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The Fit Mom’s Guide to Playground Workout Hacks

The Fit Mom’s Guide to Playground Workout Hacks

Unfortunately, the playground isn’t your playground anymore.

You’re only there to let the kids run wild in a place that’s not your living room. It’s more than just a way to burn through pent-up energy, though. Having your kids play outside can provide them with an incredible number of benefits, from increased vitamin D levels to better grades at school.[1] And, hey, it doesn’t hurt that a super-long stint at the playground might inspire a few extra-long naps later in the day.

The only problem is you might feel a little left out of the feel-good exercise that’s happening all around you. You could, of course, partake in the sliding, swinging, and dangling from monkey bars, but you might also prefer a more concentrated, grown-up workout.

We have the solution you need so that everyone can benefit from outside time — playground workouts tailored to mom. Here’s a guide to playground workout hacks for the fit mom:

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Bench Jumps

They’re called box jumps at the gym, but do you see any CrossFit boxes anywhere? That’s why these are now called “bench jumps”. Find a bench or playground step that’s a reasonable jumping distance off of the ground and jump up, landing with both feet on the platform. Step down carefully and repeat.

Slide Tricep Dips

Find the least popular slide on the playground and go to town on your triceps:

  • Put your hands on the slide, plant your feet flat on the ground in front of you, and bend your knees.
  • Slide your body forward so that your booty is off of the slide and your arms are behind you.
  • Dip down so your elbows are at a 90-degree angle, and then push yourself back up with your triceps.

Swing Squats

You’d be hard-pressed to find a toddler who doesn’t love being pushed in the swings for what can feel like forever. Make better use of your time behind the ropes by dipping down for a squat between each push you give. If your child never tires of being pushed, you’re in for a serious leg-and-butt workout.

Swing Push-Ups

Here’s a move for when your child grows out of the swing. Put your feet into the seat and your hands on the ground, arms straight so that you’re in plank position. Lower your upper body down toward the mulch and back up and voila. You’ve just done one push-up.

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Stroller Press

Not all of your workout moves will take place on the playground itself. This is one that you can perform on the way to or from the park if your kiddos travel by stroller. Find a sloped pathway to push your stroller up — with one hand. Bend your arm and focus on your chest muscles, because that’s what we’re working here. And while you’re pushing and undoubtedly talking to your child, he or she will benefit, too, because social interaction helps children learn.[2]

Monkey Bar Abs

Your core is super important to your overall physical health since it, you know, supports your spine.[3] Therefore, you should find a set of monkey bars, grab on, and hang. Then, lift your knees up to your chest and really work those muscles. When you master this move, you can lift your straightened legs all the way up so that your body is in a 90-degree angle. Then, you can move onto tapping the monkey bar with your toes.

Stair Jumping Lunges

Your local playground probably has at least one set of stairs with a safety railing — for you, this railing is a way to balance as you go into an intense set of jumping lunges.

Start with one leg on a step. This one should be bent so that your back leg is straight and you’re in a lunge position. Then, jump up, straighten your arms and, while you’re in the air, switch legs so that the back leg is now bent forward on the step. Like we said, that railing is going to give you support in a move that’s seriously intense.

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Fireman Pole-Sit

Again, beware of sliding children before settling in for this move. You’ll simply put your back against the pole for support and slide down into a seated position with legs at a 90-degree angle and hold. The longer you can hold it, the more intense of a burn you’ll feel.

Jungle Gym Plank

Find a section of the jungle gym where there’s a bar that runs parallel to the ground. Grab onto the bar with your hands directly beneath your shoulders and step your feet back until you’re in a bona fide plank position. Hold it for as long as you can and you’re sure to feel your abs engage.

