Image from: http://familyfitness.about.com/When my daughter was a baby and up through her toddler years, I’d put her in a jogger stroller and head out with her. Since I had not exercised for months, I had to start small and it began as walks at first. When that was too easy, I sped up the pace, just enough so I felt like I was challenging my body. Then over time I began adding minutes (or seconds) of intermittent light jogs, during our walks.
Over the weeks and months (and your body will know when, if at all) I began to run again. The path we chose took us by a park where we’d stop and give my child “play” time on the swings and slides. She loved it of course, and I’d use that as the “prize” when she got antsy prior to getting there. Usually on our way back home she would fall asleep. My daughter is now 17 and still fondly remembers these times.
As she grew older, we’d take her little tricycle or bike to the park, and I jogged (albeit slowly) beside her as she peddled. It challenged me to think of ways I could exercise while still accompanying her. Facing her, I ran backwards (great for your hamstrings) for a distance I felt comfortable being apart, then I ran forward, toward her. These were like yo-yos. Running away from her, then toward her, all the while facing her so she didn’t feel alienated, nor would I put her in jeopardy appearing to be alone in a park. Then as she got stronger and faster, so could I.
When my daughter wanted to run with me, we'd start out stretching at home or at the park, and then I’d run at her pace, stopping as often as she needed to. At the time I could run circles around her little legs of course, but slowed down and made the time together an opportunity to talk, laugh, and observe nature. She would get tired easily and want to rest, or lose interest and want to go to the playground.
I would play with her there for a while, then so as to get my cardio, I’d instruct her to stay playing while I ran a path that circled the playground. I didn’t go the whole path, just long enough until I couldn’t see her, then turn around and do this as many times as possible. Before leaving her I’d role-play different scenarios of anyone approaching her, be it man, woman, teen or child. “Don’t leave with anyone, even if they say your mom is hurt and they are bringing you to me, or if they say your mom sent them to bring you to me. Don’t believe them, they’re lying. I will be where you can see me and I will come back to check on you often.”
The first time I attempted this, she was not comfortable with me heading out. So I jogged on the playground in close proximity. The next time I told her I’d do a quick lap outside of the playground, but still where she could see me. I went away for moments and came back. Judging by her comfort level, I went away again and stayed away a little longer before coming back.
We have to be careful also not to spook our kids. Sometimes they are fine, but if we approach them and interrupt their play train of thought with “Are you scared?” or “You want me to stay?” …..well……what do you think they’ll say? If you interrupt, do so in a positive manner. Sometimes instead of talking I’d visually blow her a kiss, or say “I love you” as I swung by her. This let’s them know they can count on you and your word (that you are close by and will be back), and allows them to grow independent within safe boundaries. If we have fear or a negative expectation that they will have separation anxiety, they will sense it and cue off of us. We can unwittingly teach them to be needy because we are obsessed or afraid ourselves. It’s a delicate balance.
Smile often and let them see you are feeling good about this, and they will too. Make it a game. When you come back to check on them, do something silly or make a silly face or sound, and they will anticipate you coming back with another round of silly. My daughter would often say, “Do it again, mom!”
Some Ideas to Introduce Physical Activity You can Enjoy with Your Kids:
- Play the game “I spy” as you walk with your children around the neighborhood or park.
- Play tag. You can begin being “it” where you chase the child and “tag” them. Then they are “it,” and it’s their turn to chase you. This is best played when they are smaller, if you are out of shape. Obviously the older they get, the better shape you have to be in, to be able to keep up.
- Jump rope at home, with your child, do as many as you can even if it’s only 4 jumps, it’s a start. Don’t be discouraged.
- Sitting in front of the T.V. do some stretching exercises.
- Get some hoola hoops and gyrate like Elvis! It will get your kids giggling as they watch you.
- Get an inflatable exercise ball and try some stretches on it. They usually come with a book with exercise ideas.
- Go online and Google exercise ideas, or go to You Tube for videos which demonstrate different exercises at varying levels of complexity.
- Kick a ball around with your kid, chase it, even if you can only start out by walking to it.
- Take a balloon and toss it up in the air toward each other and play balloon volley ball.
- Fly a kite.
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