Get Fit! How to make family fitness part of your routine
by Karen Higman
Summer is a great time to begin a family fitness routine. When schedules are a little more relaxed and the weather beckons us to come outside, it is easy to start a healthy family habit that stays past the summer and into the school year. Start by taking a few minutes to plan your initial strategy. Don't worry about taking the right or wrong approach – any activity is better than no activity!
A Little Planning Goes a Long Way
Every family is unique and the key to starting and maintaining a successful family fitness routine is thinking about your individual needs. Start with the ages of your children and their ability levels. This is not about if they know how to play a sport or engage in an activity right now; that will come in time. As the parent you only need to ensure that the activity is age appropriate and safe. Second, you need to think about your living situation (do you have a yard?); general proximity to facilities such as parks or gyms; and where you have the ability to safely walk as a family. For example, is it possible to walk somewhere using your house as a "home base"? Many sports and activities do not require equipment, but it is a safe bet that every family member will at least need a pair of sneakers and some comfortable clothes in which they can move easily such as shorts, t-shirts and an outdoor jacket. Exercising together as a family need not require spending a lot of money, but you may choose to engage in some activities that require a fee or expense. Consider a budget for your family fitness plan which might include setting a small amount of money away weekly or monthly depending on what you and your family choose to do.
As you brainstorm ideas, you may need to do some legwork and call or visit places for more information. The majority of the time you will be able to do research on the Internet or call a facility or organization to inquire about hours of operation, rates, or get more information on the program. If you have your heart set on a very specific activity like participating as a family in a community event, make sure that you leave yourself enough time to register or find out about parking and starting times. Nothing spoils a fun family outing like pulling up to a park only to find that it is closed that day.
Getting the Family Involved
Although you may be excited at the thought of starting to exercise or becoming more active as a family, your spouse or children may not share your enthusiasm. It is important to involve each family member in the process regardless of their ages. If one person in the family is always picking the form of exercise then it's not as fun for the group and everyone isn't invested in the process. One suggestion is to take turns choosing what the next activity will be and letting each person select an activity for their birthday or other special occasion. That way the burden of planning the next outing or endeavor does not fall on only one family member. Sometimes it might be fun to have each person write down an idea, put them all in a hat, and choose your exercise of choice randomly.
Clubs and Centers Offer Options
For families who want a variety of options all year around, it might be easiest to join the local YMCA, Jewish Community Center, or town recreation center. The YMCA is family-focused and there is something for all including group classes, family swim, open gym and organized activities like family roller skating parties. Visit www.rochesterymca.org to find the branch closest to your home. There are also great programs and facilities at the Jewish Community Center (http://jccrochester.org) which features Sunday Family Fitness programs. Our area has a large number of town recreation centers with great facilities and very modest prices. All clubs and centers have separate equipment and activities for adults and children and many have child care available. Although that may be a tempting option, try to choose things that you can do together. For teens who meet the age requirement, you may want to hit the wellness center together where each person can work out on the equipment that they like best. Many private clubs and fitness centers also offer family-centered programs. If your family is interested in a particular activity, taking lessons at a private club (such as a tennis club) might be an option to research.
Karen Higman is a contributing writer to Rochester Area & Genesee Valley Parent Magazine. She is a fund-raising consultant for non-profit organizations who lives in the Rochester, NY area.