Fitness or Family?

Parents shouldn’t feel guilty for taking time to exercise

By Annette Benedetti

Whether we’re stay-at-home parents or working moms and dads, much of our time is spent improving our children’s lives. It’s canstockphoto22639163easy to feel we’re helping our kids while we’re working, cooking, cleaning, and shopping, but what about when we exercise?

According to a report published in Pediatrics, researchers from the University of Minnesota found that parenthood in general negatively affects parents’ nutrition and their exercise routines. It also revealed that moms specifically tend to have a higher body mass index than women without children, which can have a negative impact of their health.

As people become moms and dads, their need for a regular fitness routine becomes even more critical. But is it selfish for parents to set aside time to work out if it means less time with their kids?

This internal conflict plaguing parents is seen in incendiary viral articles and heated online discussions. One example is the infamous image of fitness trainer, Maria Kang, flexing her toned body next to her three small sons under a caption that reads, “What’s your excuse?”

Responses to the Kang image included articles with titles such as,“Why I Don’t Want to Be a ‘Fit-Mom’ Anymore.” Yet a large body of research shows that regular physical activity improves parents’ mental, physical, and emotional health. It also increases the chances their children will be physically active throughout their lives. So how do parents reconcile their seemingly contradictory desires to be a great parent and stay fit?

Three Central Oregon moms shared how they fit fitness into their families’ routines.

Nicole Ruiz, mother of six

Nicole works part-time, goes to school, and is an avid runner. She says, “I share my children with my ex, so I tend to plan things when they are with their dad . . . I plan ahead and try to attend races that are not on my kids’ weeks. However, I do sometimes feel guilty for wanting to go out and run when my kids are home simply because my time is limited with them.” Asked if she feels staying fit means choosing between herself and her children, she explains that her fitness comes second. “I would rather be looked at as an amazing mom [than an] amazing runner. I would love to be seen as an amazing mom who runs in her spare time, and is pretty good at it.”

Lisa Riley, mother of one

Lisa says she enjoyed an active lifestyle before having her son at age 34. While pregnant, she started an exercise routine she has struggled to maintain for the last six years. She explains, “I’ve tried to establish a regular exercise routine, [but] something always comes up . . . Sometimes it’s because of difficulties working around my son’s schedule, or obligations to his school. Other times it’s work or simple laziness.”

Though Lisa struggles to find time to exercise, she says she doesn’t feel guilty when she does. “When I force myself to work out, I not only feel better about myself, but I feel like I have more energy to share with my son,” she says. “I also feel like I am a better role model for him.” Lisa credits her lack of guilt with having a great parenting partner. “I am lucky,” she says. “I have a husband who is a good father, and my son likes it when they get to be at home alone together to do ‘man stuff.’”   

Stephanie Krause, mother of two

Stephanie, owner of Bloom Preschool makes time for exercise as often as she can. She admits that sometimes staying fit feels like a choice between taking care of her kids and herself. But she explains, “The reality is that when I choose to stay fit, I’m a better parent. I’m more physically fit and more prepared for whatever busy, active stuff my kids’ lives throw my way.”

She says she doesn’t feel guilty about workouts because in addition to giving her physical, mental and emotional readiness for her children, her workouts set an example for them. “By working out, I’m showing them that workouts are important for quality of life. Getting my own workout in is modeling of self-discipline at its best,” she says.

For parents who want to start a fitness routine or just get back into one, Bend offers several parent-friendly fitness classes,  which include childcare. 

Barre 3 in Bend: 70 SW Century Drive, Suite #140  541.323.2828

Juniper Swim and Fitness: 800 NE 6th St.  541.389.7665

The Athletic Club of Bend: 61615 Athletic Club Dr. 541.385.3062

Xcel Fitness: 2410 NE Twin Knolls Dr.  541.383.3481

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