Nov 25, 2014

Staying involved and working out with your kids

I feel lucky enough to have so much experience when it comes to teaching or coaching kids as a strength coach, personal trainer, and karate instructor.  Parents usually ask me all kinds of questions like, “What is a good age to start exercise routines or when can they begin lifting weights”? The answers to these questions are up for debate and can differ from kid to kid, but what strikes me as odd is that parents never ask me, “How can I workout with my kid or kids?

As an expectant father myself, I have no doubt that between my wife and myself, our daughter will be doing burpees, full pushups, and roundhouse kicking walls by the time she is 3 years old.  As much as her parents will take so much pleasure in teaching her these fine fitness ninja skills, getting her to be as passionate about fitness as we are, might take a little more than just talking about it.  It does and will take “walking the walk” as well as grabbing and keeping her attention!

After years of teaching toddlers and young adults, I have come up with 4 easy steps to help you keep your kids involved and active. Keep it short, simple, safe, and most of all………FUN.

Short: Remember, their attention span is short, depending on their age or maturity.  With this in mind, you must keep their attention or you get what I call the “shiny toy syndrome”. This is where anything and everything can and will distract them.  Once this happens once or twice, your session should be wrapped up.  Remind them once and then continue on but if it happens again, I would start again the next day.  Might be 5 minutes, or 30 minutes.  What is important to remember is that the time continues to increase until eventually a “typical workout” can be accomplished.  Also keep in mind, that 10-20 minute workouts can be just as intense as an hour, especially on a kids body.  They may repair faster than many adults but they too need rest.

Simple: Complex, multifunctional movements, or difficult routines that require them to remember too many patterns can be overstimulating.  They will be more frustrated because they are not “getting it” and you might be just as irritated since they are not keeping up.  Kids are like sponges and pick things up very easily.  Ever hear kids repeat something you’ve yourself said, that you maybe shouldn’t have said??? Well, just because they are like voice recorders doesn’t necessarily mean they will be as tuned to understanding multifunctional exercises.  Easy repetition and movements that seem like games with a quick finish tend to be the best way to keep them coming back for more and trying to improve each time.  Think about single movements that might include something cardiovascular such as 5 push ups with a quick run to the end of a driveway or fence.  Or add somersaults before or after frog jumps.

Safe: Speaking of frog jumps or squat jumps, toddlers and young adults might look and act like they are invincible but remember their joints, skeletal system, and muscles are still growing at a rate we adults no longer experience.  They are malleable (even though they don’t even know who Gumbi is).  It is for this reason that warming up is crucial and that exercise routines shouldn’t involve high-impact movements or high-weighted resistance.  One might avoid ballistic exercises like high box jumps or basic weighted movements such as barbell squats.  I am not a doctor and I am not going to pretend that I know the right time to introduce toddlers and young adults to these exercises, but if the exercise could possibly result in a dangerous outcome, I would question the exercise.  Instead, I would find minimal or low impact exercises and body weight exercises such as air squats, situps, burpees, or pushups rather than box jumps or the weighted bench press.

FUN: Ever watch a batch of toddlers or kids together?  They are like baby turtles, crawling all over and playing.  They love be to active but it is up to us to create an environment or exercise routine that is fun.  Think of what games you played as a kid…..kick the can…hide and seek….tag….”Marco Polo”……dodge ball.  Any of these bring back memories?  Well, they are all activities that I bet you didn’t see as work or exercise.  Keep this in mind because you can add all of these elements to any routine you wish.  Be creative and make it a game or a learning experience.  Remember the minute it becomes “work” they will not like doing it.

Now take these four tools you have just read, ATTACK, and have some FUN together… a family!