Raise your hand if this sounds familiar: You wake up early to get to the gym before going to work because you know that once you get home in the evening, you’ll spend the whole night sitting in a cold hockey arena watching the kids log their active minutes—while you exercise nothing but your wrist lifting a hot beverage to your mouth.
Challenge: Scheduling “active time” for adults
It’s hard scheduling time for physical activity into parents’ schedules because our kids always come first. We drive them to their swimming lessons, we take them to their dance practices and games (which always seem to take up at least half of every Saturday,) and we shuttle them to numerous other lessons, clubs, and activities every week after school. Meanwhile, us parents have to squeeze our hikes, yoga classes, and workouts in either the early mornings or late evenings (if we get moving at all!).
I’m one of the lucky ones with a child in full-time school and a flexible schedule where I work from home. I’m able to get out mid-week for a hike or a ski trip and I fit regular yoga and fitness classes into my schedule. I recognize that my situation certainly isn’t the norm though, and my husband is one of the early risers leaving the house before 6 a.m. to hit the gym before riding the train downtown to work.
Solution: Get moving together with our children
What if we got moving and physically active with our children? What if we scheduled “active family time” into the weekly calendar and spent less time divided all over the city pursuing individual activities?
This won’t be possible for every hobby or activity you might have (neither of my boys is about to join me for weekly Zumba classes, for example) but as families, I believe it’s important to spend time pursuing an active lifestyle together.
5 ways to pursue an active lifestyle together
1. Choose a new sport to learn together as a family
Many leisure centres offer family classes where parents and children can learn a new sport or activity together. My community centre offers a beginner mixed-level karate class for families who want to learn together.
Other examples include family yoga classes, tennis lessons, family climbing programs, or private learn-to-ski programs where the whole family shares an instructor together at a local hill.
Other activities or sports might not even require lessons or an official class. Pick an outdoor activity, invest in (or rent) the required gear, and progress together in the activity. Examples could include biking, running, hiking, or inline skating in summer. In winter, try snowshoeing or ice skating.
And if you can’t find a family class for the activity or sport you want to learn, you can always take separate adult or children’s group classes but then come together to practice as a family on the weekends.
2. Get off the sidelines and join your children in an activity or sport they already love
I will never forget the day I looked at my husband and said, “I think I’d better buy a bike if I’m going to keep up to our child and continue to be a part of our family outings.”
My son took to biking at a young age, and I had to either adopt his hobby or else get really good at running. More than seven years later, our bikes now join us on every camping trip and I’m so glad I decided to buy my own bike to join the family on rides.
My son and I also enjoy taking walks together with our matching kick scooters and I rented inline skates the other day so that I could join him at a pop-up roller rink that was set up in a local mall for an afternoon. Sitting on the sidelines is boring and you never know when you’ll discover that you actually love that sport your child is so passionate about.
3. Introduce your children to an activity or sport that you, the parent, enjoy
These days, golf is more affordable than ever for families to learn together, with many golf courses offering discounted green fees for children. Tennis is completely free to play in many local courts (though you do need to find your child a racket). Running is also easy—even if your child wants to join you on his or her bike to accompany you on your runs.
What other sports or activities do you enjoy as an adult that you could introduce your child to? Swimming, hockey, basketball, volleyball… Depending on the age of your child, they are all doable, even if you have to register your child for some lessons first.
Related read: Mastering movement skills on ice and snow
4. Put the “recreation” back in sports your children already enjoy
Being active doesn’t have to be overly organized. Actually, it’s more fun when it’s simple. Do you have kids who love hockey? Get sticks for the whole family and head outdoors for a casual game of pond hockey on the weekend.
Soccer, volleyball, basketball, and baseball are all easy to enjoy as a family thanks to drop-in programs at most community centres or facilities you’ll find at most school yards or playgrounds. A patch of grass and a ball is all you need.
Most community centres also hold open gym nights or afternoons where families can play a variety of sports together in a casual, non-competitive way. As a bonus, this is a great way for older youth to teach you a few new tricks they may have learned in PE class or on their sports team.
5. Find activities that are inclusive of all abilities in your family
Maybe one parent has a bad back, the other has bad knees, Grandma likes to tag along but can’t walk very fast, or you have younger children who can’t keep up with older siblings. Regardless of abilities, you can find something that you can all do together.
With a little creativity you can also make most activities and sports inclusive for younger children too. They can tag along in sleds in winter and chariots or bike trailers in summer. Balance bikes can help youngsters keep up on a family walk. My son had skis on his balance bike when he was a preschooler and it made winter walks a lot of fun for the whole family. As well, you can always turn to Active for Life’s activities for kids to find something fun to do with your child.
What active family goals would you like to set for the coming year? It could be as simple as deciding to go for a walk together as a family a few evenings a week. Start with one small step that you’d like to take towards becoming a family who plays and moves together.
Photos courtesy of Tanya Koob.