Got Kids? Work Play into Your Exercise Routine to Stay on Track

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February 4, 2021

By Mike Lerchenfeldt, Chippewa Valley Schools

Exhausted. Tired. House is a mess after our kids pull out every toy that we own.

Kids are a tornado that can hit at any moment without notice. Not only do they destroy our house, but they suck up all of our energy and time. Of course, we still love them, right?

This is our crazy, fun, yet exhausting, life.

After we have taken care of our kids, we must find time to take care of ourselves. When we barely have time to see friends, read or watch Netflix, we must try to squeeze in a workout – usually at the end of a full workday, which includes grading papers, working on lesson plans, and having virtual meetings with parents or students in addition to meal preparation and household chores. Not to mention our favorite activity, which is playing with our kids.

This is the lesson that I have learned through being a parent over the past three years: It is all about PLAY! I want to live a long, healthy and fun-filled life with my children. For this reason, I have learned how to incorporate play time into my fitness routine. Utilizing fitness trackers and home workout apps, my family is heading in a healthy direction.

When we are playing on the floor or wrestling with the kids, we are doing a workout alongside them, including variations of burpees, push-ups, planks or squats. The kids see these activities and want to be a part of them.

Mystery workouts can be exciting, as well. Try using workout dice specifically designed for young children, which can offer numerous combinations of activities that will get everyone moving and improve balance, flexibility and motor skills. Our daughter will enthusiastically do jumping jacks now. Our son is the perfect size for a kettlebell when we are doing squats.

As a family, we enjoy going on walks, hikes, jogs and runs outside with our dog. For winter, we now bundle up with snow pants and other waterproof gear to stay warm. Our 3-year-old daughter has become one of my favorite running partners. While she can’t necessarily run long distances, she loves to sprint with me back and forth throughout our yard.

If sprinting doesn’t sound fun, try going on a walk or jog while your little one rides a bike or scooter. We listen to music, sing and have an amazing time together. Sometimes we will stop in the grass to do yoga stretches. She always tells me, “We have some fun, Daddy.”

Not only are we having fun together, but we are developing our relationship with healthy activities. Overall, when we are outside, we are happy.

Unfortunately, the Greater Detroit Area is often ranked as one of the unhealthiest places in the United States. Studies show that exercise not only improves our physical health, but it can also help our mental health.

I believe in the magic of working out. It is my meditation. It relieves my stress. It helps me feel better physically and mentally. I want to pass this passion on to my kids.

In a time where we are social distancing and everyday life is not the same, we need to take care of ourselves both physically and mentally. The quarantine life can lead to anxiety and depression and one way we can combat this issue is with fitness. We show our kids how and why it is important to brush our teeth. Why not show them the importance of physical activity?

Mike Lerchenfeldt, a dad of two from Rochester Hills, is a teacher and writer who likes exploring different coffee and supporting local businesses. He traveled to Japan and New Zealand through teacher exchange programs. Mike has taught language arts, math, science, drama, poetry, speech, realistic fiction, information literacy and careers classes at Iroquois Middle School in the Chippewa Valley Schools for his entire 12-year teaching career. He was a member of the Michigan Educator Voice Fellowship. Mike earned his master of education degree in Educational Leadership from Saginaw Valley State University in 2012, and he graduated Summa Cum Laude from Oakland University in 2008 with a bachelor of science degree.
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