Family Fitness: Training for Your Goals

Get fit by reaching new fitness heights: train for a race, a backpacking trip, or a 100-mile journey.
Fitness Goal
woman jogging in winter

When you made your New Year's resolution to get fit as a family, you probably never dreamed you'd make it to the six-month mark. Even when the weather is perfect for exercise, you may find your motivation waning. What you need is an exciting new fitness goal to shake things up and keep your family interested in a yearlong fitness plan. Try training for a special event -- together. Here you'll find some suggestions to get started.

No matter what activity you choose, you'll need to train for it. We've included a two-week fitness schedule to follow. The best part is, it'll work to prepare you for almost any fitness goal you want to achieve.

Run/Walk Benefit Race

During summer there are hundreds of races -- some in virtually every community -- ranging from local 5K meets to national events such as Race for the Cure.

"These races are great for families," says fitness expert Jeff Bell, owner of Spectrum Wellness fitness center in Manhattan, New York. "They're not competitive -- most races will let you walk or run the course. In some cases, young kids who can't keep up on foot can ride their bikes instead. You go as a team, you cross the finish line together. It's about being out there for a good cause and enjoying each other's company."


Exercise for a Century

Taking a walking, running, or cycling trip of 100 miles, also known as a century, is a very attainable goal, as well as an impressive one.

"What kid wouldn't like to brag, 'Hey, I bicycled or walked 100 miles this summer'?" says Bell. You don't even need the whole summer. If you bicycled an average of 5 miles daily, you'd hit the 100-mile mark in less than three weeks. Walking two to three miles per day would earn you century status in roughly six weeks.

Before you start, treat each person to a bicycle odometer or a walking pedometer. A basic model of either unit can keep track of daily miles and total distance, and costs less than $20 at most sporting goods stores. "Track the distance, record them somewhere, and watch the miles mount up," says Bell.

Take an Active Vacation

Instead of hitting the road this summer, you can hit the trail on a backpacking adventure. Remember that you'll be wearing heavy boots and carrying all the gear you'll need: tents, cookstove, bedroll, clothes, food, water, and more.

"There are hundreds of cases every year of family members who get severe blisters or sprains because they didn't train properly," says Bell. The easiest way to avoid this scenario is to break out the equipment at home. Diehard backpackers will spend a month before a hike walking around the yard and neighborhood in full gear, just to see how it fits.

If you're worried about what the neighbors might think, there's an easier way to train privately: Use the stairs. Have everyone put on their boots and packs (empty at first, adding weight as fitness improves) and do 10 laps on the stairs in your house (1 trip upstairs and 1 trip downstairs = 1 lap). Work toward a daily goal of 3 sets of 10 laps of straight stair climbing; 3 sets of 10 laps of taking the stairs two at a time; and 3 sets of 10 laps of climbing the stairs sideways.

Training Together

No matter what kind of activity interests you, set up a training regimen and give yourselves plenty of time to get in shape, says Bell.

"Six weeks would be ideal, but a month will work too. You need that time to get limber and flexible, and to get your cardiovascular system to the point that it can handle the demands of the activity," says Bell.

Continued on page 2:  Two-Week Trainer: Week 1