I’m not anyone’s definition of svelte. I haven’t been “bikini ready” since that one summer in my 20s when I took up Bikram yoga and gave up beer for white wine. However, I did manage to return to my pre-baby weight much faster after my second little girl was born, and have mostly kept it off now that she’s a year old. My secret is simple: I have a live-in personal trainer. She’s about half my height, weighs about 30 pounds, and doesn’t like to take “no” for an answer (though we are working on that). She’s my 4-year-old.
The good news is, she’s far from the only kid in this line of work. If you want to hire one for a day, to see if it’s for you without making a complete commitment, ask a friend with a preschooler. Wave as she peels out of your driveway, solo and whooping like a contestant on The Price Is Right.
You can expect at least two or three of the following on a typical day of training:
1. Stretching. My trainer favors “crouching mama, hidden crayon” as a warm-up. To set up for this exercise, place paper and crayons on the coffee table and invite her to color. After about five minutes, the red crayon will fall off the coffee table and roll under the couch where, after about 30 seconds, its absence will be detected and declared a minor emergency. To complete the exercise, get down on your belly and extend your right arm under the couch, stretching until your fingertips graze the crayon, somehow pushing the little bugger just out of reach. Shimmy under the couch as far as your shoulder will allow and extend your entire body further than you ever thought possible, batting and/or clawing at the crayon until it rolls within reach. Return it and relax into a seated position on the couch. Repeat the exercise with pink, green, blue, and yellow crayons, switching arms each time.
2. Cardio. To really break a sweat, head to the neighborhood grocery store. As you pass the restroom at the entrance, ask if she’d like to use it, which, of course, she won’t. Walk 10 minutes to the frozen food section and pick up a jug of milk. While lowering jug into the cart, look up to see she is crossing her legs. Take a deep breath in. Hold her left hand with your right hand and walk briskly back to the entrance while fumbling in your purse with your left hand. Confirm the absence of spare underpants and pants. Increase speed to a semi-dignified run. Arrive at ladies’ room and try the door. If it is occupied, remain calm. The men’s is almost always empty. Knock, enter, and lift the (nearly) relieved kid onto the toilet. Breathe out.
3. Resistance/Strength Training. For a fast all-over body workout, take her someplace fun, like her grandparents’ house or a public pool, and announce your impending departure after just four or five hours of solid hilarity. To increase the intensity, delay this exercise until a half hour or so before bedtime. I dare you.
4. Agility Training. Over the course of the day, it will look as though your trainer is taking a few moments for independent, imaginative play, and these are good opportunities for you to rest. My advice is to take them, because what she’s really doing is setting up an obstacle course for you to run later. I find a combination of scattered hot wheels, foam blocks, play dishes, and throw pillows really keeps me on my toes. But if this is not sufficiently challenging for you, run the course while making dinner.
5. Cool Down. Lie down beside a freshly bathed, apple-cheeked sweetie in her pj’s. Read The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog or Curious George and the Firefighters for the first of about a million times in your life, should you choose to retain a trainer of your very own. Kiss her head, turn out the light, and close your eyes for just one minute. Wake up two hours later, courtesy of a cherubic elbow to your side boob.
Let me be the first to say: this regimen really isn’t for everyone. There are nights when I stand in her doorway, wondering if I can handle what she’s got in store for me tomorrow, or the next day, without a complete mental breakdown. And the dietary side of this whole deal? It basically amounts to unlimited grilled cheeses, chocolate milk, and anything with frosting or sprinkles on it.
Still, I recommend it to just about everyone I know.