The Exercise Habit

Establishing an exercise habit for your whole family can be quite a challenge. In this blog I reflect on the bad habits I’ve fallen into over the years, barriers that have prevented regular exercise and share how we’ve finally found the exercise habit.

For 15 years I’ve participated in exercise in cycles, pretty much all or nothing! During that time I knew it wasn’t a good pattern to be in but the reasons for it seemed too great to do anything else. Long hours at work, hours commuting each day, medical problems and having young children have all contributed to my perceived lack of time to exercise regularly.

Strangely this habit of doing loads of exercise and then none also seemed to be linked to the seasons. I would come out of my exercise hibernation in the spring and then go back into it in the autumn!

A Sport England research project highlights some other factors that result in 2 million fewer women than men playing sport.

https://www.sportengland.org/media/10083/insight_go-where-women-are.pdf

At the start of 2017 I decided that the breaks from exercise needed to stop if my family was really going to get fit and stay fit. The first stage was to set a goal that I felt would take me a year to achieve, so no hibernation permitted! Next was to identify the barriers that might stop me achieving this goal and finally, a plan of how I’d put an end to my all or nothing behaviour.

Identifying the barriers was interesting, guilt was definitely the main culprit! I felt guilty if I exercised after work when I should be spending precious time with my children. I felt guilt if I exercised when my children were in bed because I wasn’t getting prepared for my next day at work. And perhaps the worst feelings of guilt came from knowing I wasn’t looking after myself.

In my action plan, removing all forms of guilt was number one priority. Below are the few simple steps we went through to create the exercise habit for all of us.

  1. Prioritise physical activity. I am the best version of me when I exercise regularly, and so is each member of my family! Acknowledging this made me prioritise exercise, it’s no longer something to do if we feel like it or can find the time, it is a necessity.
  2. Create the dream schedule. This involved a weekly planner where I plotted the physical activity of each family member. It highlighted times when our children were at clubs in the evenings and therefore guilt free opportunities to exercise. Part of this process was also identifying a minimum number of sessions for each of us to do in a week to ensure the effort we put in would be beneficial for our fitness and long term health.
  3. Encouraging others. This was a really important element of the plan. When my husband is training it really motivates me to do the same. I wanted to encourage other members of our family and friends to exercise too, forming a support network that would stop all of us making excuses and help the people I care about the most be happy and fit too. I believe this also includes your children, if they have always gone to sport clubs or taken part in physical activity, this becomes their norm, with you as a role model this will become their norm for life.
  4. Finding safe forms of exercise. The fear of running alone in the dark prompted me to look for a running group. Joining Getfit.run has not only given me with a safe environment to run and supported me in achieving my fitness goal ahead of schedule, it has also provided a wonderful opportunity to meet new people. If running isn’t your thing, I can highly recommend the back to netball sessions. I’ve found similar benefits from attending these as I have the running sessions.

There isn’t a quick fix to creating the exercise habit, after 15 years of trying I can confidently say that! Even with the best intentions, unexpected hurdles can stop us in our tracks. However, by prioritising exercise, surrounding yourself with motivated people and creating a schedule that works for your family, you may fall nicely into the exercise habit.

Holiday Fitness – Too much effort?

You might be reading this thinking “are you crazy?” Holidaying with children can be a challenge full stop, never mind trying to factor in some exercise. Well read on… it doesn’t need to be. In fact it can be a great opportunity to reignite the fitness habits of all the family.

Ask yourself – at what other point in the year do you turn off the alarm clock, clear your schedule and forget about being mum and dads taxi service? The days on holiday are yours to mould in anyway you choose ‘FIT’

Why is it important to exercise on holiday?

Well you are likely to eat more than usual. If you are regularly exercising at home you will easily loose your fitness… and that includes your children.

http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/parenting/news/a28524/summer-holidays-child-fitness/

 

The opportunity to try new things, exercise in new places can benefit you psychologically. You are more likely to enjoy them without the stress of routines and pressure of home/work life.

Running or hiking is a great opportunity to experience your holiday location from a totally different perspective.

Motivation to exercise on holiday can be a challenge so try not to feel compelled to do something every day. Plan things in that allow you to explore the local area, try some different or just exercise when the opportunity arises.

Just a few ideas might be:

1: Family bikes rides – research routes and hire options before you go.

2: Go for a run but don’t plan a route, explore and get lost a little.

3: A quick beach run – take it in turns while one of you plays with the kids…. or take them with you.

4: Family bodyboarding and sea swimming, can be a great workout battling those waves.

5: Try an online HIIT workout using the hotel wifi.

Routines at home can leave your exercise habits feeling a little stale. Same routes, same times. The opportunity to participate in your chosen form of exercise at a different time, in a different place might just be the key to reigniting your exercise regime.

