01/03/2012 11:42 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

When Exercising as a Parent, Slow and Steady Wins the Race

As a therapist, I'm big on setting goals. Over the years, a constant sentiment that I notice among my clients' goals is a desire to lose a little weight and get back to the gym. This sentiment is especially strong among new parents, and especially noticeable around the new year.

Losing those extra pounds and getting back to the gym is entirely possible, but beware of a common trap that parents tend to fall into. New parents frequently imagine that getting back into an exercise routine means exercising the way they did pre-baby. I have watched many inspired and ambitious moms and dads invest a lot of energy figuring out how to hit the gym three or four times a week in their efforts to get back into shape. Then, when their child gets sick or their work demands increase, they miss a week of workouts, get completely discouraged, and stop exercising all together. Don't fall into this fantasy of imagining that you need to work out the way you did pre-baby! Remember, you are chasing kids around all the time now anyway, and that's exercise!

Instead, figure out a practical, efficient way to work exercise into your daily routine. Start biking or walking to work. Go for a quick power walk on your lunch break a few times a week. Each weekend, try to fit in one long, rigorous work out. If you miss a week or even two, don't get discouraged. A little bit of exercise is much better than none. By incorporating exercise into your daily routine as a parent, slow and steady will eventually win the race to good health and good shape.

Finally, whatever you do, make sure you don't sacrifice sleep for exercise. Additional sleep loss will diminish your overall health and compromise your ability to exercise in a productive way!