I’ve said it many times before, but you are not in charge of your fitness schedule. Your baby is. To successfully cram a workout into a baby busy day, is a feat in itself and needs a certain amount of flexibility and creativity.
Having been through it myself, here are 5 different plans of attack to climb the ‘working out with a baby’ mountain and what to do when absolutely none of them work!
The big sleep.
When you’re starting a fitness routine with a new baby, the obvious place to look for time is once baby is in bed for her longest sleep. In an ideal world and depending on babies age this is at 7pm and hopefully (for all the sleep deprived mummas) its going to last at least 3 hours.
Maddie (my baby girl) wasn’t very good at this. In those early months of exclusively breastfeeding, if she even thought she could sense an upcoming bedtime workout she would demand to cluster feed from 6pm until 12am. However, on the rare occasion she did go down at 7pm my most successful way of balancing working out with, exhaustion, cooking dinner and being able to have a rest myself, was to put baby down for her sleep. Put something easy and healthy in the oven like chicken breasts and sweet potato that takes pretty much 30 minutes to cook. Then, whilst its cooking you have exactly the right amount of time to get a BBG resistance done. Barring any surprise baby wake ups, you can then super efficiently finish your workout, plate up the perfectly timed, protein packed dinner for you and your significant other and by 8pm you hopefully have at least 2 glorious hours for a shower, a quick tidy up and a lie down before the 10/10.30 feed.
If it doesn’t work.
If the big sleep doesn’t work. LEAVE IT. If baby wakes up don’t stress trying to get her back down before the circuit timer beeps again. Babies sense your anxiety and will be even harder to settle. My advice is to forget about the workout, snuggle up and reassure your baby. If she does go back to sleep great, if not you’ve got a brand new day tomorrow to get your workout in and 4 other daytime options for achieving it in.
A 28 minute BBG resistance circuit is the perfect length workout to squeeze in when a baby is napping during the day. If like me you spend your days dressed in activewear, you will find it’s the best motivation for getting your workout done at the drop of a hat. If I know nap time is approaching or I can see baby is getting tired, 5 minutes before I take her up to her cot I’ll get out my mat, guide and weights. Not having to get changed and being able to go straight to my mat, means I’m far more likely to do a workout and increases the chances of actually being able to squeeze it in during nap time.
If it doesn’t work.
So you made it through 2 rounds and then baby woke up…
Maddie to this day is a terrible day time sleeper. She is the ultimate cat napper. Ten minutes here and there is all she needs, which is great for her and her busy little baby schedule, but so bad for me and my actual real life, not enough hours in the day schedule.
If Maddie woke up mid workout (as she usually did) I learned through trial, error and sheer frustration, not to abandon the workout altogether. If baby wakes up and like Maddie is not the type of baby to re-settle herself, pause your timer, sprint to her rescue and bring her to your workout space. Settle her in her bouncer, with a favourite toy or on her play mat and continue. I always found that Maddie was more than happy to bounce and watch me, or play nicely for the remainder of my workout. I had normally done at least a 15 minutes of it while she was asleep, so entertaining her for only 15 minutes more was actually very do-able and would allow me to finish my workout.
If baby needs you when she wakes, if she’s woken to feed or just generally wants to be with her mummy. Press stop altogether on the workout, you’ve already completed half of it, squeeze the second part in later on or when baby is in bed for the night, two 15 minute sessions still count and still equate to a pretty great workout in my book.
The early bird.
If you’re NOT like me you may want to try and workout before baby wakes up in the morning. I could never do this. When I was breastfeeding, I never knew when my next sleep was coming. So the idea of giving up even 30 minutes of duvet time while my precious babe slept was not appealing. But for lots of women, creating 30 extra minutes in your day ( that is 100% you time) is preferable to finding 30 minutes in your already hectic, already jam packed schedule.
If that’s the case, my suggestion is this… Lay out everything you need for that workout, the night before. Get your workout clothes laid out next to your mat and any equipment you will need and have it set up ready in the room you will workout in. That way you can slip out of bed and as quickly and quietly as possible sneak into your lounge of spare room, (or whatever space you train in) get dressed and get your sweat on without disturbing your hubby or waking the sleeping babes.
If it doesn’t work.
If baby wakes before you are done and needs feeding straight away, call time on your workout. If you got in two rounds or less, I’d commit to finishing at another opportunity. If you got anything over 20 minutes done… Tick it off your to do list. Celebrate. Feel successful. 20 minutes+ is a great workout! (Especially with a baby so don’t give it another thought, consider it complete and enjoy the rest of your day with your baby.)
