Fitness with your folks

Make family members your exercise partners to stay healthy, happy and together

Family enjoying and running in the park

Often, people associate training with hard work and misery, definitely not making it a fun thing to do. Why is that? As children, we loved to run, play games and sports for hours. Isn’t it what training is all about? Why can’t training still be fun? Moreover, why can’t it be fun for the whole family? Well, it should be.

I don’t have any children, but I coach a children’s fitness camp. I get parents involved in the activities and everyone loves it. It brings children and parents closer while also helping them get in shape. In today’s hectic world, let’s step back, catch our breath and have fun training with the family.

Set a team goal

When a family begins a training endeavour, as a team, it must set short obtainable goals. Everyone in the family should assist in defining the goal. Make it fun. For example, a goal you could set is that by the next school holiday, you will all go to the beach wearing swimsuits. The goals you set should be family-oriented so everyone has some stake in it. You can also make the goals more challenging; recruit your family for a 10km run. Enter as a team to help each other achieve the family’s goal. Either way, define a goal that each family member will work for and have fun doing.

Prepare for the gala

After a goal is set, decide the appropriate steps to achieve it. The first step is preparation. Hold a family or team meeting on the first day of every week. This is important because it encourages everyone to participate in the team’s goals and progress. It also helps keep everyone excited about the training. Besides it makes for quality family time. Now that your goal is defined, what are the steps needed for preparation? First, there is equipment. Maybe you can spend a day shopping together for running shoes, gym gear or even workout equipment. Again, such an activity is family-oriented, goal-based and makes for quality family time.

Then, you’ll need to develop a proper training menu; basically, figure out what you will be eating in preparation for the event. This should consist of high-protein meals often accompanied with protein shakes. Make the shakes fun for children. Add fruits, ice-cream or whipped cream… treat it like a dessert so they’ll not complain and even want more!

Get down to the job

Family issues

According to Ron Eaker, MD OB-GYN, author of Fat-Proof Your Family, exercising with children re-programmes kids to understand what is normal and what is not. Kids today believe that a sedentary lifestyle is normal. Studies show that most kids spend an average of six hours after school doing sedentary things like TV, computers, and video games. The have a skewed perception of ‘normal’. Exercising with them ingrains a new standard of what is normal. It establishes an environment of exercise by teaching them ‘this is what adults do.’ Exercising together gives them a sense of ownership and participation in adult activities.

If you are just married and don’t have a large family, working out with your spouse also has its benefits, besides a deepened bond. Researchers at the Indiana University followed 64 people who started a new exercise programme, including 16 married couples and 30 married people who joined the programme on their own. One year later, 43 per cent of those flying solo had quit, compared with only six per cent of those who worked out with their husband or wife. When asked why they quit, half of the people who joined by themselves cited family responsibilities and a lack of support from their spouse as the reason.

— Team CW

Now comes the time to train. I’ll explain my points using the example of the family running the 10km. It’s great to run or jog as a family. At first, everyone should maintain the same pace and encourage each other. The stronger family members must support the others and not just look after themselves. Remember, the family is only as strong as each member. Make sure you perform a light stretch before and a more intense stretch after you run. Also, every family member is required to bring his or her water because proper hydration is crucial.

As in all team sports, expectations run high but often there are times when individuals cannot hold their end up, letting the team down. A fun rule to adopt is that of imposing penalties or fines. If a family member is late for practice, or does not participate in meetings or a session, enforce a policy of fines or penalties. For instance, Rs 10 fine for missed practice. Use the collected money at the end of the event for a family night out. You can also enforce a penalty policy. Say you miss a workout. Then you as a penalty, you have to take up one other family member’s chores. Make it fun but also let the defaulting family members know that they are letting the team down.

Get into action

Race day! The strongest family member [the one everyone has decided in your earlier meetings] will run the bulk of the 10km. The rest of the team can divide itself by allocating different responsibilities to each family member. The young ones in your family can just run as much as they are capable of running, then take up the responsibility of cheering on the other runners. They can supply other water, energy bars or drinks. The idea is to keep everyone actively involved throughout the event.

Evaluate your performance

Recovery and evaluation are the next steps in the process. After the event, make sure everyone recovers properly with plenty of rest, refills body fluids and maintains a healthy diet. At the next team meeting, evaluate your family’s performance. It’s good to be honest with each other, as it will only strengthen your bond. Offer some advice to each member to help him or her perform better the next time. Remember this is supposed to be a fun, family bonding event, so don’t be too harsh in your criticism.

Then it’s back to another team meeting to establish your next goal. If your first exercise is successful, try something that involves travelling as a team. A swimming trip to a warm beach is an option. Always make it fun and involve the whole family because like it’s said: the family that plays together, stays together!

This was first published in the May 2009 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

Magnifying lens over an exclamation markSpot an error in this article? A typo maybe? Or an incorrect source? Let us know!

Mike Ryan
Mike Ryan is a quintessential gym rat and is involved in weight resistance training since he was 12. He has devised successful training methods and techniques. His clients includes Olympic champions, all-stars, academy award winners and Fortune 500 CEOs. He lives in the USA.


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