With the holiday season in full swing, chances are you've already dug into your fair share of sweet treats and goodies... and who has time to burn them off? It's no fun and not easy to pass on the delicious indulgences that beckon and test even the strongest of wills this time of year, but fear not, with an exercise plan in place you can treat yourself and check your guilt at the door. Don't let the kids become your excuse not to work out. Instead, grab those babies and start burning some calories! Here's how you can make time for exercise, even with the busiest of holiday schedules:
1. Rely on your wheels (not the ones on your car).
If you haven't already done so, now is the time to become one with your stroller. It's not just for getting your child from Point A to Point B. It's your ticket to some serious calorie burning. Strap your little one in, keep her content with a snack, a favorite toy, book or an app or video loaded iPhone, and hit the streets, the park, or a local greenway for a run, jog or just a hearty walk. If you'd rather fight crowds than an icy wind, head to the mall for some indoor power walking. If you have an older child who has outgrown the stroller, have her ride alongside on a scooter or her bike. Self magazine offers a handy calculator for determining how many calories you burn while pushing a stroller. Check it out, remembering that you'll burn more if you increase your intensity and the duration:
2. Find a Mommy (or Daddy) and Me Exercise Class
We can thank many industrious, entrepreneurial parents before us for creating countless ways to exercise with kids in an organized, structured environment. If you need the discipline, motivation and company that an exercise class provides, but can't find time away from your kids to attend one, sign up for a parent and child fitness class. There are slews of offerings, especially for urban parents. For instance, in San Francisco you can try out parent and child yoga, such as classes at It's Yoga Kids, and either take a class together at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco or drop the kids at the JCC childcare while you attend a class on your own. In NYC, try a Kids in Sports class or Karma Kids Yoga. There's a great round-up of parent-child classes from New York Family, though they are not all fitness related and not all of them aim to provide true exercise for parents. No matter where you live, there's likely a baby boot camp or Stroller Strides program offering a way for new parents to get together and work out in the company of their little ones.
3. Host an active play date with a friend and her child.
Get everyone in on the action by inviting another mom and child over to break a sweat. Go for a vigorous game of kickball in the backyard, doubles tennis at the local courts, even a relay race or a DIY obstacle course you create at home. If there's snow outside, find a hill for sledding, a park for snowshoeing or a rink for skating. Too cold to go outside? Meet at a warm, indoor pool and burn some calories with the kickboard. Think of how thrilled your child will be when you suggest a game of street hockey instead of the usual afternoon video you watch together. And think how nice it will be to share a few Christmas cookies with a little less guilt.
4. Take over the TV.
Let's face it. Sometimes you're just not going to get to the gym or even out for a run. But, chances are you'll have at least a half hour of time to yourself, at home, when the baby goes down for a nap or after the kids have gone to bed. Take what you can get, especially during this time of year when a free few minutes feel especially golden. Pop in a DVD version of your barre class or the classic, aerobics one you've had since college, DVR an early morning yoga session to do whenever it fits your schedule, or try out one of the latest exercise offerings from video game systems, such as xBox. You'll forget you're in your living room once you get going with Zumba, strength training or even your kids' favorite Just Dance Kids game!
5. Hire some help.
Sometimes, at least part of the stress relief you get from a good workout is as much contributed to having time to yourself as it is to exercise-induced endorphins. We all need time away from our families and busy lives to take care of ourselves. What better reason to hire a babysitter than to go a favorite fitness class with a friend, or to trade after-school carpooling for a long, solo run? You deserve it.
We all need to remember that taking care of ourselves is as important as taking care of our children. We don't have to sacrifice our health if we take advantage of fun, easy ways to squeeze physical activity into our busy daily schedules, even during the crazy holiday season.