If you’re a parent of one or more young kids, time is a major constraint and it can be tempting to solve that issue by training while watching over them. No matter how busy you may be with work, there are times you have to watch over your kids, so why not train at the same time?
For most people, the answer is that it wouldn’t be worth it because it’s impossible to have a real training session while watching over young children. But this fails to take into account the many and major benefits it brings, both for you as the adult working out and for your kids.
Cons of training with young kids present
One certainty: you will be interrupted by them or need to intervene. So the main drawbacks are that you cannot:
- easily focus 100% on your technique
- maintain exactly the pace and reps your training program is calling for
100% focus is impossible to achieve since you do need to be aware of what’s going on around you to avoid hurting them if they get too close or watch for other kids if you are at the playground. And that’s assuming they choose to behave… With siblings or if they are tempted to take risks, then you also need to intervene.
These interruptions will make it impossible to complete exactly the number of reps, series and pace a rigid training program would call for. You will need to interrupt some series, some of your rest times will be longer than called for because you’ll still be separating siblings when the time comes to do the next series, etc.
You may even need to abandon your training altogether and call it a day if, like me sometimes, you have the 5 yo fighting the 7 yo constantly and the 2.5 yo didn’t get his nap and has been crying for the past 15 mins (yes, this happened).
Pros of training with young kids
Now let’s look at the pros of training with young kids present, wether you do it at home or at the playground.
As a parent, you sometimes (or a lot) have to watch over your kids, no matter the amount of family or professional help you get. If you train during those times, you don’t have to get dedicated training time later on.
You literally save time that you can then spend on work, family or kids time doing other activities. If you’re in a playground and your kids are used to play by themselves, then they have fun and you train, win-win. It won’t as clear-cut as that, and it shouldn’t be. You can play with them, then train, then play some more, then train again, etc.
Worried about using “their time” to selfishly train for yourself? Well, what’s the alternative? Sitting down on a bench with your phone? That won’t signal availability to play with them. In fact, most kids will take you training as a cue they can jump in and play with you, and you should let them.
Role model for your kids and building up their habit
The most important beneficial aspect of training with your kids is the role model you are providing them with. If you only train in the gym alone, not allowing your kids to see you exercising, then you waste an incredible opportunity to inspire them.
If they see you jumping, climbing, crawling, sweating, just moving your body around, they’ll want to imitate you. They start to do the same things, at their level, and they get positive recognition because you’ll encourage them.
Giving them this inspiration makes it worth it several times over for me. It’s like training multiple generations at once, simply because you allow them to see you train. Don’t underestimate the impact this can have.
Improve your capacity to focus among distractions
There is a difference between being available for your kids when they ned you to and responding to every single one of their distractive demands. I often train balancing during playground visits and I get asked to arbitrate disputes among siblings while I’m balancing. Yes, this is distracting. But I do my best to politely explain that they should sort it out themselves while not letting this disturb my balance. Sometimes that works, sometimes I have to interrupt a minute later because the shouting is now ten times bigger. Either way, this helps me train to remain in focus even when faced with distractive demands.
No need to say this capacity is directly transferable in business contexts or even to other family events…
Improve your self-drive
It takes some serious self-drive to train when kids are around, especially in playgrounds. It is easy and tempting to just sit around and browse your phone. Or think about work issues or even just lazily keep an eye on the kids while getting in some rest (deserved) rest time.
So every time you choose instead to train, you’re reinforcing your willpower and drive to become fitter and healthier. And again, stronger willpower will transfer and benefit you in many different domains.
Training with kids around is more natural
Bear with me on this one. This isn’t a benefit but understanding this will alleviate any residual feelings of inadequacy when training with kids. Going back to the hunter-gatherer lifestyle that our bodies evolved for, nobody did any “workouts”. It was an energy-scarce environment and it would be foolish to exercise just for the sake of exercise. Getting food and shelter was already physically demanding and activity wasn’t in short supply.
But guess what? That activity was in nature, and either you hunted or you could be hunted while doing all other activities. You needed to maintain situational awareness at all times. If you didn’t, you ended up dead over the ling-term.
Training with kids around is the same: you need to maintain situational awareness to ensure your kids are safe and you don’t hurt them while training. You might think that you’re training optimally because you cannot focus 100% on your training, maintaining the exact reps, etc. But the best training you can get your body is to replicate evolutionary adequate physical stimuli. The need to maintain situational awareness is a way to do that, not getting in workouts where it’s easy to focus.
Conclusion: do it without hesitation for its many benefits
Exercise doesn’t have to be rigidly structured to be effective, so be very careful of overly rigid training programs. At the very least, be aware their rigidity results in very high opportunity costs for you and be sure they are worth the trade-off. Because this is literally the only inconvenient you can find in training with your kids around, and it would be a shame to miss on its many benefits because of this.