Families who work out together thrive together
By Kathleen Trotter
Personal Trainer and Fitness Expert
You don’t need a gym to keep you and your family fit and active throughout isolation! What do you need? A “find solutions, we are all in it together” mindset and a realistic, creative plan of attack. Not to mention a healthy dose of positive self-talk — something like, “I CAN make it through …. I AM a survivor …. I WILL make the best of this …. This too will pass!”
“Hoping” that one will be active is never a viable fitness strategy, but it is especially useless during a global pandemic. Emotions are close to the surface. We are all just doing our best. Talk to your significant other and your children. Isolation has unequivocally shifted our life rhythms, our realty — and thus our habits. When the scaffolding of life changes, habits automatically shift to reflect new interactions, environments, and behaviors.
But will you create new habits by default or design? Your family’s health habits are shifting whether you are conscious of it or not.
Now more than ever we need to communicate about how we are feeling and what we need, work to control what we can control (key example, our workouts), and consciously create new rhythms and norms. If you don’t consciously create a plan of action and schedule inactivity time, chances are your family will take the path of least resistance — a path heavily filled with Netflix!
CONSIDER A FAMILY CHALLENGE
Be creative. Base the parameters of the challenge on the number and age of your kids and their interests. Maybe each member counts how many steps they take throughout the day. Everyone has to get creative to accrue steps — “forget” things upstairs, play active video games, pace on conference calls, etc. Or, try a family push-up or squat challenge. The winner gets to pick family movie night or have their favourite meal delivered.
FIND THE FUN
Put on some music and dance around! Let each member of the family pick a song. Play semi-active games such as hide and seek — these may not be a workout, but they require more activity than watching TV. All motion adds up! If you have a yard, set up hopscotch or skip rope. Make “dates” with your family to do free online workouts — there are so many fun options. Try the Fitness Marshall’s dance workouts or Yoga with Adriene.
MAKE YOUR FAMILY YOUR WORKOUT PARTNERS
It is amazing how hard body-weight partner exercises can be.
Tapping push-ups: Both you and your partner start in a push-up position from your knees or toes, heads toward each other. Bend your elbows to lower yourselves down toward the floor. As you push back up, high-five each other using your right hands. Do 10 reps, alternating hands. Try to keep your hips stable.
Partner-resist side planks: Both of you start in a side plank, facing each other, balancing on your left forearms and feet. While holding the side plank, place your right hands palm-to-palm. Holding this position, gently try to push your partner over. Hold for 30 seconds and switch sides. Brace yourself through your core to stay stable.
MAKE LIFE A GAME
Do your kids love video games and superhero movies? Consider making life a game. Give each member of the family a superhero name, find allies, pinpoint your “bad guys” (i.e., actions, thoughts, behaviors that allow you to self-sabotage), and establish quests. This might seem juvenile, but trust me, noting your bad guys and creating a powerful self-concept requires awareness and intention — critical skills when trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle during a pandemic.
For example, if you find you are constantly tempted to snack on the “evil almonds” in your kitchen, give the almonds a bad name and create a quest of “always having a bottle of water at your desk” as a weapon against the dark side.
BECOME THE COACH
Have children who are athletes going crazy without their intense workouts? Maybe you miss your CrossFit workout or team sport. No problem. Try HIIT (high-intensity interval) workouts such as Tabata and partner “reaction drills.” Your children will be cursing you as if you were their coach.
One set of Tabata consists of eight sets of 20 seconds of all-out work followed by 10 seconds of recovery. Try running your household or condo stairs or doing burpees, squat jumps, or jumping jacks. Trust me — you and your kids will sweat.
You can turn any body-weight exercise – such as a lunge, squat, or burpee – into an athletic drill by adding an element of “reactivity” to it.
Try partner reactive clock lunges: Stand in the middle of an imaginary clock. Your partner calls out a time — let’s say 7 pm. You translate it into military time and say “nineteen hundred hours” while simultaneously lunging to the corresponding number on the imaginary clock.
Play the exercise association game: Pick two exercises — let’s say squats and burpees. Associate the first with one thing (squats with movies) and the other with another thing (burpees with TV shows). If your partner calls a movie, you squat; for a TV show, you do a burpee. As an added challenge, as you complete the exercise say something you associate with the category — say, an actor in the movie. Be creative. Do three exercises. Or switch the categories. Try vegetables, flowers, etc.
CREATE, SCHEDULE, MOVE AND ENJOY
When it comes to keeping you and your family active, you have to communicate and consciously design new habits! Be intentional. Create a schedule and plan that everyone — to some degree — weighs in on and thus has ownership over. Schedule in your workouts, set up a family challenge, make moving fun, and find innovative and creative ways to encourage everyone to work together to stay fit both physically and emotionally.