By Jessica Moffat-Brozincevic, BSc, CSEP-CPT, PSP Ottawa Fitness –
If there is one constant, daily reminder of where our fitness levels might be, it’s kids. Not only do they seem to have endless energy at all hours of the day (5 a.m. AND 7 p.m.) and the mobility of an Olympic gymnast from birth (how do they squat to the floor like that and stay there?), but they also have the annoying agility of a cat when it comes to outrunning you at bath time. Whether it’s getting up off the floor after playing with a baby during tummy time, chasing after a toddler in the grocery store, or playing airplane with your 5-year-old for the hundredth time, activities with children have the nagging ability of bringing to light our physical weaknesses; aches and pains that remind us we’re not 18 anymore.
As a Fitness Instructor, I am very in tune with how my body is feeling, moving and working. I know what I need to do daily to maintain and improve my overall physical fitness. As a mother, however, putting that knowledge into practice is a completely different story (wait, thinking about it isn’t enough?). I have three beautiful children ages 8, 5 and 2, and as you can imagine, home life can be extremely hectic. I can easily relate to how life can get in the way and how priorities change when children come into the picture. During my first maternity leave, I had a huge wake-up call in terms of where my fitness landed on my list of “things to do” (if it made it on there at all). Giving birth to a baby can wreak havoc on your body and coming back from that is no joke. As a parent (dads included), dealing with sleepless nights, work, school homework, meals… fitness often gets pushed aside, and understandably so. It doesn’t seem to matter as much as the chores that absolutely need to be done by tomorrow morning; it can wait another day. Unfortunately, “another day” generally turns into next week, which turns into next month and next thing you know, it’s six months later and you’re frustrated with how you haven’t been able to find 30 minutes in a day for yourself.
As a parent, I’ve learned that you need to get creative in order to get your training time in. The good news is, there are several ways of doing that without sacrificing your parental duties. You can even get your kids involved, which I’ve learned can be very fun and entertaining for both! The playground is a perfect spot for this type of workout. Look at it as your own personal outdoor gym.
Below is a list of exercises you can do basically anywhere you have some space, regardless of your fitness level. The most important thing is to get moving! You don’t need any weight or equipment for these exercises but feel free to add some for an extra challenge (who needs a dumbbell when you have a 30lbs-toddler at your disposal?) Sometimes, just taking part in your child’s activity is challenging enough. If they’re old enough, you can challenge them to do the same workout, which is why I gave each exercise a superhero name. Not only will you start to feel better, but you will also be teaching your kids the importance of maintaining their physical fitness without having to sacrifice quality time spent with them.
Air Squats (Superhero Jumps) x 10
- Standard squats, feet shoulder width apart, weight on the midfoot (evenly distributed between the heel and the balls of the foot). Shift the hips backward as if you were going to sit on a chair placed behind you. Lower yourself to a 90 degree bend in your knee and come back up to standing. Keep your back straight and chest up as much as possible. To increase the intensity, you can add weight (hold a child in front of you at chest height), you can add in a shoulder press at standing (raise child above your head), or add in a jump at the top of the movement (without child).
Lunges (Thor Steps) x 10 (5 each leg)
- Large step forward, lower your hips towards the ground (90 degree bend in front knee). Ensure that the weight on the front foot remains between the heel and the forefoot. Your weight should not shift over your toes and your heel should remain on the ground (don’t lean too far forward). Come back to standing position and repeat on the other side. To increase the intensity, you can add weight (child) or add a jump instead of standing and switch feet in the air (split jumps).
Step-Ups (Wonder Woman Stairs) x 10 (5 each leg)
- Find a bench or large step in the playground. When you place your foot on the bench, your knee should not be higher than your hip. Step up onto the bench and lower yourself back to the ground with the same leg. Switch feet and repeat on the other side. To increase the intensity, you can add weight or you can add a jump at the top of the movement and switch feet in the air, coming down on the other leg.
Chin-Ups (Hulk Pulls) x 5-10
- Find an overhead bar on the playground with enough head room to pull yourself up and over. Hang off the bar with the palms of your hands facing you. Keeping elbows close to your body, pull yourself up until your chin comes over the bar. If you can’t pull yourself up, you can lower the intensity by using a step to start above the bar, and slowly lower yourself down under control. Use the step to get back up and repeat.
Push-Ups (Spidermans) x 10
- Standard push up. In plank position on your toes and hands with hands under your shoulders. Squeezing your elbows in (don’t have to squeeze them all the way in, but engage your back muscles, pulling your shoulder blades down and back). Lower your chest to the ground (hover) and push back up. If your hips drop or reach the ground before your chest, you can lower the intensity by using your knees as your pivot point instead of your feet or you can place your hands on a bench or step to create an incline.
Monkey Bars (Tarzan Swings) x as far as you can
- Hang on the first bar, swing your body in order to grab the second bar, repeat with the other side until you’ve made your way all the way to the end. If you can, come back to the start. If you fall off, jump back up (if you can) or take a break and restart.
Plank (Supermans) x 30sec-1min
- Using your hands (or forearms) and toes as your points of contact with the ground, raise your hips until you’ve created a straight line from your feet to the top of your head. Hold the position for as long as you can (keep those hips up). To lower the intensity, use your knees as your contact point instead of your feet. To increase the intensity, try to raise one hand, or one foot, or both (opposite hand and foot). You can also place your hands/forearms on a swing seat for some instability, challenge your core!
Glute Bridge (Black Widow Raises) x 20
- Lying on the ground with knees bent and soles of the feet on the ground, raise your hips as high as they will go by squeezing your bum cheeks (glutes). Make sure that your knees keep pointing forward (don’t let them fall out to the side). Lower your hips back down to the ground under control. Repeat. Can increase the intensity by raising one knee and pushing up on one foot. Ensure to alternate sides.
Sprints (The Flash Run) x 5 sprints
- Here is a great opportunity to race your child. Choose a distance you are comfortable with and that is long enough to generate your top speed. It can be as simple as throwing a ball and racing your child to go and get it. You can also just pick a starting and end point (tree or post) and race your child from one end to the other. Take a small break in between (30sec-1min) and repeat. Have fun with it and get creative.
Stairs (Captain America Run) x 30 secs
- Remember racing up the stairs of the slide and racing down the slide as fast as you could as a kid? Well here’s your chance to be a kid again. Find a set of stairs or a slide, run up the stairs and back down, repeat as many times as you can for 30 seconds. Take a minute break and repeat. Challenge your child! Have fun with it!
Try and complete three rounds (sets) of minimum five exercises. Good luck and have fun!
For more information on these exercises and tailored fitness programming, please log on to DFIT.ca for families.
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