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5 Fun Cross-Training Ideas That Your Kids Will Love You For

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As a runner and stay-at-home mom of two pre-school boys, I am constantly looking for creative ways to be active. Children are usually very keen on learning and playing games, especially if it involves one or both of their parents.  While the kiddos are mastering new skills and expending some of their endless supplies of energy, the great bonus is that mom gets some cross-training done. Win-win!

Read also about boys running shoes.

With a little bit of imagination and research, we have come up with a couple of cross-training workouts for adults that your children will love doing with you. All these activities will aid in the child’s gross motor skill development and increase coordination, while spending happy, active time with mom and/or dad.  The key is to focus on having fun with the kids, involving them and quitting when they’ve had enough. That way you keep them interested and eager the next time you suggest the activity.

1. Monkey bars

Monkey Bars”, by Jeff Kubina. Licenced under CC BY-SA 2.0

I know most of us view outings to the park and jungle-gym as time for the kids to play and for adults to sip on cappuccinos, but as a runner, there is actually lots of scope for serious cross-training to be done.  

Although we are quick to encourage our little ones to try out the monkey bars, they are known to intimidate more adults than children! Next time at the playground, make the monkey bars your friend and score some points with you kid.

How: Begin by hanging with both hands from one bar, feet not touching the ground, and lifting both knees toward the chest. Do four sets of ten reps. Progress to straight leg lifts.

Target: Lower abdominal muscles, core strength

Required for running: Stability

Additional benefits: Moving along the monkey bars properly (yeah, like you kid does it, alternating hands from bar to bar) also targets the obliques, forearms and shoulders. A great overall workout.

2. Rope jumping

Similar to sprint work, rope jumping helps build strength and explosiveness which increases endurance. Calves are strengthened and the elasticity of the Achilles tendon is increased.

How: After you mastered the basic rhythm of skipping again without killing yourself, do sets of 10 reps of jumping with both feet, jumping on only the left foot, then only the right foot and 20 reps of jumping on alternating feet. Try to minimize the time spent with your feet touching the floor, and keep the jumps low to limit the risk of injury.

Target: Calves, Achilles tendons

Required for running: Explosiveness, strength, endurance

Additional benefits: Increased cadence and more efficient running

3. Rock climbing/bouldering

Bouldering in Bishop” by Mark Dollner. Licenced under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to venture far or buy a lot of gear to get the benefits of rock climbing. Bouldering entails climbing of boulders or sufficiently low climbing routes that makes it safe to climb without any gear, ropes or harnesses. Climbing routes doesn’t have to follow vertical lines, and whole body movements, balance and  strength is used to complete technical horizontal challenges.

How: If you don’t have access to a climbing wall or indoor bouldering cave, head outdoors to the nearest rocky outcrop, quarry or road cutting. Choose a shady spot, identify a line that looks like a bit of a challenge and let loose on the rocks. Initially a pair of tight-fitting sneakers will do (watch how your kids will probably prefer to go barefoot!), but you may prefer rock climbing shoes and a bag of chalk later on.

Keep your body and thus center of gravity close to the rock and make fluid movements. Focus on keeping your balance as you shift your body weight from one leg to the other.

Target: Cardio, overall flexibility, strength, stamina, weight loss and much more

Required for running: Speed, endurance, explosiveness, mental strength

Additional benefits: Spending time outside with your kids, testing new skills and overcoming fears are all great perks.


4. Freeze dance

Is it raining, too hot or too cold to take take the kids outside for play or exercise? Keep the fun indoors and make a party of it.

How: Put on some lively music that both you and your kids will enjoy and get hopping, jiving, twirling and shaking. Keep the CD player remote in your hand and press pause every now and then. The aim of the game is to “freeze” in position once the music has stopped the funnier the position the better.

Target: Cardio, strength

Required for running: Endurance, injury prevention

Additional benefits: Belly laughing with your little ones will make for great abs!

5. Animal races

This is a fun way to incorporate much needed plyometric exercises into your training regime. You can really let your imagination run wild with this one, and better yet, take turns with your children at being the leader.

How: Identify animals and try to mimic their moves. Think frog leaps, bunny hops, cricket star-jumps, squatting and walking like a duck. You can get really technical with this one to ensure a whole core workout, but the kids may enjoy simpler, more lively (read: wild) hopping and jumping.

Target: Cardio, overall strength, explosiveness, focussed muscle development

Required for running: Endurance, injury prevention

Additional benefits: Throw in some ears, costumes or funny faces and be your children’s hero.

Exercise really doesn’t always have to be such a serious affair. Sometimes, we need to take off those GPS watches and just let loose and see what happens. Guaranteed we will have loads of fun and create some happy memories in the process.

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