Making Fitness a Family Affair

Posted at 12:00 AM, Sep 01, 2012
and last updated 2012-08-06 19:51:23-04

by Margaret H. Evans, Engine Contributor –

For some people, fitness is a hit-or-miss proposition. But for the Mabey family of Bountiful, Utah, it’s more like a part-time job.

Fred and Jeri Mabey and teenage son Chris are serious triathlon competitors and spend 10-12 hours a week training for competitions. Chris began competing in kids’ triathlons when he was 12, and because he was so young, one of his parents had to volunteer at the competitions. Jeri and Fred eventually decided to compete as well, and now the family has participated in close to 20 triathlons together.

In addition to the physical benefits of swimming, biking and running, the Mabeys enjoy sharing a common goal.

“It gives us a common link so that we have something to talk about,” Jeri says. “It’s been a really good thing for our family, especially because when you have teenagers, there are not that many things that you can do together that you all enjoy.”

While not every family will be as ambitious as the Mabeys, all families can benefit from family fitness.

Pursuing Common Interests
“As a family, we’re working on developing shared fitness interests,” says mom Nancy Parode. “We’re all preparing for biking experiences this summer. A family friend recently acquired several horses and has offered riding lessons. We plan to try this new sport and see if it’s something we’d like to do as a family.”

Parode also notes that she tries hard to listen and take action when her children express interest in a new activity or sport.

“This has led to archery lessons, ice skating sessions and Irish-dance classes.”

Adjusting Your Goals
There’s no denying that your life changes when you have children. It’s likely that your fitness goals and time for exercise have to change, too. That’s what happened when Adam Goldthorp’s children were born.

“I was always very fit and active, but becoming a dad really slowed me down. I have now managed to invent a few sports and adapt some games so the kids get entertained — and I get my exercise,” comments the Barcelona, Spain, dad whose two children are 4 and 2. As part of his field hockey warm-ups, he’ll kick and throw balls to his children and run past them making noises that make them squeal with delight.

A Place for Everyone
Many cities have family fitness centers, where there are activities for parents and children. Carla Burke’s family has joined LifeTime Fitness in their town. This mom of two can drop her children in the kid’s fitness area, where they can work out and wear themselves out while she does her exercise routine.

“We go three to four times a week and sometimes more in the summer. We are members for life, so as the children grow, our fitness routines will change.”

Keeping It Simple
Getting fit as a family doesn’t have to be a major undertaking or even cost money. When weather permits, you and your children can get your exercise just by taking a walk or bike ride around the neighborhood after dinner.

Karen Spring, a Deptford, New Jersey, mom of  4-year-old twins, says she and her husband have always tried to incorporate their sons into their fitness routines. She likes to power-walk and will take her boys in a wagon while she does. Sometimes the kids will get out and run or walk alongside her. When they get tired, they can hop back in the wagon.

“As a parent, I feel that encouraging fitness activities is a gift we give our kids for life,” Spring says. “It’s so much better to be out taking a brisk walk or kicking around a soccer ball than being a couch potato in front of the TV.”

Exercising with your children can help you establish fitness habits that will last a lifetime.