Maybe you work long hours. Maybe you or your spouse are away for work many weeks out of the year. Maybe you’re a single parent. Or maybe your kids are all different ages. But no matter what your family situation is, you wish to find some sort of fitness regimen, which will fit into your busy schedule, as well as find something that everyone can be involved in and have fun in the process.
Usually the easiest solution is the simplest one. And the simple solution is to find a local track in your area with a fence, a field and bleachers. Here are some ideas you can use to get a workout in for yourself and your kids of all ages.
Parent(s) with an infant
Take your baby-jogger or stroller to the track and walk/jog laps with your bundle of joy. I’ve also seen parents park their stroller at the bottom of the stands and do sets of bleachers and check on junior after each set. What I like about working out with the jogger on the track is that you don’t need to worry about going too far because a lap is only 400 meters (nearly a 1/4 mile). If you leave with the baby-jogger from home, there may come a time when you need to get home quickly and you’re 2-3 miles away from your house. With the track your always close enough to your car, if you need to get home in a pinch.
Parent(s) with an infant and a toddler
The great thing about a track is that it’s self-contained and usually has a fence around it. So you can feel safe that little Johnny or Sarah aren’t going to wander off without you seeing them.
One option you can do for a workout is pushing your infant in the stroller while your toddler can be walking/jogging with you part or all of the way around the track. Or you can do mini-intervals with your toddler and tell him that you and him are going to race a short distance and then walk. This will be good for you because you are pushing your infant in the stroller and great for your toddler who is getting his energy out as well.
If both you and your spouse are there with the infant and the toddler, then you can either trade off pushing the baby around the track and playing with your toddler. If the toddler doesn’t want to run around the track, that’s alright. Bring some balls and play catch or kick the ball around on the infield. Or simply play tag on the infield with him while your spouse is running/walking around the track with your infant.
Parent(s) with multiple age kids
If none of your kids are infants, but they vary in ages, then there is a bevy of options you have depending on the ages of your children:
• If some of the kids don’t want to run around the track with you, then have them bring some balls and have them play catch on the infield while you run/walk around the track.
• Kids for some reason love running up and down the bleachers, so while you’re doing laps they can be going up and down in the stands.
• If you have three or more kids, you can have relay races around the track or on the infield with the entire family.
• Bring some cones and balls and create a mini-obstacle/station course around the track, bleachers and/or infield.
• Track your progress at home and make it a family competition to see how many laps, bleachers, push-ups, etc. you are all doing each time you go to the track. Make it so everyone in the family has attainable goals — they don’t necessarily need to be the same because of the different ages and shape each of you are in.
These are just some ideas that you can do to get a good cardio workout for you and your family on a weekly basis. Many times high school or middle school tracks are open in the evenings or on the weekends to the public.
If you have kids who aren’t keen on running or physical fitness in general, you may be surprised to see how they come out of their shell once they see mom and dad huffing and puffing around the track giving it their all.
While you can of course go to a park or playground with your kids, many times, as a parent, you don’t have an opportunity to get very much physical exertion out because you need to keep your eye on the them. With a track, everyone can run around and play with usually zero or only a few other people on the track working out also, which makes it very easy to keep tabs on everyone.
I’m of course bias when it comes to the track, but I do honestly feel there are a myriad of ways to use the track, bleachers and infield in which nearly everyone in the family can enjoy.
Be creative, make it fun and hopefully I’ll see you out there with your family on the track one evening or weekend.
• David Allison has been a resident of Ahwatukee since 2005. He has a personal marathon best of 2:27 and was a Division I athlete at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the owner of Marathon Coaching Consultants and also the co-founder of Phoenix Flyers Track Club, both in Ahwatukee. Please send comments and questions to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.