THE WASHINGTON POST – How often do you exercise? If you are a parent of very small children – with little time to think an uninterrupted thought, much less get to the gym or yoga class – your answer might be “rarely” or just a bitter snort.
You might not be surprised that one recent study found that adults with two or more children below the age of five reported 80 fewer minutes of weekly vigorous physical activity compared to those with no children or just one child.
But here’s the good news: You’re probably getting more vigorous exercise than you think, thanks to the multitude of compulsory workouts incorporated into the daily reality of parenthood!
Here are just a few that might seem familiar.
Your toddler is upset because she wants the blue Play-Doh, no, the red Play-Doh, no, the blue Play-Doh, no, the red Play-Doh, no, actually she wants a banana, and every time she expresses a new opinion, you lower yourself from a standing position to her level on the ground in order to gently validate her feelings and explain that you don’t even have any Play-Doh, but she can absolutely have a banana, except now she wants a Popsicle.
The familiar ritual of applying a sufficient layer of sunblock to every inch of exposed skin on your child – who absolutely refuses to hold still for a single second – will test your endurance and reflexes as well as your mental stamina.
Playground-rescue body contortion
Your kid has reached a high platform at the playground, they’re very proud, and now they can’t get down.
This means you’re now squeezing yourself through a too-narrow tube to get to them, or trying to scale a climbing wall built for smaller legs while wearing flip flops, and then wrangling them back down to the correct altitude while operating completely outside your own centre of gravity.
The parking lot sprint
Your kid abruptly pulls free of your grip and makes a beeline toward moving cars, flooding your brain with panicked adrenaline, and suddenly you are Usain Bolt.
The toothbrush pinfall
A daily wrestling match wherein the baby or toddler’s shoulders must be held to a flat surface (the floor, a bed) for a count of three, because three seconds is definitely all you’re going to get in terms of brushing their teeth, even though the dentist said two minutes was ideal, ha ha, two minutes, can you even imagine.
The toy-under-the-couch leg sweep
A Hot Wheels car has rolled all the way beneath the couch to the back wall, and your kid needs this toy urgently, so you lie down on the floor and sweep your leg beneath the furniture until you can nudge the car back within reach with your toes.
Alternate your legs for maximum benefit: right leg for Hot Wheel, left leg for Lego horse, right leg for fallen Cheez-It, and so forth.
Bath time backbends
Instead of arching your spine backward, as in a typical yoga backbend, this exercise involves being hunched miserably forward over the side of the tub as you try to shampoo your child’s hair while they squirm away and shriek that there’s water in their eyes (there is no water in their eyes, but facts are irrelevant now.)
Car seat calisthenics
You have run out of time to democratically negotiate with the tiny tyrant who refuses to acquiesce to their car seat buckles, so it’s time to break a full-body sweat as you battle their relentless wiggling, back-arching, and hand-shoving attempts to stop you from strapping them in.
Your toddler is about to drop their dinner plate on the floor, or spill your drink on the carpet or hoist themselves over a deck railing – until you save the day with one heroic, swooping stride.
Outfit-change agility training
The baby has spit up for the fifth time this morning, so you retrieve a sixth onesie, put one arm in a sleeve, then put the other arm in a sleeve, then put the first arm back in a sleeve again because the baby wiggled it free while you were wrangling the second arm, then try to align all the snaps along the legs, then realise you missed one snap and the entire bottom of the onesie is now lopsided, then re-snap the snaps, then realise that the baby spit up again while you were re-snapping, so it’s time to find a seventh onesie and/or start another load of laundry.
The flailing-child stair-climb
It’s time for bed, but your small child declines to ascend the steps to their room, so they must be physically transported against their will. Works the arms, back, core and legs – and if your kid manages to escape your grasp and flee back downstairs, you might even get in a few reps.
Post-workout recovery is essential. Traditionally, this involves stretching, hydration and a power bar; in this case, it involves complete immobility, and ice cream. Don’t forget to go to bed early: Your tiny trainers will be waiting for you at 6 or possibly 5am. – Caitlin Gibson & Monica Hesse