Monday, March 31, 2014

How to Begin an Active Lifestyle -- Family Edition

This post is for parents of young families that want to improve their fitness, maybe lose weight, be more active and spend time with children all at the same time. That is a tall order but certainly doable. My suggestions are inspired by a text message I received from Melissa. She said,

So I read your blog. And took your survey. At first I was just doing it to help one of my favorite people out. But it made me think a little bit. I'm not into any of the things you are targeting but I would be interested in a blog that gave ideas of how to become involved in more active activities. Specifically of activities that a whole family can be involved in. Kind of a where to start blog and how to find  an activity that might interest you. I grew up where we worked hard together. And we played but it was always stuff like boating or things that you couldn't  do every day. We didn't hike much or stuff like that. I don't really know where to start to get my family into more recreational activities that keep us active. I don't know if this makes much sense but a few blogs I have seen talk about running or like yours on biking from people that are really advanced and into the activity and who love it and dedicate a lot of time to it. Maybe that is their audience. But what about the everyday average person. It seems to me like you could include a bigger audience if you talked about where to start.  I don't remember you always being into biking. Maybe you were. But what got to motivated  and where did you start. And how can you start affordable and make it a family activity. Maybe that isn't much help and maybe not very clear but that was the train of thought I had. I hope your blog has much success!  Oh and my favorite guest blogger. Would of course be Angie. She could give advise on balancing your active hobby with being a mom and how to make it work. She has done a good job with loving to run but always putting her family first but also making the time for what she enjoys.

Melissa, right back atcha on the fav person designation. There are several things to consider when working on a family identity that includes healthy activity. I say family identity because that is what you need to get to if you are to be successful. One measure of success is that your children will include in an explanation of "what we are about," that the family likes to bike, or run, or hike, or climb rocks, or rappel or whatever. 

Which One

There are basic guidelines in your selection of which activity to get into. Here are some:
  • Does participation in the activity require an elevated heart rate (biking) or heavy muscle work (rock climbing)? If not, then don't bother. You are doing this for health, fun, fitness and bonding. The health part is tough to achieve if there is no requirement for consistent physical exertion. 
  • Can you do the activity most of the year? I can run and bike all summer and winter long. 
  • How much money can you spend? Skiing is expensive. Gear, lift passes and gas to get to the resort cost a lot. If you have a lot of money, you could do two sports. Ski in the winter and mountain bike in the summer. If you are budget constrained, consider something like hiking. 
  • Test the water. As parents, you should try the activity for a while. If you don't like it, it does not matter if your kids do or not. It will not last. 
  • Pay attention to the culture. Do not, under any circumstances, buy your child a BMX bike. You and your children will be associating with strangers that have similar interests in the activity but not necessarily similar interests in associated activities. Your family will take on the culture of the community to some degree. Know what you are getting onto.
  • Don't judge too quickly. It is an entirely different thing to run a 5K or half marathon in shape and at 16% body fat than it is to run the same out of shape and at 35%. Take your best guess at what you might like and give it some time. 
  • You are more likely to be successful getting into biking than running. Kids like to bike naturally. It is easy to get into and easy to progress to the next level. 


Besides running, skiing, and other obvious ones, there are some activities that are good but may not get noticed much. Here is a partial list.
  • Fencing (My cousin's family is into this. It is a big deal with tournaments etc.)
  • Karate and other martial arts
  • Rowing
  • Ping pong
  • Badminton
  • Tennis
  • Rollerblading
  • Power lifting


I favor cycling for several reasons:

       1.  You can take children as young as zero with a child carrier. 

       2.  Every kid should have a bike.
       3.  Start-up costs are moderate
       4.  Maintenance costs are low to moderate
       5.  You can go do it right outside your front door.
       6.  There is epic stuff waiting when you are up to it

       7.  It satisfies all of the requirements to have health benefits.
       8.  You can do it long into old age. This guy is 100.

       9.  There is an instant community.

Now That You Have An Activity...

  • Know your activity. If scuba is your thing, know what is so great about Cozumel, Coco Island and Belize even if you never go there. Know about the latest technology advancements.You will want to have videos readily available, subscribe to magazines, follow pin boards, facebook pages, G+ communities and follow Twitter gurus in the field. We have completely worn out our Kranked 5 DVD from so much use. Here is a cool clip. 

  • Make pilgrimages to epic places. For mountain biking, it is Moab. Though I have places I like more, going there is part of the mystique. When my kids are asked, "have you done the Slick Rock trail?" They can confidently answer, "Yea. The first time I did it was when I was three on my tricycle."

  • To save money and promote the activity, every Christmas and birthday for the next several years should be used to purchase and gift equipment. Once you are equipped, hand-me-downs kick in. This applies especially to bikes. 
  • Purchase a GoPro camera. Take tons of video. Load it up on social platforms. Show home movies about events you have filmed. Learn how to edit videos. You can use these when they get their Eagle or at their wedding reception. 

          Go Pro's can go anywhere and can film anything. They cost $199 and shoot great HD video. 
  • Do your activity often. This cannot be a vacation thing. You can build vacations around it, but it should be a lot more 'every day.'
  • Find another family that does the activity and ask them for tips, pointers and ideas. There is a community of people that do that activity within a one mile radius of you. Find them.
  • Get to know your specialty shop and make friends with the owners, sales people and mechanics. I pay up to 20% more at a local specialty shop than I can buy on line to keep the relationship solid and the people in business. You will need to call in favors from time to time. The relationship will help make it happen. 

  • Reward the epic. If your child does something epic in the activity, make sure you reward them. I told our youngest that as soon as he could sustain a weelie (pedaling with the front wheel off the ground) for a for about three seconds, he would be ready for me to take him to Gooseberry Mesa. It became a rite of passage. Riding Gooseberry requires the ability to keep the front wheel off the ground several times. For our middle child, the reward was that I would call out "Golden" on a very difficult obstacle as I went over it. If he could do it too, we would go to Golden Corral for dinner. He has since gotten far better than I am. Just as a side note, our youngest broke his arm showing off his new weelie skill. 

         Since I can't resist, here is a clip of Gooseberry Mesa. 

There is not a reason that you cannot start today. Grab as many kids as you can and start walking. They will like it more if you do it in the hills. Do that at least once each week for a while and see what happens.

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