The tired, quarantined Dad workout (Moms are welcome too)

This workout was inspired by fatigue due to sleep deprivation (7-month old twins) as well as a lack of personal space, which is typical of my 8 and 5-year old, but exacerbated by the conditions of quarantining. It took some fine tuning over the past 8 weeks, but now that I have a lot of the kinks worked out I thought I'd share in case there are other parents with similar struggles. Anyone is welcome to try (although it's kind of lite for you iron men and women out there), but it caters to quarantined parents with small children. The obstacles I mentioned have had the most impact on finding an extended window of time (beyond 15 minutes) to complete a workout, and that's the key to this plan. You don't need a large amount of time or distance from your kids to do it. Fatigue has limited my ability to wake up early to exercise, and I'm too wiped at the end of the day for anything of moderate intensity or greater, which is when I used to find time for exercise pre-twins. Gym closures plus the inaccessibility to an uninterrupted home workout space have prevented daytime fitness. And in all honesty I love that the older two always want to be near me, but it's made it challenging to work out given the dynamics of the current situation.

I structured this routine as a workaround for both obstacles and to be able to stay somewhat fit until the restrictions loosen up. I used habit formation tips I've referenced in prior posts and each movement is signaled by an environmental cue, or trigger. The routine is not without its limitations, which are also discussed below. 

The rationale:

Minimizes the degree to which fatigue and time constraints affect daily fitness regimen, while maximizing quality time spent with family. 

The triggers:

  • Going upstairs for any reason (change diaper, put away clothes, etc.)
  • Getting down on the floor with the twins so they can play and/or work on sitting/crawling
  • Being asked to go outside to play by my older children
  • Seeing the yoga mat laid out on the floor next to my bed at bedtime

The workout:

Push and pull days alternate, but I've been doing all of the cardio, yoga, and meditation daily.                                                               

  • Push day: Every time I go upstairs, I do 10 shoulder presses and 10 standing chest presses (dumbbells stay on the landing at top of stairs all day).
  • Pull day: Every time I go upstairs, I do 2 pull ups (that's right 2, I'll explain below) (pull up bar also located at top of stairs). 
I'm upstairs constantly throughout the day (diapers, laundry, etc.) so this trigger worked for me, but feel free to use whatever works for you. 


    • Every time I get on the floor with the twins or get down on my yoga mat, I do 5 push-ups. 
    • Every time my older two ask me to go outside to play, if feasible, I say yes and participate in the activity rather than supervise. 
    • Weather and work permitting, I will put the twins in the stroller and walk the neighborhood during 2 out of 4 wake cycles. They can't handle more than 15-20 minutes in the stroller without getting fussy so that's about how long each walk lasts. 
    • When I see the yoga mat before bed, I will practice yoga (style of yoga and duration of practice dependent on how wiped I am) and meditate before getting into bed.  


    • Pretty comprehensive: incorporates legs, push, pull, core work, cardio, flexibility/mobility, and breath work
    • Upper body recovery days built in since push-pull days alternate
    • Cardio and yoga are generally low intensity so I feel comfortable practicing daily
    • Variety in types of cardio (for example, baseball cycles between standing, walking, jogging and sprints while stroller walks are a more consistent, low intensity activity)
    • Variety in sports played with older children diversifies leg movements (lateral movements, sprints, jog, backpedaling)
    • Hilly terrain of my neighborhood engages different leg muscles during walks (uphill vs. flat vs. downhill)
    • Variety of sports, games, and outdoor activities with the kids protects against stagnation with routine 
    • Time efficient sets (each strength/toning movement can be completed in a matter seconds)
    • Cardio embedded in functional, leisure time activities with kids
    • Fosters connectedness with children and provides opportunities to teach/reinforce social skills 
    • No need to set aside an extended period of uninterrupted time to work out (with the exception of yoga at bedtime)
    • Low reps and low intensity cardio neutralize sleep deprivation and fatigue as a barrier to exercise
    • Adults need a consistent bedtime routine in the same way children do, so the yoga and meditation before bed has been a nice sleep hack to help fall asleep easier 


    • Not many explosive movements in my particular routine (except maybe sprinting during baseball or running bases with the kids) although you could probably incorporate them if desired
    • Probably not sufficient for anyone into endurance sports and looking to build or maintain stamina 
    • Puts a ceiling on strength building unless you contrive a way to systematically increase contact with your triggers or reps over time
    • For anyone who monitors progress with metrics (i.e. reps, time, etc.), variable daily contact with triggers and variation of outdoor activities makes it challenging to identify a solid dependent variable to measure  


    For any toning/strengthening movements, you should have some difficulty completing a set by the end of the day. If not, try changing your trigger to something you come into contact with more frequently throughout your day or consider increasing the amount of reps completed when exposed to your trigger.

    I've been trying to do power yoga, especially for core and leg strengthening, but if that's too much at the end of the day there are gentle yoga videos available on YouTube as well. Some yoga videos can be completed in as little as 5 minutes (for a variety of yoga styles) in case time and tiredness are issues for you at the end of the day.   

    You can always tweak the triggers, number of reps, types of movements, etc. to cater to your needs. Psychologically, I like to feel successful on 100% of sets, so I tend to set the bar low in terms of reps, and then do more if I'm feeling up to it.

    On a final note, think about how fit most children are and what their day looks like. It's filled with intermittent, varied, moderate intensity activity. They're not counting reps or aiming for a set time period of cardiovascular activity. In many ways, I feel like this routine mimics the activity of kids, so even though it might not seem that rigorous, you may get more out of it than anticipated.

    Feel free to share what's been working for you, offer some constructive feedback, or add to benefits/limitations that I haven't thought of. 

    1 comment

    • This was extremely interesting and informative. Although my lifestyle is very different and therefore my triggers take a very different shape, this gave me many great ideas that I can adapt to my setting. I love the emphasis on low repetitions per set and I suspect this would help very much in the establishment of the habit long term. Also, I think leaving the dumbbells out on the steps as a trigger is brilliant. I tend to group activities to certain spaces but it did not occur to me to distribute the various activities throughout the house like that. Where different aspects of the work out live in different rooms etc. There is so much here to work with. Thank you!


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