I Exercise While We Play
October 1979

“I Exercise While We Play,” Ensign, Oct. 1979, 63

I Exercise While We Play

After our third baby was born, I began to notice that my girlish figure was not so girlish anymore. In fact, when the baby was three months old, I was still wearing maternity clothes. What could be more depressing?

I had faithfully followed an exercise routine during pregnancy, but after the baby was born it seemed I just didn’t have time for myself any more. The routine regressed to a couple of quick situps each morning before I hurried off to start the laundry or bathe the baby. And even then I felt guilty that I couldn’t spend more time playing with and enjoying my children. I fell into bed each night exhausted, and my body felt absolutely gluggy.

I knew that jogging seemed to be the answer for many. But how does a mother jog with three preschoolers hanging onto her skirts? I thought about getting up earlier, but my husband and I were already getting up earlier to read scriptures, and to get up earlier than earlier meant braving the cold winter mornings in the dark. I knew I’d never make it. There was, of course, the possibility of jogging at night after the children were asleep. But again, that often meant going out in the dark, which seemed neither inviting nor safe.

I tried jogging around the playpen. Literally. But do you know how many times you have to go around the playpen to equal one mile? I got dizzy.

Next I watched our five-month-old lying on her back and then on her stomach, kicking her feet and waving her arms for fifteen or twenty minutes at a time without stopping, and I decided to try that. I lay down on my stomach on the floor and swam, kicking my feet and waving my arms like she did. I lasted one minute and thirty seconds. But while I lay there recuperating, an idea was born.

I remembered the children’s activity records (available through record stores) that I had previously purchased for my little nursery school students. They had been great for getting the wiggles out on rainy days. My own children enjoyed them too. If the activities on those records could wear out those active little bodies, I thought, they would most certainly provide a challenge to my flabby one.

“Come on, kids,” I called, “let’s play your records.” They were delighted. They always enjoyed their games and records more if mom played with them.

The first record we chose was “Train to the Zoo.” Just try sitting on the floor with your legs in front of you, and moving across the floor while rotating your arms like train wheels. That takes energy! And I found an exercise to imitate every animal in the zoo. By the time we got “back on the train” and scooted across the floor again, I knew I had challenged my heart and lungs—and my children thought I was just playing with them! We also went through “Train to the Farm” and “The Circus Comes to Town.” Both challenged every muscle in my body.

I used to think I was too tired to exercise, but I have found that exercising with my children actually relieves aching muscles and tension headaches, in addition to improving muscle tone. Afterward, I’m ready to attack my housework with enthusiasm, the children are content to play by themselves for a while, and we are all in better physical shape. Geri Brinley, Ogden, Utah