of the above questions you’ve asked yourself, I’m here to help. In this article, I’ll provide insight and guidance on incorporating exercise into your family’s routine in a way that is not stressful or overwhelming.
As a Physical Therapist and Exercise Physiologist, I have over 12 years of experience helping women incorporate exercise into their lifestyle in a way that works for their respective phase in life. As a mom, I’ve found that scheduling time to move is all the more challenging compared to when I only had myself to think about! So, let’s dive into some ways you can incorporate exercise into your family’s routine.
- Make it a Family Affair
This is my favorite option when it works out – though if I’m being honest happens more like twice a month for our family. On weekends when you don’t have any plans for Saturday morning, whip up a healthful breakfast as a family, have some open play time for the kiddos while you and your spouse tidy up the kitchen, then MOVE.
We have a small workout area in our basement. Nothing fancy: a few yoga mats, a variety of dumbbells and some resistance bands to add external loading. We then press play on either a Nike Training App workout or Unmeasured workout (link: https://www.movementunmeasured.com?ref=kaylaborchers) to move together. These are both minimal-cost options. Both utilize family friendly language thus I feel comfortable having our kiddos listen in and join as they want.
Our two kiddos are in this space with us. Our Preschooler has a mat she loves to roll out too. (PS – a kid’s yoga mat is a great gift to empower your child to move with you!). She doesn’t do every move, but will join in for a few and then go play with her brother (age 1) with whatever he’s getting into! We don’t encourage nor discourage her in terms of exercise at this age. Rather, it’s us modeling movement and her finding joy in wanting to do what mommy and daddy are doing! This makes working out together so much fun, and doesn’t take away from family time but rather enhances it.
Other times, my husband and I create our own circuits dependent on what we have or have not exercised that week. For instance, we have an upcoming Ski Trip. Thus, I talk us through a variety of posterior chain, lateral movement and single leg exercises to more optimally prep our bodies for this upcoming trip! Other times, we’ll choose to do different exercises than one another but are moving in the same space at the same time. This allows connection and bonding time as a family while both meeting your goal of adding exercise into your weekly routine.
- Sprinkle Movement Throughout Play Time
This is the option I do most often in this phase of my life! Four out of seven days a week I am home with my children. On these days, I mindfully incorporate exercise when my children are playing.
Let’s say your kiddos are engrossed in their MagnaTiles and playing fairly independently. This would be a time I either stay in the same room or go in another room and begin an exercise circuit. Here’s some moves that are easy to do anywhere, and of which you can quickly pause and help out a kiddo in need:
- Squats (double leg, single leg)
- Lunges (forward, reverse, lateral)
- Standing leg lifts (front, side, back)
- Single Leg Romanian Deadlift
- Single Leg Balance
- Heel Raises (double leg, single leg)
- Bird / Dog
- Cat / Cow
- Side Plank
- Upward Facing Dog
- Downward Facing Dog
- Sidelying leg lifts (top leg, bottom leg)
- Child’s Pose
These all require zero equipment and could be performed for three repetitions or fifteen repetitions, depending on how you are feeling and the duration of which you are able to move. I typically do 10-15 repetitions of a given exercise and pick three exercises for a given body region. For instance, one day you can pick core as your area of focus. Pick three core-based exercises and move through those as your kiddos play. Maybe you get through one round of each and then your kiddos need some assistance. Take a deep breath, pause your movement routine, and go interact with your children. Later in the day your children may be napping, you could then do a second and third round of those same three core moves.
See how that adds a lot of flexibility to your exercise routine? It’s imperative to let go of perfection here and to be okay with those interruptions!
- Move while Holding your Little One
This is another family favorite, especially when my babies are within their first 18 months of life. Little ones love to be close to their mother. You can wrap your infant against you with a Solly Wrap or a more sturdy infant carrier for littles age 6-18 months. Then, move! This allows for bonding time with your baby and a boost of endorphins for mama.
You of course need to be mindful when wearing your baby of which moves you are doing, ensuring you are not in any way placing your infant in harm’s way.
Some of my favorites while baby wearing:
- Barre-based movements in standing (can hold onto your kitchen counter)
- Reverse Lunges
- Hip Hinge (hand on baby’s head for additional support)
Another great option in the infant age-range is to have your baby do tummy time while you do the same! I have a great resource on my blog (link: https://drkaylaborchers.com/rebuilding-safe-foundation-exercise-postpartum/) for some postural exercises you can do while on the floor next to your little one.
- Arise Before the Kiddos
Depending on the age of your littles, this may be optimal or less than optimal for you. Listen to what feels most aligned within each season of life and adjust accordingly as you and your family’s schedule does, too.
For me, this one is an ideal-case-scenario, yet at this phase of life is quite hard for me to incorporate. As someone who was always at 6 a.m. workout classes and enjoyed starting my day this way, it was hard to let go of when motherhood had other plans. There are seasons when I am able to get back into this, though with breastfeeding and various awakenings with littles ones through the night it can be challenging. This is your invitation to let go of the way things used to be and to embrace what works best for you now.
If you have older kiddos or little ones with schedules that align with early morning at-home or in-studio workouts, good for you! It’s a great way to start the day on the right note, and can set the tone for healthful choices throughout your day. Set a schedule and stick to it the best you can, giving yourself grace when there are inevitably days that you have to switch it up depending on your family’s schedule.
Now go crush those goals, mama!
In closing, I hope these recommendations help alleviate some of the overwhelm when working towards any exercise goals in the New Year (or anytime, for that matter!). My other piece of advice around incorporating exercise into your family’s routine is to start slow and build up. You don’t want to hit the ground running and then burn out. Slow and steady, add on to the time you incorporate exercise each week. Over time, it will feel like an automatic habit that is part of your regular lifestyle in a fun, attainable and achievable way!
If you’re not sure where to start or hit any pain points along the way (literally) – please don’t hesitate to reach out! I love to help active families thrive, and a big part of that is evaluating which movement patterns will most optimally support you through each season of life.