Your long workday has ended, but your work isn't over. There's homework to do with the kids, dinner to prepare and getting everyone ready for tomorrow. Who has the time to even think about going to the gym every day with that kind of hectic schedule?
What if I told you that a 15 to 20 minute family workout each evening, inside the house, could help you burn off that lasagna dinner, wear the kids out, create lasting memories and you'd have a ton of fun while doing it? Sound like something you need in your life? I thought so!
Guess what? It's all possible! Here's the story of a fit game for the kids called Monster Hide and other ways I stay fit with my family in the evenings.
The Deeply Rooted Tradition Of Monster Hide
Jump in the time machine and go back to the mid-80s when I was a child. I can still see my dad walking up to the back porch after a long day at work. He's been sweating all day, which makes the dirt and concrete dust stick to him head to toe. He's tired and really does look quite a bit like a monster. My brother and I couldn't wait for him to get home though. We knew what fun the evening would bring.
Right before bedtime my dad would chase my younger brother, Thomas, and I around the house. Dad would growl and grumble as we rounded the familiar curves of our house. Soon, Dad would become silent and slip behind a piece of furniture or in the pantry or crouch alongside the bed. We would begin searching for him. Out of nowhere, he'd spring out and capture us.
We'd be trapped under his strong arms as he hauled us both, at the same time, to a couch or bed, where he dropped us and tickled us until we could hardly breathe. He'd let us escape and start the chase all over again. We never wanted to stop playing.
My brother summed up the experience perfectly: "It was the bond and knowing that Dad could still play, joke and have fun like a kid, not just be a disciplinarian. The best part is that it carried over to the way I am with my boys and nephews. I love knowing that all of us can joke around together, and as an adult I realize that it's a pretty good evening mini-workout with my kids!"
He's not kidding! We were all out of breath. Every now and then we'd hunt our mom down (who mostly tried to stay out of it), and she fell victim to the monster and his minions. These memories were the best!
My dad, Wesley, recalls, "It was a good way to get me ready for bed, y'all ready for bed and end the night in a good way."
Horseplay may seem like a father's job, but it really isn't. Now that I'm a mom, I find that I am just as much a human jungle gym as any dad. I have two sons, and I'm just as likely to get on the floor and roughhouse with my boys as my husband.
When my children were old enough to chase around the house, I started my dad's family tradition almost daily because they loved it so much. They began calling this tradition "Monster Hide." If you saw and heard us playing, you'd find it quite fitting. We sound like we belong in the book Where The Wild Things Are.
It's More Than A Kid Exercise
One Mother's Day, as part of my gift, I realized how much our evening family workout meant to my kids through a questionnaire they completed at school called "All About My Mom."
The sixth question asked, "What does your mom do best?" Both children answered, "Plays Monster Hide."
Their answers were eye opening. My boys were attending different schools and had different teachers. Neither answered, "She's a good cook" or "She works out." It was, "She plays Monster Hide." That's when I knew how much my children valued this 15 to 20 minutes of quality time at the end of the day.
I had always felt it was an excellent kid exercise, a great way to tire them out and a good way for me to burn a few more calories, but now I see that this workout with my kids is really the time you spend focused on them for something besides homework or chores. To be honest, we're all tuckered out and ready for bed after just one round of Monster Hide.
How To Play A Game Of Monster Hide
Kids love to be chased. Add a couple of "Grrrrs" or "Raaars" and it's on! Sprint after your kids long enough to scare them to the other side of the house, retreat and then hide somewhere as they are running away.
Stay silent and they'll seek you out.
When you hear them getting close, jump out growling like a monster. Chase them around the corner again and sprint to a new hiding spot. My children give me mere seconds before they turn around to come after me again. I barely have a breathing break before I give chase again.
The game physically wears me out! I am literally focused on trying to breathe silently so the kids can't find me via heavy breathing. Being fitness minded I naturally began wondering how many calories I was burning, how many steps I was taking and what my heart rate was maxing at during Monster Hide so I decided to capture some exercise data.
Kid Exercise Gets Your Heart Rate Screaming (Too)
Most adults don't get enough aerobic exercise probably because most don't enjoy running anymore. Monster Hide puts the fun back into running.
According to the Mayo Clinic, adults should perform "at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity." According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, aerobic exercise should make up the majority of the suggested 60 minutes of kid exercise per day.
If you let a game of Monster Hide commence for just 15 minutes, five nights per week, that's 75 minutes of aerobic exercise for the week, a good amount of time to spend on a family workout.
I can attest that the game feels more than moderate in intensity because I'm breathing hard when I'm playing. You know how it feels when you talk while you're running? Growling and running is pretty much the same.
Show Me The Data!
I put my fitness watch to work to conduct a little research on Monster Hide. Here's what I found:
Amount of time we played: 15 minutes
Steps taken: 750 (approximately .375 tenths of a mile or just over ¼ mile)
Max heart rate: 162 BPM
Average heart rate: 125 BPM
As you can see, this is a great adult and kid exercise. But, what if you want to tone your muscles, not just get your cardio in with the kiddos?
Exercises To Tone Using Your Children
The Mayo Clinic states adults should do "strength training exercises for all major muscle groups at least two times a week." So, how can you use your children as resistance? It's really easy.
My children are always in full attack mode. If I'm sitting on the floor, I'm fair game. When they jump on me, I simply use them as a piece of resistance equipment (very special resistance equipment because I made them).
Here are some of their many uses:
Pro Level Planks: When one or two children are stacked on your back and hugging around your waist while you hold the plank position, you're doing pro level planks.
Pro Level Bench Press: Use your children as your personal barbell to bench press as you are lying on the floor.
Pro Level Push-ups: Even if you have to do girl push-ups, let them sit on your back while you tone your shoulders, core and back with kid-weighted push-ups.
Pro Level Squats: Hold one or two children on your back like little monkeys as you do sets of squats.
Children don't care about your daily hustle or if you are tired. What they care about is that they have a piece of your time each day and that the time spent with them is quality.
Any time you can combine two things you see value in, like family and exercise, it's a win-win. Go ahead and exercise and play with your children – even if it's in addition to what you do in the gym. A family workout will give them positive memories of you that will last into adulthood like mine with my family, and they'll learn the value of exercise and taking care of yourself.
Written by Sarah Chadwell, CPT for The Healthy Moms Magazine and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featured image provided by Caleb Woods