I have known for a while that when I had a family, it was important to me to maintain an active lifestyle. Mr. Pen and I actually met when I joined the volleyball group his friends were a part of, and throughout our dating relationship many of our activities were group sports. Mr. Pen grew up very active, skiing in the mountains every winter, hiking, joining a softball league, running and golfing with his dad and biking with his friends. Those are exactly the types of things I hope to do someday as a family: ski trips, camping, hiking, biking, swimming, etc.
For now though, we have a toddler who is quite active, but obviously incapable of aforementioned activities. Because I want him to grow up appreciating what it is to live a healthy life – but view it as enjoyable and fun – we are working to incorporate exercise as a daily part of our lives. This goes beyond just taking him outside everyday.
We have had a membership to our local YMCA for a few years but I have come to believe that a gym definitely isn’t required to encourage a healthy lifestyle. Although we do go at least 1-2x a week, many of our favorite activities are done elsewhere. Our YMCA starts kids/family fitness classes at age four. Although he is still too young for that, he does go to the gym daycare and even that I feel is important: he is seeing that exercise is important to us.
But even more important to us is including J in our exercise. Once he started walking well, we started playing soccer with him. He picked up kicking the ball so quickly! Playing “chase” or “I’m gonna get you” is another game he never ceases to grow tired of, and the light jog is good for both of us. We have found so many new ways to be active that is just as fun for him as it is for us!
One new game we came up with last week intrigued J much more than we planned. The pond behind our apartment is a half mile loop around, so Mr. Pen and I decided we would do a relay together. I would run half a mile while he biked (with J) next to me, and after a full loop, we would swap. We would continue until we got too tired. What we didn’t expect is how entertained J would be: he thought it was so funny that mommy and daddy were racing, and with him on the back of the bike, he felt like he was playing along too! We were so distracted by how amused he was, that it was easier to keep going.
I have also started trying to do a few HIIT workouts at home, and J loves to copy me doing jumping jacks, running, lunges, squats and yoga (downward dog is his favorite!). He truly believes it’s a game I invented just for him. This has made my workouts so much more enjoyable because it’s so funny to see him so enthralled with my workout. A 17 month old trying to do a jumping jack is just too funny.
Biking has become another fun family activity that’s easy and enjoyable to include J. He loves to ride in his seat on the back of the bike; I think it’s his preferred method of transportation! He will ask to go on rides by bringing his helmet to put on his head.
And lastly long walks/hikes are an enjoyable way for the three of us to spend time together. There are so many beautiful parks and trails to explore no matter where you live. I use the beco gemini to hoist J onto my back for long walks.
Although I do look forward to the day we can go skiing and camping when J is old enough to participate in those activities, I am enjoying so much what joy it is to play “soccer” and go biking with my toddler. He is at such a great age to truly engage with us in what we do.
How do you incorporate exercise into your family?