How to exercise while caring for young children

How to exercise while caring for young children
“I’m blocking off tomorrow morning for a dance class,” I informed my husband, leaving all kid duties to him while I work out a sweat. I had been slacking with exercise the last several months and needed something fun to kick me back into gear. With taking care of a toddler, working, and a slew of other lame excuses (“I’d rather watch How I Met Your Mother” and “I just ate dinner” among them), exercise wasn’t a priority.

Not that it was ever a huge priority to begin with. See, ask me to run around the block and I’ll be ready to pass out in five minutes tops. I was good during pregnancy though, when I scheduled appropriate workouts like walking, stationary-cycling and cardio workout videos at home. But now that I have a kid, I regret not taking advantage of working out when I had a zillion more hours to myself.

That’s why I’m excited to introduce Erika from You Just Did What?! whom I interviewed for this very topic. You might remember Erika from the guest post I wrote on her blog, and she’s now paying us a visit here at Sleeping Should Be Easy.

Erika explains the importance of finding activities you want to do (hence the dance class) instead of those you don’t. She’ll also describe how she went from barely running for two minutes to running several races—all while parenting a two-year-old. She’s an inspiration to any mother who has ever doubted her abilities and strengths, and I couldn’t wait to feature her story.

Who knows, maybe I’ll give running a second chance after this:

Sleeping Should Be Easy: How did you get into running? How would you compare yourself now to when you first started?
Erika: I ran off and on since college, running a couple of miles here and there. It wasn’t until after having my daughter that I began to take exercise seriously. Needing to shed the beloved “baby weight” I had gained during pregnancy, I joined Strollers Strides, a group fitness class designed for mamas. The group happened to have a couple of runners, and I decided that it would be a great idea to get back into running. On a whim, I signed up for the Tinkerbell Half Marathon at Disneyland. At this point I could barely run comfortably for 2 minutes, and the race was only seven months away.

During my training, I signed up for a shorter 10k and realized how much I enjoyed running, so I kept signing up for more races. It can definitely become an addiction.

I have changed a lot over the course of my running journey. I am stronger both physically and mentally. My endurance is greater, and running has provided me with an outlet to relieve tension and stress—perfect when raising a toddler!

SSBE: Speaking of toddlers, I can’t imagine exercising regularly while taking care of a young child. Clearly it’s possible since you’re a great example, so how do you make time to exercise with a toddler in tow?
Erika: I am asked this question all the time! Exercise makes me feel good, so I make it a priority. With that in mind, it’s easier for me to stick to my guns and make sure I squeeze in a workout. When I was training for my Half Marathon, I had a specific training plan in place—I followed the same routine every week and made sure I had babysitters lined up on those days.

I’m not training for anything at the moment, so when I do workout, my daughter comes along with me. She will ride in the Bob Stroller if I’m going for a walk or jog. Or I take her to the gym where she plays in the kids club. I also take her to Stroller Strides. And I often wake up at 5am to get my workout over with before anyone wakes up!

SSBE: What’s a typical day for you and your daughter?
Erika: We wake up around 6am and see my husband off to work. We lounge around until about 8am, eating breakfast and playing quietly. If I decide to work out to a video, I’ll do it then while my daughter plays quietly or joins me.

If I don’t work out then, we’ll hit the gym or go for a stroll. After that, she gets in her outdoor play time at the park or with friends. We head back home for lunch and nap time. When she wakes up, we usually play in the backyard (and now that it’s summer, we love to turn on the sprinklers!). I’ll also get chores done in the afternoon and head over to the store to run errands.

We eat dinner once my husband comes home. Then, we start the bedtime routine at 7:30pm. The next day, we get up and do it again!

SSBE: How do you stay motivated when you just want to quit?
Erika: Ha ha—good question and one I am still trying to figure out myself. Exercise makes me feel good so I try to keep that in mind. I’m most motivated when I’m working towards a goal (I usually have a training plan set out for me, so knowing what I need to do and having my workouts planned makes it easier).

I’ll also add that nothing has helped me more than the support of friends and family. I would much rather work out with someone than by myself. It’s so much easier (and way more fun) when you have accountability partners who are going through the same thing!

SSBE: What advice can you give moms who are just starting to run or exercise?

