What comes to mind when someone says the words "working out," or, even worse, the dreaded phrase, "Do you want to go work out?" A gym full of exhausted 9-5ers trying to burn off those lunch-time margaritas? Wall-length mirrors so that you are constantly reminded of every physical imperfection? The human protein shake in the corner that most definitely never hits leg day? All of the above and more?
We understand. That's what used to pop into our heads too. Now, take all of those colorful images, and try convincing your kids that joining the fray (while staying away from all the dangerous, but super fun for a 13-year-old, equipment) is going to be the perfect way to spend the few free hours they get after school. It's impossible. Unless you are raising some born gym rats you are going to have to get a bit more creative. Unfortunately, as a culture, we tend to have an incredibly limited idea of what "exercise" looks like. Here are three of our favorite ways to get the whole family moving, without having to don neon leotards and throw on an 80's jazzercise VHS.
Three Tips to Get Your Kids to Stop Staring at Their Favorite Video Streaming Service (For legal reasons we wont name names. It rhymes with Shmoo-tube...):
Somewhere around minute 10 on a treadmill, I start glancing at the clock. Not only is my movement getting me nowhere (the things are glorified human hamster wheels), but my feet are hitting the same places, the same muscles working with each movement, and after a while — I'd sell my own spleen to be allowed to turn the thing off and get out of my garage. There are spiders down there. I'm making a lot of noise. It really isn't pleasant for anyone involved.
Luckily, there is a cardio alternative that doesn't think I have collapsed and abruptly shuts down (causing me to go flying) every time my arm catches on the safety rope clipped to my yoga pants. Hiking. Not only does it burn significantly more calories than using a treadmill, but it works a much greater variety of muscles as you climb, avoid tree roots, hop across rocks, keep your kids from falling off the fallen tree they just HAD to balance on, and embrace the wild thing that you knew you were born to be.
2) Backyard Sports
Lets tap into a core memory you forgot you had. It's a Friday afternoon in summer, you and your neighborhood friends are playing capture the flag in the backyard, fireflies flickering around you, the smell of fresh cut grass and your neighbor grilling out wafting over you as you run with ever fiber of your being toward your team's flag — just barely out of reach.
You are sweaty. You are hot. You are building muscle and burning calories...but did you even notice? Unless you were a very odd kid (good for you if you were) you probably weren't rushing inside for dinner while calculating the calories you burned during your game and recording them in your MyFitnessPal app (Note: For creative license, let's pretend that apps existed in those days). You were just playing. You were enjoying yourself. You were exercising and you didn't count a single rep.
So much of our kid's relaxation time is spent indoors nowadays. But that buck stops with us. They are developing the habits that will stick with them for the rest of their lives. It's not enough to set a time limit on screen time and push them out the backdoor. Get outside with them. Catch the flag. And build memories along with muscles.
3) Tiny Movements Add Up
I'll admit it, this example is based on myself. I'm the person that drives around the parking lot looking for the closest space to the entrance of the gym. Is it logical? No. Is it habit? Absolutely. Elevator or stairs? Elevator. Office chair or standing desk? Office chair. Uber to the restaurant or walk? Uber. We are conditioned to avoid discomfort in our daily lives. The first step toward a fit and healthy lifestyle, is accepting discomfort.
A certain favorite model and actor of mine, when asked about her workout routine during a fitness magazine interview, responded, "I just make sure that I do something that makes me sweat every single day." For some reason, that resonated with me, and so I will share it with you here. It doesn't have to be a prepackaged "exercise." It could be a game of soccer with the family in a park after work. It could be walking the ten flights of stairs to your office instead of hopping in an elevator. It could be playing tag with your kids or dancing along to your favorite song in front of the mirror in your bathroom using a hairbrush as a microphone. It could be anything — those movements add up. It really is as simple as that, folks. Whatever you do, and however you do it, make sure you do something that makes you sweat every day.