Spring is in the air, and I can’t be the only person who feels energetic and ready to take up some sort of regular exercise. But time is short and classes are expensive, and who wants to spend their precious free time away from their home and sofa? Then it occurred to me: Aren’t I doing all my exercising during the day anyway? Properly organized and utilized, looking after small children can match any other sport in intensity. Plus, it’s all free! Here are a few ideas to get you started. (If you don’t have any children of your own, ask your neighbors, friends or acquaintances. They will probably lend you theirs quite willingly.)
- Take your child to a playground. If, in the past, you have felt envious of parents sitting on benches, chatting to each other and ignoring their children, now is your chance to make the best of the clingy child you have at your disposal. Direct the child towards a slide, and lift them onto the third step of the ladder. Hold while the child voices their fears/anger/resentment. Gently push child upwards. Coax onto slide and down, cheer, smile lovingly. Repeat 14 times. Exercises: Upper arms, back, facial muscles.
- Encourage your children to develop their own games based on their favourite cartoons. Playing Thomas the Tank Engine is surprisingly easy: Bend down to hold the smaller child’s shoulders and walk in circles together, shouting “Tooot! TOOOT!” Pass the sofa, where the bigger/heavier child is waiting. Stop and let bigger child jump on your back. Continue the journey with both children. Don’t forget the sound effects. Repeat 21 times. Exercises: Upper back, lower back, shoulders, hips, thighs, cardio.
- Empty a jar of marbles on the floor. Make sure the only orange marble rolls under a heavy piece of furniture. Toddlers love orange. Recover the orange marble before toddler hysterics reach critical mass. Exercises: Tummy, back, upper arms, shoulders, ears.
- Ask a tall family member or friend to store all emergency chocolate on a high shelf. Lose an orange marble/car/hat/hair clip/sweet wrapper. Use your gross motor skills and practical intelligence to reach emergency chocolate before toddler tantrum. Exercises: Back, upper arms, thighs, cardio. Additional muscle toning in shin area, due to impact from hastily moved chair.
- Take your child swimming. Spend the next 40 minutes with your arms outstretched to keep deadweight child afloat. Don’t forget to bend your legs so as not to expose too much of your upper body to the freezing air. Enjoy the warm fuzzy feeling in your toes when your feet start going numb. Remember: Under no circumstances are you allowed to swim anywhere without your child, who is afraid of drowning and getting their face wet. Exercises: Upper back, lower back, arms, thighs.
- Wake your school-age child 15 minutes before it’s time to leave the house in the morning. Drag them out of bed and into their clothes. Older children will be more asleep (weight training), younger children will struggle more (muscle toning/speed). Adjust training objectives accordingly. Exercises: Cardio.
- Encourage your children to help you with the gardening. Then spend an hour digging a new flowerbed with a child-sized spade whilst telling them how much fun gardening can be. Exercises: Lower back, upper back, upper arms.
- Wash your toddler’s hands. To do this, it will be necessary to wedge the toddler between you and the sink (standing them on your knees). Extend their arms slowly but firmly ignore all screaming. Exercises: Upper arms, wrists, tummy, thighs.
- Tell your children you’re out of pink/orange yogurts. Run. Exercises: Legs, cardio.