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Family Time, Getting Fit and Keeping it Free!

By Jodie Lynn

Pick up any January or February magazine and you will see that writers are still chugging away at alternatives to recently made resolutions. I guess some of us are getting a late start on the New Year.

That is okay. As long as we really try to uphold our new aspirations for the good of our family members, and ourselves who really cares whether we start in January or February?

One of the top New Year's resolutions of parents is trying to spend more time with their kids. This is good, but what if we could get two or three resolutions out of the way at once and cut costs all the way around? Now that would be amazing!

Let us look at it from a different perspective. What if we actually organized and scheduled a workout session every other day with our kids and did it in our garage-sale T-shirts and shorts?

That would be different and offer a jump-start into new, sometimes hard to follow-through, goals.

We could get in an exercise program for ourselves, get the kids involved in improving their own health and make up for lost family time all in one session two to three times a week and never spend close to what a fancy health club membership would cost!

Action speaks louder than words.

Stop wasting precious time. Stop trying to win your kids over with tons of toys, games and books. While some are certainly worthwhile, fun and educational, most kids want and desperately need your time and attention, which are both totally free. Get things rolling right away with an in-house exercise program that includes the kids.

Rent an exercise video and get going.

There are multitudes of exercise videos out on the market today. In the beginning, select one with a basic exercise regiment. As long as it is easy to follow, with good music, the kids will love it. However, you must be realistic; do not ask your kids to exercise for more than 30 minutes. Keep this in mind when buying a DVD or VHS tape. Also, if you buy an exercise program with a kid theme, beware of getting burned out on the tunes. Since most kids like adult music, if you buy a regular tape or DVD with a good beat, no one will grow tired of it. It is usually a win-win situation. Before making a purchase, rent videos or even check them out at the library. Another option would be to rent both kinds and alternate them on a weekly basis to test before buying.

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Implement your own workout routine.

After watching and exercising to a taped program, implement some of your own moves. Include some creative twists and turns from the kids. Kids love to help create bizarre, action-packed dances, exercises and bouncing routines. Let them use their imagination and produce some new moves. Allow each child to introduce one exercise once a week. Include the routine into the 30-minute work out session four or more times, then move on to a new one.

Remember, this is supposed to be fun, so do not pressure them into coming up with new things. Also, make sure and remember that exercising is supposed to burn and not hurt. If the child creates a move that causes pain for you or anyone else then try it again when you all are more in shape or donít perform it at all. Exercise is incredibly important and healthy but it can be a bad thing if done incorrectly.

Keep a regular sized worn out towel handy and place it on top of the carpet. This prevents carpet burns due to on the floor exercise. That's why I say to never throw out semi worn out towels, or anything else for that matter.

Keep their ideas in the spotlight.

As long as you keep their latest and greatest inspirational idea on exercise in the spotlight from time to time, it will hold their interest. In fact, you can use a poster board with their names on it and after an idea for a new exercise is introduced, add the name of the exercise and a star by that child's name.

Reward the kids for better motivation.

When the kids introduce a new routine, offer them a reward. Besides the chart and a star for each new idea, take it one more step and tell them that after they reach ten stars on the chart, they can choose a family outing: going to their favorite restaurant, a movie, ice skating, an arcade, etc. Keep it simple by offering them group of choices that you know allow kids to eat free on certain days and/or have a two for one entree once a month.

Talk it up.

Saying "thank you" and "wow" is a great way to express your feelings of appreciation. To keep your fitness program going, talk it up to the neighbors, friends and relatives. Share about the program to as many people as possible. Be sure that you know that the kids are listening. Kids love to know that their contributions have really made a difference and measure it by what we tell others. Hearing us talk about them in an uplifting, positive tone validates that they are doing a job well done. Compliments are free, are amazing at building self-esteem in literally everyone, and works especially well with kids.

Eating right is essential to success.

Following through on a fitness plan also means paying close attention to what your kids are eating. Eating right and exercise go hand-in-hand for true success. Send a note to the teacher and let her know of the new fitness goals your family is striving for. Ask her to monitor what your child gets out of the snack machines.

Should parents be allowed to ask teachers for help? Absolutely. They are right there with them at lunch and if not, the lunch volunteers are and you pay for their help in your taxes. Make sure your child does not have extra money for fat-laden snacks, and in the meantime, jump on board with parents around the nation in getting those machines removed or replaced with healthy food/snacks. Better yet, tell them that every time they bypass the machine, you will offer them two extra stars on the exercise chart.

Be sure you let them know it will take ten stars before they can choose a favorite activity to do with the family, and if you're really on a budget, hike it up for rewards connected to restaurants.

Plan meals and snacks carefully at home.

Try to serve smaller, healthier portions. Planning meals one week at a time is the best way to help your family stay on track with eating healthy. Cooking meals or entrees in large quantities and freezing them makes life much easier during the week. Divide the food into family sized containers to be easily pulled out of the freezer. There is a new size of container out in the market today which is designed for and geared towards freezing smaller family portions. There are always tons of awesome plastic freezing containers at garage and yard sales. They are usually sold for pennies and yet will last a lifetime.

A brief warning: regardless of what anyone tells you, allow your kids to have a gooey, wonderful dessert every once in a while. If you do not, your child will get it one way or another from a friendís house, grocery store, snack machine or food court at the mall, etc., and then feel guilty about doing it. This may lead to unhealthy stress. This stress could possibly lead to additional sneaking of food that generates even more guilt and a bad cycle begins.

Have fun.

Above all, you must have fun, get fit and cherish this time in your life with your kids. If you ever feel that your fitness program is not fun, it might be time to make a few changes. Don't forget to ask the kids for their ideas. Getting your kids involved in your life is free and is one of the very best values to be passed down for years to their own family.

I hope that the healthy outlook and role modeling on becoming and staying healthy as a family goal will make a lasting impression -- one with a multitude of returns.

© Jodie Lynn
Jodie Lynn is an award-winning internationally syndicated family/health columnist and radio personality. Her syndicated column Parent to Parent has been successful for over 10 years and appears in newspapers, magazines, newsletters and throughout the Internet. She is a regular contributor to several sites including,,,,, and Lynn has written four books and contributed to three others, one of which was on Oprah and has appeared on NBC in a three month parenting segment. Her latest books are "Mom CEO (Chief Everything Officer) - Having, Doing and Surviving It All!" (June 2006) and "Syndication Secrets - What No One Will Tell You!" (March 2006).
Please visit for details on her new radio talk show, Inside Parenting Success.


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