20-minutes to start the day (might just keep the doctor away!)

A few weekends ago, I was skiing with friends in Sun Valley, Idaho. During the course of our glorious day on Bald Mountain, I met a family who had invented a fun and healthy way to get the day started. He told me, “We start off the day with 20 minutes of exercise. The kids design their own workouts and we all benefit. It’s a great way to instill healthy living habits in our two boys while at the same time, keeping the parents in shape, too.” I shared his idea with my little one, Luke, and he was interested in giving the routine a try as well. This was music to my ears, as mornings filled with cartoons were getting us nowhere fast. Our first week was a huge success, and our dogs reaped the benefits as well. To get more suggestions on how to turn this routine into a habit that sticks, I went straight to the source for more information. Perhaps these ideas will spark some early morning fitness activities in your household!

How did this whole routine get started? Basically, two summers ago we noticed the kids got up each morning, sat on the couch and watched TV. We came up with an idea to do exercises every morning and figured it was a good way to teach them about good fitness habits, while also taking responsibility to design and complete their own workouts. We’ve now been doing this for about 20 months.

How did the children know what exercises to pick? My wife originally created a “bank” of exercises from which to choose. Now the boys have been doing it for so long, they don’t need to refer to the bank and have actually come up with many of their own exercises. Every Sunday night the kids pick their own exercises –no help from mom and dad — and write them down on a dry erase board (pictured above).

What does the workout actually look like? They get up 6 days a week and do “sets.” The sets are composed of 6 different exercises — 2 upper body, 2 lower body/agility, and 2 core/stomach. The boys do 3 sets of each, or a total of 18 exercises each morning. They also write down how many “reps” of each exercise they do —usually between 10 and 20. We do use some very light dumbbells for some of the exercises. Though we definitely don’t want to stress their growing bones, using some light dumbbells introduces a whole variety of new exercises they can do. They usually play music, too, which they like.

How do the boys get to school on time? The get up each morning about 20 minutes earlier than in the past and do their “sets.” Once done, they get dressed for school and then follow the normal routine – breakfast, brush teeth, and off to the bus.

Do Mom and Dad usually join the boys? Mom and dad join them whenever possible — at least one of us joins them each day. Since we follow this routine for 6 days a week, they always get one day off, depending on schedules. On the day off, we sometimes all stretch as a family. This helps them learn the importance of stretching to balance the working out.

So how has this routine affected your kids overall? They learn responsibility. They get to design their own workout plans which teaches general organization skills. They burn calories and start the day in an upbeat state of mind. Both my boys play sports — wrestling and lacrosse — and we’ve noticed an improvement in their general strength relative to their peers. I can’t say with 100% certainty it’s due to the “sets,” but it seems very, very likely attributable.

Melinda Hinson