Everyone knows family time is important. However… some moms and dads experience the odd “Damn! I should be working out!” pang during quality time. You know, those moments where you catch yourself calculating whether your meandering, child-like pace through the woods is enough to make up for the workout you missed the day before—or to justify the hot chocolate and cookies your family will probably want après outdoor fun.
Here’s the good news: According to experts like certified personal trainer Toni Durbin, it’s definitely possible to crank up winter favorites like sledding, skating and forest walks. These already-wholesome leisure activities can be tweaked into heart-pumping, muscle-toning workouts. Even better: it’s actually fun pushing pedals to the metal as a family. Here’s how to do it.
Fun family activity: Sledding down the local hill
How to improve the fitness factor: Tobogganing burns at least 420 calories per hour*—not bad, provided you’re actually tobogganing, not watching your kids as you nurse a latte! If they’re old enough old to ride alone, bring an extra sled for yourself. (Seriously: it’s soooo fun!)
Durbin says it’s easy to work strength training and cardio into a sled outing. Her suggestions:
- Add some horseplay, aka interval training. “If you run in the snow, you’re getting a good workout because snow provides natural resistance. Kids love to be chased or to race with you!”
- Don’t walk, run, up that hill.
- Take on towing duties and push a kid uphill in their toboggan. “Just remember to bend those knees! Side-steps up a hill while pulling a toboggan can be hard work, too.
- Give your kid a piggyback ride to and from your car or across the park, for a good toning exercise with cardio benefits.
Fun family activity: Ice skating
How to improve the fitness factor: Skating is the Holy Grail of winter sports, a calorie-killer that’s so much fun you barely notice you’re working out! It burns 420 calories per hour and, says Durbin, “is a great workout for your glutes and quads.”
But you can get even more benefits by upping the intensity. Durbin suggests:
- Intervals. Do one fast lap and then a slow lap, and repeat. “Skating fast for 20 seconds and then slowly for 10 seconds, eight intervals in total, is another way to kick it up a notch.”
- Active games, like tag, or What Time Is It, Mr. Wolf? “Have one family member be the wolf at one side of the rink. The rest of the family stands at the opposite end and asks, ‘What time is it, Mr. Wolf?’ The wolf says a time and family members skate the number of glides corresponding to the time. (3 o’clock is three glides, etc.) This goes on until the wolf shouts “dinner time!”—and everyone sprints away. The person caught is the next wolf. Silly maybe, but cute and my family likes it!”
- Using the bleachers for conditioning. Once you’re done skating, put on your boots and use rink bleachers (or, at outdoor rinks, park benches) for triceps dips, push-ups and planks. Choose an out-of-the-way spot so no one trips over you.
Fun family activity: Going for a walk in the woods
How to improve the fitness factor: While any walk in the woods is a worthwhile weekend activity—it’s beautiful, it’s a great way to view wildlife or engage in ersatz snowball fights—you can easily increase the 360 calories per hour you’d burn by about 25 percent with intervals of high-intensity training. (Some on your own, some enlisting your kids.)
- Sprints. “Find a tree in the distance and have a family race towards it.”
- Skipping. Tip: Get those knees up!
- Hills. “Try planting your heel as you go up the hill for an extra glute workout.”
- Bunny hops: “Two-footed jumps along a trail are great for the legs and provide impact, which is also good for bone density. And kids love goofy behavior!”
- Walking lunges, walking backwards and zig-zag running provide even more conditioning in the guise of goofiness.
- Finally, wannabe Iron Men and Women can hold a kid while doing squats, for the ne plus ultra of leg workouts.
* All calorie calculations are based on a 125-pound person. Individual calorie burn will vary depending on your body weight, as well as effort and environmental conditions.
November 2009 web exclusive