Ladder Toe Taps

Grab hold of the vertical bars of your playground’s ladder and tap the highest horizontal bar you can with your toe. Then, switch legs as quickly as you can, tapping the same bar. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Elevated Bridge Jumps

The bridge from which your kiddos can survey the entire playground is now your spot to get in a bit of explosive, leg-toning cardio. Stand just next to it with your arms overhead, and then jump up as high as you can, and try and reach the top railing. Do this as many times as you can for a 30-second stretch, working your way up to a full minute of high-intensity jumps.

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Creative Cardio

The best part about taking your kids to the playground is not just watching them play but joining in — chances are, they love it when you do. So, for a bit of heart-pumping cardio, organize a game of tag or red-light, green-light, or any other playground game that gets everyone’s feet moving.[4] We promise the rest of your workout will pale in comparison to this — the part where you get to play with your loves.

These moves prove that it’s possible to build a workout outside of the gym and we have a sneaking suspicion that once you start, you’ll be able to incorporate some creative moves of your own. More importantly, you’re breaking a sweat and giving your kids the fun, carefree playground memories that they’ll cherish for the rest of their lives.

Now we call that a win-win.

Reference

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Published on August 15, 2019

15 Tips for an Overwhelmed Working Mom to Feel Better

15 Tips for an Overwhelmed Working Mom to Feel Better

As an overwhelmed working mom, you get a lot of intelligent ideas from magazines, friends and the internet about how to manage work, children, and a household.

Unfortunately, you may still feel exhausted and insufficient at work and home despite the advice to organize, cook efficiently and pamper yourself .

How great would it be to wake up tomorrow knowing that you can begin to feel better without all of those overwhelmed feelings?

The sensation of feeling overwhelmed when you wear a lot of hats: mom, professional, household manager, partner, friend, etc. has its roots in reality. You are absolutely doing a lot of important jobs. But here’s the thing:

If feeling overwhelmed has become your knee-jerk or chronic reaction, this emotion is now literally a part of you that needs your attention so that you can move forward more confidently.

If helping yourself sounds too difficult, never fear. These tips come straight from therapy and neuroscience to hack into your nervous system. You will learn deeper ways to calm down and feel more confident about yourself, your life and your choices.

1. Breathe and Notice What Your Body Feels like Inside and Out

By using body-centered therapy techniques, you can better understand your overwhelmed feelings and offer accurate and practical help.

As you’ll learn, when you feel stressed out, your thinking brain is not your best resource. In fact, simply thinking about and bolstering your efforts to “get rid” of overwhelmed feelings might actually make them worse.

The first step to help when you feel overwhelmed is to simply slow down and breathe. This does not mean that you should suddenly take in huge gulps of air or breathe rapidly. That will send you into panic!

Breathe normally and naturally. Make your breath comfortably slow, extending the exhale. Count 5 to 10 breaths.

2. Get a Little Curious

Ask yourself: How do I know I’m overwhelmed? Close your eyes or soften your gaze if you are able. Imagine shifting your awareness from your outside world and sending it into your body along with your breath.

You might notice the signals right away. For example: My chest is tight, my heart is beating rapidly and there’s a sense of frustrated energy in my legs and arms. Or you might just hear some words like: I’m freaking out, failing or cannot do it!

If it’s possible, get a little curious about this sensation. Consider that while it may be a big feeling, you probably have other parts of you that feel differently.

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3. Offer Some Loving Care to Stressed-Out Parts of You

Richard Schwartz, developer of Internal Family Systems Therapy defines our personalities as made up of sub-parts that interact within us. This explains why a “part” of you can feel one way and yet, you have another part that feels differently.[1]

Gently acknowledging the part of you that feels overwhelmed and offering it some support and compassion (as you would a frightened child) can soothe your body and mind. “I’ve got you,” is a great mantra to breathe in when you’re overwhelmed.

4. Get Smart About Your Wise Nervous System

You may have heard of the “gut” brain or “body” brain. The science of Polyvagal Theory shows that the entire nervous system impacts how you think and feel – not just your thinking mind.