The 7 minute activity schedule.
As Maddie was a pretty awful sleeper in the day and a cluster feeder by night, this was by far the option that I used most often to squeeze in my workout around my baby.
Although baby was a bad napper, so long as I was close by, she was a happy contented baby in the day. So training in front of her while she was awake was by far my most successful opportunity to workout, it just takes a little extra and well thought out planning. The way we got through it together without any tears, was to change her activity at the end of each 7 minute circuit.
Eg: if baby is under 6 months old
Mummy: circuit 1
Maddie: 7 minutes on her play mat (6 months+ toy activity, blocks/Duplo)
Mummy: circuit 2
Maddie: 7 minutes in the Jumperoo (6 months + the same or in a walker)
Mummy: circuit 3
Maddie: 7 minutes tummy time (6months+ watch a favourite cartoon)
Mummy: circuit 4
Maddie: bouncy chair (6months+ snack in her highchair)
So long as I was working out right next to where she was bouncing or playing, Maddie was usually content to let me workout for each 7 minutes.
If it doesn’t work.
So baby doesn’t want to entertain herself, she wants to play with you? Once again this is not necessarily a reason to abandon your workout. Get creative first. I would do all sorts of crazy things to interact with my baby during a 7 minute circuit. If I was doing squats I would play peekaboo at the same time and every time I pushed up, I would pop out from behind my hands to my baby’s sheer delight. I would count the reps of the exercises to her in silly voices. I would place her in her bouncy chair in front of me and everytime I lunged toward her or came up from commandos I would tickle her face or blow a raspberry. It’s extra work for you but extra fun for baby.
You also have the option to include baby in your workouts. Lay her beneath you on pushups and kiss her face as you go down. Sit her on your lap during sit ups. Use her as the weight for a squat and press. If baby says “NO” she says no but try something new and see what she thinks. I remember one of my favourite workouts was my final resistance of week 12 bbg1. Maddie was at my side “helping” that entire workout and although it was challenging and a little distracting, once we finished it was so worth it. It was such a special achievement, having my mini me be a part of it and we celebrated our success as a team for the rest of that day.
The bedtime hour (for slightly older babies )
Ok so nothing else has gone to plan, no good naps, baby has needed you all day. My last fail safe option for squeezing in a workout before baby goes down for the night is at 6pm. Actually 6.20pm to be precise as that is when ‘In the night garden’ is on in the UK.
I found that no matter how fractious Maddie had been in the day by 6pm she was always winding down. I’d feed her at 6pm, wind her and then pop her in her chair in time to watch iggle piggle and upsy daisy. I’ve never know a child not to be totally enthralled by ‘In the night garden’ it literally puts Maddie into a ready for bed, whimsical trance. If I couldn’t bear the thought of an evening workout or I knew I wanted to enjoy my evening with James – I relied on the bed time hour to provide a small final window of opportunity to workout. Maddie who was naturally tired would be happy to sit and watch and I could usually guarantee an uninterrupted 28 minutes working out next to her. Now she’s older she lays herself down on the cushions, gives herself her bottle and enjoys the night garden and if I’m not working out I use the time to tidy the playroom and get the days dishes done. It really is my magic hour where even if I’ve had no time in the day I can get an extraordinary amount of things done in those final moments before James walks through the door.
If it doesn’t work.
If the bedtime hour is not a particularly relaxing time in your house, now is not the time to put pressure on you and your baby. It’s a time for comfort and calm before the lights of the nursery go out, so shrug it off, rock your baby off to sleep and save your workout for another time.
A final thought.
I am more than aware that some people may not agree with some of the options I’ve discussed in this article. I quite agree that sticking your baby in front of the TV or leaving them to play independently might not be deemed as great parenting. But what I will say is this…
…that 28 mins may not be my best parenting in terms of the experience I am providing for my child, but once I’m finished with those 28 minutes… my goodness does my baby get the best version of me. I am a far better mummy when I am able to carve out just a morsel of time of myself. I am a more fun, less stressed mummy when I have happy hormones rushing through my body. I am a more confident mummy when I feel successful. My baby gets the best care and the most positive, anxiety free experiences from me when I invest a little time in myself too…. I’m more than okay with this and I personally wouldn’t have it any other way.