… when you’re home alone with the children all day.
It’s hard being a non-working parent and a runner. One minute the children are at school all day and, chores and school events permitting, you’ve got some time on your hands to run; the next minute the school holidays are in full swing and you wonder how on earth you’ll be able to maintain any kind of fitness, never mind get out for a run. With a little creativity, though, it can be done, especially if you work on two principles:
That any and every little bit of time you can find can be beneficial for your fitness, even if it is just a few minutes a day.
That any and every bit of physical activity you can involve your children in will benefit the fitness of all of you, and that can only be a good thing. You’ll also be setting a great example to your children.
Here are some ideas to get you started – you will no doubt be able to come up with a lot more of your own!
Become a sunrise or sunset runner. If there is another adult living in the house, get up really early while they and the children are still asleep, and head out for your run. Not only is it a beautiful time of day to be outside, you’ll get some quality ‘me-time’ too before your busy day starts. Similarly, running once the children are in bed can provide a great winding-down time from a hectic day.
Use housework, cooking or gardening time to improve your fitness. Squatting while waiting for the kettle to boil will build leg strength, as will standing on one leg to wash up. Pushing the vacuum cleaner or lawn mower around more vigorously than normal can quickly raise your heart rate, as can a few quick trips up and down the stairs when tidying up; instead of taking everything up in one go, take things one at a time for a longer workout. Even a trip to the supermarket can be used creatively – the travellator at Asda provides a great calf stretch on the way up if you are wearing flat shoes, and the strength-building possibilities with lifting and carrying your shopping are endless!
Be creative with times that you would normally be sitting. Having a chat on the phone or watching TV? Walk through a few drills or try some stretches. Meeting up with a friend? Why not walk and talk instead before enjoying that coffee.
If the children are at a birthday party or Beavers or football training session, use that time for your run rather than waiting in the car.
Take advantage of any childcare that is available. Your local sports centre might have a crèche, or grandparents might want to take the children out for an afternoon. If you have a running friend, trade childcare; you look after her children while she runs, then she does the same for you.
Set up a mini circuit in the garden – include running, jumping, stretching, skipping, hopping, drills and anything else you fancy. Show the children what to do at each station and then do it together. You can make it as challenging and competitive as you like! Count reps, time things and keep a record; do it at least once a week and see how much you can all improve. Get the children to suggest stations for the circuit too – they are bound to have some great ideas that will get all of you working hard.
Take the children with you on a run. Really little ones can be pushed in a running buggy, younger ones can ride a bike or scoot alongside, and older ones can run with you. Keep them motivated by picking a route that has got lots of interest and stop along the way if needed – to hunt for bugs in the grass or Gruffalos in the woods. If your local park has a fitness trail, run between the activities and do each station before moving on.
Take the children to parkrun. If they are 11 or over they can run on their own; younger children will need to stay with you. If it’s a lapped course, you can build up each week until you can all run/walk the whole 5K.
Meet friends and their children in the park and set up a mini sports day, with plenty of races for the adults as well as the children. If you are lucky enough to have a smooth, grassy hill in the park, run up and down while the little ones run up and roll down!
Go exploring! Take a map and head for a local wood or beauty spot with the children. Run to the next gate, tree or whatever else you can see, stop for a breather and then head off to the next. The children will no doubt want to run as fast as they can, so challenge yourself to keep up!