There was a time in my life, not so very long ago, when I would have given anything to just have a “normal” body. I never dreamed of the oh so coveted thigh gap or the pronounced cheek bones; I had sense enough to embrace my size 9 feet and my big bones. I just didn’t want to be Extra Large. Why couldn’t I just have one of those metabolisms that lets me eat what I want and maintain a healthy BMI? Judging myself by an index devised in the 1800’s is completely logical, right? I abused my body and destroyed my self-esteem and it was a tremendous climb back to positive mental health. When I became a parent, I made it my mission to make sure my children never travel this path. I don’t ever want them to doubt their worth, not even for one second, because of some stupid standard society has dictated as beautiful or smart or acceptable.
My childhood was filled with running and climbing and hiding and seeking. We built things out of wood and got splinters. We played catch and picked stickers out of our socks. We made mud pies and drank from the hose. We ate carrots straight from the soil and apricots right off the tree. During all this time, I never once thought to worry about my metabolism or my BMI. I was normal.
Oh, how the times have changed. Chicken nuggets, computer games, cell phones, youtube, Minecraft…this is the new normal. It’s normal for an 8 year old to have a cell phone. It’s normal for kids to have McDonald’s for breakfast. Normal has been redefined. This new normal, combined with my daughter’s severe asthma, my son’s hyperactivity, and my history of ADD and depression, makes family exercise not only a priority, but an absolute necessity.
Getting my kids to turn off the tablet is no easy task, but explaining all my reasons to a five and eight year old would only cause confusion and/or possible scarring for life. We’ve tried many activities. Some result in constant whining and misery for all involved. Others they beg to revisit week after week. So, as dictated by my children, Sophia and Alex, here are our Top 5 Ways to Exercise.
#5 – Organized Sports
The gang was a bit divided on this one. Sophie’s a big fan of cheerleading and gymnastics but we still haven’t found Alex’s sport yet. I wasn’t keen on the idea of my daughter getting into cheer initially. I’ll admit it, I’ve always thought cheerleading to be a bit vapid. I just don’t understand why sports teams need young girls in short skirts smiling and shouting in unison whilst flashing their undies to everyone. But Sophie likes it and the instructor promotes strength training and flexibility, making them do push-ups and yoga poses during their warm-up and cool-down. I’m still coming to terms with it, but I’m trying to be open-minded. It teaches commitment and responsibility to a team, which, unless Sophie plans on going underground, are great skills for the future. It’s a little bit expensive, but I consider it an investment in developing essential life skills.
#4 – Video Games
Yep, video games can be good for you! Sophie loves the Wii Fit. She likes the running and yoga the best. Occasionally, we’ll bowl together or play tennis. Alex enjoys to Xbox Kinect because he gets to pretend to use a lightsaber. For the record, his actual response was “lightsaber fights”. Also, you can pretend box. This is great for relieving family tension. My personal favorite is the dance game. I don’t know what it’s called, but I’m perfect on the easy setting. Video games give the illusion of gaming but it’s really good exercise. Like when you blend carrots in with your spaghetti sauce.
#3 – Hiking
My kids love nature and every couple weeks, we try to go on an adventure. Sometimes it’s the local trail, Sycamore Canyon, where we scan for foxes and coyotes. Or if we’re feeling more social, we head over to Mt. Rubidoux to climb our way to the cross at the very top. We’ll venture over to University of Riverside’s Botanical Gardens or we might just walk to the park down the street. Taking the time to enjoy the bits of nature in our concrete suburbia always turns into a learning experience.
#2 – Swimming
Living in Southern California is definitely a factor when it comes to this activity. We can swim pretty much 9 months out of the year and when my grandma belongs to the golf club down the street and can get us into the heated pool, the likelihood of us using said pool skyrockets. I have two little fish. They’ll swim anywhere, anytime: the beach, the pool, the front yard sprinklers, the fountain at Starbucks…if it’s even the least bit warm out, my kids are in their suits. We spent this summer at a local water park and pool. It was the best $120 I’ve ever spent. Not only were they occupied all day during summer break, but they were exhausted when they got home. Which means they slept well. Which means I slept well.
#1 – Trampolines
By far, the activity that they beg and beg for is to go to Sky Zone. Located in a warehouse, Sky Zone is a big room filled with trampolines. You purchase time on the tramps and you just jump. The first time we went, we purchased an hour and by the end of our time, we were pooped out. There are different sizes and shapes, and some fully enclosed for dodge ball tournaments. They have a pit of foam blocks that people can dive into, which my kids like the best. I did it once but trying to climb out of the pit zapped my energy like no other. They even offer a fitness class. It’s stunning that something so easy as jumping on a trampoline can work your body so hard. Trampolines are no joke.
There you have it, Sophie and Alex’s Top 5 Ways to Exercise. My children are fairly adamant that these activities will be loved by all your families and that you all try them. (That was verbatim, btw). Reject those unrealistic standards and normalize being unique. Make family fitness the new normal.