By AMANDA BEAM
> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Even without the stressful board meetings and long commutes, staying at home to raise small children can be a difficult job. With no water cooler and only a diaper genie to gather around, parents who don’t work outside the home have different challenges they face in meeting their fitness needs. When you substitute a chest press by lifting your screaming toddler 20 times, it might be time for a change.
Angela Jackson understands the stress of being a stay-at-home mom. For the past eight years, she has cared for her three children, the youngest of which is 18 months old. An avid runner, the Jeffersonville resident registers for races to motivate her toward completing her fitness goals. Morning workouts suit her best before all the hustle and bustle of life really heats up. She thanks her family for watching the children and giving her time to exercise and have some adult conversation.
“It’s definitely a stress reliever. And for me most of my runs are with a friend. So very rarely am I going out running by myself,” Jackson says. “It’s probably more important for my mental health than my physical health as far as just getting out there and having girl talk and building friendships.”
Fitness instructor Gretchen Bell also knows firsthand how important meeting others can be to those who stay-at-home. Through the Floyd County YMCA Mommy and Me class, Bell helps mothers and fathers reestablish their fitness routine. Babies and toddlers up to 18 months come to the class with their parents to participate in the fitness activities.
“Everything we do in the class, you can do at home as well with your baby,” she says. “A lot of the time, the babies are just fascinated at what mom is doing. We do hold the babies in a lot of exercises and there’s interaction with them.”
As a mother of a toddler, Bell says at first she had a difficult time leaving her newborn. The class seems to help parents ease that fear. Due with her second child in May, she plans on returning to teaching the class with her new baby in tow.
“This is really a great comfortable way for moms and dads… to bring their kids with them and get some exercise and get back into the swing of things and be around other parents,” she says. “It’s like a little support group.”
Like Bell, Georgetown resident Melissa Wheatley depends on the Y to help get in her workouts. The mother of three uses their Child Watch to babysit her youngest while she runs on the treadmill or participates in classes. Free with a membership, the in-house daycare watches little ones for up to two hours while their parents make use of the facilities.
“Staying at home, you kind of juggle it all,” Wheatley says. “If it wasn’t for the Child Watch at the Y, there probably would be no workouts. That’s huge for me.”
Finding a moment for those workouts, even with the Y available, can be a problem. Wheatley says at times exercising needs to take precedence over other activities. To new parents, she suggests using naptime to get a few minutes in. Doing physical activities with your children, like taking a walk around the neighborhood, can also help.
“You can find every excuse in the book, but if you’re truly passionate about weight loss or staying fit, whatever your goal is, you have to make it a priority,” Wheatley says. “You just have to designate that time to get that done.”
When first exploring her fitness options, New Albany resident Michelle Finn contemplated going to a traditional gym. That was before she was introduced by an online ad to hooping. The mother of three now gets most of her exercise from exercising with this favorite child’s toy.
“With hooping, it’s a great cardio workout because even though you’re kind of standing in one place you can use your arms. You can use your legs. You can use your waist. You can hoop without even putting a hoop around your waist,” she says.
On a nice day, Finn will take the children either in her backyard or to a park and start hooping. When the kids become bored, they can play on the nearby playground as she continues her workout. Normally other park visitors come and inquire about the unique exercise. Finn learned early on to bring some extra hoops so they could try too.
To get your hoop on and learn some basics, visit an online hooping community at hooping.org. If traditional gyms are more to your liking, check out www.ymcasi.org for additional information about the Y programs mentioned above.