- Sports/Recreation -

Bribery and the Fit Family

Triathlete shares her thoughts on the strength of family fitness.

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Yesterday was idyllic in terms of family fitness. All of us hopped on our bikes (The Boy in the Burley) and rode to the Minnesota Arboretum, where we spent about an hour playing in their Green Play Yard. It was a 5-mile ride, the temperature was in the mid-60s and no one complained.

Let me repeat that: No One Complained.

As an advocate of family fitness perhaps I gave you the impression that family fitness is an easy option for my family; that the children are enthusiastic to do something active and outdoors any time I suggest it; that these outings are filled with love and laughter, butterflies and rainbows.

Let me brief you on a scene from the bike ride before this one.

“I. Want. To. Go. Home.” Says my 7 year-old daughter, sobbing as we ride on the trail.

“Are you hurt?” I scream back at her. “Because if you’re not hurt you better stop crying! We are supposed to be having FUN!”

Fun, it was not. In fact, until yesterday we didn’t have a single ride where someone didn’t have a complaint, attitude problem, or objection to bike riding at all. And, it was never the same kid. It was never fun. I felt like a hack, promoting family fitness, even offering advice on how to make “exercising with kids easy,” when as of late, it was anything but.

But. I persevered. Isn’t that always, ultimately, the definition of success?

I have to make my kids do a lot of things they don’t always like to do: clean their room, shower, brush their teeth, eat their vegetables. I can’t any more give up on these things as I can on being active.

Last week our paper ran an article about Olympic triathlete Gwen Jorgensen, who has discovered her talent for triathlon a little late, and who–this does wonders for my confidence as a fitness-promoting parent–hated those gawd-awful family bike rides as a child. I quote from the article:

“When she was growing up in Milwaukee, Jorgensen hated biking. She had to be bribed with ice cream just to go on a ride with her family.”

That’s exactly what I do. Bribe them with ice cream. I admit, this flies in the face of the fit family ideal. Would I prefer they ride for the sake of the pure pleasure of the ride? Sure. But then I would have no power. Ice Cream is power. I’m a sucker for a scoop myself.

Do you have other ways you bribe your kids to be active? Let’s all fess up right here.

Kara Douglass Thom is a triathlete, freelance writer and mother of four. She and Laurie Kocanda are the co-authors of Hot (Sweaty) Mamas: Five Secrets to Life as a Fit Mom. 

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