As a parent you’re always looking for simplicity, and exercise is no different.
I employ for family fitness strategy, F.I.T. The “F” stands for Family and Fun. The “T” stands for Together. And pulling the whole thing together is the “I” in the middle. The “I” stands for incremental, itty bits or – if you want to jump on the trend in bookstores – “idiot” as in “The Idiot’s Guide to Family Fitness” (Please don’t take offense, I’m only tapping into the trend of tremendously popular how-to book titles). In other words, key to keeping fitness a part of your family life is keeping it simple.
There are a few ways to do this:
Keep Family Fitness Simple Rule #1: Bring it home
This makes the biggest difference. I don’t know about you but every trip away from home with kids in tow becomes an adventure. Not to mention the baggage. I remember bringing my daughter to work when she toddling and wishing I had a couple spare arms to help lug everything back and forth.
So don’t make an expedition unless you have to. For family fitness, home gym access can make or break your fitness success. In addition to activity together as a family, you can sneak in 15 extra minutes on the treadmill. Do intervals of intense sprints and you’ll get more out of this than a 40 minute slog (see below).
Now it may seem like a bit of an investment to purchase a treadmill, but compare it to the money you spend on gym membership. And even a treadmill or machine of some sort isn’t necessary to stay in shape. Some simple aerobic tapes and cheaper weights can set you up to do some serious training.
So invest a little in bringing some well-chosen equipment into the home.
And there’s another angle to this, think twice about signing your children up for kids fitness activities elsewhere like Little League or baby gym class. Again, you spend more time driving and less time moving your body. Not to mention it robs you of an opportunity to enjoy fitness together as a family. There’s time enough when your children are older and into competitive sports to play chauffeur. Delay that as long as you can and enjoy the benefits of being active together.
Keep Family Fitness Simple Rule #2: Break it up
Who says you have to do all your exercise at once!? I didn’t and it has certainly helped me keep fit. I do some yoga stretches in the morning, fit in a few calisthenics or weights a couple times a day and maybe spend 10-15 minutes on the treadmill before lunch doing interval sprints.
Later on, when the kids get home from school and my husband back from work, we may go out on a bike ride or play some soccer.
Add it up. That’s the key. Do a few crunches with your giggling baby. Run outside if you have little ones at home and play a quick game of tag. Do a few push ups or butt crunches watching tv at night.
In fact, short intervals have been shown to do better in helping people lose weight, tone up and regulate their blood sugar.
Keep Family Fitness Simple Rule #3: No need for fancy stuff
I’ll admit I like my treadmill. And the free weights bench we recently purchased has been great for my legs. But for years we did with much less. I hooked my bike up to a special stand that transformed it into an exercise bike. When my kids are doing something like soccer camp or swimming, I do curls with water bottles or do some squat jumps or calf raises. And I have a neighbor who has stayed trim through 7 children with the help of some good aerobic videos.
Not to mention, the good old army-style calisthenics are tried and true. Situps, jumping jacks, pushups, squats. Your body weight is great resistance for weight training.
Essentially, while some nice equipment can bring a new angle to your fitness, don’t use it’s absence as an excuse. You don’t need the equipment to get moving. Have some doubts? Watch Rocky beat up some beef and lift some chains. (We’ll leave the egg-swilling part out).