I’ve received a few questions about how to find time for fitness when you have small children. It can feel impossible to get to the gym and stick to a routine. As fitness is the foundation of making improvements to our lives as men, it’s a challenge that I want to help you meet head-on.
In this article, you will read how to maintain a fitness routine as a father with small children, no matter your situation (barring medical issues/injuries, etc.). Most of them can be done in your house or in your backyard. The most important part of this is not just the exercise, but also the bonding potential that is here. Make memories. Engage your children.
For the sake of action, let’s get to it!
I never thought I would be an advocate for this as I have an irrational fear of dancing in front of people, but small children have seemingly boundless energy. Bouncing around and laughing to multiple songs with your toddlers (or more gently while holding your baby) can really tire you out. This cardio activity is a great conditioning option. It’s also just plain fun. Your kids will love it, especially if their mom’s involved, too. And as a bonus for including your wife or partner, the fun continues after the children’s bedtime.
Take them on a hike.
Aside from the benefits of getting your kids into nature, going on a hike that suits your family’s needs (not too easy, not too hard, most likely) will definitely tire you out. The fresh air, the muscles firing in your legs, carrying your children when they get tired, or having a baby strapped to your chest– it’s going to get you eventually. I can’t even begin to address the physical and mental health benefits this activity holds for your family. Be sure to be prepared– first aid kit, cell phone, food, water, and other hiking supplies you may need. Choose the trail wisely. Make sure it suits your family and is safe.
Utilize HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training).
The basic definition of this is to do short periods of intense exercise followed by short periods of rest, or active rest. It makes your body work harder in less time. The magic of this is that it can be done anywhere, finished quickly, and still wreck you. It’s typically body-weight, so no equipment needed. Take 15 minutes, 3 times a week for this and you will see some serious improvement in conjunction with a healthy diet and strength training.
Teach your kids to love to hate burpees.
There’s a funny meme out there that says, “How many burpees can you do?” and the reply is “All of them”. We all love to hate burpees. They are a total body exercise that blast you. There’s a reason the Spartan Race uses 30 of them as a punishment when you fail an obstacle. It’s truly intense. I taught my two sons to do these, and they love it. The jumping is fun for them, especially seeing me do it. Squats are another fun thing for them, too. Try it and see (do your pushups, chest to the ground).
Wrestle with your children.
This is the quintessential father-son bonding experience. Every kid loves to roughhouse with their father. It’s the ultimate challenge. The son wants to enter the arena and go toe-to-toe with the Titan that is Daddy, to see what he is made of. Seeing his own strength grow over time while locked in laughter-inducing combat with you will grow his confidence, physical strength, security in his masculinity, and his connection with you . Don’t underestimate your sons. They’ll tire you out and jump on your face. My sons are both 50 pound cannonballs, and they know how to wrestle.
Use your children’s body-weight to your advantage.
Give them long piggybacks. Hold them in your arms while doing squats. Hold their arms and legs and do rows (if they’re a little older and their joints are stronger). Put them over your shoulder and do walking lunges. Hold them and do heavy carries. Curl their body-weight. There are so many options for this. They’ll have fun, too. My kids thinks it’s hysterical. You can do this as a family, too.
They bike, you run alongside them.
You can’t tell me this isn’t a good one.
Alternate gym sessions with your wife.
You go, then she goes. Or maybe she goes out for a coffee or something on her own while you watch the kids and then you get your time. It’s important not to let resentment build or cause a rift– you get to go to work and interact with the adult world, and she may not get that. It’s a give and take. Fitness is important, but so is your wife’s well-being. If you’re interested in learning how to maintain your relationship and your wife’s happiness once a baby is born, check out this article.
It may not always be what you want, but there are options available to you for maintaining your fitness. It’s easy to let yourself go a bit when you’re a father to young kids. It’s important to set the example early in your children’s lives–fitness and healthy eating, healthy habits, less screen time, more nature, more movement, and especially, above all, spending time actually together and engaged as a family. Shed the excuses, men. Get it done.
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