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Making Family Fitness Fun

Posted by Andy McDermott on

It’s no secret that life gets busy, quickly. Between work, keeping up the house, carpooling from soccer/ballet/guitar lessons – you name it! It can be difficult to make time for things, such as fitness, that tend to take less of a precedent over other day-to-day to-do’s. When you truly understand how much exercise can play a role in your families overall health, longevity and quality of life, you start to want to make room for it in your hectic schedules.

Now, I’ll preface the below by reminding you that there is no such thing as a perfect family, so there will never be family fitness regimen that is perfect for everyone. But, we as parents must embrace that we are the examples for our kids, responsible for them being healthy little humans and, more importantly, adults. Here are some quick tips to integrate a fun family fitness routine into your families schedule:

1. Find what’s fun for everyone

Right, this seems obvious, I know. But, for many people, “exercise” is synonymous with “misery.” Well, it shouldn’t be. People who hate an activity will always look for a reason to avoid it. Adults need to find something that interests them- or at least a form of exercise they can pleasantly tolerate. And if you’re involving the kids, then the need to make it fun is even more crucial. For our family, that means the kids’ “workouts” involve a soccer ball, football, jump rope, tennis ball or any number of other active sports and games. They honestly don’t mind doing some push-ups, sit-ups, and running, but it can’t be ALL sets and reps for kids; there has to be some fun and messing around in there.

Kids love to compete, so you can have them race with you, they can challenge themselves to do better than last round, or they can keep track of their progress by writing it down when they achieve something (example: a pull-up!).

2. Have a PLAN.McDermott Family

I’ve learned the hard way, that if you just show up someplace with the family and say, “Let’s exercise,” that train falls off the tracks quickly! Here are some questions to consider:

-What is our location? Gym, Playground, Field, Basement, Backyard? Kid-friendly, Kidsafe?

-What equipment do we have? Weights, Balls, TRX, Something to hang from?

-Who is doing what? Example: my wife Julie and I can do a 20 minute workout, our two sons (age 10 and 8) can do a mini-circuit of soccer and calisthenics, and our two girls (age 5 and 3) can play.

– After considering all of this and making a plan, then just assume that something will pop up which will force you to change something, but BE FLEXIBLE.

3. Everyone Needs Fuel.

There is no doubt that our attitude, performance and appearance are all directly related to what we consume. I know how I feel when I don’t have good fuel in my tank: sluggish, irritable and unfocused. This is super-concentrated for our kids. Their little metabolisms are moving 1,000 miles per hour. If we want families to do some healthy play, exercise, and fun activities together, then everyone needs to have some good stuff fueling it. Part one of that equation is water. Not soda, sports drinks and not even a ton of juice. Water, during, and after. Part two is healthy calories. Good protein, carbs and, yes, fat. Truly, this is why our family loves Perfect Bars. They are healthy, natural and delicious enough that kids try to earn them. Our kids eat half a bar with a glass of water, and they’re good to go. We call them Life Fuel.

4. Keep it Positive, Brief, and Realistic.

Positive: There’s no such thing as a “perfect workout” or, conversely, no one should get a “bad grade” in exercise. As long as we are moving, breathing hard and having fun, then we should encourage each other. And remember- as a parent, you are a the #1 example and teacher for your kids, instilling in them healthy habits that they can benefit from for a lifetime.

Brief: My attention span is short. My kids’ are even shorter. Make the workout quick and tell them how long it will be, how many rounds they’re going to do, etc. Kids respond well to short and sharp activities when they know the duration.

Realistic: It has be achievable – for adults and for kids. It’s great to be challenged, but it’s just silly to make an activity impossible. Remember no one ever got “in shape” in one workout! It’s about consistency, so be realistic and set achievable workout goals.

5. Make it Rewarding.

I have preached this one to my clients since I started training and coaching almost 20 years ago. As humans, we must have an incentive for hard work/discipline/sacrifice. This can be something big, like a vacation to look forward to in 2 months. Or, it can be just as powerful to look forward to something simpler, like a “treat night” each week. For kids, this one is understandably huge. Kids are not complicated when it comes to rewards- they are happy to get a treat after working hard. Reward yourselves and reward them!

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Now, it’s your turn. Go on, get that family of yours moving, grooving and having fun!