Tuesday, June 1st, 2010...1:24 PM

How to Be a Fitter Parent

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We all know that lack of time is the number one excuse people give for not working out. We also know that we must lead by example if we want our children to develop healthy exercise habits, especially in light of the alarming stats on childhood obesity. So what’s a busy parent to do? Serious ultra runner and mom, Marla Hernandez, shares her fit parenting story with Libra Fitness.

by Marla Hernandez

I am a single, working mom and an ultra runner (i.e., I often run distances much longer than a marathon). I know that sounds impossible, and people often ask me how I find the time to train. My reply is that I have to steal time to train. But truthfully, I make the time. When I am consistently working out and taking care of myself, I feel better. And, inadvertently, I am a better mom.

After a run or workout, I feel confident and secure, as though I can conquer anything. I am happy and free to love. I am calm and patient. Myself, my son, and everyone around me benefits from the natural high I receive from a good, sweaty workout.

On the other hand, when I don’t have a chance to work out, I feel lethargic and irritable. Even my son notices. Honestly, if I haven’t had a good sweat by 4:00 PM, I tend to get grumpy and my patience wears thin. Yes, there are times when my son says, “Mom, maybe you should go for a run.”

I love sharing my love of running/physical activity with my son. I think it is important for parents to set a good example for their kids by being active, as well as pursuing goals. My son witnesses firsthand that I set a goal (running a certain distance), work toward achieving it (lots of running), and then finally do it (crossing the finish line)! An added bonus is that we have an absolutely great time doing active things together. It is just another way to strengthen the parent-child bond. Consequently, my son has been bitten by the running bug and joined his school’s running club. I also sign him up for kids’ races, and between the two of us we have quite a large collection of medals. Most of the time it is not about running, it’s about setting a goal and achieving it. Either way, we can have fun and stay fit!

Because my son goes to his dad’s house every weekend, I am left with unlimited time to train on the weekends. And train I do. I take full advantage of any childless time I have to devote to my sport. To me, anything less than a 3-hour run is a short run. However, the struggle for me is making time to work out during the hectic work week. Yet somehow I make the time, because I know it is of the utmost importance for my own well-being, as well as my son’s.

For those of you who don’t have a weekend babysitter, or any type of child care for that matter, there is still hope. You don’t need to train like an ultra runner in order to be a fitter parent and set a great example for your child. The trick is being creative and making fitness a priority (but not so much that it cuts into family time). Yes, I am the crazy mom, running sprints on the other side of the field while my son is at little league practice. Of course, you don’t have to be that extreme, but by making physical activity a priority, it will become a natural part of your (and your child’s) life.

Here are some creative ways to squeeze exercise into a busy day:

* Walk or run during a lunch break.
* Jump rope while watching TV.
* Keep a small trampoline in your office and jump on a snack break.
* Find activities that you can do with your child: ice skating, cycling, hiking, swimming, roller skating, dancing, or even running alongside your child on their scooter or bike.
* Go to a park with a big hill and run up and down while your child plays.
* Do pull-ups on the monkey bars while you are at the park.
* Wake up before your child and do a quick workout video.
* Replace you desk chair with an exercise ball.
* Stand up while e-mailing or talking on the phone and do calf and leg raises.
* Keep hand weights in your desk and do a few reps if you have any downtime.
* Always take the stairs!
* Bike or walk to work or when running errands.
* Suck in your stomach and squeeze your glutes together at stoplights when driving.
* Join a gym with a childcare center that your child enjoys.

In any case, it is easy to stay fit if you really want to. But, you MUST make it a priority. For me, fitness is a priority because frankly, I am a better, fitter mom when I take care of myself!

About the Author:

Marla Hernandez is a 36-year-old special education teacher. She began running just 5 years ago and quickly fell in love with it. Since then, she has run 15 Ultra-Marathons (anything longer than 26.2 miles), including four 50-mile races and a 100K. She currently runs 40 miles per week and cross trains 7 days per week.



  • Marla,

    It’s the other way around in my household…my teen daughter is the one who initiates me getting my workout on! She’s an avid volleyball player and I can certainly tell when she needs to take an “exercise induced timeout”. There are so many ways to get up and get fit that don’t take much time. Thanks for sharing!

  • Brigitte Morgan-Styers
    June 2nd, 2010 at 7:08 AM

    I loved this article. Very inspiring… and I needed some inspiration today.

  • Jenna Opperman
    June 2nd, 2010 at 8:39 AM

    Thanks for your story, Marla. Though I most likely will never be an ultra runner, it was helpful to be reminded of easy ways to stay active. Must get that mini-tramp back into the living room.

  • This is an inspiring article that I’d like to repost. Thanks, Chris and Marla! Excellent work.

  • Feel free, Marla, just be sure to use the following link to cite the original post. http://librafitnessaustin.com/?p=772

    Glad you liked it!

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