This one's for all you moms out there with not much time for exercise. I know exactly how that feels! I've had to get pretty creative to work some exercise into my life with my son. Fortunately, he loves being outside and going for hikes. He's a fast runner and only has two speeds: run and stop. If he was slower and less interested it would definitely be harder to get as much exercise.
So I'm going to share what I do for exercise while I'm with my son- your child might require something different, but that's ok. My best advice to other moms is: don't give up on finding time for a little exercise in your daily routine... keep trying, and take each day as it comes. Some days I have to completely give up on my plans. That's just life with a toddler!
Option 1: In the park
I do A LOT of Pilates in the park. We go almost every day for at least an hour if not two. When we first arrive he's a pretty happy guy so that's the best time to try a few moves while standing at a discreet distance. You gotta have some grit though- and not care what other people might think of you while you are doing your moves! Also I never get more than 3 minute snatches so it's a lot of starting and stopping.
These are the exercises I do most often, and they are all done while standing:
Standing glute med glide
Opposite arm/leg reaches
One leg circles
Torso Rotation with a variety of arm positions
A variety of one leg balancing exercises
Once I'm warmed up, if things are still looking good with my son, I will try some challenging stuff on the playground equipment. Depending on the park you can try:
Press ups on railings at a variety of angles
Tricep dips on railings or benches
Monkey bars (this is GREAT for your shoulders)
Don't forget to stretch your shoulders too. I usually do that after any hard shoulder work on the monkey bars!
Of course, the games with my son are pretty good exercise too. We race up ladders, we play the "monster" game- I pretend to be a monster and chase him, or I simply have to bend and reach to keep him safe. It's an active place, and adding in that activity to your daily routine is really good for your health and general fitness level.
Option 2: At home
It's a lot harder to work out at home with an active toddler. Any time I am on the ground he jumps on me. No joke. So instead of making it a "workout" I do games with him that are pretty physically challenging. Here are a few suggestions:
Froggy chase (leaping like a frog and saying "ribbit!")
Bear chase (running on hands and feet- not recommended if you have a bad back!)
Furniture islands (picking him up and lifting him in a high arc from the bed to the chair, etc)
Body drop (lying on my back, lifting him over my chest and holding him there, then dropping him fast!)
Just picking him up and carrying him around is plenty hard. Especially now that he's over 30 lbs. Try to remember to engage your core muscles as much as possible. If you can squeeze in an hour a week for a Pilates class, then please do! We all need a break and some time to ourselves.
If any local moms out there want to meet in the park to work out with me, please let me know! I'd love to have company :-)
So I attended a Pilates class as a student a few weeks ago. It was well planned, well executed, and definitely hard work. But, and I hate to admit it, I really didn't enjoy it that much. I'm a Pilates instructor. I love Pilates both professionally and personally, and I relish being challenged. So what gives?
When the class started, I couldn't believe the pace. We squatted. We lunged. We did press up after press up. We did planks. Then squats again. Then lunges. Then a short break for downward dog. Back to squats. Etc. Etc. You get the idea.
It was like a bootcamp or circuit training, full of traditional calisthenics disguised as Pilates exercises. You can perform any movement with Pilates principles in mind, of course, but it was so fast that it was hard to remember to engage my core. My back started to hurt at one point, which hasn't happened in years.
I personally find this kind of exercise class both boring and a little scary. My knees and my back are still a little vulnerable to injury, and this kind of class doesn't give me the time to be careful in my movements.
I've been to plenty of Pilates classes and I know there are lots of different styles out there. Each teacher also brings their own experience, training, and particular emphasis to a class. But now I understand why some people tell me, "Oh, I am not fit enough to do Pilates." I love Pilates because it emphasizes functional strength in unique ways. I like to teach all ages and all abilities - people recovering from an injury, people looking to gain functional strength in their everyday movements - indeed, people much like me!
Joseph Pilates had some guiding principles that I always try to use in my classes. Quality not quantity is one, and I truly believe that it works. That's why people generally do about 8 reps of an exercise in my class. It's so much easier to do an exercise well when you only do a few reps. And you gain more benefit from the ones you do- without the back ache. It also keeps boredom at bay (mine and my clients) because we can do lots and lots of different movements in an hour!
Control is another principle that I really focus on in my classes. I find it hard to control my body when moving so fast from one thing to the next. Moving slowly and carefully (on most exercises) means the muscles are worked throughout the range of movement, not just at the start and end of a movement. Take, for example, a basic curl. If you move slowly, the abdominals work evenly from a flat position all the way up to the flexed and curled position.
Ultimately the goal is to apply your Pilates-based body awareness to day-to-day situations. I try to explain how each Pilates exercise can help you when performing an everyday movement such as bending or lifting. Then, the next time you bend or lift, you'll remember and squeeze the right muscles to help you. Over time, it becomes automatic. That's a major reason why your back feels better once you practise regularly. It's not just gaining the strength - it's also learning how and when to use that strength.
If you have ever wondered if you could cope with a Pilates class, the answer is YES YOU CAN. Exercises can be tailored to any fitness level. That's exactly why my classes are small: so I can offer modifications and help my clients learn how to do each exercise well.
I'd love to hear from you in the comments - do you like bootcamp-style classes? Or are they not your thing? Why or why not?
Diane Archer, Pilates Instructor from the UK now living back in Canada. Blog of tips, thoughts, home challenges.