Western Morning News

It’s child’s play!

Need some inspiratio­n for family workouts? Lauren Taylor chats to Olympian Jo Pavey


WITH schools closed and families living in lockdown, keeping kids entertaine­d and active is, unsurprisi­ngly, proving tricky for lots of parents. Long distance runner Jo Pavey has two children, Jacob, 10, and Emily, 6, so she knows the challenge well. The 46-year-old says keeping them active has huge benefits though and she’s on a mission to help other families stay fit and healthy during the pandemic.

Jo famously won the 10,000-metre gold medal at the 2014 European Championsh­ips just ten months after giving birth to her daughter – making her the oldest female European champion in history at the age of 40 – and she’s not done yet. Jo is aiming for Tokyo 2021, her sixth Games (a feat only achieved by one other British athlete), when she’ll be fast approachin­g her 48th birthday.

But you don’t have to be an Olympian to get your kids off the sofa. Here’s her advice.


“I THINK, with this lockdown, we all realise how beneficial keeping active is, and family bonding is really important as well,” Jo says.

“If we can use the time to engage with our children and make the commitment to keep active as a family, it’s going to be good for our physical and mental health.”

She has teemed up with Fit For Sport to launch the ‘Activity Challenge’– it’s 10 minutes of exercise at 10am every Monday. There are three exercises – star jumps, bouncing and catching a ball and six-metre shuttle runs – and how long you do each for is dependant on your children’s ages. Scores can be recorded on the website and you’re awarded a bronze, silver or gold.

“It’s just about having a go really, it doesn’t matter if it’s not a good score. You can do it in a small space and it’s free,” Jo says. Most importantl­y, it’s something the whole family can do together.


“BECAUSE we’re not able to do some of the activities we’d normally do as family, we’ve enjoyed finding new ideas. You have to try and make it fun – you need exercise to be a positive experience, rather than something you’re pushing them to do,” she says.

“If you can get out for a walk [staying locally and keeping to social distancing guidelines, of course] maybe encourage them to run a bit with you. I think they would have fun trying to run a bit with their parents – maybe pick out landmarks and see if you can run to the next lamppost or the next tree. My son Jacob has been doing short runs with me, we don’t keep running continuous­ly, we’ll stop and have a chat.

“I did a ladder running challenge with my children; I made a ladder out of an old bamboo cane and practised doing running type drills over it.

“But it doesn’t have to be formal exercise, it can be a simple game of tag or stuck in the mud, or throwing and catching, bat and ball – anything to get hand-eye coordinati­on going. For a really young child they could jump around like a frog or a kangaroo!”


“AS A parent it’s a challengin­g time, but being active yourself, you get the opportunit­y to be a good role model to your children, by keeping fit and also by engaging with your children.

“Show how much you enjoy it,” she adds. “I for one, want to improve my agility and hope in the future to keep competing so having these kid-type activities and playing games in the garden, it helps to make me feel young again, which definitely helps at this stage in my career.”


“I NOTICE how [the kids] feel happier, they enjoy that it gives them a bit of a buzz and even with the pressures we all have now of trying to homeschool, it definitely makes it easier for them to concentrat­e,” Jo says.

“I feel like they’re more ready [to do school work] when they’ve been out and done some activity. It gives them a boost, you can tell it keeps them feeling better about themselves and feeling good.”


HOW children experience exercise at a young age can have a lifelong impact on how they feel about it as an adult.

“When they’re showing enthusiasm, give them praise,” Jo says, “even if they’re not doing it fantastica­lly or in a skilful way, give them praise and positive feedback for the fact that they’re being enthusiast­ic. No way should you ever make being active a negative experience – never criticise them.

“And hopefully they can take those [positive] feelings with them as a grow and develop, and keep that healthy lifestyle going.”


ANY parent knows kids are more likely to want to do something if it was their idea, rather than yours.

“Maybe they could come up with some ideas of what the family could do to keep active together. Or give them choices of what they want to do,” Jo suggests.

“Wait until they’re ready, maybe sometimes they don’t feel like doing something in particular. And bear in mind it’s also OK to have a day where everyone feels a bit lazy, that’s natural as well!”

She hopes families noticing the benefits of being active together can keep it going too: “Hopefully [we can all] lay down those habits going forward when the whole situation of the lockdown is eventually over.”

To take part in Fit For Sport’s Activity Challenge, register at activitych­allenge.co.uk

 ??  ?? Jo Pavey exercising with her children Jacob, 10, and Emily, 6
Jo Pavey exercising with her children Jacob, 10, and Emily, 6
 ??  ?? Jo competing in the Rio Olympics 10,000m
Jo competing in the Rio Olympics 10,000m

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