  • Find a community of other mothers who enjoy working out. There are tons of mother running clubs out there catering to moms getting together, becoming healthy and having fun. Plus, they are sure to have some Mom Night Outs, as well.
  • Set a goal for yourself and don’t be afraid to dream big (for instance, sign up for a half marathon when you know you can only run 2 minutes at a time).
  • Get a babysitter. Try to reserve some workout time for yourself.
  • If you work, try to get up early and do a short 30 minute workout (if only for a week). My favorite runs are in the morning, when the air is cool and crisp.
  • Find an activity you enjoy and mix it up. You don’t have to do the same thing over and over again! Don’t let yourself get bored. Exercise should make you feel better afterward. If it doesn’t, rethink your activity.

Thank you Erika, for sharing your story and hopefully offering other moms the inspiration they need to exercise and be healthy. I know I’ve since made working out more of a priority. Even if on most days my workouts consist of brisk walking or simple cardio videos, my heart is pumping, my muscles moving, and best of all, I feel so much better for it.

Do you exercise regularly, or whenever you can squeeze it in? What workout goals are you trying to reach? How can you involve your kids in your workouts?

p.s. Get email updates from Sleeping Should Be Easy because you won’t miss a single post.

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20 fun ways to keep a toddler active (guest post and free printable)

20 fun ways to keep a toddler active
Today I’m over at You Just Did What
where I wrote a guest post for fellow blogger Erika. After you read the post, I encourage you to check out the rest of Erika’s blog. She’s a regular SSBE reader, and you’ll often find her in the comments section. Stop by her blog and say hello, especially if you enjoy running and leading an active lifestyle as much as she does.

“Let’s go for a walk around the block,” I suggested to my two-year-old today. He eagerly ran to the front door to put his shoes and hat on, and off we went for a 40-minute stroll up and down our neighborhood. As simple as a walk may be, I rely on these and other similar activities to make sure my little guy gets a bit of movement every day.

In general, we don’t need to push our kids to be active too often: leave them to their own devices and they’ll more often than not find their own inventive ways to keep their bodies moving. Sometimes though, there are times when the entire day seems to have flown by and all we’ve done is sit around the house feeling sluggish without having moved all that much.

Read the rest… and download a printable PDF

p.s. If you liked what you read, you can subscribe and receive free full-text posts from Sleeping Should Be Easy in your email inbox. Or, tell us what you think about this post on Facebook and Twitter.

Prepare your child for a doctor’s visit with these 5 simple tips

How to prepare your child for a doctor's visit
During my toddler’s 18-month doctor’s visit, his pediatrician reassured us that this behavior was perfectly normal. And by  “this,” she meant a wailing, flailing toddler whom she had to practically contain in a wrestling hold in order to continue observing him. Never mind that he cried so loudly that she had to take a quick break for him to calm down because she couldn’t hear anything through her stethoscope. “This is pretty common for this age,” she had told us at the 18-month appointment. “We can expect similar behavior at the two-year-old appointment.”

As predicted, he acted the same way when he returned at two-years-old. However, since she didn’t assure us that he’ll act up again for the 2.5-year-old appointment, I was a little nervice. “Now we have no excuse!” I thought to myself. Considering that my toddler had been having “opposite days” and “I want…” demands—some as close as the day before the appointment—I wasn’t too confident that this doctor’s visit would be any better than the previous two.

Somehow though, we breezed through the visit, with my toddler even laughing by the end of the session. What happened to my wailing, flailing toddler who wants absolutely nothing to do with doctors and nurses? Perhaps his parents used the following tactics to help prepare him for his doctor’s visit:

1. Talk about the visit well before stepping into the doctor’s office
I mentioned visiting Dr. S during the previous night’s dinner, and that morning, we further discussed what to expect during the appointment. “She’s going to make sure you’re okay,” we told him. “And she’s going to look into your ears, eyes, nose and mouth. Plus she’ll check your tummy, chest and back with that circle tool, remember?”

Funny side note: Apparently my toddler also thought she was going to style his ‘do because no matter how many times we described what would take place, LO insisted that, “She’s going to comb hair.” He must have mentioned this some six or seven times, even during the appointment. My guess is that he still remembers when he had pimples on his head and the doctor had inspected the surface of his scalp. Thankfully she humored him and ran her fingers through his hair a few times to “comb” his ‘do.

2. Play doctor and patient
A few days prior to the appointment, my husband had our toddler examine his eyes and ears, as well as listen to his heartbeat. Patients—toddlers and adults alike—can often feel so vulnerable under a doctor’s eye, and role playing can easily give a toddler a bit of that control back when he gets to play the doctor. For the next visit, we’ll also likely purchase pretend doctor’s tools so our toddler could use those as props.

3. Bring a comfort item
When sitting in a strange office being poked with needles and having your socks removed (seemingly a crime according to my toddler’s protests), a beloved toy or item can help calm a frantic toddler. For ours, it was his special Lovey. He and that toy have been through thick and thin, and we like to bring her around whenever we feel like he might need some extra comfort. And despite the multitude of books at the office, we brought one of our toddler’s books so that he can read something familiar.

