10 Ways To Be More Active As A Family
“It’s impossible to find time to exercise. With work, and the kids….”
I’ve heard this line too many times. I may have even said it myself once or twice. And yes, with all of us working more, and with all the extracurricular activities our children have now, it seems like there is less time to exercise, and less time to spend with our kids. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
SOME TIPS ON GETTING STARTED:
- FIND MIDDLE GROUND WITH YOUR KIDS. Obviously everyone is different. You and your child/children might lean more towards sports – the challenge here is keeping up with your kid’s ability, and putting off the inevitable – when they will one day dominate you at said sport. Other parents and kids will not have an affinity for anything involving a ball, stick, or rules for that matter. This can be a little more tricky, but it can be done. What becomes a little more challenging is when you are a jock while your child wants to just play Minecraft, or vice versa.
You may love bench pressing, but your 5 year old might not. However, she may think it’s hilarious and fun to sit on your back while you do push ups. Your 7-year-old may not want to do laps at the pool with you. On the other hand, throwing diving rings in the water and racing to get as many as you can may be his favorite thing in the world. Try to expose your kid to lots of different activities, but don’t force them to do something jut because you think they should enjoy it. For instance, I thought Aikido would be the perfect activity for my son, Henry, combining his love for all things ninja, plus I thought it would help with his focus. It didn’t hurt that his Sensei is amazing with kids (and adults!), but right now it just isn’t for him. Instead, we’ve found an amazing climbing gym for him and he thrives there, plus, my wife, Jennifer and I can tumble with him, so everybody wins.
- GET. OFF. THE. PHONE. I should have this tattooed to my left and right thumbs (I am typing this on my phone currently). Do you want your child’s fondest memory of you to be how fast you could text? Or your ability to respond to every phone call by the first ring? Didn’t think so. Find 30 minutes to play with your kids without your device, and make sure they’re device-free as well.
- BE PRESENT. As parents, we are way to passive with our children’s activities. This doesn’t mean you charge the field and take out the defender so your son can make an amazing touchdown in his peewee league. And for goodness sake, don’t be a helicopter parent. Know when to back off and let your kid be by themselves or with others.
Activities You Can Start – Immediately!
They say that laughter is the best medicine, so give your wee ones a good dose of Vitamin L. Studies have shown that laughing together helps bonding, releases dopamine in a brain, reduces stress, and even aids in digestion. I suggest you chasing your giggling children through the house with threats of tickling for a great cardio workout and tons of fun for all involved.
- FOAM SWORDS!
This is a great way for your tykes to reenact their favorite Star Wars battle without tears or the loss of a hand (of course, make sure there is a “no head/groin shots” rule). Foam swords are as awesome as they are hilarious: There is something about trying to protect yourself from a 5 year old whirling dervish that you can’t help but to laugh. Be careful though of which foam sword you get: The “foam” sword from Nerf is about as soft as PVC pipe. Henry jokingly attacked me with one of those at Fred Meyer once, thinking it would be as painless as the foam ones we had at home. It felt like a bamboo canning. I suggest having a test sword fight in the store before you go all Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon on your family.
Throwing is a very important motion- it combines spinal rotation, pushing and lunging. It also improves focus, concentration, and teaches adults and kids how to read one another’s body language. Don’t worry if you or your kid throw like a drunk T. Rex; there are a lot of calories to be burned going for stray balls.
- THE PLAYGROUND!
Your kids are basically little CrossFit squirrels. When was the last time you tried to do the monkey bars? Can you do what your kid can do at the playground? If you can’t, you should start to relearn (but gently! Don’t go dislocating a shoulder). Whether it is pushing kids on a swing, chasing them around the play structure, spinning a merry-go-round, etc., you can can get a wicked workout, and your kids will love you for it.
- HUMAN MEDICINE BALLS!
Kids make excellent medicine balls! As your kid gets bigger, the weight increases, and you get stronger! My goal is still to be able to clean and press both my kids, Henry and Audrey, when they’re 18 years old. Throw in a small toss at the end of the movement to give your tyke a thrill and for you to really get a plyometric blast. Plus, as they learn to hold a superman position, they are getting a postural workout also.
(Ages 1-18, depending on your fitness level 🙂 )
- PLAYDATE PDX!
Playdate PDX is terrific, and if you decide to play hide and seek with your kids here, you will become a god to them, and also get one hell of a work out. You are going to be forced to crawl around on your hands and knees going up giant steps, over netting, and under padded bars. Think of it like American Ninja Warrior for children. I have yet to leave PDX without being covered in sweat and the same goes for my kids. Be careful though if you’re an adult in the ball launching room: you are no longer a human being, only the largest target in the room. You’ve been warned.
One of my son’s friends lives over 2 miles away from the same elementary school they go to. He and his dad bike almost every day to and from school. Henry’s friend is also already a gifted athlete, but sometimes has trouble focusing at school. On days when he bikes, he has a much easier time focusing and listening at school. And, let’s not forget about the benefit that his dad gets from getting out from behind a computer and putting some miles on the road.
Bicycling, especially for younger kids, is a huge freedom. They can’t drive, but when they learn to ride a bike they can pick up some surprising speeds for them (and even more surprising for us parents). They love it. Plus, when riding with your child, they can learn safe riding habits from you.
You don’t have to only bike to school, of course. Many of us (myself included) don’t have the schedule to allow for this. But, kids still love to bike. Since they can’t drive yet, biking is the fasted thing they can do under their own power. It is exciting freeing for them. Plus, you can take the to cool places like the Lumberyard Bike Park. The Lumberyard is an indoor bike park, so fun can be had there year round. Plus, all ages are welcome! This means you don’t have to be a spectator. You can get in there and love the course as much (or more) than your kid.
There are also plenty of places and trails to go on for free. Portland is the most bike friendly city I’ve ever seen. Henry and I love to go out for miles on the path by our house, or to take long treks to Toys ‘R’ Us to see what are the latest Lego sets.
I remember in football practice having to run hills, and dreading them. However, it never seemed that big of an issue dragging a sled up a hill while it was covered with snow. Not surprisingly, my kids are the same way. Similar to biking, you can reach some pretty fast speeds, and the thrill is still addicting even when you are older. (Plus at the end of it, kids get to come in for hot chocolate while you get a hot toddy. Everyone wins!)
You can ramp up the speed and the fun by moving into skiing. This sport requires great balance and reaction time. Plus, it forces you to leave the city behind and be more involved with nature. The “Hot Chocolate for kids and hot toddy for adults” rule still applies.
As mentioned earlier, you’ll be hard pressed to find a child who wants to do nothing but freestyle laps, but almost every kid loves the water. Playing water tag, or pretending you’re a shark is great for the wee ones. Now, as they get older, they may want to challenge you to race…and when that time comes, be ready. Remember, you will always be able to race them, but you won’t always be able to be the silly shark. The silly shark is more fun.