Ways to get your fam­ily ex­er­cis­ing to­gether

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - FAMILY - By Mor­gan Voigt

Craig and Dawn Reese have made an im­por­tant mod­i­fi­ca­tion to the one-car garage of their sub­ur­ban Wash­ing­ton house: They’ve cov­ered the floor with a layer of ply­wood and thick black mats. “That’s to cush­ion the blow when we drop our weights,” Craig, 44, says.

The space is crowded with work­out equip­ment. There’s a row­ing ma­chine, a ski ma­chine and a power rack, to name a few pieces, and a tall heater for the colder months. Re­sis­tance bands hang on the wall.

The cou­ple has 100-pound sand­bags and ket­tle­bells up to 70 pounds; Craig es­ti­mates that they’ve got 600 pounds in plate weights, too. The elab­o­rate setup is a tes­ta­ment to the pri­or­ity fit­ness takes in their fam­ily.

It started a few years ago, when Dawn de­cided to get into shape while Craig, an of­fi­cer in the Marine Corps, was de­ployed. “I was al­ways thin, but I couldn’t run up the street,” Dawn, 46, says. “I would go into the gym and be in­tim­i­dated.” She hired a per­sonal trainer, which ig­nited a pas­sion for fit­ness, and when Craig re­turned, she be­gan go­ing to CrossFit with him.

Their en­thu­si­asm for CrossFit made an im­pres­sion on their chil­dren: Jylian, now 16, and We­ston, now 13, saw the com­mit­ment and en­ergy their par­ents were putting into work­ing out — and the pos­i­tive re­sults — and wanted to join. “Jylian was the first one that said, ‘Can I try?’ ” Dawn says. “We started teach­ing her Olympic lift­ing, and she loved it.”

The Reeses be­gan ac­cu­mu­lat­ing gym equip­ment and ex­er­cise cer­ti­fi­ca­tions. Dawn is an ACE-cer­ti­fied per­sonal trainer and youth fit­ness spe­cial­ist, and Craig has cer­ti­fi­ca­tions in USA Weightlift­ing and the Marine

Corps’ High-In­ten­sity In­ter­val Train­ing pro­gram, to name a few. The fam­ily works out to­gether in their garage, and the kids visit the CrossFit gym with their par­ents when they aren’t busy with school and sports. The fam­ily also does mud runs and ob­sta­cle cour­ses to­gether. “It’s im­por­tant that we’re out there, do­ing th­ese things to­gether, as a fam­ily,” Dawn says.

Ex­perts say it’s im­por­tant that kids get in the habit of ex­er­cis­ing. Re­search in­di­cates that par­ents’ ac­tiv­ity level and en­cour­age­ment play vi­tal roles in de­ter­min­ing how phys­i­cally ac­tive their kids are.

Want to fos­ter your own cul­ture of fam­ily fit­ness? Here are eight tips to help (hav­ing a gym at home isn’t re­quired).

Just get mov­ing. “It is so hard to get started — es­pe­cially when you have kids,” Dawn says. Some­thing as sim­ple as get­ting off the couch and go­ing out­side to­gether as a fam­ily is a great way to get the ball rolling, says An­drew Sh­ni­der­man, per­sonal trainer and owner of Fit First Academy, which of­fers classes and one-on-one train­ing for D.C.-area youths. “Go for a 10-minute walk to­gether,” he says. “Spend some time do­ing some­thing where you are mov­ing.”

Be en­thu­si­as­tic — and sin­cere — about ex­er­cise. If you don’t en­joy weightlift­ing, don’t ex­pect your clan to sud­denly be thrilled about pump­ing iron. “Kids can sense when you’re fak­ing it,” Sh­ni­der­man

warns. “Find some­thing that you your­self want to do.” If you bring true ex­cite­ment to an ac­tiv­ity, the whole fam­ily will pick up on that. In the same vein, Sh­ni­der­man says, try to keep your en­tire work­out en­gag­ing and high en­ergy, whether it lasts 15 min­utes or an hour.

Make a plan and stick with it. Ev­ery Sun­day, Dawn gath­ers her fam­ily and maps out their sched­ule for their week. “We plan when we’re go­ing to work out, who’s pick­ing up kids here, who’s drop­ping them off there, what time their sports end, who’s start­ing meals,” Dawn says. “Plan­ning is ev­ery­thing.”

Con­sis­tency and com­mit­ment are im­por­tant, too. “Don’t use any­thing that pops up in your day as an ex­cuse to not work out,” Dawn says.

Con­sider an app or a fit­ness tracker. Re­cent re­search shows fam­i­lies that use fit­ness track­ers that in­cor­po­rate el­e­ments such as points or lev­els — oth­er­wise known as “gam­i­fi­ca­tion” — are more likely to achieve their fit­ness goals than those who do not.

In a 2017 study, re­searchers at the Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia and Bos­ton Univer­sity fol­lowed adults from 94 fam­i­lies who en­gaged in a game to track their steps for 12 weeks, with a 12-week fol­low-up. The study’s big takeaway: Adding a so­cial game com­po­nent to their ex­er­cise tech­nol­ogy “sig­nif­i­cantly in­creased phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity among fam­i­lies.” Dig­i­tal ex­er­cise track­ing comes with the bonus of be­ing able to eas­ily see the stats on your progress, too, which helps you cel­e­brate the achieve­ments.

Gyms can pro­vide an ar­ray of op­por­tu­ni­ties for fam­i­lies to work out to­gether, ac­cord­ing to Robin Hedrick, di­rec­tor of com­mu­nity health for the YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities, which of­fer an ex­ten­sive lineup of group ex­er­cise classes for fam­i­lies, in­clud­ing yoga, boot camps and dance classes.

“It doesn’t mat­ter what you choose to do,” Hedrick said in an email. “It is im­por­tant for chil­dren to see their par­ents ex­er­cis­ing or ‘play­ing’ with them.”

Sign­ing up for an un­timed fam­ily event such as a Volks­march or a bike tour can help take the pres­sure off per­for­mance and keep the fo­cus on a shared ac­tiv­ity.

Don’t push your kids too hard. When your kids give you “the look,” it’s time to switch it up, Sh­ni­der­man says. “A child is not like an adult. Adults know their lim­its and they need some­body to break their lim­its,” he says. “Kids are com­pletely dif­fer­ent.” Keep it from be­com­ing a nega­tive ex­pe­ri­ence.

Get cre­ative with your work­outs. A lit­tle bit of imag­i­na­tion can go a long way. Sh­ni­der­man points to a bear crawl as an ex­am­ple: “It’s not a bear crawl any­more,” he says. “It’s a ‘magic spi­der walk.’ I say, ‘You’re not on the floor, you’re on a web. The only thing that can stick to this web are your magic hands and magic feet.’ Now the kids are more bought in. They don’t want to get stuck on the spi­der web. Same goal, just a dif­fer­ent way to ex­e­cute it.”

ARIEL SKELLEY/GETTY

If you bring true ex­cite­ment to a fit­ness ac­tiv­ity, the whole fam­ily will pick up on that. Find a fam­ily-friendly gym. Try an event that isn’t timed.

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