By Jasmine Stephens, Family Editor
Every January my New Year’s resolution is to find a way to get fitter, but by March I’ve already conveniently forgotten the new trainers stashed in the porch. I like to think I am healthy enough to run for the bus, but the truth is I haven’t done any organised exercise since I left school in 1997 and was no longer forced to run around a muddy field while a sadistic PE teacher shouted words of ‘encouragement’. I admit that I use the fact I have young children as an excuse, but deep down I know they are the reason I should get more active and now spring is finally here and the evenings are getting longer, I’m feeling motivated again.
Matt Roberts, the PM’s personal trainer and a bonafide fitness expert has put together some ideas to help ease us sleep-deprived parents back into the world of exercise.
Finding the time to exercise for yourself can be difficult when you have a family. Time commitments, lack of energy from disturbed sleep patterns and the general need to be on hand to be part of the childcare process are all laudable reasons why regimes go awry.
However, given that the stats around childhood obesity are irrefutable and it is clear that children of parents who are either overweight or inactive are themselves at a much greater probability of being overweight or inactive too. The knock-on effects of allowing yourself to be the wrong type of role model are, I’m afraid, clear as day. By contrast, families who exercise together are consistently more active, healthier and eat better than those who do not, so what’s stopping you?
There are endless ways that you can exercise together as a family, and they aren’t as daunting, painful or humiliating as you might think. Exercise falls into various categories for degree of intensity and each and every one of them has a useful role to play. You don’t need to be doing super intensive workouts all of the time!
The most basic way to get moving with your kids is to play some active games together. The good old staple of games such as Tag and Piggy in the middle are really easy ways to get yourself outside and engaging with the kids without even needing to get changed out of your normal clothes, whilst still burning a few calories and making them have some fun with it too.
To raise the bar a little, get the bikes out and go for a ride. Most kids love cycling, and you may be surprised how much you enjoy it again too. It burns calories rapidly, gives them a sense of speed and responsibility and is great for the heart and lungs. There are a growing number of great mountain bike trails that you can go to and be clear of all traffic (including pedestrians). Get a sweat up, get a little muddy, don’t worry, it just washes off!
If cycling isn’t your thing, how about going swimming? Again, kids love going swimming, but you need to avoid being the parent who just stands in the pool whilst your kids splash you in the face. Actually GO swimming! Even if your kids are small (provided they can swim), you can set a small number of lengths or widths to do with them, and if there are two of you going with your children, take it in turns to go and do 4 lengths and then swap the minding duties whilst your partner swims. Do this a few times and you soon rack up the lengths. If your kids are a little older the chances are they will be keen to do races with you in the pool. Encourage this, don’t be afraid to lose, it’s good for their confidence if you do. Simple games in the pool such as diving for objects (goggles, water weights) can be great exercise. See if they (and you) can do “rolls” in the water, and how many can you do? Be creative, and most importantly, get involved.
If your kids are up for it, get them running. Kids can do small amounts of running from the age of around 6 or 7. Not too much, but let’s face it they run around all of the time given the chance, so it really isn’t going to do any harm. Start by doing 30 second runs, with a 1-minute walk. If they are young, just doing 3-5 of these is fine and will get them doing something they will enjoy. If they are older or fitter, they can do 8-12 runs of 60 seconds, with a similar rest period, or even do running for 2-4km at a steady pace if they are 8+. If you aren’t a runner, it doesn’t matter, at this point neither are they and it might be your best chance of getting into something that you can continue to do together and that will be an activity for you longer term.
Having tried, cycling, swimming and running, why not go in for a small triathlon? It’s not as crazy as it sounds. Triathlon is open to all ages, fitness levels and aspirations. I’m not talking about some super serious competition, but have a look for small “fun” events. There are often duathlon events, generally cycling and running, that are the entry to doing this. These don’t need you to go fast, just to take part. It’s great for you, great for the kids and will produce some family bonding beyond what you can imagine.
For more information visit www.mattroberts.co.uk
Matt Roberts has 4 London based Personal Training Clubs in Mayfair, Hampstead, Kensington & Chelsea and the City