Editor’s note: The Active for Life “Parent Promise” turns a year old this week. Heather Gardiner, an AfL Role Model, gave us this personal account of how she’s feeling about her promise a year later. We would love to hear from others who made the promise in 2015 about how it’s going. Send us your stories.
My journey with Active for Life really started two years ago. I work for a Canadian health-based non-profit organization, and my role gives me a chance to speak to school-aged kids about how they can take care of their hearts by keeping active and making healthy choices.
One day, I was asked to help one of the schools I work with run an activity-filled day. I was super excited but also a bit lost. I’m not a teacher, so I needed some help coming up with activities for a wide range of ages and abilities. Thankfully, Google sent me to Active for Life and their amazing activities and I ended up putting together a stellar activity day. From that moment on, Active for Life was my best kept not-so-secret secret.
It was such a success that I was invited back the next year and again this year!
Although I tried to live by what I was telling the students with whom I spoke, sometimes I felt like a hypocrite. There I was telling them the benefits of making healthy choices and getting 60 minutes of physical activity every day, when often it had been several days since I had gotten that much exercise myself.
Life is so busy for everyone. Parents are trying to fit everything in, getting to work, getting kids to school, activities, making sure everyone is fed, and that life runs smoothly. Sometimes we forget about ourselves and how important it is for us to get active, too. I just needed something to help spark my drive to follow the same “rules” I was asking kids to follow. And then that spark appeared.
Making the parent promise
Last fall, Active for Life sent out a challenge to all parents across Canada: make the parent promise to get outside daily for outdoor play, get active as a family, and lead the way in your child’s life by being a role model for daily activity. The call to take the pledge came at the best possible time for me. I knew I needed to get moving and just needed an extra boost and reminder to get myself going. This promise has really stuck with me and has been ever-present in my mind over the last year, reminding me to just fit in a few more minutes every day, on my own, and with my daughter and husband, and to take every opportunity to play.
I will admit it’s not as easy as it sounds. I have discovered that as my daughter gets older and more involved in organized, competitive sport, we spend more time driving to sport centres and less time getting outside as a family. While she was getting lots of physical activity, I found I was getting less and that I needed to be creative to meet my promise. You’d think that since we’re at the pool all the time it would be easy to get my parent pledge time in, but you know, life sometimes gets in the way. While I would love to be that parent working out the at the same time my daughter is being active, I still have all that other parent stuff to do (like groceries and laundry) so I needed to get a bit creative to fit my activities in and fulfill my parent promise.
Here are my top five ways I keep my promise:
- I’m taking time at lunch to get away from my desk and go for a walk. As often as I can I take a 25-minute walk around the area where I work. Sometimes I have a route in mind and sometimes I just let the traffic lights tell me which way to go. I feel better after my walk, I have more energy, and it’s nice to get out and see what’s happening beyond my desk.
- Our GPS unit is always with us in case we find ourselves with a few extra minutes to fill with some geocaching. Nothing gets us all walking, climbing, and searching like looking for a micro- or nano-cache hidden in the city. One recent find had me doing push-ups by a park bench in order to locate a cache hidden under the bench.
- Dog walks happen twice a day at our house, once in the morning and once in the evening. It took less than a week to get our dog trained to expect these walks and now, no matter the weather, there is no escaping them. She’ll sit at the door and jump up excitedly every time I pass by until she gets her walk. I especially love the evening walks because on most nights my daughter will come with me and fill the time with stories from her day.
- We keep a seasonal to-go bag by the door. In the summer the bag has swimsuits, towels, sunscreen, spare hats, and sunglasses making it easy to say, “Yes,” to a quick trip to the lake for an after dinner swim. In the winter our bag will have ice skates ready to go. A bag filled with essentials to get you outside makes it much easier to say, “Yes,” to activity than, “No”.
- I schedule at least one day a week to workout during my daughter’s swim time. I’m striving for two, but I think if I get at least one a week in it’s a win for us all.
I’ll be retaking the Active for Life Parent Promise this year and hope that you’ll join me too!