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White Knuckle Parenting: Exercise with Kids

I try really hard to get my workouts in when I'm not in charge of my kids, but sometimes I have to drag them along.

My New Year's resolution was to get in better shape through exercise and eating better. I know it's unoriginal. Whose resolution wasn't to get in better shape? The great thing is that I've actually been successful at making progress toward my goal. The amazing part is that I've managed to do it while juggling my kids.

I'm not going to go into my eating habits and how that has been the great failure of my resolution. I feel like I could write an entire column about how my kids screw up my nutrition. Yeah, let's blame them. That feels right. 

My success has come in the arena of exercise. Except for March when I just stopped running because I was tired of being cold, I have done a pretty good job of running several times a week. I'm not a fast runner and I'm still maxing out at 7-mile runs or so, but I improve every time I put on my running shoes.

Because all my kids are in school all day, I can usually get my run in while they are away. You know those runners you pass when you're in your car driving your toddler around or that you see when you look out the window of your place of work and you're all, "Who are all these people that can go running at one in the afternoon?" That's me. I'm sorry. I know it's privileged and obnoxious. But it has been awesome for my overall physical fitness.

For those of you who don't have the opportunity to run during the day or for those of us who don't want to run at 1 p.m. on days when it is 90 degrees outside (what was up with last week?), I have some thoughts on exercising with kids around.

First of all, you know how people always say, "If it's important to you, you'll find time for it?" I hate those people so much. It is hard to find time to exercise, no matter what your daily life is like. Making sure you have a space and an exercise you are willing to do is hard enough. If you've spent your day at work and then taking care of kids and you're exhausted, it's extra hard. And don't get me started on the up-at-5-a.m. crowd.

The only answer I have to that is that you will feel so much better after you exercise that it is worth the work to find the time. Does that mean an exercise video after your kids go to bed? Great. Does that mean stretching while you cook dinner? Cool. What about lunges and crunches while your kids watch Phineas and Ferb? Awesome.

Doing an exercise video with your kids watching is discouraged though because, if they are anything like my kids, they will make merciless fun of you. ("Mom, you're doing that one wrong!" "Mom, go faster!" "Mom, why are you lying on the floor crying?")

As for me, when I can't get my runs in when my husband is home with the kids or when they're away at school, I drag them along with me. Last week alone I had to involve my kids on three of my runs. That means that I find a playground or give them an iPad to keep them busy while I run in tiny circles on a track or around a soccer field. 

In related news, it is extremely boring to run in little circles.

There are both advantages and disadvantages to getting your runs in this way. One the one hand, you're setting a fantastic example for your kids and they will probably even join you for a few laps, which is great for them. 

On the other hand, your kids will choose the moment when you are the maximum possible distance from them to decide to up and leave the playground or to start swinging a found bat at a sibling. If you're into silver linings, at least you'll get a sprint or two in trying to reach them.

Maybe the most upsetting thing when I was running with my kids the other day was when my 11-year-old skipped backwards wearing Crocs and was still faster than me. (I think I mentioned that I am not a fast runner.) It was incredibly demoralizing. At least my endurance was longer than his.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do during summer when they are home all day. I have a feeling that my kids are going to start refusing to hit the track with me every day by the end of June. I can pretty much guarantee you that I won't be up at 5 a.m. to run. I just hope that I'm not reduced to running 65 times around my backyard, but if that is what I have to do in order to keep up with my resolution, I'll run those 65 tiny circles with a smile on my face.

Jean, a.k.a. Stimey, writes a personal blog at Stimeyland. You can find her on Twitter as @Stimey and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/Stimeyland.

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