I love working out. Ever since I pushed Cindy Crawford’s “Work Your Body” into the VCR circa 1994, I’ve been addicted to the mood-enhancing chemicals, physical benefits, and energy perks associated with bein’ active.

I, too, look like this when I workout. Except for the hair, the boobs, the legs, and the camera crew.

I, too, look like this when I workout. Except for the hair, the boobs, the legs, and the camera crew.

It’s established that regular exercise is good for us, so why can it feel like a guilty pleasure?

The guilt is because we have kids. Carving out time to focus on yourself may mean you’re not spending time with them. Hence, the working mom’s guilt. The thought pattern goes something like this: since you’re not spending the whole week with your kids, all discretionary time should go to them.

Let’s debunk this myth and eliminate the guilt. If you want to work out, but feel constricted by your kids or are not sure where to start, read on. The mental and physical health benefits are so numerous I can’t list them here, and the positive impacts far outweigh the temporary guilt you may feel. Or guilt you think you should feel (yes, our feelings of guilt are intricately layered).

Walk. It may seem like a quaint pastime, but walking is the gateway to physical bliss. It’s low-impact with steep rewards. It’s an ideal post-partum method to getting your head and body back to an acceptable state. It’s free. Walk out your door and literally do it anywhere. Bring your kids and it becomes their nature adventure. Push a stroller with a friend and it’s your social hour. Meet your neighbors, or get to know your neighborhood and the season with a fresh set of eyes.

Incorporate your kids. I was big into Crossfit when Edie was born. When I couldn’t get to the gym, I invented home workouts incorporating her. I did “Edie squats” using her as a weight, push-ups over her as she lay on her back, or abdominal twists while hugging her. She seemed happy to be gently jostled about, and I was glad to get the blood pumping. I borrowed some ideas from this website.

Now that I have two kids, it’s harder to do “kid squats”. Today, we dance in the living room or take the double jogger for a spin. Running gets more challenging as they age and assert themselves. Honestly, they think a run is just a mobile snack tour. Recently, I brought a soccer ball for them to kick around the field while I ran around the outer track. Good idea, but the little one freaked out when I got out of arm’s reach, and the older one said I was “going too fast”. They both ended up back in the stroller. Edie counted laps for me, so that was fun.

There are also programs designed for moms with their stroller-bound kids throughout CT, such as Stroller Strides.

Tag-team with your partner. In one word, negotiate. Trade your partner an hour of work-out time for their hour of ______ [insert activity of choice]. My husband also likes to run so he’s understanding when I lace up my shoes (let’s be honest: he knows I’ll be 50% less bitchy when I return). It’s a win-win: we both get a run in and alone time with the kiddos. Furthermore, our kids understand that being physically active is a core family value.

PIcture via Pinterest

Picture via Pinterest

Find gyms with quality babysitting. Some gyms cater to parents of young kids. High fives to them. We belong to a community center that has babysitting throughout the week. The provider turnover is low and the women are lovely. My kids play with their buddies and make an insane amount of artwork. Not all gym babysitting rooms are the pinnacle of good care. Take the time to find a place that suits you and your family.

Get creative. An acquaintance sets up her three young kids with toys, books, and PBS Kids around her treadmill. They hang out while she runs amidst the pint-sized action. Another friend works out in her basement at 5:10am, before her family wakes up. My bestie does workout DVDs while her kids nap. Yes, kids make it more challenging to put on your workout pants and move, but it’s worth it. Adjust your schedule, tweak your home set-up, or identify underutilized time to do something good for yourself.

Working out doesn’t need to be expensive – people sell weights, treadmills, and jogging strollers on Craigslist all the time. Great free podcasts such as Yoga Download abound, and Amazon Prime streams workout videos! Yes, you may need to invest in some good shoes. No matter what strategy you take or activity your pursue, enjoy the time for yourself and remember: no guilt.