4. Point out interesting objects in the office
My toddler loves pointing out lights (especially blinking ones) when we’re driving, so when it came time for the doctor to examine his eyes, ears and nose, we made sure to point out the awesome light on the doctor’s tool. We also showed him the frogs and sea animals lining the wall as well as the different books throughout the room.

5. Load up on snacks
We scheduled his appointment right before snack time so that he could either eat at the office or in the car and keep his empty tummy from gearing him up to a sour mood.

Bonus tip: Rely on good ol’ timing and luck
Our doctor wasn’t lying when she said the 18-month-old and 2-year-old appointments would be a challenge, so age plays a crucial role in whether or not kids will comply or not. Sometimes they’re just not developmentally ready to stand on a scale or have their ears probed.

And even at an age where he should be perfectly fine visiting the doctor, sometimes we’re unlucky and end up visiting the doctor when he feels grumpy. After all, my toddler threw a tantrum yesterday, so I was bracing myself for a horrific experience at the doctor’s. I got lucky though: he didn’t.

How do your kids handle doctor appointments? What do you do to prepare them for their visits?

p.s. Massive thanks to all you awesome SSBE readers—new and old—because yesterday we reached a new milestone: over 1,400 views/day! Thank you for the continued growth of Sleeping Should Be Easy and for making this blog an amazing community.

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Stomach flu day two

I took the day off today so that both of us could help LO out with his stomach flu. I’m happy to report that he slept through the night. The doctor recommended that we wake him up in the middle of the night to replenish him with more Pedialyte, but even though I was touching him and talking to him, he wouldn’t wake up at midnight. So we just let him sleep through it.

Not only did he sleep the whole time, he actually even slept longer than he usually does. Normally by 6:10am or so he’s already up and playing in his room. Today, he was conked out and so silent that I had to check in on him at 6:40am to make sure he was okay. He was still sound asleep, and only at 7am, when I walked in again, did he wake up.

We weren’t supposed to give him solids until noon (24 hours since his first vomit) so we gave him more Pedialyte, apple juice, and water. We tried giving broth but in hindsight I should have listened to my husband who suggested giving it to him with a spoon. Sorry, babe! 😉

He woke up happy and smiling; so different from how he fell asleep, which was cranky and weak. We continued sanitizing our place, we washed our hands often, and we made it a point not to put our hands on our eyes, nose or mouth. Since stomach flu is ridiculously contagious, the last thing we need is for one or both of us to have it.

The first solids we gave him was sweet potato soup, crackers and pretzel balls. He had another liquid-y poop but my guess is that it’s because of the liquid diet he’s been on. Hopefully once his lunch digests, he’ll poop out more solids. Thankfully this whole morning he hasn’t vomited or had major diarrhea.

He’s still contagious up to ten days, so we still have to be diligent about sanitizing. I’m supposed to have my family over tomorrow for my birthday so we’ll see how that goes!

Edit: I forgot to add that when LO was sipping his Pedialyte, he took his sippy cup and gave it to Lovey and said, “Lovey, get better.” Aww, he was so cute. It was like he was being the parent helping his Lovey get better.

Stomach flu is a two-parent challenge

LO has the stomach flu. Other than a slower appetite, he seemed fine in the morning. We even went to the lagoon to play on the playground and had our snack at a coffee shop. But when we got home, he had a major vomit, as in the chunky kind and it just comes pouring out of his mouth. He also had diarrhea after. He didn’t cry or fuss though.

Later in the afternoon after his nap, he vomited three more times and had several poops, thankfully not diarrhea. But he started to get fussy and scared. We told him that pooping and vomiting is good because it gets the bad stuff out. We also told him that the medicine and juice will help him. His remedy ended up being a prescription that the doctor called in to the pharmacy. It was a pill that dissolves in his mouth and should stop the vomiting for the next eight hours. Pedialyte and other clear liquids such as broth, juice and of course water are his only foods right now. We also have to give them to him in sips, not just taking long gulps of it, to mimic the drips of an IV. Anything faster than a sip here and there will make him vomit. Solids and non-clear liquids like milk will also make him vomit or poop. We have to wake him up in the middle of the night to give him more Pedialyte in case he pooped and needs to be re-hydrated and nourished. By noon tomorrow he can start eating solids again.

With one parent comforting and keeping LO company, the other one is cleaning, dis-infecting and doing laundry. This is definitely a two-parent job!