Having a child tends to rearrange a person’s priorities and, oftentimes, parents can find themselves getting shuffled further and further down the list. Many of these sacrifices are easy to make, but letting our health slide isn’t going to help us be better parents. “It’s well-established that exercise can improve mental health, and potentially even alleviate or prevent depression,” according to Time.
When I became a stay-at-home parent, we consolidated down to a single vehicle and moved to another state, which meant my social circle was extremely limited. Exercising absolutely helped me snap out of the occasional funk. Fortunately, it is possible to get some exercise and regain your physical and emotional well-being without prying yourself away from loved ones—and the effort doesn’t have to be expensive or overly time consuming.
This workout routine uses some of my favorite exercises—and really only requires a stroller. Make sure you have a great stroller so you can regain some strength, muscle tone, and sanity: while also keeping that little bundle of joy at hand.
1. Power walking is old school—and it works
This may sound like a retread of a decades-old fad, but the good news is you don’t need a headband or leg warmers this time around. According to several university studies, power walking benefits your physical and mental health, and can even prevent osteoporosis. Your greatest accessory here is that stroller.
Whether it’s a jog stroller or a more pedestrian model, that baby cart has some weight to it. You can use that resistance to intensify something as simple as a walk around the block. Set your own pace and, for variety, use landmarks to alternate the intensity. Serious runners train this way, too, and they have a weird name for it. I like to use utility poles because they’re everywhere. I’ll push the pace as I pass two or three utility poles, then ease up and recover until I reach the next one.
Track your progress (or spike your motivation) with a wearable fitness tracker.
2. Lift the stroller for bicep curls that burn
Bicep curls are great for strengthening muscles you can’t help but use every single day. You’ve got to get that kid in and out of the stroller, right? Standing on a flat surface, grab the handlebar with an underhand grip and lift the rear wheels of the stroller an inch or two off the ground. You may need to lock the front wheels of the stroller to keep it steady. With your biceps engaged and your elbows tucked close to your body, hold this position for 10 seconds. Set the stroller back down, rest for 20-30 seconds and do it again.
I also like to use top-rated resistance bands for this exercise. You won’t need the stroller, but you can stand in front of junior and make goofy faces while you do your curls. Step onto the middle of the band, grab a handle in each hand and curl away.
3. Use hills to chest press with your stroller
Because it would look a bit strange to try and bench press a stroller lying down, let gravity help you work your chest muscles with a great workout from Active Kids. With both hands on the handlebar, stand at the bottom of a hill and push the stroller away from you until your elbows are only slightly bent. Make sure to keep your back straight and your posture upright (the more you lean forward the less you’ll be working your chest) and march up that hill.
This isometric exercise will help bring strength and tone to one of the body’s most prominent muscle groups that are great for both men and women, according to Fitness Magazine (chest exercises are my personal favorite). To change it up, slowly let the stroller roll back towards your body as you walk up the hill, then press it forward to the starting position.
4. Lunge alongside your stroller
This exercise has a myriad of benefits. It works the entire lower body, from your hips to calves, improving strength, muscle tone and balance. Personally, lunges aren’t my favorite thing to do but I understand they are a necessary evil. It’s sort of like eating vegetables: I know I’ll feel better once I’ve done it, but it’s gonna be brutal.
On level ground, put your left hand on the stroller handle and take an oversized step forward with your right leg. Once your foot is planted, bend your knee until your thigh is parallel to the ground. Hold that position for a beat, then push off your front foot to return to a standing position. Do 15 repetitions on each side.
On the lunge, be sure to keep that knee from extending out over your toes. You can also use the stroller to steady yourself as you take a step backward, following the same form. Just lightly hold the handle and step back with one leg until your knee is an inch or two above the ground.
5. Row, row, row your stroller
One of my favorite pieces of equipment at the gym is the seated row, and luckily, I (and you!) can replicate this exercise with a stroller. Isolate the muscles across the upper back by facing downhill and pulling the stroller toward you. Alternating an overhand grip or an underhand grip will help work different muscle groups.
As explained by Lisa Druxman, the founder of Fit4Mom, keeping your feet about hip-width apart, staggered so that one foot is 6-8 inches in front of the other, helps to brace you from being pulled forward. With a straight back, try and visualize the muscles across the back of your shoulders contracting as you pull the stroller toward you. Slowly ease the stroller forward and repeat. Important note: You shouldn’t feel this in your lower back. If you do, reset your feet, correct your posture, or try an incline that isn’t as steep.
Obviously, on a hill, please make sure you do not let go of the stroller. Invest in a safety harness or clip for your stroller that you can attach to yourself as a safety measure. This might be a good time to use it.
6. Try reverse crunches, stroller-style
This exercise requires getting a little dirty for, so make sure you're in a safe area like a driveway or park, and grab a yoga mat to protect your back. On level ground, lock the wheels of the stroller and lay down flat on your back with your head pretty close to the stroller.
Grab a spot low on the stroller (you don’t want it to tip), slightly bend your knees and then roll your knees to your chest, keeping a tight core. The small of your back should barely come up off the ground. Slowly roll your legs forward again, extending your legs back to the starting position. A great foam roller can help ease those sore muscles when your done with your workout.