On the 10th November 2019, I participated in the Airport Junction Race with my father, husband and kids! We started this tradition in 2017 and it’s something we really look forward to every year especially as it comes after the tough Soweto Race held the weekend before. This time round, Ditiro did the 5K race with our kids, Kaia (age 7) and Thiwa (age 5), and I did the 10K Race with my dad. My dad was particularly excited that I was going to be his pace maker!
The route was slightly different this year as we didn’t head towards the Airport but instead made our way onto the A1, heading in the Phakalane Direction. We turned off the A1 by the Design Quarter then weaved through the Block 10 residential area before eventually making our way back home. Ditiro and the kids set off shortly after us. About a kilometre into the race, Kaia left Ditiro and Thiwa and bravely made her way round the 5K route by herself. She was extremely proud of herself and waited patiently at the end for Thiwa to cross the Finish Line.
It was a beautiful day out for everyone and it got me thinking about how important and fun it is to incorporate the whole family as we chase our fitness goals.
Six Reasons To Exercise As A Family
1/ It Teaches Kids Life Skills: Aside from obvious health benefits, exercise teaches kids key life skills – they learn how to work as a team, to respect their opponents, to be patient and work hard to get results and to always give their best and persevere even when things are not going as planned. It also teaches kids social skills – how to make friends and interact with each other. If your kids are anything like mine, they are happy to spend most of their days watching television or playing on the iPad. So we have had to find ways of ensuring that cycling, swimming, running as well as other sports like tennis and netball, are part of their weekly routine.
Of course, they moan and groan about it but ultimately they enjoy being outdoors, taking in the fresh air and beautiful sunshine. They especially love it when we are there with them, teaching them how to catch, feeding them tennis balls, riding with them in the park or going for short runs around the neighbourhood. They also get to see and pick up many of the behaviours we display in pursuing our fitness goals – discipline, determination, consistency and enjoyment.
2/ It’s Fun: When you perceive something as fun, it’s just so much easier to stick to. For kids, it’s important that sport is seen as fun and not laborious. Yes, it requires work, but there is a lot of fun involved too. And for adults, exercise also needs to be fun for us to keep coming back! And being able to participate in sport as a family adds to that fun factor. For example, signing up for a race together is really fun and for Kaia and I, choosing our outfits adds to the excitement!
As a parent, you can also assist the coaches with team sports like football or netball or be on the organising committees for tennis, football or softball tournaments. If your kids are into cycling, you can also volunteer as marshals on the course.
When kids see their parents involved it really makes them feel so proud and gets them excited about the sport in general. Going for a walk with your parents is also a great way to spend time with them and to nurture that relationship. The idea is just to find fun activities that you can do together – something you look forward to doing as a family and keeps you fit in the process.
3/ It’s A Motivational Tool: When the people around you understand how important running (or other fitness activities) are to you, they also help to keep you motivated. Sometimes when I don’t feel like a pilates class, Kaia will say to me, “But you say it makes you strong mummy”. Or if I don’t feel like a run, Ditiro will remind me about an upcoming race or offer to join me on the run. When my dad hasn’t walked for a few days, I ask him whether he would like some company for his next walk. Or sometimes when you just want to sit on the couch, the kids may ask to go for a bike ride or a hike and even if you set off begrudgingly, you never regret that outing.
4/ You Get To Bond As A Family: As parents of school-going children, things can get really crazy. I sometimes get to the end of the week and wonder how I survived the school runs, activity drop offs, homework time, work and deadlines, frustrating clients and getting those miles done. In all the organised chaos, conversation usually consists of “Do you have swimming tomorrow?”, “How are we going to get the kids from tennis? and “Do we have enough milk?” So setting time aside to run together or participate in some kind of activity is a fantastic way to engage with each other. If you have or have had a 5 year old, you know that the best answer you are going to get for “How was school?” is “Fine”. But my Thiwa seems to open up a lot more when we are outside and can get quite deep about stuff, i.e. who wasn’t nice to him on the playground. Doing the race with my dad was such a bonding experience. We just chatted and it was really good to be out there with him. The universe will always throw us a few curveballs but having a strong family bond really helps to get you through the most challenging times. Of course, there are other ways you can bond as a family like going on holiday, having dinner together, or a family games night, but if you can get exercise while solidifying the family bond, how about that?
5/ It Improves Communication: This goes hand in hand with the above point. I’ve found that running with Ditiro allows us to really catch up on the day or talk about a sensitive or contentious issue without my fiery personality flaring up! I listen to his views or opinions without butting in (maybe because I’m out of breath!) and he listens to my views. We are not distracted by our phones, laptops or things that we need to get done. I don’t run with him all the time, but on the days that I do, I just feel we have such a strong connection.
6/ It Becomes A Lifestyle: As a kid, Ditiro ran and cycled, and played lots of ball sports. Sport was such a prominent feature in his life. I always appreciated sport, but never felt I was good at it and so I shied away. But when I compare the two of us, I realise how much easier sport is for him now because it was always a part of his life. For him, not exercising feels strange. As a late bloomer, it’s a lot harder for me to keep at it as I don’t have that strong base built in childhood. So I really feel introducing sports to kids early on in life, makes it easier for it to be a normal part of life. Even though they may move away from it at university or when they start working, it will always be easier for them to come back to. And that makes doing all this now, worthwhile.
On that note, here is to FUN, FAMILY and FITNESS!
Do you exercise as a family? What are some of the benefits you have discovered? Have you tried to get family involved but they just don’t want to? Have you done a race with a family member?
I’m joining two fabulous runners, Kim from Running on the Fly and Deborah from Confessions from a Mother Runner for their link up, the “Weekly Run Down”. Hop on over to their blogs and others, and be inspired to be better and do better this 2020!