Finding time to work out as a parent can feel like a no-win situation: You can wake up early and miss sleep, work out late and miss sleep plus partner time, or try to work out during your child’s naptime, which somehow only guarantees they won’t sleep.
When we first moved to Portland back in 2016, I left behind a beloved gym with ample, cheap child care. My exercise routine has since been reduced to biking to work and around town, and lots of short, slow walks with my kids, ages 3 and 6. So I recently spent some time getting out of my comfort zone to try some new classes that are parent-friendly.
FLY THROUGH THE AIR
Pictures of aerial yoga seemed to promise the relaxation of being enveloped in a fabric cocoon with the fun of trapeze — minus the heights.
So I took a friend to A-WOL Dance Collective for a Sunday morning restorative aerial yoga class. (Note: This studio does not currently offer child care, though it does have classes for kids, starting at age 4.) Stepping into the studio space felt like walking into the backstage of a circus: Silks hang from the rafters, an impossibly tall Chinese pole used for acrobatic tricks is placed near one end of the room, and an assortment of large metal hoops and other curiosities line the walls.
The instructor helped us select the right station and taught us a few moves before class started. Her descriptions were basic and patiently delivered, so we were dangling safely upside down in minutes without fear.
During the hour-long class, we moved through classic yoga poses using the hammock in various novel ways. Down dog was performed with hands and feet on the ground and the silk bunched up and supporting my hips. I felt a deep, relaxing stretch in my low back. Tree pose was one of my favorites: We stood in the hammock, balancing on one foot while gently swaying.
The class-ending move was magic: You flip into the hammocks, gracefully(ish) landing on your back with fabric supporting the length of your body. As we relaxed, she offered each of us a gentle push so we would sway back and forth. It was just the ticket for tired parents.
After class, the instructor volunteered to help us get into a very Instagrammable pose and snap pictures — who were we to decline?
WORKOUT: Calming stretching and strengthening.
COST: $17 for drop-in class. Class packages and series rates vary.
LOCATION: 513 NE Schuyler St. awoldance.org
WOULD I RETURN? I loved the novelty, support and relaxation. I’ll definitely be back.
BIKE DANCE PARTY
Star Cycle is described as a dance party on a bike. I bike a lot, but I don’t dance often, so I was half intrigued, half concerned. I took both kids to the Happy Valley location one evening and checked them into the child care area, which was well stocked with art supplies and toys.
When I entered the cycling classroom, I started to understand the cycling-dancing combination. The lights are turned off and the room is lit by candles. The bikes all face a low stage in the front, where the instructor’s bike was located, facing everyone. The front wall was a giant mirror, but the light was so low, I could barely make out my own reflection.
The instructor greeted me (and every student) warmly, helped me set up my bike and handed me some 2-pound weights. As I cycled slowly waiting for class to start, I noticed other students filing in, laughing, and smiling like they were about to do something … fun? I started to dread the moment the child care instructor would pull me out of class (my son was going through whatever developmental stage involves assaulting everyone within arms’ reach).
And then the music started. For the next 45 minutes, I was fully immersed in the atmosphere — low light, exuberant dance music, and an instructor who could sprint on her bike while delivering both practical instructions and deeply positive affirmations. I messed up almost every dance and rhythmic element for various reasons, but nobody saw — because you literally cannot see what you’re doing, let alone what others are up to.
At the end of class, I realized I wouldn’t have been able to hear anything from the child care area and frankly wouldn’t have cared in the moment. I checked in with the child care provider who confirmed (politely and only when asked) that my son had, in fact, committed some light assault. When she described her gentle, appropriate intervention, she didn’t indicate a hint
WORKOUT: Sweat-fest. Bring a water bottle!
COST: $15 for the first class, child care is extra. Class packages vary
LOCATION: Various locations around Portland metropolitan area, starcycleride.com.
WOULD I RETURN? Definitely. The pick-me-up combination of music and endorphin release is hard to beat.
