Whether you take the title of this to mean you’re actively working out with your children, them adorably following along and mimicking you, or you think it means you’re using them as weights or cardio, you can consider yourself correct. Few things are as important as instilling discipline in your children, and a regular exercise routine is a great way to do just that. I personally like lifting weights, and my kids like mimicking or making fun of me while I do it, but either way they’re doing the motions and that’s what I wanted. Even if they’re only doing squats and presses because it’s funny to them, they’re still doing it, and if they do it EVERY morning with me, then that’s a habit! Yay!
Working Out With Your Kids
There’s a lot of ways to get your kids active, even if it means tricking them to a degree. My children are young enough that ” *gasp* oh no! Run!” is a good way to get them to chase me around or run with me. When they see me lifting weights, they come and do it to – we went so far as to buy them some little 1lb dumbbells from Five Below so they could lift with me and they LOVE it. Essentially, if you have toddlers, they want to do what you’re doing, so just let them. Encourage them working out by giving them their own tools to do it. Create games, like playing zombies – my daughter and son love to sit on my shoulders and we become the zombie and we chase the other kid. Often I get injured but it’s a lot of fun; as a dad, my pain seems to equal enjoyment for my kids so your mileage my vary.
What if your kids are older? Having been a pre-teen/teen at one point, I can tell you they absolutely DON’T want to do what you’re doing. How do you make them exercise with you? This might be easier if your kids are involved in sports and need to practice – offer to run with them, play catch, or shoot some hoops. Easy peasy, but if your kids are “indoor kids” like I was as a teen, it might be a bit more difficult.
As a kid who grew up shying away from team sports, the only physical activity I liked was biking. I hate structured … anything, so being forced to run with other kids, or play baskethoops, or run, or ANYTHING like that was something that I immediately rejected. I did, however, like long, unstructured walks in the woods. Biking with my friends was ALWAYS great, and once I got into high school, lifting weights captured my attention. Basically any introspective activity that allowed me to work at my own pace and discover my own goals and gains was something that I loved. This is a good way to approach kids who don’t go for team sports. Weight lifting and personal activity is a journey of self-discovery that allows a person to develop their strengths and interests without having to compare themselves to other people or feel like they’re holding back more people.
Especially with older kids, be open with your intentions and desire to start a new, healthy lifestyle. Some will jump on board just because they want to help you succeed, or see your success and want that for themselves as well. With all things, it’s important to be open and supportive with your kids.
Working Out With Your Kids
It’s largely about inflection here, so in this part we talk about using your kids as implements of exercise! Trust me, it’s not as weird as it sounds. My kids are young enough that they LOVE being thrown in the air, given piggy-back rides, bench-pressed, chased, or swung around. I’m not advocating that you lift your kids up 10 times and toss them on the ground like a dumbbell – that’s both not a good idea and also it’s poor form. What I AM suggesting is get your kids involved like a game. I can guarantee that when I get home tonight, the first thing out of my son’s mouth will be “Daddy can you throw me in the air”? And I will oblige him, not just because I want him to have fun and because I want to spend time with him, but also because picking my 40 pound son up, lifting him up over my head, and tossing him straight up is great exercise. It works my lower back, stomach, and shoulder muscles, not to mention the entirety of my arms. By the time I’ve tossed little dude into the air two dozen times, my arms are tired and my upper body has some decent resistance training (and my kid has had fun, whatever).
I also will hold my daughter while in a prone position on my back, and with her held out in front of me, move into a sit-up position. This adds extra difficulty to the actual sit-up while working my arms. Plus she thinks it’s hilarious. My point is that there’s a TON of things you can do, especially when your kids are little, that involve them in your fitness while adding difficulty and resistance to your workout. Play time can be both productive to your gainz AND a ton of fun for them.
Again with older kids, it’s probably less likely you’ll be able to throw them around or lift them up, but you can race them. If they’re in sports, you can run drills with them, sprint, play catch – just about anything you can do in the previous example, only more focused on your own progress. Where in the previous section I am advocating for getting your kids moving with you, I am in this scenario suggesting you find a way to get into their routine, if they’re ok with it. Basketball drills are insanely difficult, even if you’re a teen. A parent is going to feel probably crushed by sprinting stairs or something similar, and that’s great. It gives you a goal to work towards and a person to chase after, plus it gets you more involved in your kids’ lives, and that’s to the benefit of everyone.
Lead By Example
I have made a special effort in the last year or so to avoid being on my phone or the computer when my kids are around. After they go to bed, I work or play video games or pass out because I’m ancient and don’t sleep enough. When they’re awake, though, I have been doing my best to engage and teach them, and exercising with them is part of that. If your kids see you sitting on the couch all night after work, drinking a beer and eating garbage, that will be their “normal”. If you spend all your time with your face glued to a screen instead of being active with them, they’ll assume they’re not as high a priority. We’re sedentary enough at work or school all day; you owe it to yourself and your children to be more. Be active, include your children, and improve all of your lives at the same time. They’ll thank you for it later.