Top tips

  1. Start early- if you’re done and dusted by breakfast you can have a guilt free day.
  2. Try something different.
  3. Keep it short and sweet so it doesn’t impact on family time.
  4. Use nature as your gym.
  5. Take your kit out with you ever day. You don’t know when you will have the drive or a time slot to exercise.
  6. Listen to your body, don’t go crazy you are on holiday to rest and recharge.
  7. It has to fit in with your day.
  8. It all starts with packing, yes space can be a premium but it is important you have at least one comfortable outfit. Why not travel in your trainers to save space?
  9. Forget all your gadgets you can cope without them for a couple of weeks, it might just be liberating.

Park run with kids-warts and all!

I’ve just got home from Park Run this morning and I’m filled with emotions so thought it would be the perfect time to share our Park Run successes and difficulties with you.

I didn’t find today much fun. My eight year old wanted to run with me to try and get her PB. Brilliant, so I thought. The first mile she was awesome, so positive and chatty and we were running at a pace that would in fact allow her to set a PB. Then, without warning, the moaning begins; sore legs, toe hurts, her trainers are suddenly too small! I forget all of her excuses, but you get the idea. I’m upset that she’s mentally given in, but I’m also frustrated. I was really looking forward to my run this morning and now I find myself walking with her.

We end up finishing the run and I can see she’s disappointed in herself, but worse than that, she knows I’m disappointed. I give her a hug, despite feeling a little fed up, I tell her that she’s done well to finish a 3.1 mile run in under 35 minutes, on such a hot morning and at the age of eight. When I say it out loud all of my frustration melts away because that is actually incredible when I really think about it.

So our journey with Park Run only started in January this year. Until then we felt the girls would be too young. Our local Park Run is a two lap course, initially the girls completed just one lap and then stopped. Pretty soon though they were run/walking the full course and for the past three months they have run the whole course, gradually improving their times.

Just like today, it isn’t always like the photo, mother and daughters happily sharing their love of running! More often than not there are challenges to face that go beyond the physical aches and pains. When developing grit in young people there is some pretty convincing evidence that physical challenges allow that vital skill to develop in bucket loads. The physical pain of running is the first thing for children to understand – it is normal for it to hurt, but it is also important to understand that every run gets a little easier. They will then start to learn so much more from this weekly experience, social skills, empathy, handling emotions of running slower than a friend, determination, the list of challenges and benefits really does go on and on.

I asked the girls to tell me how they feel about Park run, here are their thoughts:

Lily age 8 “I like it when I’m running a little away from you and I feel like I’m alone in the trees, it makes me really happy. I also like setting a good time!”

Summer age 6 “I like listening to my music while I run, Little Mix keeps me going when I want to stop!”

We are still searching for the best way to tackle Park Run to ensure that all four of us enjoy and benefit from it, this may take many more months! But what I am convinced of is that we are doing the right thing for us as a family, despite the challenges and moaning. We love seeing our Park Run ‘family’ each week, giving and receiving support from fellow runners and the life lessons we are learning each week. It also feels great driving home with a sense of achievement and that natural high we all feel from the endorphins released and of course the guilt free glass of wine on a Saturday night is nice too! I can’t recommend Park Run enough, whatever your level there is a place for you.

http://www.parkrun.org.uk/register/

Top tips we’ve learnt along the way:

  • All the gear: It doesn’t have to cost a lot, but you need to make sure they are comfy and safe. Trainers with appropriate grip and support are really important. Jumper and running leggings for cold weather and shorts and vest for warmer weather will help to reduce the moaning!
  • Technology: we’ve found that having music to listen to and then creating their own play lists has a really positive impact on their running. Using tracking watches can also help to motivate them and keep them going when they might want to stop.
  • Be organised: find everything the kids will need for the run the night before, drinks bottles, iPod and case, headphones, trainers etc. You don’t want anything to stop you getting out of the door on Saturday morning!
  • Have a plan: today Chris ran with Summer and I ran with Lily, some weeks one of us runs with both and the other one has the opportunity to run alone. Switching it up can help keep the parents motivated (and sane!).
  • Forget the Park Run PB: it’s taken me a while to accept this one but you can’t use Park run with children as a way of running your own best 5k. You are essentially a coach, encouraging, supporting, wiping tears and walking instead of checking your pace watch!
  • Don’t give up: we’ve had weeks where we thought it wasn’t going to work out and that the girls are maybe too young, but we’ve stuck with it and I’m so pleased we have. Yes it still has its challenges, but we are now at a stage where they get up without resistance and want to go on a Saturday morning, they aren’t afraid of how their bodies feel when they run and they understand how it helps them to be healthy for life.

4findingfitness completed a combined distance of 12.4 miles running before 10am this Saturday morning, feeling proud we got up with the alarm.

Please share your family stories of Park run successes and lessons learnt.

@parkrun

@4findingfitness

Finding ways to motivate and keep all your family fit can be a challenge. This blog aims to support families in achieving a fit lifestyle through sharing personal stories and research articles.