Yesterday was a great day. I was just busy enough in the office to keep me out of trouble, I got to have my weekly meeting with my business partner, Cinzia, ran 3 miles and indulged myself with a small bag of potato chips and some Frango-like mints Pat brought back from Disney World.
As the afternoon was chugging along, I was happy as a clam. The president of Quarton Elementary’s PTA brings her sons to me and when I saw Sharon in the office, we commented that we would be seeing each other that evening at the first annual Family Fun and Fitness Night. We were both looking forward to it but were a bit uncertain about how it would go. I joked with Sharon that I had loaded up on potato chips and chocolate to celebrate the evening event but had no idea I would need all those calories (and more) to make through the fun and active evening.
When I arrived at Quarton last night (I was a volunteer too), I sat with Sharon and Pam at the entrance filling out name tags and assigning kids to ‘teams’. Six teams made up of at least 10 kids each (and just as many parents) converged for the first part of the evening where the kids could sample healthy foods like blueberries and organic sugar-free applesauce to healthy foods prepared by the school’s cafeteria vendor. The food was donated by Trader Joes, Whole Foods, Plum Market and St. Joe’s hospital in Pontiac had folks there to talk about healthy living. Posters filled with pictures of healthy foods on one side and less healthy ones on the other informed kids that they can still eat fun foods that are treats and be healthy at the same time.
After that first half hour session was done, we then gathered as teams (color coded on our name tags) and traveled to six different classrooms over the next hour and fifteen minutes to try out a variety of different activities designed to keep your body healthy and active and have fun at the same time. First we went to the yoga room and stretched, did downward facing dog, warrior 1 position, and a few other poses led by a parent from Quarton and a local yoga instructor before moving on to room number two. In our second room we participated in a fitness game. This was ingenious. Mrs. Turner, the fit and inspiring phys ed teacher, had a picture of the food pyramid with colored sections that went from the peak of the pyramid to the base of varying sizes representing the major food groups (veggies, fruits, dairy, meats/proteins, grains, and fats) and had the kids review the categories. She then showed us the four posters on the floor that matched the pyramid but were empty other than velcro. A box in the middle of the room held a variety of laminated pictures of all sorts of foods that would be put on the food pyramid. Kids (and parents in my case) would kneel or sit on a flat scooter and scoot ourselves to the box, choose an item, scoot to our food pyramid and place it in the proper place. Four teams of three worked against the clock to see who could fill up their food pyramid with the most appropriate distribution of foods for a day in 7 minutes. My team didn’t win but we had fun, were active, and learned something too!
The next activity we did was core strengthening. Now THAT was a workout. A Quarton parent led us through plank exercises (really hard to hold the position even for a minute or so), superman, some variations on the plank, some obliques strengthening and then finally some variations on a crunch that I am still feeling today! That was 15 minutes of really hard work! Next we moved to Punk Fitness which was a high energy, music booming aerobic workout using our bodies, hula hoops, and stretchy bands which was Conall’s favorite and really worked up a sweat. This one was run by a woman who has been teaching these classes for a few decades and let’s just say she looks GREAT!
Our last stop of the evening (and by then my legs were singing from the action) was aerobics. An energenic woman from Pleasant Ridge was running the class and worked out butts for the 15 minutes she had us. It was invigoraging and fun and by the end of the hour plus of exercising (plus a 3 mile treadmill run at lunchtime) I was ready for bed!
This model of a family fitness night though was terrific. One of the things I liked most about it was that it encouraged lots of activities that anyone could do regardless of coordination skills or abilities. It didn’t require anyone to be on a true team where your performance was essential to winning or the cause for losing and as a result, all kids and adults of all abilities enjoyed it. The only disheartening part of the night was that very few parents actually participated in the activities. They would shepherd their kids around from place to place but wouldn’t do the yoga or punk fitness or aerobics with their kids. I think one of the great potential messages of the evening is that keeping physically active is important for a lifetime and adults as well as kids should partake! Kevin and I did and the kids loved seeing our large and uncoordinated bodies going through the same motions as theirs. It was a great way to spend a family evening together!
Thanks to Betty Gusho and Mary Adams (along with their committee) for putting on this terrific evening.
Dance, aerobicize, and stretch with your kids and each day will be your best!
Molly O’Shea, MD Birmingham Pediatrics + Wellness Center