It’s the last secret we mention in Hot (Sweaty) Mamas: Five Secrets to Life as a Fit Mom (Andrews McMeel, 2011), but perhaps the most important of them all: Act Like Others Are Watching–Because They Are. We’re talking about mentoring here, both having a mentor and being a mentor. It’s about having another woman to look up to, one who seems to manage the messiness of life while still getting sweaty on a regular basis. It’s also about being that woman others look to for inspiration.
But obviously the most important role you have as a mentor is providing a healthy and encouraging example for your children. Being a fit mom lets you demonstrate (actions speak louder than words) that fitness is a priority in your life. Dr. Todd Smith, a family practice physician in Cottage Grove, Minn., encourages parents to get out and get active with their children. “Kids see what their parents do and don’t do, so it’s important that parents take time to show their children the importance of physical activity.” Smith adds that genetics alone do not determine a child’s health; parent modeling and overall activity level are equally, if not more, important.
Getting a little territorial? Maybe you like to think of your workouts as your much coveted “me time,” a chance to escape. Don’t worry, we’re not asking you to give up that solo time altogether. Keep your time sacred, but consider adding in activities that let the whole family in on the fun. There are lots of ways to work out with your kids. Schedule time as a family to participate in fitness and outdoor pursuits, perhaps on a weekly basis. By spending family time together in an active setting, you are showing children the importance of family togetherness as well as health and fitness.
Here are a few tactics to add to your fit family repertoire:
1. Start them young. Kids who participate in sports from an early age don’t ever have to make the decision to get fit. It’s part of life, a dimension of who they are, and an important part of life the helps keep them healthy.
2. Focus on time, not intensity. Remind your kids that fitness is about endurance—a lifetime of activity. Enjoy the time and don’t worry about caloric burn.
3. Let the kids help develop a list of potential activities. Create a list for each season so you’re never incapacitated by inclement weather. Head outside whenever possible, away from the TV and computer.
4. Invest in gear. Small toys like Frisbees, hula-hoops, and bouncing balls are enough to get the family moving. Just make sure there are lots of options. Investing in the (practical) essentials is also worth your dollar. While positioned in a jogging stroller or bike trailer, kids get a similar adrenaline rush as you. The final blocks back to your home are the perfect place to let little legs work off energy.
5. Be creative. With the right attitude, simple tasks like washing the car, raking the yard, gardening, and snow shoveling can be fun family activities. Be creative with your time, too. If your children are taking swim lessons, think about jumping in an open lane yourself. Consider running around the soccer fields while your kids are at practice, or do some sit-ups and push-ups from the sidelines (who cares if other parents are looking… they probably want to join you!).
6. Look for local road races that offer opportunities for kids to compete. When you run a race on your own, make arrangements so your kids can watch you cross the finish line (or cross the finish line with you). It’s important that they see you accomplish your goals and experience the rewards of hard work.
7. Hit the park, recreation center, or nature center. Just bringing your children to the playground on a regular basis encourages them to use their large motor skills and burn off energy. Look for nature paths or paved park trails so kids can walk, run, or rollerblade with you in sight.
8. Let your children investigate sports alternatives in organized league play. Most community centers offer recreational leagues for soccer, basketball, and more. Call your local center to get a seasonal list of athletic offerings. Volunteer to coach if you can swing it and remember to focus on fun.
9. Encourage older kids to join you on runs, bike rides, or trips to the gym. Invite them to ride their bikes along with you as you run on local trails. Hit the track together where you can all go at your own pace.
10. Emphasize fun. In order to build long-lasting behaviors, make sure kids are enjoying their physical activity. It is, after all, about building life-long habits and behaviors for the entire family.
About Guest Blogger Laurie Kocanda:
Laurie Lethert Kocanda is an ACE certified fitness professional and co-author of Hot (Sweaty) Mamas: Five Secrets to Life as a Fit Mom (Andrews McMeel, 2011).