Just a little over two years ago my life changed when I took up the sport of speed skating. It also made me realize how out of shape I was. The once a week classes literally left me breathless. Three laps around the track and my legs were burning, five and I couldn’t catch my breath. I couldn’t even finish a 13 ½ lap race—by lap 9 or 10 I’d have to slowly make my way to the centre of the ice and watch the others finish.
My lack of fitness spurred me on to become more active and I slowly started adding more exercise into my life. It’s not always easy. There’s a lot of schedule-juggling, early mornings, late nights, and self-motivation. But the fact is, it's not always possible to work out when my kids aren't home so on the days when they are around I include them in whatever I'm doing. It's not always a smooth road because kids can be, well, kids. My husband and I have always made a point of being active with our kids because ultimately we want to lead by example and show them living an active life is a choice–one we choose to make so we can be around for them for a long time to come.
Here are a few things I've learned to get your kids involved in your activities (and you in theirs).
The first, yet hardest, step is to begin. Before you do anything you need to make the commitment to yourself to be more active.*
I understand that you’re tired at the end of the day and it’s difficult to make time. When I was given my first week’s workout schedule for the triathlon I thought there was no way I could fit it all in, but I did because I made the commitment to myself to do it. Here's the good news! You don't even need a large chunk of time because even short bouts of exercise in increments of ten-minutes or more can have health benefits.
And I know you’ve got ten minutes because you’re sitting here reading this, aren’t you?
Exercise does not necessarily mean going to the gym to lift weights or running on a treadmill. I’ve worked up a sweat playing street hockey with my son, having a parents VS kids water gun fight (we won), and challenging my boys to races in the park across the street (they annihilated me).
Go for a walk, ride your bikes, or when your kids are playing at the park, get up off the bench and join them. Opportunities present every day—take advantage of them.
My boys have been participating in races since they were 3 1/2 and 5. The reason we’ve been able to do it so successfully is because we adapt to their abilities. My older son can run a 5k while my younger son will walk/run the distance so my husband and I tag team. I run with the older one while he walks with the younger.
The main point is that we all cross the finish line.
Also, don’t push too hard. This summer our family went to a speed skating dryland training program once a week. A few weeks in my younger son decided he would rather play in the park than run around a field with us. We didn’t force him to participate and eventually he joined us again for the run portion. But even if he hadn’t that would have been okay, he was being active in his way, and we were being active in ours.
We have a complete gym in our basement that includes a treadmill, spinning bike, and free weights. Our boys have been taught how to properly use all of our equipment and we’ve established rules and boundaries according to their age and maturity level. Once they learned the proper usage, we’ve had many evenings when I’ve been working out and my boys have joined me. It’s also spurred on interesting discussions about why it’s important to be active. One of my greatest discoveries is that your kids will talk to you more when they’re immersed in an activity.
Listen, it’s not always going to be easy. I’ve had days where I haven’t wanted to train and on those days it was the support and encouragement from my friends and family (and Twitter) that kept me going.