By Greg Bach
As the weeks of isolation drag on, and stress levels rise, finding the energy and motivation to exercise poses great challenges.
And it’s doubly difficult prying kids away from their television, computer and gaming screens these days to get them moving, too.
“You can work in your motivation with the other stuff you are doing,” says Dr. Jedidiah Ballard, a Colorado-based emergency room doctor and Isopure athlete. Ballard knows fitness and how to help people embrace exercise, as his life is immersed in it. His resume oozes with head-turning fitness feats: he’s a former U.S. Army Ranger who has climbed Mt. Hood (the tallest mountain in Oregon), finished the World’s Toughest Mudder (a 24-hour obstacle race), and competed on the popular television program American Ninja Warrior. He’s also appeared on the cover of Men’s Health magazine.
CHECK OUT THIS BEGINNING WORKOUT PROGRAM FROM BALLARD
We spoke with Ballard, who shared some ways families can stay fit together – and have a lot of fun doing so, too.
As families log countless hours in front of the television during this unprecedented pandemic, binging shows and watching movies, Ballard points out those are terrific times to weave in some fitness.
“If you’re having family time and watching TV or Netflix or something like that, set a timer and at the 10-minute mark the whole family has to stop and do a set of a different exercise,” Ballard says. “When you’re setting up these home-type workouts I would recommend doing total-body type exercises, especially for kids.”
It’s important to cover the entire body rather than dialing in on a specific part, too.
“Think of your body in four different segments,” Ballard says. “Legs, core, push and pull, and then rotate between doing an exercise for each part.” For example:
Legs – do standing squats
Core – perform crunches
Push – do push-ups (depending on the person’s level of fitness they can do them from their knees if they are just starting out to making them difficult by elevating their feet).
Pull – sit facing another person with your feet touching (using your feet to brace) and then each person holds onto an end of a towel and they pull it back and forth for reps, like a tug-of-war.
“Every 10 minutes rotate among these, doing between 10 and 20 reps while you’re watching television, playing Monopoly or whatever you’re doing in your down time,” Ballard says.
FOCUSING ON FITNESS
As families navigate at-home exercising, Ballard serves up these tips for making the venture a success for all involved:
The cornerstone is consistency: “This is the parents’ time to lead,” Ballard says. “Kids are generally very interested in something if an adult shows interest. If the parents are excited about exercising, and especially if they jump in there with their kids and make little competitions with them and work out with them, kids are going to stay motivated and they’ll love it.”
Rest and recovery: “Muscles need recovery so a very good system to do is think of a week-long plan of alternating each day between some sort of resistance and some sort of cardio,” he says. “Just go back and forth and take Sunday off. Be creative; and you don’t need a set program if your kids are playing hard for 20 minutes to an hour outside. There’s no reason to take the play out of it.”
Total body: It’s important to hit the entire body using compound moves such as push-ups, squats and pull-ups (if you have access to a pull-up bar).
Get involved – and stay involved: “Telling your kids to exercise is one thing,” Ballard says. “But when they see you doing it and see you interested, that has a much greater impact on them.”
Enjoy the time: “This is a rare time where we’ve been given some of our over-busy lives back,” Ballard says. “So it’s a really good time to use fitness as a way to bond with your kids.”
While it’s great to get off the couch and break a sweat with your kids, for those parents who haven’t had the time to devote themselves to exercising, it’s important that they don’t overdo it.
“One of the most common things that happens is people get all ramped up about exercise and then they go on Instagram and they’ll look at someone who has been working out for 10 years and they’ll look at their program and try to emulate it,” Ballard says. “And that’s a huge mistake. Go slow and see how your body responds - and don’t go anywhere near failure your first day. For example, a first-day workout is one set of each of the squats, crunches, pushups and towel pull. See how you feel and if the next day you feel good then add another set to each and gradually work your way up.”
And remember, this can be a wonderful way to impact a child’s life during these difficult days.
“Giving your kids a foundation of fitness early will absolutely set them up for success and decrease their risks for problems later in life,” Ballard says.
You can follow Ballard on Instagram.
Patrick McEnroe – youth tennis instructor, dad of three and host of the Holding Court podcast – on coaching and connecting with kids, influencing lives, and more
Former UCLA track and field and cross-country runner Bryan Green, author of MAKE THE LEAP, on helping young athletes think and train better to maximize their potential
Katrina Adams, former president of the United States Tennis Association and author of OWN THE ARENA, on leading your organizations to greater success; her love of tennis; and what youth can learn from playing the sport to carry with them for a lifetime
Noelle Pikus Pace – a two-time Olympian, mother, motivational speaker and youth mindset coach – on unleashing the power of the mind to help young athletes perform at their best