Kids are resilient and grow so fast. Laying the foundation for good exercising habits will build a lifelong commitment to their health. Here I will show you 3 practical ways to have a fun father & sons or daughters workout while bonding and getting fit with your children.
The most common reason people give as a reason to not exercise within a day is "time." Time is and will always be our most valuable resource. Parents have to be even more efficient and organized with their time as it is even harder to find alone time to dedicate towards exercise.
With the summer season upon us, parents look to find ways to keep themselves and their children active and healthy. May is dedicated to Moms, and now June is dedicated to fathers everywhere looking to work out with their kids to build a bond through fitness.
In my experience as a personal trainer and coach, I strive to make every workout safe, fun, and effective. Safety is always priority number one - but as a dad or parent trying to exercise with your kids, focus on the fun component more than how effective it is for them.
How to make your workout more fun for kids
Over the Memorial Day Weekend, I spent time with a 3 and 7-year-old who wanted to play constantly. Kids are fantastic in that sense because they are great at turning just about anything into a game.
1. Change the Name
Children do not do "cardio"; they play a game of hide and seek or tag. Instead of encouraging your kids to go on a run, change the activities title to something fun and engaging that gets the heart rate up.
Try and make the title relevant to your children and their interests. Some great examples include Hide and seek, Dad/Son Dance-Off, Backyard Obstacle Course, Father/Son Worlds Strongest Man Competition, and the list goes on.
2. Turn Everything Into a Game
Using different components of games makes the activity more engaging and gives kids objectives. Try implementing fun names relevant to them and replace the standard jargon we use.
- Squat Jump is now a Rocket Jump
- Medicine Ball is now their favorite kind of ball
- Agility Ladder is now Super Fast Feet Obstacle Course
- Core exercises like a Plank are now 6 Pack Ab Planks
Implementing a point system that is easy for kids to keep track of gives them an objective to work towards. Each exercise is worth 1 point, and the goal is to achieve ten total points for the workout. These points add up over the week/month, and maybe there is a reward for reaching 100 points.
Using a positive feedback loop to reinforce good behavior will motivate kids to stay consistent. Gamifying fitness changes the way kids look and feel towards staying active to keep it fun rather than feel like a chore.
3. Keep it Interactive
Entertaining kids in this digital era is challenging without the presence of technology. It is easy for little boys or little girls to lose interest when trying to work out with them. Using technology as an aid rather than a distraction can help make the activity more interactive.
There are great applications that serve as a timer that plays fun sounds to mark when to switch exercises. Playing your kid's favorite music can also help to keep them entertained.
Without technology, keeping the workout interactive requires short-duration exercises that are easy and straightforward for them to perform. Try writing the list of exercises down if possible and give them a specific task like checking off the exercise or keeping count on a whiteboard.
Piggybacking off of using a point system, keeping track of each rep or set makes the workout even more interactive for kids who easily fall off task. Counting out loud together can help with focus.
Lastly, try to do the same or a similar exercise at the same time. Think of yourself as a leader or role model to your sons or daughters. As a kid who had a blast growing up playing outside, anything that is fun with family and friends is a great way to stay active and connect.
Sample Father & Kids Workout
Obstacle Course (5 mins): Includes jogging, skipping, crawling, jumping, dancing, etc
The goal is to get the heart rate up, start sweating and draw focus to the upcoming activity by connecting with your kids.
10 Exercises: Each exercise lasts 60 seconds. Use a timer that plays a fun sound to mark the end of the interval. Allow 30 seconds for rest and refocus. Have a way to mark off/record each exercise at the end of every 60 second round. Try 1-3 rounds.
1. Firework jumps (jumping jacks)
2. Ninja crawls from cone to cone (bear crawls)
3. Squats (squat to a soccer ball/basketball)
4. Russian twists with their favorite ball
5. Granny toss with their favorite ball (squat down and throw the ball underhand as high as possible)
6. Elevated pushups on a table/bench
7. 4-way run (run forward/backpedal/side shuffle left/right - use cones)
9. Plank high-fives (alternate left/right-hand high fives facing each other in a plank)
10. Blast off jumps (broad jumps)