I know that generally I post about farm stuff, but today I’m not going to. This post has been in the works for a long time, but I finally got the camera out today to make it happen. And I’ll be honest, I had a friend ask for some workout ideas and it put a little pressure on me to do this.
My day job is as a college professor, teaching students how to be personal trainers. In my personal life, I don’t exercise. I know that may seem backwards, but I’m in the best shape of my life and it’s because I live an active lifestyle. I don’t set out to exercise, I work around the farm and occasionally, I get to play with my kids. Thanks to my friend, I got to play with my kids tonight. I called it exercise. They called it playing.
The point of this blog has always been sustainability. As someone who has worked in the fitness industry for plenty-six years, I know that a sustainable exercise plan is difficult. I also know that one of the biggest obstacles to exercise is a house full of kids. We just need to redefine what exercise looks like and make it part of what the family does. And since the kids don’t see this as exercise, they see it as playing, they keep asking for it. Nothing makes an activity more sustainable than a 2 year-old begging daily for it. And who needs a personal trainer when you have a 4 year-old who keeps saying, “one more time!” and a 6 year-old who is standing there saying, “it’s my turn”. Wait, my job is to train personal trainers… you need a personal trainer so that I still have a job.
To be honest, I do think that people benefit from trainers, because good trainers will teach you how to exercise and use proper technique. I can’t critique your form through a blog and I can’t see if you are doing things wrong. And I can’t tell if you have contraindications to exercise. I’m just saying that maybe you should see a professional, but once you know the safe way to do things, ditch the gym and have fun with your family.
So here is my exercise plan… use the kids as weight. Now when you are in a gym, you always have people telling you not to slam the weights. I’m going to tell you the same thing because in today’s workout, the weights are your kids. Top priority of the workout is to not drop the kids on their heads, but most of the time, the kids LOVE being lifted by their ankles and swung around and stuff, just be safe.
First, we start with a warm up. These are bear crawls. Only your hands and feet can touch the floor (no knees) and you go around. You can even make it a race. I believe that every house should have a circle just for races such as these. Our house has a circle and this was the beginning of the race. I lost. I just take longer to warm up… that must be it.
After the warm-up, I was beat, so I let my wife demonstrate the next exercise. That left me with the camera… you’ll notice that my kid doesn’t have a head. Really he does, that is just a photo trick that I sometimes use. My wife is doing a bench press using my 4-year-old. We could spend time critiquing my wife’s technique, but it’s just not worth it to me. The beauty of using kids as weights is that they squirm just enough to ensure that you exercise the stabilizer muscles. It makes for a more functional workout.
Here I use my 9 year-old to do an upright row. I hold his hands and try to pinch my shoulder blades behind my back as I pull him up. He just keeps his body straight so only his heels touch the floor. And as with all of these, you should do as many as you can. And do several sets too. Your kids will like it.
Next, my wife did a leg press. She balanced our two year old on her feet and then would bend her knees to her chest and extent her legs to press him up. They are well trained at this because my two year old loves playing ‘airplane’. You can start out by holding on to your kid’s hands. Eventually you will gain the confidence to let go. And then you will learn to control a crash landing.
Now I am doing an overhead press. I have the kid stand in front of me, facing the same direction as I am. I then bend over and grab a hold of his thighs and lift so that his head falls (controlled) back toward me and then I lift him over my head. I then extend my arms toward the ceiling and bend them. Repeatedly. To add a little excitement, my 4 year-old likes it when I allow him to walk on the ceiling. If you want to add to the ab workout, as you extend your arms, give the kid a raspberry on their belly with your mouth. That makes them squirm and laugh so that you have to stabilize with your abs. Don’t drop the kid.
This picture may look exactly like ta previous exercise, but the difference is in the details. You will also notice that I stuck a standing exercise in between two exercises done while lying on your back. That forces you to get up and down. It’s part of the exercise routine. It’s good for you, do it. In the picture below, my wife’s legs are nearly straight and they will stay this way throughout the exercise. She will lower the kid to the ground (if all goes as planned, he’ll land on his feet)) and then lift him back up again. This is an awesome ab exercise.
I don’t really know how I get the kid into this position. It’s different every time, but in the end you want to be holding to his ankles while he hangs upside-down down your back. Then you just straighten your arms toward the ceiling. The 2 year-old was a bit of a struggle for me, I could have used an 18 month old, but I don’t have one of those. And the 6 month-old is not only too light, but just a bit too fragile still for the behind the back move. This works the triceps muscles of the back of the upper arm.
To finish it off, we did some jump-squats. So you squat down and then you jump. There is a lot to a proper squat technique and it really is important, but I’m not going to go into it here. Look around the web, you’ll find some good descriptions. So you jump and then as you land, you bend your knees to absorb the landing and you immediately jump again. And you just keep jumping. We’ve even added a little trampoline in the corner so our kids can just keep jumping. It’s funny, they still jump on the couch. We provide them with an indoor trampoline and they still prefer the couch. The jump-squat is one of my favorite ways to end a workout. you should, of course, cool down, but for that I just walk around a bit, beating the kids off me because while I’m tired from the workout, they are thinking play time has just begun and that I need to do 400 more sets.
There are a lot of other things you can do with kids for a workout. And there are a lot of other things that you can do with kids around for a workout. I didn’t get a picture, but I really like doing planks (balancing on your elbows and toes with your body in a straight plank position). It is especially good exercise when you have several kids trying to tip you over or sit on you. I feel that pull-ups were left out of this workout, but I don’t have an indoor pull-up bar, I use a 2×4 in the shed I just built. Cardio and flexibility are definitely lacking in this routine. I have tried, but I just can’t stretch with kids awake. As soon as I get on the ground, it’s wrestle mania. And that just isn’t how I like to stretch.
As far as cardio goes, it is probably even more important than the resistance stuff that I showed with the kids. You should be walking, running, cycling, swimming or doing something active for extended periods of time every day. On of my favorite quotes from an adviser was, “You don’t have to exercise every day. Only on days that you eat.” I think there is a lot of truth to that. I really like the idea of taking the kids to the park, running around the track pushing a stroller and as the kids get bored, you stop and do the exercises that I listed here until they are ready to run again. And then you can put the kids to bed early because they will be exhausted!
The best part of this exercise is that not only do you get a workout, but the kids love it!