I’ve recently received a handful of emails asking about how I find time to exercise with a baby so I figured I’d share a glimpse into what I’ve done over the past year to get back into my routine.
There’s no question that exercising with a baby is a challenge. A big challenge.
It takes more planning, thought, and strategizing than I ever imagined.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past year it’s that everything is a season and everything is phase. Babies change so much in the first year. Therefore, I’ve had to be open to change myself. Especially when it comes to my daily exercise routine.
My routine with a newborn looked different from my current routine with a 12 month old. And if I would have tried to keep my schedule rigid, based on my newborn baby, there’s a good chance I would have gotten frustrated and thrown in the towel by now.
There’s no doubt it has felt impossible at times.
But in my experience, the key to success is remaining flexible and learning to adapt when your baby has other plans. 🙂
The Newborn Stage
While a sleepy newborn makes exercise easier in many ways (nobody crawling on top of you or pulling glasses out of the cupboard), the adjustment to breastfeeding and frequent feeding schedule can present challenges of it’s own.
Establish A Routine
From the very beginning, I followed an “eat, play, sleep” routine with my daughter.
I knew I would need a routine to keep myself sane and to help me return to work. The thought of not knowing when my baby was going to sleep or eat was incredibly overwhelming to me.
A routine gave me an idea of when B would sleep, eat, and be awake. This gave me an opportunity to plan my workouts for the day.
My general parenting perspective is that taking care of myself and my marriage is the best gift I can give my daughter. That is more important to me than sacrificing everything to ensure that she never cries or wants for anything. Taking care of myself is crucial to my ability to love and care for her well.
Exercise During A Morning Nap
Why a morning nap? To avoid taking 2 showers or going all day feeling dirty and frumpy while you wait for your post-workout shower.
Most newborns nap every 45 minutes (or less). They are sleepy little people and can sleep almost anywhere. Take advantage of this!
I took advantage of her second nap of the day to get out and go for a walk/run while she slept happily in the stroller.
Nurse Immediately Before Exercise
Nursing is the hardest thing to work around in the beginning. There is nothing worse than attempting to run feeling engorged or full of milk.
During the first few months, B was eating every 2 hours which made it tricky to do anything. I fed her when she first woke up (around 7 am), let her play, and then put her down for her first nap.
During that first nap I had a snack and got dressed in my running clothes.
When she woke up (or when I woke her up), I nursed her, which always took about 30 minutes, and then we went out for our walk/run.
Given that she was only awake in 45-minute increments she was ready to sleep again when we finally got out the door.
Exercise During Tummy/Mat Time
The great thing about newborns is they can’t move! So it’s actually a great season for exercising at home.
Lay your little one on his/her play mat while you get down on your mat and do some exercise. Aim for 20-40 minutes and enjoy these immobile baby days. 🙂 Check out The Sisterhood for a community of women and a whole library of at-home workouts to keep you motivated and inspired.
7 months and up
Take Advantage Of Health Club Childcare
Many health clubs offer childcare. It’s usually a very small fee which affords you the luxury of joining an exercise class or having an hour to yourself at the gym. I have yet to take advantage of this but it’s a great option if you belong to a gym.
Exercise During Morning Awake Time
Remember when I talked about the importance of staying flexible?
Around 7 months B transitioned to 2 naps per day. It became increasingly important for me to have her nap in her crib to learn the value of good sleep and a regular routine.
So at that point (and to this day), stroller workouts happen during her morning awake time.
We wake up, eat, play and then head out in the stroller prior to her first nap. It’s nice to get out early and start the day on a healthy note.
I then shower and get ready for the day when she goes down for her morning nap.
Find a Mommy & Me Class
Mommy & Me classes are a great way to exercise, spend time with your baby and bond with other new moms.
Make Use of Nap Time
At 7 months you may still have the opportunity to do at-home Pilates workouts while your little one plays, but the more mobile they become, the harder it gets.
These days, unless I have B in her playpen it is impossible for me to exercise at home while she is awake.
So take advantage of nap time, early mornings and the post-bedtime hours to fit your at-home Pilates workouts in.
Think of it as self-care and “you time” rather than forced exercise and it will become a habit that you love and crave.
After reading this post, it should be pretty clear that exercising with a little one at home isn’t necessarily easy. It takes planning, preparation and flexibility. But with a little thought and strategizing it can be done.
The key is to plan ahead, give yourself grace, change with the seasons and remember that it’s a marathon not a sprint.
A 10 minute walk is better than no walk and five minutes on your mat is better than zero minutes.
Do you have tips that have worked for you? I’d love for you to share them in the comments!