In fact, did you know that your wise nervous system generally picks up information from your environment before your brain can interpret it?[2]

When you feel overwhelmed, just one tiny cue of “danger” felt in your nervous system is often the unconscious trigger that tips you from busy but competent to feeling freaked out and exhausted.

This cue could be as simple as a song on the radio that feels overly-stimulating, a child’s bad mood (even if it has nothing to do with you) or your spouse forgetting an unimportant errand.

5. Remind Yourself That a Feeling Can Just Be a Feeling

When you’re feeling agitated, your physical body is naturally on high alert. Any information or stimulation you receive at these times will feel overwhelming.

This is not your fault, but it is helpful to understand that usually, when you feel like you’re not good enough, it is not objectively true. Your mind may just be creating a reason for the signals of danger coming from your body.

Allow your body to feel without making a negative judgement about yourself or your life. This technique will help you break the cycle of feeling overwhelmed, then creating negative thought about the feeling resulting in overwhelming yourself even more.

6. Learn Your Most Common Unconscious Responses to Stress

Why is this important? When you feel stressed, you probably respond unconsciously in the same ways throughout your life.

For some, too much stress will quickly create a numb, hopeless sensation. For others, the thought that life is just “too much” leads to bouts of panic or anger. Still, others might freeze completely, feeling highly anxious but not able to do much at all.

From a biological perspective, all of these experiences are pretty normal. When you recognize that your body’s reactions are not faulty or foolish, it’s much easier to reassure yourself and move forward confidently.

7. Exercise the Part of Your Nervous System That Provides Wellbeing and Social Connection

Did you know that you can actually tone your ventral vagal nerve, the nerve responsible for feelings of safety and social connection?[3]

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As often as you are able, allow yourself to linger on your favorite memories that invoke feelings of wellbeing, connection to loved ones, times of beauty in nature or your favorite memories of pets or places. Use all of your sense to really feel the experience in your body.

By doing this, you’re activating and toning your ventral vagus nerve as you might tone your muscles. Make a kind of “body bookmark” of these purely content sensations to which you can return when stressed.

This practice may feel silly, like an indulgence or even a fantasy. But it is supported by science and is important for you to create a strong and healthy response to stressors.

8. Give Baby Parts a Break

No part of you is trying to hurt you. But parts of us do feel extreme feelings and carry burdens from our past.

For example, if you are feeling overworked in the present, it may activate parts of your personality that felt similarly earlier in life. Deep anger, fear, resentment or sadness provide a signal to you that something from your past could benefit from your attention.

I know this may sound strange, but the next time you feel very overwhelmed, take a breath and notice if you feel like a child trying to do an adult’s job. If so, spend a moment calmly and compassionately reminding all of your inner child parts that you are indeed grown, capable and doing something appropriate.

9. Address Critical Messages You Give Yourself

What do you hear yourself saying to yourself when you feel overwhelmed? You may notice parts of you that sound critical or even cruel.

Statements like “I’ll never catch up,” “Why do I try,” or “I can’t do anything right,” are very common to hear when you’re under stress. Believe it or not, these inner messages are likely misguided protective parts of your personality.

These parts are normal and try to help you by “whipping you into shape” so you won’t fail, alerting you about scared feelings inside, or avoiding shock or disappointment by anticipating how others might criticize you.

If it’s possible, acknowledge these parts as protective. Maybe express a bit of gratitude. Notice how the critical voices inside you, even though they likely mean well, cause exhaustion and even more stress.

When you acknowledge these messages inside, letting them know they are part of you and you see their positive intention, the critical messages calm.

10. Take Small Moments to Express Gratitude

Everyone is talking about gratitude, I know. But there are good reasons for this trend.

More and more studies about gratitude show valid connections between gratitude and lowered stress and mental health. A 2018 multi-university research study concluded that gratitude not only has direct effects on quality of life, but also has indirect effects through perceived stress and mental health.[4]

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There are many reasons that gratitude impacts our nervous systems in positive ways, but the best way to discover this impact is to simply try it yourself.

