Working out can be hard with a baby. Finding the time is a major challenge, even when you’re home all day like me. Keeping baby happy/asleep/distracted. Oh and motivation when you are always tired? Yeah – a serious challenge. It is possible though and I’m going to share a few quick tips for how I get my workouts done 6 days a week with an almost-4-month-old at home!
(So just a quick mention of the workout program I am currently following: since 7 weeks postpartum, I’ve been doing Brittany Lesser’s 1Hera. I started off with her postpartum program and just recently switched over to Body After Baby. I absolutely LOVE this workout program. 1) It’s affordable (13$ USD/month and only a bit more for Canadians like me); 2) It can be done at home (which everyone is doing right now as a result of COVID), but also at the gym for future reference; 3) It’s flexible – you can take days off and do the workout on different days, Brittany offers modifications in the program as well to suit your needs; 4) It can easily be fit into your day (especially if you follow the home workouts or even do a mix when gyms open back up!). Anyways, I am not being paid to say this I just genuinely LOVE this program and I think more women should be doing it. I did her pregnancy guide (pre-1Hera era) while I was pregnant and was so happy that she released 1Hera at the end of my pregnancy so I could keep going (1Hera also has pregnancy programming – amazing!). Anyways – onto my tips for working out at home with a baby.)
1. Motivate yourself to get the job done and carve out some time in your day.
This is the HARDEST part. Time and motivation, two key components to a good workout and the most difficult two things to find, especially as a new parent.
Time can be shared with baby’s play time or nap time. I prefer play because I find I get a more guaranteed stretch of time when Maggie is awake and happy to workout vs. her sporadic nap times. That being said, your baby may consistently nap for an hour or more in one period – this is an excellent time to workout too. You have to work with your baby’s schedule to find a good time. I like to workout between meals but not too soon after eating (but also not too long after so that I’m getting hungry) – again, this is totally preference based.
Motivation is easier for me to find earlier in the day, but everyone is different. Some people thrive on evening workouts. I try to mix it up since I’m at home and because I’ll eventually have to transition to evening workouts when I return to work. Whatever works for you and baby is good. I am not a scale person – I have found that my weight doesn’t usually reflect how I feel about myself. Pre-pregnancy I was in the best shape of my life, but I had a lot of muscle and therefore my weight was higher than what I was used to. I personally love progress pictures, especially because a few months later you can look back and compare then to now. I find THIS is a lot more reflective *for me* of body changes and it’s also very motivating.
Another thing that might motivate you is finding a workout you enjoy – I mentioned 1Hera above but you can do any workout. I actually do different types of workouts in the week – I do 1Hera about 3-4 days a week, yoga 2 days a week (one with Maggie and one on my own which I do in the evening after my salsa class), and Maggie and I do a mommy&baby salsa class one day as well (she goes in the carrier so it KICKS MY BUTT)! We also walk a ton – if we go on a really long walk, I usually count that as a workout too. Working out doesn’t have to be painful and boring – it can be whatever you want it to be. If you like weights, do that. If you like running, do that. Find a class online. These things can be done with your baby around (by following some of the suggestions below or by baby wearing), or by including your baby (jogging strollers!).
Walking is an excellent form of exercise and it’s peaceful and enjoyable for you and baby. You can use your regular stroller and it doesn’t require ANYTHING fancy or additional. Social distancing must be practiced right now, but it doesn’t mean you can’t get out and enjoy the fresh air. I highly recommend including a walk in each day weather and schedule permitting. Even if it’s just a quick one, I guarantee you’ll feel good and it will help you feel motivated to go the next day or try something else new and exciting to get exercise!
2. Deal with baby’s needs before you do you.
What do you mean? Aren’t we always dealing with baby’s needs?
While yes, that is part of being a parent. What I mean here is tend to baby’s immediate needs before you set yourself up to workout, otherwise you are bound to have frequent interruptions. Feed your baby, change their diaper and if they’re tired – even put them down for a nap! If your baby is content (or asleep, even better) it’s a lot easier to get a workout done or to at least start one.
3. Set up a workout space where you can see baby.
Whether this is by monitor for naps or by sight if they’re awake. I usually work out when Maggie is awake so I like to set up an area for her to lay down – if I workout in the basement she has her playmat and I bring some toys down; if I workout on the main floor then I either sit her in the Mamaroo or lay some blankets down on the floor. Babies love to watch you so if they’re awake for your workout it’s good if you can put them nice and (safely) close to you within visual & talking distance! If baby is asleep you can set your monitor up somewhere it’s easy for you to frequently check – especially if you have headphones on and might miss any noises!
4. Give baby something to do (if they’re awake).
As I mentioned, I always bring some toys for Maggie to play with. A great one right now for us at just about 4 months is a little mirror as she loves to lay on her tummy and talk to that strange baby she sees in the reflection. Literally any toy your baby likes works. They like to watch you but they may also want to put something in their mouth or play with something as they do this.
5. Play music aloud!
I don’t wear headphones when I do home workouts because I like to be able to hear everything and since I’m (usually) home alone on maternity leave it allows me to hear the dogs barking, any strange noises in my house, or someone knocking on the door. I use Alexa or one of our other various bluetooth speakers to play music instead. This also allows me to talk to and hear Maggie’s various noises so I can better anticipate a potential meltdown. As they taught me in Girl Guides – Be Prepared!
Sometimes you may have to compromise on your music choice though… if I know Maggie is starting to get fussy it’s time for some music she likes. Right now that is Baby Shark. On repeat. Forever.
6. Do any rep counts aloud.
You don’t have to do this the whole time because it can be very exhausting to speak and workout at the same time, however I find it helpful when M is starting to look bored. Plus it’s almost like a learning opportunity for them – basic numbers, right?! You’re doing the job of an annoying electronic baby toy and you’re doing it for free! Maggie loves listening to me count I have no idea why – probably just because she loves listening to me talk. Sometimes, depending on what I’m doing, I add in hand motions too! It makes your workout extra challenging so you’re actually pushing yourself more – an added bonus of potential extra calories burned.
7. Interact with baby between sets – I like to dance!
I talk to Maggie during and between sets when she starts to look like she’s getting a bit bored of watching me, but I also dance between sets! It’s a form of cardio to keep my heart pumping, and it keeps her entertained. Dance like nobody’s watching, except somebody is watching but don’t worry, they aren’t judging you. I think.
8. Don’t feel bad if you need to take a break or end your workout to tend to baby’s needs.
I have paused my workouts before – literally, on my Fitbit, to feed M. I don’t get bummed about it. Being a mom (or a dad) our #1 priority is baby, and that fact remains during a workout too. I do whatever she needs and come back to my workout once she’s back to baseline or asleep.
That being said there are days where she doesn’t go back to calmness. That’s ok too. I always think to myself “doing something is better than having done nothing!”. Even if I get 1/2 way through a workout or hey, even if I get 1 exercise in and just can’t return to it because Maggie’s going through a growth spurt and is cranky or only wants to be in my arms… I’m ok with that. You need to practice acceptance in these situations. No day is perfect, especially in parenting.
Pat yourself on the back for having found the motivation to even start a workout, and if you can’t finish, just know there is tomorrow or the next day or the day after that to try again. Happy workouts everyone!