Good sports

If you want your chil­dren to ex­er­cise it’s im­por­tant to lead by ex­am­ple, writes Ar­lene Har­ris

Irish Examiner - Feelgood - - Parenting -

WITH ever-chang­ing tech­nol­ogy and end­less TV at the touch of a but­ton, chil­dren are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly seden­tary. And with Ire­land on course to join its UK coun­ter­parts as one of the fattest na­tions in Europe, get­ting the kids off the sofa and ex­er­cis­ing reg­u­larly is more im­por­tant than ever.

Liam O’Sullivan and his wife Anne have five chil­dren — Tadhg, 15, Ben 13, Grace, 12, Hugh, 9, and Me­abh, 5 — and has man­aged to en­cour­age them all to be ac­tive, not by force, but by ex­am­ple.

The port­fo­lio man­ager has been in­volved in the Reign of Ter­ror Ob­sta­cle Course Race in Kells, Co Kilkenny since its con­cep­tion last year. And his chil­dren were so keen to par­tic­i­pate in the ad­ven­tur­ous event; they per­suaded him to ar­range a Mini-Ter­ror ver­sion aimed at 13-to-17-year-olds which will de­but this year on Oc­to­ber 21.

“Last year was a huge suc­cess with nearly 1,000 par­tic­i­pants tak­ing part and fan­tas­tic feed­back from ev­ery­one,” he says.

“But a cus­tomer sur­vey showed us that we needed to cater for chil­dren. So I didn’t have to en­cour­age any of mine to be­come in­volved as they begged me to try and ar­range an event for their age group this year; which we did.

“Tadhg and Ben will both be do­ing it with their friends as they tested a few of the ob­sta­cles last year (be­fore the adult event started) and re­ally en­joyed the buzz from scal­ing a 12ft [3.5m] wall as part of a team or chal­leng­ing them­selves to crawl across a cargo net over the river.

“So this year, there will be a 5km event with ap­prox­i­mately 30 ob­sta­cles for the young­sters to over­come. Some ob­sta­cles are man-made such as a 20ft curved ramp or mon­key bars that will re­ally test their grip. Nat­u­ral ob­sta­cles in­clude our beau­ti­ful Kings River and of course mud, we have lots and lots of mud. Plus with thanks to the sup­port of the OPW we will be stag­ing a me­dieval bat­tle re-en­act­ment and rout­ing the event through the Pri­ory grounds. It prom­ises to be re­ally spec­tac­u­lar.”

The event is open to those with a com­pet­i­tive streak and those who sim­ply want to take part for the fun. Youth clubs and teams will be tak­ing part to­gether as a bond­ing ex­er­cise and the fa­ther of five says his whole fam­ily is look­ing for­ward to the ad­ven­ture.

Liam and Anne and the two older boys will be tak­ing part and while the oth­ers are too young to par­tic­i­pate this year, they have their sights set on the fu­ture as they are well used to ex­er­cise.

“The kids all take part in sport, but we don’t tend to do things as a fam­ily as ev­ery­one’s sport­ing in­ter­ests are so var­ied,” says the 45-year-old fa­ther.

“I only took up reg­u­lar ex­er­cise about five years ago when mid-life cri­sis hit and I started cy­cling and then got into run­ning.

“Anne also likes to run as she has a busy sched­ule and finds she can get a great work­out in 30 min­utes.

“Tadhg loves bas­ket­ball, Ben has a com­pet­i­tive streak and en­joys the rough and tum­ble of a tight soc­cer match, Grace en­joys ladies foot­ball and swim­ming, Hugh plays hurl­ing and soc­cer and Me­abh re­cently started train­ing with the girls’ U6 foot­ball team.

“So although we don’t tend to train to­gether as a fam­ily be­cause our sport­ing in­ter­ests are quite di­verse, we are all very ac­tive.”

The Kilkenny man says his fam­ily is proof that there is def­i­nitely some­thing out there for ev­ery­one to en­joy.

“My ad­vice to par­ents who want to find the right ac­tiv­ity for their child is

to just keep look­ing,” he says.

“Our kids have prob­a­bly tried most sports over the years and our phi­los­o­phy as par­ents has been to al­low them to ex­plore a wide range of sports so they can find one they re­ally en­joy and hope­fully will be able to con­tinue to play as they get older.

“Ex­er­cise is so im­por­tant for phys­i­cal well­be­ing but also men­tal and emo­tional well­ness and I find that it gives you a chance to get away from the dayto-day rou­tine and get some men­tal headspace and time to think.

“If you can’t carve out three or four hours for a cy­cle, then just ex­er­cis­ing for 30 min­utes two or three times a week, will do the trick.

“And if you can’t jog then a brisk walk will suf­fice to get your heart rate up and get your blood pump­ing.

“When Anne started run­ning she used the Couch to 5km App on her phone. It was bril­liant as it starts get­ting you walk­ing a few kilo­me­tres in the be­gin­ning, then in­tro­duces some jog­ging and in 10 weeks the app has you right up to run­ning 5km.

“You don’t feel you are out of your depth at any stage. It’s a very grad­ual ap­proach and great for get­ting back into reg­u­lar ex­er­cise and some­times the kids join in with Grace go­ing along for the oc­ca­sional 5km run.”

Reign of Ter­ror and Mini Ter­ror takes place at 9am on Oc­to­ber 21. For more in­for­ma­tion see www.reignofter­

“If you can’t carve out three or four hours for a cy­cle, then just ex­er­cis­ing for 30 min­utes two or three times a week, will do the trick

Pic­ture: Pat Moore

HIGH SPIR­ITS: Liam and Anne O’Sullivan with their chil­dren, Hugh, 9, Tadhg, 15, Ben, 14, Grace, 12, and Me­abh 5 at Kells Pri­ory, Co Kilkenny.

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