Create a Family Fun Day Around Your Running or Walking

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I don't know about you, but I love my running and walking times. But, sometimes it seems that I have to make a choice between hanging out with my family and giving myself the time to get a nice workout in my day. It's a choice I don't like making because either way I always feel a tinge of guilt or letdown around leaving some part of my life un-nurtured.

This dilemma doesn't just hold true for me. A lot of families are so busy nowadays that not only do the parents feel pulled in a thousand directions, but the kids do too. It seems in the past that families at least had dinner time together. But according to a recent survey done by the Food Marketing Institute, only 40% of American families eat dinner together, and then, not more than two or three times a week. Compare that to just a generation ago when close to 80% of families ate evening meals together regularly.

In our current society, family time seems to be getting crowded out little by little. As the kids get older they start hanging out with their own group of friends. Parents have their own circle of relationships as well. So, by default, the bonding necessary for strong family ties is less and less interpersonal and more virtual than it's ever been. So, here are some suggestions to nurture a sense of real human-to-human connection for those of you who still have children at home. 

Create one of your weekly workouts to be a family fun time where everyone gets to participate and join the group. There's something about being out in the fresh air together that creates a great bonding environment for people of all ages. Turn a family outing into a moving hangout time, where everyone gets to catch up on what's going on in everyone else's life, while getting healthy at the same time.

I have a sixteen-year-old daughter who mostly snarls at the thought of being caught dead in public with her parents. But, when I can get her out to walk with Katherine and me she turns into a totally different person. She's off her iPhone and looking around. I can ask her how her schoolwork is going or talk about the latest movie she's seen. She lets down enough to be in her body and just breathe the air and feel the ground under her feet. We make sure that we walk or run at a pace that's comfortable for all of us, so there's no stress on anyone. Actually, when she was younger, I'd have her ride her bike next to me if she didn't feel like running or walking.

Here are 10 suggestions for how you can get your own Family Fun Time going:

1. Have the parents run or walk while the kids ride bikes, run or walk too.
2. Go to an open grassy field and have one person at at time be the leader and have them do a mix of walking and running, or whatever other type of movement they want to introduce.
3. Intersperse your walking or running with calisthenics: jumping jacks, push-ups, sit-ups, one-legged hops, flapping your arms, knee lifts, knee bends or any other movement that will isolate and exercise a specific muscle group
4. Take a piece of rope looped around your child's waist and have them pull you like they're the draft horse and you're the driver.
5. Have soccer ball dribbling races across a grassy field… or soccer ball relays where you pass to a partner.
6. Take your mp3 player or smartphone and play energizing music that everyone can run to and try to match their cadence to the beat.
7. Do a version of Fahrtleks (short intervals run at different speeds) where each person in the family gets to pick a speed and a target ahead to run to. Increments should be no longer than 200 meters.
8. Do 1 minute skipping breaks in the middle of your walk or run.
9. “Simon Says” type of calisthenics or stretches
10. Create a Nature walk where each person has to spot a different bird, tree or animal than the person before them.

Sometimes it sounds like a lot to get everybody off the couch and moving, but it's well worth the effort. You now what they say… “The family that plays together…”

Posted in Beginners

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