Add a little love to your exercise routine (guest post)

Long determined slogs on the treadmill . . . the stalwart morning warrior up before anyone else . . . is there something wrong with this picture?

You bet!

Nothing fits better with fitness than family. While sometimes a solitary swim or solo hike soothes the soul, fitness was made to be shared.

Since my oldest was in utero, my husband and I have made fitness an integral part of our family culture. Today our kids (ages 13 and 16) continue to join us on mountain bike rides through the woods and swimming at the local pond.

Staying fit as a family makes staying fit easier . . .

AND . . .

Fitness together has helped keep our family close.

Here’s why . .

1.     Family fitness strengthens more than your body

Sure it’s nice to see your hips slim down. But I’ve come to see this is as the icing on the cake – not the end result. Close relationships take time – not quality time only – but simply put Time.

Fitness is just another activity you can do together. Instead of finding a babysitter at the gym or slipping away in the early morn, it can be time you spend with your children and your spouse.

But this isn’t any old time spent together. Because as it turns out . . .

2.      Family fitness helps you teach your children well

The world’s rough out there. Life is tough. By the time you’re in your mid-forties, like me, you’ve figured that out. And if there’s one thing I realized my children needed, it’s how to get through tough stuff.

As you well know, there’s nothing like the mental discipline of pushing yourself over the next hill on a bike. Now, consider helping your child develop that.

Fitness is a way for you to help your children take on fear, failure and more in a relatively safe, structured environment with you along as a coach.

This means that you can’t just focus on the Fun in fitness. Sometimes you’re going to have to be the tough one. The one who – using judgment of course – tells them not to give up. And the one who ultimately believes they’re capable of more than they may know they are.

And here’s something we don’t hear often enough as parents: No one else is better positioned to push them to their limits while supporting them with unqualified love than you are.

(Secret bonus: When you push your kids to go farther, it’s harder for you to bow out of your goals – you’ve got to lead by example!)

Working with your children to get over the hurdles you choose to put in front of them will help them develop the mental muscles and skills to get over the hurdles life puts in front of them – without you having a say in the matter. But it gets even better. Because . . .

3.     Fitness in general is nature’s best stress buster

It’s biologically programmed. When we hit a stressor, we’re biologically designed to run, jump, fight or climb. Our chemistry shifts with stress to enable us to move dramatically. And consequently, when we move in response to stress we help our body release and shift back to our normal, healthy chemistry.

Unfortunately, we can’t always do that when stressors hit us in modern life. (Believe me there’s been a few conflicts with my kids that I’d love to sprint away from!) But we can help our body (and mind) work it off eventually.

Many days, we’ve had many a rough family talk in the morning that we followed with a wild game of tag or badminton. I can point back to a few bike rides we took after a tense marital dispute where I smiled over at my husband and with relief been answered with a smile.

It won’t solve everything. The hard work of relating still has to be done in the trenches. But building fitness activities into your family life gives you an automatic steam release valve that should be made use of regularly.

4.     Fitness can be fun

Carla and her Tornado are great reminders of this concept. Making fitness stick requires you find some satisfaction in it. But why stop there? Kids are the real teachers here. The best way to move is when you’re simply loving life and feeling it.

Sometimes I’d grumble when it seemed like my son couldn’t stay still. But eventually I took some notes. Running, skipping, twirling or doing a somersault just because may not be such a bad idea.

Playing tag, jumping rope, climbing a tree, dancing and seeing how long you can do a headstand works your muscles just as well as any boring old weight machine.

So let your kids lead you and inspire you in this sense – watch them, imitate them. Play. Invent.

When you do this too (along with all that important discipline stuff) you get something you’d never expect to have in your very own home . . .

5.     Family fitness gives you an in-house set of personal trainers

Personal trainers can cost a lot. But it sure is nice to have someone getting you off your butt and moving!

If you work diligently to build family fitness into your family life you’ll be surprised to find you might not have to hire someone. And you don’t have to rely only on yourself for motivation.

Someone might ask you to play soccer with them. Someone else might suggest a bike ride. Or someone might just start jumping up and down the steps. And you have no choice but to join in.

A Final Family Fitness Thought

In February, my husband and I snowshoed up the little mountain in our backyard together. Every spot on the trail held a memory . . . Sturdy square little toddlers clambering up big rocks . . . Big Kids taking wild sled rides . . .pre-teens picking blueberries . . . and full teenagers swimming in the lake at the top.

We’ve climbed these hills with one child in my belly, kids on our backs, and with kids behind us on mountain bikes.

Today we have two confident and strong teenagers who get annoyed if we traipse off hiking without them (imagine that!)

Family fitness has helped us make memories and bigger muscles. But even more importantly family fitness has helped us build strong family bonds and healthy minds that will help us all take on our dreams and live life fully.

Sarah and her husband Cassius provide inspiration, tips and strategies for fitting fitness into your family life. Ready to get going with family fitness? Sign up for our FREE family fitness planning e-course

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