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Parent workouts. Tidying and weight training

Over the weekend one of my parent workouts was moving boxes and having a post Christmas tidy. If you think of tidying like a gym routine and the area you are tidying as your gym then let’s see what exercises you get to do.  

While tidying I realised each item you move is a variable weight that you can either adjust to you or you adjust your self to it.

This inherent variability in workouts at home is part of their strength because your body adapts specifically to the challenge you give it. Different weights, sizes of weights and many other factors affect the specific challenge you work through and are critical to providing all round health. Gym based working is often so specific and controlled that it doesn’t help with practical situations like tidying up or going on holiday.

Workout for life

That last point is the kind of thing I am training for, playing with my family and going on holiday. Those are my training goals and the result will be that I can play for longer and more intensely on a day to day basis. I know it will work because tidying the house involves the same movements as going on holiday and playing with my family including:

  • packing for the trip
  • loading and unloading the car
  • lots of walking around with heavy things
    • going up and down a lot of steps (to find your room or get toys from other parts of the house)
    • bring your luggage up to your room or carry your little one around the house (The reasons to carry them are varied, some fun, some less fun)
    • carrying everything while you visit all the places you want to visit.

This is true especially if you have kids, so the better trained you are the easier it all will be and the less you will feel the effects the day after.

The workout

The workout this time was a challenge because it involved packing and moving a lot of boxes to store them in the garage and create space in the house. This involved a lot of heavy lifting and awkward movements under load and I could tell I was doing a proper weight training workout. The only problem is that I have never quite known how much weight I am lifting when I do this kind of work.

So, for the first time I weighed a few of the boxes to get an idea of the workout I was undertaking. To weight the boxes I just used some bathroom scales .

Bathroom scales
Bathroom scales

I didn’t weigh everything but the weights involved included:

A 42 litre box of books that weighed 20 kg.

A 42 litre box of books that weighed 20 kg.
A 42 litre box of books that weighed 20 kg.

A box of Christmas decorations was lighter but bigger at 6kg in a 65 litre box.

6kg of christmas decorations in a 65 litre box
6kg of christmas decorations in a 65 litre box

Birthday decorations weighed 0.5kg and filled a 42 litre box

A 42 litre box of birthday decorations that was 0.5 kg
A 42 litre box of birthday decorations that was 0.5 kg.

I also moved

  • a 30 kg thin shelf unit from the garage back into the house
  • Plus a loaded table weighing approximately 40 – 50kg

These weren’t the only weights, just a sample.

The lifts

The specific lifts that were utilised included:

  • squats.
    • standard squat
    • hack squat.
  • Bent over row.
  • Single leg raises.
  • Shoulder press.
  • Bicep curls.
  • Tricep press.
  • Single arm row
  • standing bench press

I wasn’t thinking about the specific lifts I was performing at the time because they were all part of a wider chain of movement and part of getting the job done but I did each move and I repeated many a lot of times with varied angles and varied weights. So the workout was quite thorough and intense lasting longer than the workouts I used to do.


The limitation with gym workouts is the limited nature of their training. You lift in a very static way, just up and down in the same place on the floor. It’s not safe to move around the room with the weight and you focus mainly on lifting the most weight you can. That’s rarely the most important thing in real life. Whether you are

  • jump starting a car,
  • playing with a rambunctious toddler,
  • moving heavy furniture
  • carrying a lot of luggage
  • tidying the house

You will be moving a weight across terrain and often through narrow and awkward doors and stairs. So these home workouts are more useful as training for real life. Moving each of these weights involved:

  • going up and down stairs
  • negotiating the rooms and avoiding all items like walls and doors.
  • walking around the house
  • going outside into the garage
  • lean over stuff while putting each box in the right place.

These complications force me to work on technique so I minimise injury and it challenges so many different parts of my body in a way that just isn’t easy to do at the gym.

As opposed to gym exercises these were practical exercises that I need to be able to do regularly and as a result I have encouraged my body to get stronger at something that practically benefits me in real life.

Productive Fun

The workout was longer and I enjoyed it because:

  • I listened to music, sports and some podcasts through my phone and wireless headset.
  • No travelling time was required
  • I saved time by completing real life tasks
  • I wasn’t soaked in sweat so didn’t have to change afterwards
  • It cost me nothing
  • I didn’t have to wait for equipment to be ready

At the same time gym exercises literally waste your effort and output because they don’t help you achieve your day to day tasks instead they add extra requirements to your life that weight you down.

Measure work

One limitation I have always been frustrated with is that I am unable to record the actual movement I am performing in this complicated workout because the tools to measure calorie and work during exercise aren’t good enough.

For example I can measure the steps I take but that doesn’t consider the loads I was under when taking these steps. That may not have increased the calories burned by much but it does add a whole new challenge that impacts the body that we can’t measure at the moment.

I would have recorded the number of steps but I can’t track them because my wife has my stepper though if I had it I would still have work to do figure out the calories burnt but I don’t believe in calories burnt as the only statistic to use. There are so many more that you need to track to fully understand the work you have done.

I could go into detail but the point is that because it can’t easily be measured the value is generally missed by the scientific community and most gym instructors.

Lifting a weight over terrain and in different stances is so much more than the sum of its parts. So this workout has so much more value than a workout at the gym and the advantage is that I am not sweating or short of breath the whole time, it’s actually quite a comfortable thing to do.

My core is the strongest it has ever been and so are my legs, for example one legged squats have become really easy and leaning over while carrying weights is also much easier. This is because my infrastructure (muscles, bones and ligaments etc) can support these actions now plus I always focus on quality technique and I never push through pain.

Go tidy

That was yesterday and a day later I can feel the workout from yesterday. I have worked muscles, stretched and built endurance and I benefit from this every day because I developed my strength in the same place that I spend most of my time, in the comfort of my own home.

There is more space and the house is tidier, so I didn’t just build myself, I created a better place to play 🙂



If you want to learn more about becoming fit2thrive get in touch through twitter, facebook or email.


Super Busy Mum

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    1. Thanks lisa. It’s great isn’t it. I used to separate my workouts from this daily living stuff which meant I had so much more to do. When I realised how much of a workout the house keeping lark can be it makes me want to tidy more 🙂

      It really was a big workout aswell. I’ve felt the effect all this week from the parent workouts like this that I am now doing.

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