Involving Kids in Family Fitness Activities
Before my husband and I had our daughter, most of our relationship was built around fitness. We ran together, went to the gym together, biked together, played tennis together…I think you get what I mean. We were super active and loved our healthy lifestyle.
When we had our daughter much of that changed. 18 months of not sleeping through the night puts exercise pretty low on the priority list. Any free moments we had were spent napping, and I dealt with a long period of feeling guilty every time I left the house to do something for myself. I created a self-imposed one hour limit on “me time” each day which could either be used for exercise, seeing friends, a hair appointment, or other errands – and often my other “me priorities” would win out over yoga or running. We were also both working full-time – and spending time with our daughter was of the utmost importance – so if that meant skipping an athletic endeavor to watch Yo Gabba Gabba for the 100th time with her, well, Yo Gabba Gabba it would be.
While over time we became better at prioritizing our own health and wellness, it wasn’t necessarily something we were including our daughter in. In the last year or so, we really focused on trying to involve her in family fitness activities that we ALL could do together.
This past Father’s Day I surprised my husband with an introductory session at a local CrossFit gym. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been skeptical of CrossFit and I was hesitant to try it out, but I was super excited when I discovered it was not only co-owned by a father of young children, but was making a point to include families and children in their definition of a “gym community.”
DayBreak CrossFit (Wayland, MA) has a model that I hope more gyms will begin to follow – because not only are children welcome in their kids’ designated area, but they’re welcome to hang out with their parents before and after the workout on the gym floor. What’s also super cool is that the kids’ area isn’t separated by a huge, impassable wall or shield of glass from where the parents are…it’s actually open to the gym floor, and the kids can freely observe as their parents work hard, laugh, sweat, cheer each other on, and enjoy exercise. To top it off, they have kids classes that are open to children as young as 6 years old – and they do the same WOD (workout of the day) as the adults which creates an incredible opportunity for parents to connect with their children on fitness and exercise. I still think you might have to have a screw loose to love the intensity and challenge of the workouts, but the sense of achievement one experiences after completing a session is something we want to share with our daughter.
We’ve found other ways to make exercise a family affair. I am a big proponent of the benefits of yoga, and my yoga studio, Inner Strength Studios (Watertown, MA) has started hosting a “Kids Yoga Night Out” which offers a fun 90 minutes of yoga and games for children, while in the next room over the parents can settle in to a hot yoga practice of their own. While we’re not doing it together, we get to roll up our yoga mats together, chat about our poses in the car ride over, and bask in our shared yoga glows afterwards. It’s also awesome that the owner has recently had two children of his own and has begun integrating commentary on parenting into his classes and teaching, which makes me enjoy my practice so much more.
Tips for Involving Kids in Family Fitness Activities
What I’ve learned is that fitness with kids doesn’t have to feel hard if you can find a spot that acknowledges and appreciates your family as a whole. Thankfully, more and more parents who have a passion for exercise are opening up kid-friendly exercise spaces that accommodate the entire family, and not just the adults. Here are a few tips for finding and planning fitness activities that the entire family can participate in:
- When looking into places that your whole family can enjoy, speak to the owners and find out about them. Do they have kids, nieces, or nephews?
- Take time to chat with other studio or gym community members. Do they have kids?
- Read up on the business. Chances are locations that are family-friendly will be openly blogging about their community or publicizing their family opportunities.
- Bring your kids along and see how the staff and other community members respond.
- Bring your kids and see what they think! Did they have fun? Did they feel welcome? Your workout will only be as good as your child’s personal feelings and attachments to the staff and space!
How do you involve your kids in family fitness activities? Are there certain types of workouts, like hiking or yoga, that have worked for your family?
Editor’s Note: Get healthy! Bright Horizons and The Partnership for a Healthier America recently hosted a parent webinar: Seize the Summer – Fitness Tips for Busy Families to share actionable tips for prioritizing fitness and improving your family’s eating habits. Watch now!