He Ain't Heavy
Exercising with kids.
Harnessing the Imagination continued...
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.
The only problem with this kind of workout is that some of the other parents
tend to cast suspicious looks over their take-out coffees. Fortunately, the
kids remain unfazed. As I did my dips recently, two youngsters came over to
inquire. My explanation sounded shaky. But they soon joined in, and I found
myself competing for the toadstools.
In fact, the possibilities are practically endless as long as you are
willing to experiment -- and to adjust your goals a bit. "Fitness does not
need to be counted in sets and reps," says Elizabeth Trindade, who has
conducted "Strollercize" classes in New York's Central Park since 1993.
"I personally believe that once you have children, the days of perfect
fitness are over. That life is gone. This is the new one."
It's never easy to start a new life. I admit it would be nice to break away
for solitary, carefree runs once in a while -- to experience an occasional 30
or 45 minutes of blessed irresponsibility. But having children, after all, is a
lesson in compromises.