By Adam & Kristin Kleinert
When we began our journey to become a fitter family, we chose a cohesive approach to overall family health. This concept appealed to us not only due to the simplicity just one plan can be to implement, but also because we place such value in our time spent together. Thus far, the journey has been enlightening and even fun. But we are raising four different humans with four very different personalities. Keeping our tribe motivated to stay active means fostering each individual’s enthusiasm for movement.
We know our kids. We are hands-on parents and involved in every aspect of their lives. However, we thought it might be more fun – and enlightening – if we asked each of them their preferred way to be active. After all, kids change. They grow and adapt and are exposed to new ideas on an almost-daily basis. How better to foster motivation than to offer a current favorite when it comes to exercise?
Brahm was born 13 weeks premature and spent a couple of months in the NICU before coming home after birth. Combine that with the fact that he’s the youngest of the brood, and you can probably deduce that we go a little easy on him. We didn’t sign him up for sports as early as we did the others, and we’ve been a little overly excited about each physical milestone he’s met and most likely a little too worried about the asthma he’s developed. Despite our parenting precautions, Brahm is an active little guy and you’d rarely find him holding still. He’d rather be outside than in, and spends as many daylight hours as possible riding, digging, building, running, etc.
When we asked Brahm what is his favorite way to exercise, he wrinkled his nose and replied, “Um, I guess…push-ups.”
After giggling at this a bit (because, really? who loves push-ups?), we explained to him that exercise can be anytime he is moving and maybe even sweaty. He responded much more enthusiastically, “I like working on stuff outside. That gets me sweaty. And I like to swim.”
Molly is definitely our least active kiddo, though she’s far from sedentary. Remember when I mentioned how kids change and grow? That’s Molly. She reinvents herself regularly and her interests vary accordingly. She’s tried several different sports, but usually loses interest after a time. (We’ve learned she often comes back around, so we do hang onto equipment and athletic gear.)
Recently, Molly surprised us by announcing that she planned to join the cross-country team at school. Since she has never enjoyed running, we weren’t sure if she understood just what “cross country” means. When we asked her, she simply rolled her eyes. “I know what it is, Mom. It’s running. Like, running far.”
Our next order of business was to see if she could complete a mile without stopping. She surprised us again by going out and doing just that with Dad jogging alongside. Finally, we agreed to look into the logistics of her actually joining the team. (Fourth graders are allowed to run with the older kids at our school, but there is technically no team for Molly’s grade level.) In the end, Molly wasn’t able to run on the team this season. Which brings us to the biggest surprise of all: She’s still been running. Often. And of her own accord.
We asked Molly what her preference for exercise is currently, and (not surprisingly, because she IS Molly) she did NOT report running. “I like riding my bike and I love capture the flag.”
When it comes to staying active, Eli has it nailed. We never stress about a lack of exercise for Eli, and we have to put more than a little effort into making sure he gets some rest. In fact, he burns so many calories that it’s a daily battle to make sure he eats enough. He often stays after school for a practice and then goes straight to yet another practice or game. He spends his little bit of free time engaged in some type of high intensity activity.
Eli is always game for any type of exercise suggested. He’s so active that I truly did wonder what he’d choose when asked about his favorite type of movement.
“I mostly like to play basketball,” he said. “And baseball. And soccer and track and working out in the gym. Oh, and we’ve been playing this game in P.E. called Hunger Games Dodgeball.”
Yep. I should have known.
So far, Syd has been easy on us in the “raising a teenager” arena. She’s not defiant, nor is she sneaky and irresponsible. (In fact, she’s more responsible than us sometimes, but that’s a whole other article.) She does, however, experience the mood swings and fatigue that come with adolescence. Though typical and even understandable, this behavior can make it hard to motivate her toward exercise sometimes.
Luckily, Sydney has always enjoyed sports and she is on the basketball, golf and track teams at our high school. Daily practices keep her active and fit, and being on the team means she has to attend even when she may not feel like getting up and moving. Though homework has put a bit of damper on the amount of free time Syd has available, she can usually be coerced into a workout or a jog on non-practice days.
“If I’m going to pick an exercise or a workout, I’d probably pick a solo run or an interesting cross-fit WOD,” she said. “Also, I like playing games like kickball and dodgeball because I don’t realize I’m exercising.”
Motivation means a lot when it comes to physical activity. Enthusiasm for an activity can go a long way toward keeping your own clan excited to participate in a form of exercise.
When an individual’s personalities and preferences are recognized and considered, commitment to fitness becomes much more consistent.
Kids change their preferences, and that’s okay. It’s a great idea to talk to them to learn about their current interests surrounding exercise.
Siblings are most often different from one another. While family activity is important, remember to recognize and foster each individual’s enthusiasm for movement.
Building and maintaining a healthy family is an evolution. We’re working on it diligently, but we’ve got much more to learn!
Don’t forget to visit www. ExtolSports.com to check out the FamFitter newsletter. This e-post section is your quick link to great recipes, family tips and fun exercise ideas you can use to make your own family fitter.