Like busy moms everywhere, I find it a constant struggle to find time to exercise. Raising three young daughters and maintaining a household takes up most of my time and energy. Sure, I’ve had the best intentions when it comes to staying in shape, and I usually begin an exercise routine with a great deal of enthusiasm, but inevitably my exercise schedule gets waylaid by late nights with sick children, trips to the grocery store, and heaps of dirty laundry that never seem to diminish.
I never stop trying though. Not too long ago I purchased a very nice treadmill on Craigslist for a few hundred dollars. After much grumbling (and I daresay a bit of cursing), my husband and his older brother wrestled the treadmill down to the basement and plopped the machine right next to the mountain of laundry. True, it wasn’t the most scenic local to begin my new exercise program, but I was determined to wake up every morning at 5:00 AM and walk three miles before the kids scampered out of bed…
The first day of my program I overslept until 6:00 AM. The second day of my program I started a load of laundry and walked for 1.7 miles before the dog threw up on the living room sofa. Day three I overslept again, and on day four I pulled a muscle in my lower back. By this time my enthusiasm waned and today the treadmill is now engulfed with dirty socks, jeans, and t-shirts from the laundry pile that I swear has taken on a life of its own.
So what’s a busy mom to do?
Just about the time I was ready to completely give up my goal of staying in shape, my husband suggested that perhaps I was going about it all wrong. Instead of changing my lifestyle to fit my exercise routine, perhaps I should change my exercise routine to fit my lifestyle. Exercise should be an extension of yourself. Don’t do exercise, be exercise, etc., etc. (about this time my husband was feeling pretty good about himself, striking the persona of a wise Jedi master teaching his padawan learner — I just smiled and reminded him that he had to take the recycling down to the curb).
As I sat in the kitchen, listening to the sound of the recycling bin being slowly wheeled down the driveway, I mulled over what he had told me. Maybe I was going about it all wrong. Maybe I was trying to adhere to a fitness schedule and routine that was unnatural for me. If I was, I was setting myself up for failure and disappointment. Time and time again…
A few days later, as I was loading the dishwasher, I happened to look out the kitchen window and saw my girls playing in the backyard. I watched as they ran and played, shrieking and having fun. On an impulse, I set down the dirty cereal bowl I’d been holding, and went outside and joined them. By the time we were finished 30 minutes later, I was breathing hard and laughing. From that moment on, my exercise routine changed to fit my lifestyle. No more waking up before the sun. No more exercise machines. Instead, I make it a point to play with my girls on a daily basis for at least a half hour. Here are some of the things that we do for fun:
- Jump rope
- Play tag
- Hide and seek
- Kick the can
- Bounce on the trampoline
- Run races
- Play soccer
- Ride bikes
Is it really possible to burn calories playing like a child? According to the Mayo Clinic website, an hour of jumping rope burns 861 calories for a 160 pound person — more than double the calories for walking 3.5 mph in the same amount of time (all right, there’s no way I can jump rope for an hour straight, but I jump for roughly 10 minutes which is good for 143 calories — not too bad).
So far, I’ve been following this program for two months. True, there are some days I miss, but for the most part I’m keeping on track. I’ve lost a total of six pounds (yay!) and feel that I’m doing something positive for my health. I also feel like I have more energy, and if that weren’t enough, I feel that I’ve grown even closer with my girls. We really look forward to our play time together.
So what do you think? Can exercise be as simple as playing with your kids, and would this type of routine work for you?