As a single father of 4-year-old twin girls, I know firsthand the importance of exercise for me and my daughters. Over the last four years, I have learned some invaluable lessons about how to incorporate your kids into your workout. Smart phones, tablets, x-box, video games... so many different distractions that didn't exist when I was growing up. Way back in the day, things were so much simpler and being healthy and active was something natural. This brings me to the reason for this blog. There are several things we can do for our children to make exercise something natural.
1. Make exercise a ritual for you and your entire family. You wouldn't leave your house without brushing your teeth or combing your hair. The same should be true for your children. For me, it means walking or going by scooter to school every morning. By doing this, I have, in a very natural and not forced way, taught them the importance of moving their body every day. On weekends and holidays, we continue maintaining this family fitness mentality by family bike excursions, trips on the scooter, and on rainy or snowy days, practicing our crazy dance moves or latest yoga poses. Francesca and Emilia have perfected their "table top," "down dog" and "tiger tail."
2. Limit the time your children spend on their tablets and game devices, thereby freeing up time to work up a healthy sweat.
3. Redefine what exercise means for you and let your children pick the way they want you all to be active. It could be as simple as playing hide and seek, tag or Francesca and Emilia's favorite -- "catch contests," how many times we can throw the ball to each other without dropping it. This is great for hand-eye coordination and dexterity.
4. Be a role model for your children as children like to emulate what they see in their house. Whether it is eating healthfully or moving your body, children quite naturally mimic what they see you do. So, whether it is stretching, yoga, or a mini-workout of squats, pushups, crunches and jumping jacks, openly share your passion with your children and they will more likely than not, follow suit. I can remember growing up in a house where my mom cycled, swam and played tennis with us. My father built a complete gym in the basement of our house. Not a day went by without a visit -- regardless of the time of day -- to his Mecca. The door to the gym was always open to me to watch, participate or just count repetitions and sets of exercises. My dad never forced exercise on me, he just made it available. By my mid teens, I was naturally drawn to the allure of the gym and the power of exercise for mind and body.
5. Limit the amount of family television time. This speaks for itself and says volumes. GET OFF OF THE SOFA, MOVE YOUR BODY AND YOUR CHILDREN WILL NATURALLY FOLLOW.
6. Make your workouts child-friendly. Before you get the wrong idea, and think me a "task master" father, let me explain. Francesca and Emilia grew up being organically exposed to exercise. When they were infants, I strapped them in to a baby carrier and conducted boot camps in the park. The jogging stroller was our main means of transport. And daily trips to my fitness club, Madison Square Club, were a ritual. As they got older and had better balance, I used them as weight for my squats, lunges and pushups. I still have very fond memories of my dad doing pull-ups with me and my sister holding on to each one of his legs. This was awe-inspiring and ultimately, very self motivating. Now that the girls are over 4-years-old, they often come to the gym and help me "train" my clients. They count repetitions and act as cheerleaders encouraging my clients to do more repetitions than they otherwise would. In other words, they are mini-me's. Francesca loves challenging Kate (Upton) to push-up contests. I know you're asking if this is for real? Is this possible? It most certainly is. Here's my advice.
7. Make it fun. Lead by example. Be positive and always encouraging.
8. Let kids try different sports. Emilia and Francesca swim, play tennis, gymnastics and ice skate weekly. By allowing them to try a variety of sports, children will find what they like best and stick with it.