We’re convinced: a family that sweats together, stays together. There is something wonderful about sharing sweaty moments with others. We discussed how quickly friendships can turn intimate over a little sweat in the last chapter. Same theory with you and your family. Getting fit with your children will provide you with a number of opportunities to discuss some of the deeper things in life like the importance of hard work, how to overcome challenges and how to deal with success and failure. Especially with older children, sometimes it’s easiest to talk in abstractions—don’t think anything is lost on them.
To develop your identity as a fit family, there are a number of things you can do:
- Make it fun for everyone. Especially for those of you with young children. Do what you can to make your kids love sport by providing a fun outlet for them to get physical. Consider an obstacle course, lawn sports, yard games and scavenger hunts to get little legs moving. Geocaching is a popular way for families to get outside and explore. Using GPS coordinates, geocachers take and leave an item from the hidden cache they find in parks and public land across the country. See www.geocaching.com for more information.
- If you’re looking for more structured sport, find something everyone can participate in at his or her own level. Sports like martial arts and rock climbing are activities the whole family can participate in. A trip to the local beach for a lake swim or all-comers track meets work well, too. Sure, everyone’s skill levels will be slightly different, but sharing the passion for a particular sport or activity will bring everyone together. Better that than a television show, right?
- Set a family goal. Train for a local 5K walk or family fun event. Join a family softball league or plan to ride your bikes a set distance for which you will all train. It doesn’t need to be a public event, but at some point an event can do wonders for everyone’s enthusiasm. Take the time to make T-shirts for the family to promote your own “team.” Reward the family with a celebration when you reach your goal.
- Set individual goals and support each other. Give everyone (including mom and dad) the opportunity to set goals and compete with the rest of the family watching and cheering from the sidelines. This can be in the form of a soccer game, volleyball match or bicycle race. The important part is having the family there to support one another.
- Cheer others on as spectators. Take the kids to local events. This doesn’t have to be in the form of professional athletics; head to the local high school or a nearby college to watch the competition. Get your kids cheering and make it fun.
- Volunteer at an event. Take time as a family to support a local, national or global health and fitness organization. Donate your time at a local fun run by volunteering at a water stop. Get the whole family there and support your athletic community together.
- Reward your children. This variation on the “chore chart” isn’t nearly as hard to keep going. Fill in sports or activities your kids enjoy and encourage them to earn stars by keeping active. When your daughter turns off the television and heads outside to play soccer without being asked, give her two stars. Simply rewarding positive, healthy choices encourages kids to continue making good decisions.