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Many new parents recently celebrated their first Mother’s Day or Father’s Day (congrats, by the way!). And, with the added responsibility of parenthood, also comes the challenge of finding time for fitness. But, where to start? Career and marriage takes a lot of time as it is. Add kids to the picture and, for many folks, fitness goes right out the window.

So, now that it’s summer, stop worrying about the extra weight you may have gained and get moving. Take advantage of the warm weather and outdoor opportunities summer has to offer – and work on getting your old self back! Our crazy work and family schedules often make it hard to consistently squeeze in a workout. A solution? Take your kid with you! As with any new routine, there‘s a lot to figure out, so here are a few pointers on the most common questions and equipment:

STAYING ON BUDGET: I’m a firm believer that the best (and most affordable) gym is found right outside your door. It’s called “outside.“ Go for a walk, go for a run. Bike. Hike… you get the picture. But having kids along for the ride requires some extra gear. Obviously, you can break the bank on all kinds of accessories, but you don’t have to. Be on the lookout for online sales or gently used equipment at yard sales. Whether you’re in the market for a running stroller or a bike trailer, a good rule of thumb is, “don’t buy the Cadillac the first time out.” For example, if you buy a cheap running stroller and wear it into the ground than you’ve justified going back out and spending good money on a higher-end model.

RUNNING STROLLER: If you enjoy running or walking than this is probably the first piece of equipment you’ll want to purchase. A well-made running stroller is much easier to use than a regular stroller, can take a beating, and will keep your child comfortable even on longer outings. You can spend lots of money on one, but you can also go to most big box retailers and find something nice for far less. Be sure it has inflatable tires, a quick release front wheel, and can easily fold up to fit in your trunk. A swivel front wheel is an excellent option as it’s much easier to steer when running.

CHILD CARRIER HIKING PACKS: Most people underestimate hiking, but it’s great exercise. And with 30 pounds of toddler on your back it’s an incredibly solid workout! There are a lot of different packs out there so shop around and see what you like. This is one product where you may want to pay a bit extra for comfort and quality if it‘s something you‘re going to use regularly.

BIKING TRAILER: Similar to hiking – biking is fun on its own, but you’ll get an increased workout from pulling extra weight behind you. One of the really nice things about a bike trailer is that most can fit more than one child, which is nice if you have a growing family. As with other equipment, you can certainly pay top dollar if you’d like, but shop around and be sure to ask other active parents what brands and features they recommend. (And, if you’re the competitive type training for a race? It’s amazing how training with a trailer will quicken your times come race day!)

When it comes to being a parent and getting in shape, you have to start somewhere – running a marathon is an admirable goal, but your reality may not allow that – just yet. But rather than sitting around, just get moving. The key is to get up and get out! As you make it a habit you’ll get hooked and you’ll find it becoming an enjoyable part of your routine. Plus, by exposing your kids to a healthy lifestyle at an early age, you’re giving them a foundation for a healthy life of their own.

This is the latest installment (for the week of 6/16/2013) of my weekly syndicated column “THE PARENT ATHLETE” – a Health & Wellness Column for Busy Parents – published in over 20 print and online locations, reaching over 270,000+ readers each week. If you are interested in carrying my column in your own paper or website, please contact me at

Image by John Mayer, Flickr. Used by Permission Under Creative Commons License.

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