Family Fitness is a Lifestyle

By Garrett Weber-Gale – June 1, 2013

For many people, being fit becomes a personal challenge, a solo journey, sometimes even something they feel they should be doing alone. Yes, exercise is meditative. There are times when diving into the pool is the best medicine in the world for my body, mind, and spirit. However, I believe activity, sport, and fitness are often best in a community. We live in a time when people seem to be always running to the next thing, looking at their phones, never paying attention to the people around them or exercising. Getting active means becoming more in line and in touch with our body and mind. Making it fun is the key to staying consistently active and, therefore, seeing great results in our health—and there’s no better way to do this than with those we love.

Being active started with my family. From the day my sister and I were born, my parents took us everywhere. My mom often tells the story of when she put my six-week-old sister in a backpack to go cross-country skiing in freezing temperatures in the heart of Wisconsin’s winter. Sitting around the house and lounging were never part of our routine. We were always active, and we did things together: hiking, swimming, sailing, biking, skiing, snorkeling, tennis, and golf. Enjoying activity was a mainstay in our family, keeping us together, fit, and outside in nature, where we got our body (and those endorphins) moving.

As I matured into competitive swimming, my schedule at the pool became more frequent and rigorous. I began going to weekday workouts in the morning (two-three times per week) and afternoon (every day), and Saturday workouts, too. If you’re a parent, this schedule could be a nightmare or something you even enjoy; my parents used my workout times as a way to be active themselves. My dad, who often took us to those morning workouts, started swimming laps then. If he wasn’t swimming, he was lifting weights, stretching, or doing core work. My mom often walked, ran, and even took classes at the local YMCA while my sister and I worked out with the swim team in the afternoon. Now, as an adult, I constantly see parents at the University of Texas walking the perimeter of the stands, going for jogs during their kids’ practices, and even participating in small workout groups with other like-minded team parents. It’s a great idea: Your kid’s requirement for being at practice keeps you accountable for your own physical activity.
My parents always led by example—from what they ate to how they took care of their body to how active they were. Kids notice what those around them are doing and I am a firm believer that parents, coaches, teachers, and family members are largely responsible for the health of our youth. A family unit is the first and best place to make physical activity a lifetime routine that can keep us all on the road to good health.

Here are a few of my favorite activities I did with my family:

  • A two-day bike trip with our best family friends. We all biked on a path in Wisconsin that led us through the beautiful hills and abandoned railroad tunnels in the central part of the state. We kids had the independence to ride ahead, and we felt empowered by having our own excursion in addition to spending quality time with our family.
  • Day trips hiking at state parks. We often stopped for a picnic at a scenic point halfway through the day to enjoy the surroundings.
  • Days at the pool. My sister and I were pool rats growing up. There was a neighborhood pool around the corner from our house and we were there morning, noon, and night. Every night during the summer months, my family went to the outdoor pool to play in the water; it was great exercise and helped us become better swimmers.
  • Afternoon sails in the Milwaukee harbor. As members of a community sailing center, we were allowed to sail on their boats. For many years, we would pack a big cooler of food and sail the sunny, warm summer days away.
  • Skiing and ice-skating. Every chance we had, we were on the ski hill together or ice-skating at the outside community rink near our house.
  • Play time. After dinner each night and when my Dad got home from work, we all headed outside to play baseball, kick the soccer ball, go for a bike ride, head to the pool, skate at the local rink, play ball tag, go for a walk, and even build a snow fort. My sister and I were expected to spend a lot of time outside, and my parents supported this by being active in each and every one of these activities with us.

Don’t forget to properly fuel those active family excursions with healthy food. Here are some of Weber-Gale’s favorite snacks that are kid-friendly and easy to eat on the go.

  • Sliced apples with peanut butter
  • Celery or carrot sticks with hummus
  • Unshelled edamame
  • Frozen grapes
  • Low-fat yogurt with apple

Read the rest of the list on the AtleticFoodie site here


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