21 Days of Working Out with a Baby

My ten-month-old daughter reminds me so much of my now seven-year-old son. Like him, she really never stops moving, even in her sleep. When he was not much older than she is now, I was curious as to if I could include him in a well-rounded exercise routine for three weeks. Because — why not? If anything it would provide me with a fresh fitness routine, give my wife a much needed break, and best of all, give he and I some time together alone for twenty-one days. Imposing an unnecessary constraint on any scenario can be really interesting. For me, it will often jump start creativity and result in experiences that I would have otherwise never arrived at. I’ll often do this in design. What if I only use black and then allow for only one accent color on each page view? Or what if every screen only had just a single button? It doesn’t alway turn out great, but I’m guaranteed to go down a road that I haven’t been down before.

One of my favorite places to play this game is in the area of fitness and nutrition. Especially when the constraints reconnect me to a version of my ancestors from another era. As species of nomadic hunter-gatherers, strollers and daycare have only been around for the briefest blink in our existence. Most of life’s waking moments were filled with movement, and to keep that baby from becoming a predator’s snack, he was always clinging to the mother’s body.

Far removed from my primal past, most of my days are spent staring at a box of pixels. I try and indulge in at least one hour every day to get my body moving, but what if mom wasn’t around? What if I couldn’t leave my baby behind for that workout break over the next 21 days?

The Movements

Resistance Work

Outdoor Training

Yoga

How I Included My Baby

Wearing

Bicycling

Free carry

Disclaimers

  1. I did this experiment while living in Santa Monica, which probably has more options for fitness than anywhere in the world. In ten minutes in any given direction, I can be in yoga, on the beach, in the mountains or in the gym. I know that most geographies pose limitations, especially around the weather. Hopefully you can find some alternatives.
  2. My friend owns a gym that I had brought my baby into and I know that this isn’t the case with regular gyms. However, most of the equipment I use is easily accessible and can be used in a backyard or park.
  3. On my last day, my wife came on a hike with us. Almost every time he glanced at her, he wanted to nurse. Prior to that, he had barely fussed during any of the other twenty workouts. Depending on the age and disposition of your baby, mothers may not have the same kind of experience with this as fathers.

Discoveries

For about everything else, you can work hard, but not like you can without a baby. You intuitively just make all the movements a little smoother, and that’s hard. If you have a pace you just have to work at, be ready for that to all kind of go to hell with a baby. Sometimes it just takes forever to get out of the house and other times you need to stop a session for a diaper change or because he’s just unhappy because, well, he’s a baby. There’s also something counterintuitive about lifting as much weight as you can while wearing a baby. You just end up trading heavy weight for slower, higher reps and it’s a different kind of workout than you might usually do.

I had just finished a book that addresses the topic of overtraining. When assessing your overall recovery, the author points out that the entire system must be considered, not just what body part you did the previous day or how sore you are. This includes factoring in how much you slept, what you ate and how demanding the rest of your days are. This all leads to the fact that it’s fine to work out every day, but not undergo a “managed” session every time. Managed means that it isn’t fun nor effort-free. It’s beyond challenging — you have to get yourself in a specific mental state in order to get through it. “Managed” is how I feel that most of my exercise is. Surprisingly, I never had to psych myself up for any of these workouts with my baby. I took a few days off in the middle of the three weeks because I felt like I was coming down with a flu. Aside from that, I just went straight through only because I looked forward to it so much.

My biggest unexpected discovery was how much I loved this time with him. Wearing him for that period of time every day and going through this three week challenge changed my relationship with him in a way I cannot quite describe. He’d smile and stick his hands in my mouth while I did ring-dips with him on my front and start laughing hysterically when I did plyo push-ups with him on my back. There was something about working that hard and having him so close to me that was truly wonderful. I’m looking forward to repeating this challenge with my little girl.

Elijah Szasz
SPARK6

Elijah runs a LA/SLC creative agency focused on the good side of technology. He’s also a mediocre athlete, father, and entrepreneur. https://www.spark6.com/

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store