Physical Education. That’s one box I can check off with confidence. Thanks to genetics, I have two naturally active kids. They love to move, and my furniture shows it.
Over the years, they’ve dabbled in team sports. My older spent several seasons in recreational soccer and one in coach pitch baseball. My younger enjoyed a very informal neighborhood soccer league for several years, although most of his enjoyment came from reminding others what position they were playing. Alas, he aged out of that league, and his older brother really didn’t care for soccer or baseball enough to go willingly to practices. Thus ended our team sport experiences.
Four years ago, my younger began karate lessons as his ticket out of physical therapy. His options from PT were swimming or martial arts — both strengthen the core and cross midline, but since swimming unfortunately requires the dreaded Wetting of the Head, karate was his choice be default. Soon after, his brother and I joined in, generally attending lessons twice a week. Four years later, we’re closing in on black belt (meaning they likely have another year to go – I’m hoping to test in the Fall). For four years, I’ve had Physical Education well in hand.
However, karate isn’t where they leave most of their sweat and energy. They’ve developed balance, improved coordination, and increased strength at the dojang. They’ve increased their persistence at a task and begun to master some control over their bodies. It’s been a sizeable financial and time investment for the three of us. I’d recommend it to any family that wants to work together for exercise (and that prefers never having to spend hours in the rain/heat/wind/hot sun). For the non-competitive types, martial arts are a fantastic fit, although opportunities for competition exist. We’ve stayed competition-free, except for those of us who are frantically competitive with ourselves (no names here).
Most of their sweat and energy is released at home. Despite our commermerative postage stamp-sized lot, the boys run and play any day the weather allows and many (at least when they were younger and apparently more water-resistant) that it discourages. They have battles with light sabers and swords. (Not at the same time, of course. The younger knows better than to mix historical and fictional eras.) They play a “the ball game” of which I have no understanding. It involves two bats and many balls and I’m sure a fair number of rules. That’s an inside favorite, too, minus the bats. They play natural disaster and tornado chaser games. They run with the neighbors, playing baseball, frisbee, flag football, soccer, and basketball. They present themselves hours later, hot, sweaty, and stinky, exhausted and spent. And happy.
It’s these free-form run-arounds that are improving their cardiovascular health and building endurance. It’s the group play where they learn to sort out rules and compromise when needed. It’s when the younger siblings join in that they cultivate patience and teaching skills, adapting games for these less-experienced kids. Okay, my older is far more skilled at those last two items than his brother, but it’s good practice for both. And I don’t have to sit in the rain.
I’m more spotty with my own PE, and as my body ages, I know I need to push harder just to stay even, strength and endurance wise. I enjoy hard work with a purpose, and yard work fits the bill for parts of the year, but it’s not steady enough to count on for fitness. I loved the yoga class I took last summer but have yet to sign up for another (or practice at home). In a fit of fear that I won’t live through black belt testing in the fall, I’ve taken up running lite. No, I’m not training for a race. I just want to survive my test come September. I like running with friends, since then the time doubles as a social event with adults. Say what you like about what that does to my speed. It’s multitasking at its best to me.
Mostly, though, I do what my kids do. I rarely sit still. I run up the stairs because that’s what my body wants to do. I wrestle with them, although that’s becoming risky to my increasingly fragile, ancient body. I just a bunch. It’s hardly a fitness plan, it’s just the engine I came with (thanks, Dad), and it’s served me well thus far. My kids are fortunate to have similarly wired engines. I’m far more likely to beg them to stop moving than pry them off the couch. That’s fine with me. (But it’s mighty hard on the couch.)