Sticking to a Tried and True Summer Fitness Program
Growing up we didn’t live in an area that had a lot of “community programs” or activities to keep kids busy. If we did, my parents never told us about it. Instead I remember the bulk of my younger memories spent in a red house out in the country surrounded with apple trees, thick bushes dense enough to hide in, and yard. Lots and lots of yard.
That yard was my playground, those apple trees my obstacle course, and the bushes my fortress. I remember summers with my sister bringing our dolls into the bushes and playing hideaway, mud painting the posts on the gazebo where my dad would sit on our swing and sing to us during summer rains, riding my sunflower banana seat bike up and down the driveway till there was no more energy left in my legs and laying in the yard with my Irish Setter, Babe, watching clouds turn into rabbits, planes and people before my very eyes, while she tried to eat bees.
During that time I was blessed to live next to my grandparents (my dad’s mother and father), and my great-grandmother (on my mom’s side) was my daytime babysitter. My sister and I would bounce between houses, often swimming in my grandparents’ pool or digging for the best and biggest worms for my grandfather’s fishing bait box. If it was a truly magical summer, my cousins would be around and there would be more swimming and cookouts and campouts in the popup camper that my grandfather had in the backyard.
I would get kicked outside after breakfast, called in for lunch and then dinner with a bath in the evening to scrub the day’s dirt off of me. If I came back inside before dinner or lunch, I had better be bleeding or my clothes needed tending cause I’d torn them on a pricker bush. Don’t come back in to tattle, don’t get caught being mean to your sister, and above all, don’t come in to sit and watch television. Of course in those days, (like it was eleventeen-billion years ago, and not the 80’s right?), the only television worth watching was Saturday morning cartoons; no channels built exclusively with 24hour kid programming.
That was summer. That was exercise. There were no planned activities, appointments, playdates, or scheduled sports to run to and from. There was the ease of summer and the flow of where the day would take. Things are so different now. There is planned laziness or planned exercise and activities. We literally schedule our days according to what’s on our to-do list or social calendar. We plan our exercise routines too.
We’ve forgotten how to let busy just happen organically. We’ve forgotten how to throw our kids outside with nothing but their imagination and a few ground rules. It seems that we’ve forgotten how to stay healthy without charts, graphs, and books to spell it out for us and sadly, we’ve forgotten how to pass all this along to our kids.
Except, I haven’t. On the days where it really does just feel like it’s too hot to move (or breathe), I let the kids be a little lazy, but the rest of the summer is spent outside, climbing trees, blowing bubbles, playing in the sandbox, water fights and running in the sprinkler. But we’re not just having fun, we’re getting things done too. We’re weeding the flower beds, mowing the lawn, taking care of the livestock that will feed us later in the year, and we’re cleaning up the property. Bug is splitting wood in preparation for this fall and winter and Shorty is stacking it.
It’s not about keeping active really, it’s about giving them options other than television and video games as a means of staying fit during summer vacation, and yes, there will be sports practices and camps later this summer, but for now?
I'm simply doing what I've done every summer; I'm following the path of my parents and grandparents - kick the kids outside until the day is over and let their imaginations be their guide to summer fitness.