5 ways to keep fit (when you don’t have time for a run)

The first few months after becoming a mother I often stressed myself out with things I thought I had to do: keeping the house tidy, preparing nutritious meals, taking care of a newborn (that usually didn’t sleep at the times I wanted her to sleep), and, to top it off, squeezing in a run.

Once Maria was old enough to come along with me in the stroller, things got a little easier, but I still had a hard time finding time for my weekly interval training, tempo and long runs – I wouldn’t want to take her on those for practical and safety reasons.


Saturday morning ParkRun with Maria in the stroller

Since I decided to let go of rigid training schedules and take away the “must” from running, I found other ways to keep fit. I still run several days a week, with or without Maria in the stroller, but don’t freak out on days I plan to run but do not find the opportunity. I am sure other running mothers – and really just anyone with a busy life – can relate to this. Here are my favorite ways to keep fit:

1. Video workouts at home

By far the easiest and most fun way to stay in shape when leaving the house is not an option, video workouts – mostly found on YouTube – have been a lifesaver for me. I currently focus on Yoga Fix 90, a sequence of 90 videos of 30 minutes on average. They are a great mix of cardio, HIIT, stretching, core work and relaxation. But if you’re not that into yoga or want something a little more intensive you can find plenty of other workouts. Try, for instance, this ab workoutthis upper body workout, or this core workout for runners.

2. Running up the stairs

Ways to keep fit-2

Whether indoors or outdoors, running up stairs is a great workout.

In all honesty, I hate running up the stairs, because it is just so… tiring. Which makes me want to do it more, because if it burns it must be really effective! Tell me I’m not the only masochist out there… According to an article on Runner’s World, stair-climbing is a good exercise for runners, because it strengthens your muscles – even ones that get neglected during normal running, such as the gluteus medius – and taxes your heart and lungs. The result: some extra power, ranging from the sprint at the end of that 5-km race or the second part of your marathon. The article gives three stair workouts, but if the stairs in your house or apartment are not high enough to run up for 20 to 30 seconds do just anything that makes your heart pump and your legs burn.

3. Walking to the supermarket/friends/park

Life With My Baby 8 Months-5

Staying active with a baby

Though certainly not as strenuous as running up the stairs, do not overlook the health benefits of walking, including improved cardio-vascular health and a reduced risk of hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol. But for runners, walking may have perks as well. Going for a long, brisk walk may boost your endurance, while giving your joints and running muscles a break, according to an article on Active.com. Even short walks to the grocery store, park or a friend as opposed to taking the car will help you stay fit, so go for it next time you don’t have the chance to go out for a run.

Ways to keep fit-1

Walking with Maria to the park

4. Playing with your children

Depending on your kids’ characters, this can be more tiring than your average run in the park! If the weather allows, take them to the park for some soccer or shoot a ball in your backyard; inside activities like dancing or aerobics can be much fun as well. Even if your child is too small for active play you can do some baby boot camp (such as lifting your baby or performing sit ups with your baby on your legs) or kanga training (exercise with your baby in a front carrier).

Ways to keep fit

Ab workout with about 5 kg on my legs

5. Cleaning

Admittedly not the most fun way to stay fit, but the reward of having a clean and tidy house makes this one worth considering. Choose chores that burn a substantial number of calories such as vacuuming, mopping, or cleaning windows. If you have a backyard, weeding or lawn mowing (using a manual mower!) counts as a proper workout as well.

And if all fails, you can always decide to go to bed 15 minutes later or get up 15 minutes before everyone else and get some exercise done. According to science it takes only 7 minutes to reap many of the fitness benefits of prolonged endurance training, and all you need is a chair and wall. Perform each exercise for 30 seconds, take 10 seconds rest and proceed to the next exercise until you complete 7 minutes. Now let’s get started!


Ben Wiseman’s image illustrating the 7-minute workout, as it appeared on The New York Times website on May 9, 2013.


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