YOGA FOR EVERYONE
On a recent Sunday morning, my two kids and I each picked a mat at Nest Playground in Northeast Portland and sat down for an hour-long parent-child yoga class. I was a little concerned with how my son would fare during class — or, specifically, whether my workout would consist of chasing a toddler around rather than breathing into a stretch.
But when class started, that fear dissipated quickly. Heather, our instructor, was playful, kept the class moving, and included songs, movement and animal-themed exercises to keep both of my kids
engaged. Toward the end of class when my son started to lose momentum (read: he was yelling “I’m done” repeatedly and trying to squeeze his body into shoe cubbies), she calmly invited him back, offered an engaging exercise, and reminded him that he would very soon get to play.
After class, we grabbed a healthy snack and some coffee at the snack bar, then my kids put their socks back on and spent more than an hour exploring the various rooms at Nest, including a bouldering wall, large indoor play structure with a slide, and a quieter area with magnetic tiles and blocks.
WORKOUT: Gentle. A great way to get my kids thinking about mind-body awareness, plus they played so hard in the play area after class, I could have easily done some additional stretching while they played (but I didn’t!).
COST: $15 per class with all-day access to the playground, class packages available
LOCATION: 6517 NE Sandy Blvd.
WOULD I RETURN? I’ll definitely be back for rainy day playtime for the kids.
Where to unwind — sans kids
There are no shortage of tried-and-true ways to relax and unwind — from hiking to yoga to meditation. Here are two local destinations that offer a twist on the spa experience.
I’ll answer the top three questions right away: You don’t soak naked at Knot Springs. There’s absolutely no clubby vibe. And yes, it’s worth it.
Knot Springs is part gym, part spa, and part European hot-and cold-springs located in the inner east side. The “springs” consist of a series of soaking tubs: One is tepid, one is hot, one is brutally, freezing cold. There’s also a sauna and steam room, and everything has a gorgeous view of downtown Portland.
The recommended cycle for moving through the hot- and cold- springs feels methodical and relaxing. (You can spot members and regulars because they’ll sit in the freezing water for extended periods of time rather than dipping in with a silenced yelp.) You can take breaks at any time to read and relax in the modern seating or sit outside and take in the view.
Drop-in soaks are $55 for two hours in the springs, which is the perfect amount of time to cycle through each soaking tub and sauna a couple times. They also offer massage and the rate includes time in the soaking tubs to fully relax. Pro tips: Reservations are strongly recommended. Stay hydrated and plan to have a healthy meal or snack afterward.
COST: Ranges: $55 for a two-hour soak, $130 for a 60-minute massage including soak, $200/month for a 12-month membership that includes access to the gym and social events.
LOCATION: 33 NE 3rd Ave., Suite 365, knotsprings.com.
Flotation therapy is, in many ways, ideal for parents. For 90 minutes, you’re in a warm, dark sound-proof cocoon, floating in skin-temperature water that’s so full of Epsom salt that you are rendered weightless. Here’s the real magic: No one is asking you for anything. It’s just you and your uninterrupted thoughts.
Flotation therapy — also called sensory deprivation therapy — was designed in the 1950s by a neuroscientist who wanted to control variables while he conducted brain experiments. The story goes that he then discovered all kinds of other benefits, including relaxation, pain relief, increased creativity and lower cortisol levels.
Like Knot Springs, you can find devotees who swear by regular sessions. Unlike Knot Springs, Float On is a solo pursuit: There is one flotation tank per room, and one person per tank. That means space is limited and reservations are required.
My husband and I both went for a 90-minute float and had vastly different — but similarly relaxing — experiences. My brain tends to jump rapidly from one unrelated subject to the next, so the first minutes felt a little like flipping through midday TV. At some point, that melted away and I floated safely off to sleep. My husband, however, experienced deep relaxation and benign hallucinations — a fairly common experience, according to Dr. Google.
COST: $77 for a 90-minute float, though discounts and specials can often be found on their web site, email list or on discount sites like Groupon.
LOCATION: 4530 SE Hawthorne Blvd., floathq.com.