Are you mom or dad and enjoy doing sports? Or do you finally want to do more sport? And now you ask yourself: Exercise with a toddler – how can that work Yes, sport is different with children – but I tell you: not impossible. Children are definitely not a reason not to exercise. In this guest post I would like to tell you my story and how I managed to get my child involved in sport. Perhaps my solutions on how to do sport with a toddler are also an opportunity for you to finally do more sport despite having a child.
First I would like to introduce myself briefly: My name is Melanie, I am 35 years old and the mother of a four-year-old daughter. Admittedly, my life was very sporty even before pregnancy. So it was clear to me: I will continue to do sports with a child, even if it would be different from what I knew before without a child. I learned a lot from my time as a new mother and I am very open with you: Training with a child is different, sometimes it works better, sometimes worse. But there is no reason not to exercise and not to give it a try.
I would like to offer you a few options on how you can complete your training with a baby or toddler. I would also like to give you an insight into how I fared as a sporty mom with a baby and how I still manage with a toddler today. Maybe there are ideas for you to finally start exercising despite a toddler or baby. In the end, of course, it is your decision which option best suits your family lifestyle.
Strength training at home in the living room or outdoors in fitness parks
At the end of the article, I would like to give you extra tips on what you should pay attention to when exercising with a child, so that the training is as relaxed as possible for everyone.
First things first: Before you start exercising with a baby or toddler, ask your doctor!
If you have just given birth, please find out from your doctor when, whether and to what extent you can already do sports. I do not want to make general recommendations, as sporting activity in the period after childbirth has to be assessed very individually by a specialist. After giving birth, it is more important as a mother to get your pelvic floor fit with appropriate training before you start running or training again. You should also clarify whether your abdominal muscles have regressed, especially for strength training. It is important not to put any pressure on yourself to start exercising as soon as possible. It is better to take a longer sport break and recover completely than the break in post-pregnancy regression is too short.
Are you fit enough to finally do more sport with your toddler? Great, then you can start now! And I would also like to include the dads in the responsibility of integrating the youngsters into everyday sports. So if you’re a dad, these suggestions are great for you too:
- Out and about with the baby carrier:
Whether you want to pack your baby or toddler in a carrier is of course your personal decision. I can tell you from my point of view that it was the best decision for my basic endurance. You can move freely in the forest or on walking paths independently of a stroller or babysitter with low intensity. Regular Nordic walking or short hikes with the carrier are the perfect balance to everyday life and increase your basic endurance .
If this is an option for you and your child is used to wearing it, I recommend that you use your child’s sleep phases for this. Wonderful side effect: the extra weight of your child strengthens your muscles in your legs, especially when going up and downhill. If you like to wear, but have pain in your back, I recommend you (if there is no orthopedic problem behind it):
Wear them regularly so that your muscles get used to the strain
doing supportive strength training for the upper body.
I carried my daughter regularly until she was 3 years old and never had back problems – because I also did appropriate strength training to support it.
- Running with a stroller – traveling with the “running buggy”:
As soon as your pelvic floor is fit again, you can slowly start running. There are suitable buggies or bicycle trailers for children that you can also use for running. The vehicle should be light and have large wheels. I also recommend that you make sure that you can install sun or rain protection to protect the child from heat and cold.
My training tip: start slowly but regularly. Running with the buggy cannot be compared to normal solo running. Take into account that you are pushing 20kg and more in front of you. Especially uphill and in curves this can degenerate into strength training and be exhausting. Your muscles have to get used to the multiple loads at the beginning. Here I have a few exercises for you to support running with the buggy through strength training.
Sport with a toddler – is that possible? Melanie Blaschka gives creative tips on how you can stay active and fit as a mom or dad.
Walking with a stroller makes you strong!
I speak from experience: You will never be as fit again as in the time you walk with a stroller. Running with a buggy is top-class endurance training – very strenuous, but makes you really strong in the long run. Running with a stroller also has the advantage that you can run with your partner again, you can take turns pushing or you agree that the faster one pushes. I took advantage of the effort of the buggy and finally made my faster partner “slower”. In the end, we both had the same pace, wasn’t it?
Running with a stroller- you should pay attention to this:
For the routes I would recommend wide, undamaged sidewalks, or even better: bicycle sidewalks. I cannot recommend walking with a buggy on rough terrain, as it can cause uncomfortable vibrations for the child. From what age the child is suitable for walking in the buggy depends on the manufacturer of the vehicle. There are already bicycle trailers for babies that are perfect for running and protect the little ones well. In principle, however, nothing should speak against it from sitting age.
- Running to the third: with a bike and a child seat
If your partner doesn’t like walking, they can accompany you with your child on the bike and child seat. This is also a great way for families to incorporate running into a Sunday afternoon excursion.
My partner and I are avid runners, and running with a bike and a child seat was the ideal change for us. It also had the advantage that we could cover longer distances, in which one walked 10km in one direction and the other 10km back. So we could spend the time together as a family doing sports. Our daughter either fell asleep in the bicycle seat or cheered dad / mom on while she was running.
