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“How I Got In Shape By Enlisting My Kids’ Help”

For years, I had so many great excuses for skipping the gym. I was tired. I was broke. My kids needed me at home. Then I got a job that changed all that, and taught me that the most sustainable fitness regime is the one that involves your whole family.

When my kids were younger, I could scarcely keep up with them. I mean, they had so much energy; trying to play with them was exhausting. I have distinct memories of taking them to bounce houses and playgrounds where they’d run around for hours, constantly asking me to play with them, which I did for a few minutes — until I got winded and had to sit down.

I wished I had the motivation to exercise, but I hadn’t worked out in years. It seemed like having four kids, three with diagnosed attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD), was a valid enough excuse to skip the gym membership again. Where was I going to find the time or the money?

Then I got a job where a personal trainer held lunch-hour training sessions in a workout room on site. So I signed up for two sessions per week with the trainer, Rose. At first my progress was slow, but soon my competitive nature took over. Two sessions per week turned into three. Then four. Then I became more conscious of nutrition, and what and how much I was eating. So I started prepping my own meals, and did a lot more cooking at home.

[Free Guide: What to Eat (and Avoid) for Improved ADHD Symptoms]

Rose’s balance of encouragement and motivation was a perfect fit for me. If I hit a goal, she made a big deal about it, but quickly moved on to discussing my next one. If I missed a goal, she quickly moved on and dismissed the scale or the treadmill results as one-offs. She also found creative ways of driving my progress outside the lunch-hour office sessions. She held regular outdoor boot camps with other clients and encouraged me to come. She also held co-ed soccer and football games, and encouraged me to bring the kids.

At one boot camp, Rose invited me to bring all four kids. She had organized a routine with multiple trainers; one led a Zumba routine, another led a tababa-style workout, another led a dance routine. The kids had a blast, and for weeks continued to ask when Ms. Rose was going to have another boot camp.

A few years ago, I got another job. And though I stopped working out with Rose, I got a gym membership and continue to work out several times a week. The entire family has enjoyed the results. All four kids hear the word “pool” and spaz out because they know chances are good I’ll hop in and play. The boys constantly ask me to take them to the basketball court or to the park and practice football routes with them. And the girls ask me to take them for jogs and bike rides. It’s a win/win for all of us: we all get outside and get some exercise. And we all get a chance to bond with each other. Plus, I have to admit I love it when the kids tell me they can barely keep up with me.

[Related Read: The ADHD Exercise Solution]