Show and do WITH kids to instill health, fitness

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Putting your physical fitness at a high priority can be a challenge at any stage in life. But when you’re pregnant or a mother of small children it can be nearly impossible.

I sat in my comfy chair far too many cumulative hours during my pregnancies. With loose and miserably achy joints, pinching nerves and extra weight to carry around, it felt like too much effort to don my husband’s sweats and walk around the neighborhood like a stuffed duck.

I should have, I know. I really know — after spending three years trying to resurrect my abdominal muscles and fit into my favorite jeans.

It was easier to walk off the baby weight with my firstborn. Sometimes I’d walk for his entire three-hour nap, him peacefully snoozing on one side of the double stroller. But with two little ones, getting those walks in became increasingly difficult. Trying to time walks between or on top of naps, trying to keep peace and, later, simply keeping them IN the stroller — oh, the challenges.

Things I’ve learned:

• I took the list of don’t-do’s during pregnancy too seriously. Yes, prenatal water aerobics is great. But so is a bike ride. So is rollerblading. Perhaps rock climbing would be a bit much, but I could have enjoyed many other exercise options that would have kept my joints limber and my muscles strong.

• Dress for the weather. It’s never as bad as it looks when you’re sitting in your comfy chair looking out the window. Rain jackets work marvelously. As do fleece pants. If you just had a shower of freezing rain, you can stay inside. But in most other situations, you can safely go enjoy a nice little walk. Some strollers even come equipped with rain covers to keep the little ones dry.

• Have an essentials bag ready to go, so you can’t use that excuse. You’ll be prepared with diapers and wipes and water and snacks and binkies and toys and whatever you might need during your excursion.

• Take it easy. Trying to walk or jog too fast can exacerbate pain (I had a sciatic nerve thing going on during both pregnancies) and starting too fast can cause you to give up too soon. Be kind to yourself. A nice long, slow walk is sometimes the most therapeutic.

SBlt When your toddler grows out of the stroller and can ride a tricycle or strider bike, have them ride with you while you walk. Or, if you’re ready, try jogging along with them. My boys both started riding their bikes without training wheels at an early age and soon I had to put my rollerblades on to keep up with them.

• If your neighborhood isn’t conducive to strolling and biking or blading, consider driving over to the Walla Walla Community College parking and going up the paved path to the dam and back (3 miles). Or find a track that’s not busy and jog around in a circle while they ride or play in the grass.

Having an active lifestyle in which you show your little ones how much you appreciate fresh air and fitness is key. Try going for little mountain hikes with your kids, even if you don’t get out of sight of the car. Introduce them to gymnastics, swimming, roller blading, ice skating, rock climbing. And do some of these things yourself, whenever you get the chance. It shows them that you value and enjoy fitness too.

At this point in my life, with boys sleeping through the night and daddy home in the early mornings to feed them breakfast and get them ready for the day, my favorite thing is to run off to Jazzercise, where I can learn a bit about pop culture and bring my abdominal muscles back to life. It gets my metabolism going for a full day of kid wrangling, and combined with a healthy diet and active daily lifestyle it has been enough to help me shed those hated pregnancy pounds.

I look forward to the day when my kids can join me at the pool to swim laps or follow my 10-mile bicycle route or play roller hockey with me in the parking lot or cross country ski the Horseshoe Prairie loop. But for now, we’re planting seeds that tell them “exercise is fun.”

Teaching kids to be healthy is mostly about leading by example. They watch you get off the couch and put your tennis shoes on. They see the spinach you’re eating in your salad. They notice when you remember to take your multi-vitamins. They’re excited when you get your snow boots on to join them in a snow frolic. They see you pushing through the hard stuff of motherhood to have fun and be healthy.

So take that self-sacrificing, stretched out, flabby mommy body that everyone else loves and give it a work out so you’ll love it too.

Laura Kyle and her husband Tim live in a little yellow house with their two sons. She blogs at www.houswifeintown.com about the reality of life — a desperate balancing act where tickles and games of chase meet laundry and healthful meals.

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