- From bike age: you run, the child drives himself
Running, when the toddler rides a bike, it becomes fun and exciting. Personally, I like it a lot and actively enjoy this time with my daughter.
If you are just starting out with running and your child is cycling, the simultaneous sporty start is actually perfect for you. In the beginning your child will often take breaks and maybe be able to drive 2-3km. You can get used to the training together and grow from it together.
If you are already an experienced runner, the distances that your child now covers by bike themselves may be too short for you. As nice as it is that your child can now ride a bike by themselves, you shouldn’t expect too long distances from a small child. At first you may be satisfied with fewer kilometers than you are used to.
Running with a child on a bike is fun and a great way to use a little exercise together. You may want to put dedicated endurance, interval, and tempo runs on just another day.
- Strength training at home with the baby / toddler:
I keep hearing from mothers that they have back pain. This is also not very surprising: they often carry their child one-sidedly. Sometimes they even carry their child asleep on their left shoulder and in their right arm at the same time 2 bags of groceries from the supermarket. Perhaps you are now thinking: You don’t need additional strength training anymore? Oh yes, that’s what I often thought to myself in those moments. But it is important to do strength training precisely for these reasons: You are better able to withstand the demands of everyday life as a child.
Strength training strengthens your muscles, protects against postural damage and you become more efficient. If you often feel tired and drained, weight training can be a real game changer. As soon as your pelvic floor is fit again and your abdominal muscles have returned to where they belong, strength training can start.
As a mom or dad, strength training with a child is best at home in the living room. This has many advantages: You are independent, you can do it spontaneously at any time of the day and you don’t need a babysitter. As a beginner, you don’t need great equipment either: just a fitness mat and maybe resistance bands. Training with your own body weight is absolutely sufficient. If you are new to training at home, I recommend the company of a trainer. For example, I offer online classes for beginners with which you can easily do your strength training from home. The courses are very popular with mums in particular because nobody cares when the children jump around in the picture. Alternatively, I’m also part of the coaching team from the endurance club.
When the weather is nice, you can also do your training with your child in public fitness parks. There your child has even more space and it is in the fresh air. It can let off steam and you can do your training.
Sport with a toddler – is that possible? Melanie Blaschka gives creative tips on how you can stay active and fit as a mom or dad.
Find out when the training time is also suitable for the child!
During the day, children have phases where they can wonderfully occupy themselves and phases in which they tend to be cranky and in need of love. As a parent, you know your child best: Try to find out what time of day the training is best for you and your child. There is no point if your child gets hungry or tired during training because you are not taking the child’s rhythm into account.
Whether and how you keep your child busy during this training period depends on their age and level of development. Either you use the quiet phases of sleep or the concentrated play times of your child when they are busy with toys.
Older children can be offered safe training equipment and they can be encouraged to invent gymnastics. You can offer utensils with which your child can set up their own training course (with pillows, hula hoops, etc.). Balance boards, dumbbells and ladders for jumping are particularly popular. My daughter even has her own gym mat where she can let off steam creatively. Sometimes she even mimics my exercises, which is especially funny and very amusing.
When walking in the stroller, you should also find out at what time of day your child can sit quietly in the stroller for 30 minutes (or longer). For example, you could use your child’s sleep phases for an easy run. I pushed my child in the buggy up to the beginning of 4 years. At first I used the sleep times, then the breaks with healthy snacks and finally I bridged the time with audio stories (headphones) and picture books. So I was able to incorporate my running training into my mom’s everyday life 3 times a week. My girl was always very relaxed during this. Most of the time, however, she found it “cool” to just observe the environment, especially when the stroller is faster than usual.
Create your own rules for training:
A routine is also important for the child. I therefore think it makes sense to set up rules during training.
At the age of 2, I created a separate training area for my daughter for strength training at home, where she was allowed to “train” and designed an area for me where I could do my training. As a visible border, I put a jump cord on the floor. Today my girl is almost 5 years old and that limit still exists when I give my online classes.
We have created our own rules for training at home. It is important for children to have clear rules so that they know what they can and cannot do. Especially if you also use dumbbells or straps, which could injure your child, it must be clearly defined what is allowed and what is not.
Visual boards are also helpful to symbolize the rules. Parents shouldn’t have a guilty conscience if they incorporate their sporting needs into everyday family life. The children grow into the new structure and over time their own sporting family routine develops, which is respected by everyone. Most of the time, the children get used to mum and dad doing sport faster than the parents themselves.
Conclusion – sport with a toddler
You see, sport with a toddler (in any development phase) is absolutely possible. For children there is nothing better than spending time with sporty, happy parents. Your child will get used to the new structures and rules of training. It also takes away a lot from this time: Children who are used to everyday sports from the cradle onwards develop a healthy feeling for movement at an early age. It is not difficult to get children excited about sport, especially when their parents finally like to do more sport.