Recently I ended my gym membership because while it was helping me to be lean it was doing the same to my bank account with as Junie B. Jones would say, stupid smelly old fee increases. This presented some upheaval in my little life, because up until this point I had exercised at the gym while my kids were in the gym childcare. This worked so well particularly in the Summer. I had a break from my kids, they had a break from me, and I got my exercise in. I really enjoy running outside when weather permits, but that means doing it in the evening when Aaron is home to watch the kids, and frequently our evenings are jammed with other activities so it is not as consistent as it needs to be. The other thing that made me fear for my fitness was that my kids were a major motivator for me to get to the gym because they liked to go too, (and is there any greater motivator then a whining child? Particularly when you know that by giving in to the whining you will be rid of that child for an hour? )
So there I was, no gym, four young kids home alllll the live-long day, no daycare and wanting/needing to keep exercising, mostly to keep me from becoming homicidal.
Then my friend and neighbour, Tiffany gave me an idea brilliant in its simplicity. A now why didn't I think of that? idea. She walks on the outdoor track at the elementary school while her kids play on the school playground! I decided to copy her idea and to my delight it works so well! At first I was a worried about how boring running 24 laps on the track just to do 5K would be, until I realized that running on the treadmill is somewhat less scenic. (I actually find it makes my workouts go quite quickly to break it down into laps rather then miles and it reminds me of running races when I was in elementary school.)
These are some of the other things I love about it:
1. I can see the kids, the kids can see me, but they are far enough away (ie: not in the same small living room feeling the need to have full bodily contact with me at all times,) that they seem to realize that I am unavailable, particularly since I have my iPod on and pretend not to see them when their mouth is moving in a whiny way. I have also explained to them that the effort of trying to call back to them whilst running will cause mommy to spontaneously combust which would be messy. After a couple of incidents we all know our roles-(I run, I no talk. You play, you no talk to me) and things are going smoothly.
2. My kids are outside being active! It used to bother me that while I was getting all fit and healthy my kids were atrophying in a small unventilated room with scads of other snotty kids, watching TV. Sure they liked it, it suited them just fine but it really wasn't the best use of their time and I had some guilt. Now they are in fresh air, moving their muscles and re-claiming the brain-cells that were withering away from TV exposure, and they enjoy it even more.
3.This counts as a trip to the park/playground! Whohooo! Oh how virtuous you will feel as you walk home glazed in sweat, knowing that you have done your work-out and provided your kids with a healthy field trip. Multi-tasking is always a source of pride and joy, and to be honest, I find standing saying, "Oh wow that's so cool!" every time one of my kids climbs a jungle gym/swings on a monkey bar/slides down a slide, a tad monotonous at times. At the end of my run I do go over and spend some time with them so they can show me their newest tricks and (shhh..multi-tasking again) I also use the playground equipment to stretch, do step-up exercises and chin-ups etc. Playground equipment is awesome for working out (you can actually find workout routines that use only playground equipment. Like this one. )
4.My kids usually join me for a few laps. I love this! I love that they are seeing my commitment to exercise up close and personal and how sometimes it is fun but sometimes it is not so much fun and as yucky as it appears to be on some days, I do still keep going, survive to tell the tale and I think they can sense the extra triumph I feel on those days. I love that we are sharing an activity which is great for bonding. I also love that they are incorporating exercise into their lives in a natural, enjoyable way so young. Benjamin (my 9 year old) has been running a mile with me some days and his time is getting really good! Pretty soon he is going to leave me in the dust. Many studies have shown that kids tend to emulate their parents' attitude and habits toward fitness and so once again, I get to feel virtuous. Ah the glow.
5.We live 1/4 mile from the school which is the perfect distance for a warm-up and cool down. I am prone to skipping the warm-up and cool-down when I am alone (which makes me also prone to injuries) but since I have to walk beside my littlest on his bike, I am forced to slow down which is a good thing.
Some other things I do to involve my kids in my fitness efforts when we can't get outside are yoga DVD's and stuff like Tae Bo. Did you know that kids over age 9 can (and benefit from) lifting light weights? My kids love to show me how strong they are when I lift hand-weights and give them a quick turn. They also sometimes grab a bottle of water in each hand and join me in my routines, it distracts me from the suffering and makes me more prone to show off and do more. I hope this helps someone else out. And hey, thanks Tiffany!
So, what works for you?