5 Ways to Stay Active with the Whole Family

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COVID-19 is changing everyday life. With most schools and workplaces closed, families find themselves in close quarters, needing to burn stress and keep moving. We talked to three moms with kids of varying ages about how they’re staying active with the whole family during this challenging time.

Here are their tips and suggested activities for maintaining sanity.

1. Set a routine

Certified health coach, Kate Stone of Carrboro, N.C., has a 10-year-old son. When his school closed for COVID-19, she recognized the need for the whole family to keep a schedule in place. An abrupt change in routine, she says, takes away anchors that ground our habits. When this change happens, creating a new schedule that reminds us of good habits is key to helping us feel safe and grounded.

2. Allow unscheduled free time for all

For the first school day spent at home, Stone prepared a full schedule for her son. But before long he made it clear that it was “too much.” She listened. Keeping some structure in place, she gives him a three-hour window to complete certain tasks for homework and music. After that, he’s on his own. She found he’s more motivated to complete his assignments within that window if he can pursue his own interests, too.

And Stone has her own work to do. She works full time for Fleet Feet Store Support as the Retail Education Manager in addition to being a mom and health coach. She needs to balance her work hours along with everything else. Flexibility and openness are paramount.

"When you can get outside alone, go for it," she says. "If you have a partner and can trade time watching the kids, be sure and treat yourself to some solo time to move and recharge."

3. Be patient while adjusting to a new situation

Ashley Pearce of Greenville, S.C., is a Fleet Feet No Boundaries Coach and mother of three boys, ages three, six and eight. Pearce is a self-proclaimed neat freak. But she decided it’s important that her boys get their energy out, even if it means wrecking the house temporarily.

“We have more time for them to clean up than we usually do, so I let them make a mess and then they get to help clean it up," says Pearce. "I’m trying to be more flexible and patient right now.”

During their first week of social distancing, she spent a day making blanket and pillow forts in the house with the boys, which they thought was a blast.

4. When you can, get outside (but avoid large crowds)

Cynthia Lauren Arnold of Polson, Mont., is the triple stroller half and full marathon Guinness Book World Record holder, and double stroller half marathon record holder. Her husband is a PA in the local hospital, and they have three kids, ages two, four and seven.

Arnold tries to keep everyone moving as much as possible. “Every hour to an hour and a half, I get everyone to put on their shoes. I put together scavenger hunts in the yard to keep their minds and bodies active," she says. "It’s good to combine the two, so I try to make it an educational experience and often create themed scavenger hunts.” (You can read more about Arnold’s scavenger hunts at the bottom of this story.)

Pearce also has her kids outside in a regular basis. When they need to get away, they walk in an open air park, but steer clear of playground equipment and large groups.

5. Keep family activities fun and don’t push too hard

While they’re all at home, Stone’s family decided to try a circuit workout together for the first time.

“Starting the day with a workout together is a great way to get going,” she says because it offers some structure and pushes kids to get energy out. But it’s also important not to overdo it.

“Realize when it’s no longer fun, and then let it go,” says Stone. Stone’s husband is a CrossFit trainer, so he created a workout for them to complete together. The couple got in a solid 45-minute workout, but 25 minutes in, their son was ready to call it quits.

Suggested Activities:

Walk every day
Stone says she started walking alone and soon her son began to join her. It’s valuable one-on-one time with no phones to simply move and talk.

If you have a garden already, many kids love to get outside to help pull weeds and plant seeds. Stone likes to garden outside with her son, and Arnold likes to involve the kids as well. It’s still cold in Montana, so they are starting with seeds indoors.

"If you don’t have seed packets, look into ordering them," says Arnold "You can also experiment with old seeds to see if they will grow, and certain vegetables can be grown from old pieces (like green onions)."

Body weight exercises that you can do anywhere
Arnold does a calisthenic body-weight routine with her kids, complete with fun music to keep them engaged. She prefers 10-to-20-minute routines one or twice per day with planks, push ups, squats, jumps and stretches.

She finds fun ways to keep the kids involved. “I may hold them for my squats,” she says. “I may have them do it as a relay where they tag each other, too.”

You can also try our 12-minute HIIT workout, here.

Make a fort
You can do this indoors with blankets or outdoors with sticks or other objects from your home.

Clean (and get creative with unwanted items)
Take this downtime to spring clean together. Arnold suggests letting your kids go through things they don’t want and put them into bags to donate later. "It teaches them the importance of providing for others," she says. "We put some items aside for nature or art projects for later."

Create a Scavenger Hunt (no touching required)
Arnold takes her kids outside to their yard or on a longer walk and engages them in themed hunts. "Try a color-wheel scavenger hunt. Ask the kids to find all of the primary and secondary colors to complete the color wheel," says Arnold. "Word scavenger hunts are another option. Find things that start with the letter “t,” for example."

By Kate Schwartz. Schwartz has been running competitively for 20 years, and she currently runs with the Asheville Running Collective. She lives in Asheville, NC, with her husband, Alex, and their cat, Clementine. She is the Content Production Coordinator for Fleet Feet.