Children are the best exercise motivators in existence because they trick you. If you don’t believe me, go for a simple walk with a few small children. They enthusiastically skip and talk and explore the first quarter mile and you think, “Yes, this is nice! My body feels good!” They wait until you’re at the furthest geographical point from the house to fall apart and then you get a surprisingly good workout carrying, dragging, or threatening them all home.
A friend of mine from church – let’s call her Lean Jean – is the most creative gym teacher I’ve ever met, so I asked her for some exercise ideas. She suggests riding bikes around the neighborhood or jogging together. I’m not a jogger, but jogging with my kids might work; I mean, how fast can they go, right? I hope I have enough pride to pump my legs faster when my three year old passes me! In our family we make the kids earn their ice cream or popsicles by riding bikes around the one mile loop of our neighborhood. (Bribery you say? Yes, yes it is.)
Her next suggestion is Mailbox Races. Start at your mailbox and race to the neighbor’s mailbox, then back to yours. Let the kids choose a different movement each time: hopping, skipping, ski jumps, walking backwards, sashaying sideways, galloping. “The kids love to pick silly movements. Keep it fun.” She makes the point that you’re in front of your house the whole time, so if one kid needs a break or a bathroom, they can take a rest on the lawn. And when Mommy lies gasping on the grass, the kids can fetch her water from the house.
I was put to the test yesterday evening. My children drew a big wobbly race track on our driveway and wanted to run races. SIGH. The very thought of running made my legs and arms turn to lead. But this week’s blog was echoing in my head and I thought, “Am I going to talk the talk only or am I going to Nike it up and Just Do It?” The races were fun once I started! I felt a little silly, but what are the neighbors going to do, move away? Not in this market!
Some other great ideas she had are to make an obstacle course or to crank up the music and dance. Ever dance like a toddler? It’s all jumping and wiggles and kicks and some pretty cool hand motions. Lots of fun, but suddenly all of the songs feel so loooooooong! Let the kids lead the dancing and copy their moves; you’re guaranteed not to be stuck doing the awkward head bop I pull out at every wedding.
No “good” time for crunches or weights? Do 15 pushups leaning on your vanity before your shower, says Lean Jean, and do lunges when you’re on the phone. “Just remember that if it’s not fun, you won’t want to keep doing it. Change it up, interject it in small doses throughout your day.”
If you don’t have children readily available or you don’t feel comfortable borrowing some, I recommend you try a KISS walk, Keep It Simple Stupid. Throw on some sneakers and go. No special outfit, no gear, no reason to wait. Ten minutes here, twenty minutes there; it all adds up. How does it add up? Let us count the ways!
Dancing for 10 minutes: 90 calories
Jogging (12 minute mile) for 10 minutes: 100 calories
Push ups for 10 minutes: 40 calories
Bike riding for 10 minutes: 95
House cleaning for 10 minutes: 30 calories
Carrying, dragging, or threatening children for 10 minutes: 50 calories
“The wings of the ostrich flap joyfully,
though they cannot compare
with the wings and feathers of the stork.” Job 39:13
We may not look graceful or athletic when we exercise, but we can move our bodies with joy!