Take a minute each day to write down one to three things for which you feel grateful. These can be large or small, important or trivial, but they must be true. Make this a habit and watch your stress-relief grow.

Or you can try some of these 40 Simple Ways To Practice Gratitude.

11. Play with Time

In Gay Hendrick’s 2010 book The Big Leap, he talks about the concept of Einstein time vs. Newtonian time.

Newtonian time is the clock time we all watch all day. Einstein time is more about what you make with your moments, realizing that your perception can slow or speed time up.

For example, if you are spending time with someone you love and doing something you enjoy, time moves very quickly. Conversely, if you are doing a miserable job in uncomfortable weather, each second can feel like an eternity.

The next time you feel stressed for time, take a slow breath and remind yourself that you make time. Time belongs to you. Then, enjoy the pace and do what you need to do. With practice, this little tool will become valuable for overcoming the mental pressure of time.

12. Don’t Be Tricked by Perfection

When you’re in the thick of raising children and working, sometimes nervous energy presents as perfectionism. In an effort to feel in control, you may make arbitrary but unreasonable goals for yourself that feel like they are necessary or true.

Make a quick inventory of every job you are expecting of yourself and your family. Now question it all. What is really important and what is just preferable? What jobs can be left to someone else’s discretion, done well-enough by the children or dropped completely?

Keep any jobs that give you joy and do them joyfully. Let go of jobs that feel like standards or expectations with little or no payoff. Save them for retirement if you like.

13. Give Yourself Credit for Quality Time with Your Kids

Think of the time you spend relaxing with and enjoying your children as a $100,000 per hour job. Very small amounts are still incredibly valuable.

Showing your children that they are important is just as likely to happen in a ten-minute game of catch as in a whole day at the water park. A shared snack time, a book before bed, a half hour away from your phone to allow loving eye contact with your babes adds up to a lifetime of security and wonderful memories.

Imagine your child someday saying, “Mom worked hard, but she always had time to hug me, to hear about my day, and to offer me guidance. I always knew that I mattered to her.”

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14. Meditate for One Minute a Day

Yes, you may do more. But if you can’t afford any more than one minute, go ahead and sit comfortably, breathe and be in your body for this time. It’s such a simple but powerful exercise and the kids can do it too.

While you meditate, notice your loving heart. What does it need from you today — patience, compassion, creativity, caring, play? Remember to show up for yourself and you will show up for your work and your family as well.

15. Guard and Celebrate Sleep

From tinies to teens, there are many unavoidable reasons that kids interrupt your sleep.

Here’s the thing: Unexpected sleeplessness due to childhood growth or illness is normal and not easy to control. If you are feeling overwhelmed, though, sleep is crucial.

There are two things you can do to improve your mindset toward sleep so that you set yourself up for confidence rather than collapse.

One, prioritize and protect your sleep time. If you tend to wait until the kids go to sleep to complete work or finally relax, that’s okay. But don’t let these activities cut into your sleep time.

Given the choice between another load of laundry, Words With Friends, binge watching Game of Thrones or eight hours of sleep, consistently choose sleep.

Two, appreciate and express gratitude for any sleep you get. Sometimes, it’s impossible to get seven or eight hours of sleep. However, allow yourself to enjoy any time when you are laying in a comfy space allowing your body to rest and repair.

When you wake up saying “I didn’t get enough sleep last night,” you put your mind on alert that there is something lacking. This thinking alone can trigger feelings of overwhelm.

Set your nervous system up for success by appreciating any amount of rest.

Final Thoughts

Life as a working mom is not an easy one. Overwhelmed feelings are natural and normal but, they can take over and cause chronic stress and dissatisfaction.

Allow yourself just a few moments a day to reorganize your thoughts and feelings using the steps above. You’ll soon discover your calm and capable self.

Take a lesson from your growing children: small changes create big results now and in the future.

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Featured photo credit: Bruno Nascimento via unsplash.com

Reference

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