He Ain't Heavy
Exercising with kids.
Harnessing the Imagination
"Imagination is the key," says Al Green, ACT, a former University of
Kentucky athletic trainer who now runs Human Performance Solutions (which
provides athletic training services to schools and special events) in Winter
Haven, Fla. "There are a ton of things you can do with children, depending
on their age and where you live."
A sense of playfulness, he says, is crucial. "Try tag games," he
says. "Or do agility exercises around the child." Instead of running
around a cone, he explained, make your child stand still and run around him or
her. Or if your kids are a little older, play fetch with them. "The kids
throw the ball, and you have to retrieve it as quickly as possible."
At our local park, I invented a game of tag, in which I had to repeatedly
tag each of my big girls, one after the other. They soon learned to spread the
field and make me work. Sheila King, MS, who coordinates a program in fitness
instruction for the University of California Los Angeles Extension, had another
idea. "Kids need to see you being active," she says. "So run around
the perimeter of the park. Every fifteen minutes, run to the sandbox to say hi
to the kids."
And if there's a sudden crisis, a tumble off the low slide or a
sand-throwing incident? "Then it becomes interval training," King says
with a laugh.
A Gym Is Where You Find It
What's more, you can always use the playground equipment for your own
workout. Marianne Goulding, MS, who served as resident expert for the popular
videotapes Mom-O-Rama Workout With Baby and Mom-O-Rama Workout With
Toddler (Brainstormes Unlimited, Inc.), suggested doing chin-ups on the
monkey bars, step-ups onto a slide, and triceps dips using a bench.
I was skeptical, but I found that the playground's colorful structures
worked surprisingly well as a makeshift gym. Every playground is different, of
course, so you have to be creative. Mine had swinging grips, like gymnasts'
rings, that I used for pull-ups and a series of toadstool-like stepping-stones
that I used for triceps dips.