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Guilt and Exercise
by Jodie Lynn

How can I exercise without feeling guilty about taking time away from my family?

While the kids stayed home with their dad, sometimes I felt guilty while trying to keep up a swimming regime at a local health club But, then I realized, it kept me sane for all the many parenting challenges I faced alone while my husband traveled during the week. Get into something you like and try to stick with it. Your whole family will benefit from your wellness. - Sheryl S. in Roseville, CA

Keep yourself healthy and stay in shape so you can keep up with your family. I didn't exercise, and I really regretted it when it came time to teach my kids to ride bicycles. There I was, running along side them, helping them balance, huffing and puffing because I was out of shape and overweight. Now I am working on losing weight. - Cindy O. in Wichita, Kansas

My first suggestion is stop feeling guilty! All you need is 30 minutes a day. I do try to include my 9 month old son when possible by taking him with me when I jog or walk. He really enjoys the ride. When riding the stationary bike I bring him into the room with me along with his favorite toys. He plays while I exercise. Anything that requires more concentration, like exercise video tapes, I use when he's taking a nap or having quiet time in his room. - J. Broihan in Nashville, Tennessee

Exercising to keep healthy to raise your family should not make anyone feel guilty -- only if you over do it. There are some people who get such a rush out of jogging, running, etc., that they neglect their family. Unless you fit into that category, you are being a good role model for your children. You can make your whole family healthier by exercising as a group. Make it fun. While doing sit-ups, have your children sit on your feet and help you count, then you hold their feet. If children are too little to keep up on a walk, use a 3-wheeled exercise strollers. I've even seen parents riding bicycles pulling little ones behind in a kid trailer! Use your imagination to exercise with your children. If they are too little, do things indoors until they grow. You could also have someone watch your children while you jog or walk, then switch off. - Kate Thompson in Yorktown, VA

From Jodie: I've been a fitness instructor on and off for over 16 years. I know for a fact, it's tough to keep up the momentum, obtain goals, and wear all the other hats a parent needs to wear. Here are some tips to help you overcome your guilt:

First, realize you are doing this for them as much as for yourself. It will boost your energy level and add a certain air of confidence that will be projected to your entire family.

Next, talk it over with your doctor. Chart out a program. Begin slow and build up your level of endurance and strength for any exercise plan. Let your kids see you in action and place a star on the chart each time you exercise.

Invite them along if your going outdoors. They may slow you down -- but that's OK for a couple of days a week. Add their name to the chart and you put the stars up by the dates they exercise with you. Turn on the radio, or play a favorite piece of music, and dance by yourself, or with the kids. It's a total body workout, fun and they love it! But best of all, dancing in your own house is absolutely free!

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