For family fitness to work, you need little activities you can squeeze in. You need routine.
Like a quick game of soccer before dinner or doing yoga together in the morning.
But why always settle for the mundane?
Why not go for the adventurous? If your family is like my family, weekend breaks are the perfect time to stretch your horizons.
They give you enough time to really try something new. You have a whole day or even two to really try something out.
And if you like it, you can often find ways to squeeze into your weekdays as well by doing the following:
- You might purchase equipment so you can do this activity from your home.
- You may continue with lessons or practice more so you have the skills to do an activity with less effort and planning.
- You might feel the confidence to purchase a pass for more regular visits after trying something for a full day.
But unlike a one- or two-week vacation, you’re not stuck with major regrets and bill for thousands of dollars if it didn’t work for you.
Why Family Weekend Breaks From Routine Fitness Are Essential
Weekend adventures also serve an important role in making family fitness work.
First, they help you diversify your activities.
If there is one thing I’ve learned from my kids, mixing things up and making it fun are essentials for keeping fitness a popular family thing.
Secondly, weekend adventures help keep you motivated.
When it comes to motivation, special memories fuel you up to do an activity again.
Adventures hold in them the shared experience of learning something together, facing challenges and triumphing together. They’re laced with the excitement of discovery and spiced with the savory flavor of something different from the usual.
And anticipating a great weekend adventure provides a great incentive to build your strength and endurance in shorter spurts during the week.
Now let me be clear –when I say adventure, I’m not saying you have to go bungee jumping. For my family, adventure is found in simply trying something new . . .
Learning how to rock climb at an indoor gym.
Or going a exploring new territory doing something we usually do close to home. Like hiking or biking in a new park, for example.
When my kids were younger, it was as exciting as trying out a new playground and packing a picnic so we could make sure we had a chance to climb every piece of equipment – at least twice.
A family weekend adventure just needs to be a few steps beyond the ordinary.
Here are a few tips for making family weekend breaks into adventures:
Family Weekend Adventures Tip #1: Collect
The best way to make it easier to get out is to have options. I have a folder devoted to local activity resources. In it I stick newspaper clippings, calendars, brochures and notes. I don’t worry too much about sorting through it. If something takes center stage I can set up a new folder for it.
You can do the same thing with a Favorites file on your computer or a special section in your social bookmarks.
In addition to the random bits of paper, I collect good reference books. We have local guides for great hikes for children, mountain biking, and one devoted to local outdoor adventuring in general.
It’s great to have a collection at home. But I also have made great use of my public library. Not only do they have lots of local guidebooks, but also they often have files filled with brochures about local attractions. Even better, they sometimes have special passes that allow you a discount or free admission to these special places.
Family Weekend Adventures Tip #2: Look to Learn
In developing my local resources folders, I’ve paid particular attention to where we can learn new skills. Especially noteworthy are places that have special rates for learners.
Some of these lessons may be linked to a place. Like our local indoor climbing gym’s lessons for how to spot and climb.
Some lessons are linked to events. Last summer we attended a day of mountain biking clinics for all ages held in a state park about an hour away.
Some lessons are linked to organizations. The Appalachian Mountain Club hosts lots of group activities and special family workshops. Everything from winter camping to a simple introduction to day hiking. Some of these workshops are held at their main lodges. But some are organized by smaller local chapters at a place of their choosing or an agreed upon location.
Some lessons are linked to people. One of our neighbors loves to teach orienteering to families and kids. I’ve got her card in our file so we can give her a call when we’re ready to become experts with a compass and navigation.
Keep your eyes and ears peeled. You’ll be amazed at the local resources you turn up for learning new skills and trying new things.
Family Weekend Adventures Tip #3: Know Your Interests
I’m always making mental notes of things my kids (and us) express interest in. The other day my kids saw a show about sea kayaking and got excited about it. Now I’m on the hunt for a way to go kayaking around the Maine Island Trail.
A neighbor of ours shared with us an article about her brother-in-law’s work in creating the 10th Mountain Division in World War II, an infantry division devoted to backcountry travel in all kinds of weather. His story was enough to help me pique my husband’s interest in trying out some backwoods cross-country skiing. And now the kids are begging us to go too!
Build on books you’re reading together, things they hear about at school or simply something they see when you go to the park.
Part of making family fitness work is seizing on the seeds of interest already planted and helping it grow.
Family Weekend Adventures Tip #4: Go Beyond Your Interests
But just like you should follow your family’s lead and existing interests, you also should step outside of them. You never know what you’ll enjoy!
A couple years ago we went horseback riding on the same mountain we ski in the winter. It wasn’t something any of us had really thought much about doing. But when the opportunity to try it out came up, we jumped on it.
Fortunately my kids didn’t asked more than once or twice since then to get a horse. We’re not ready for that kind of commitment to this activity.
But it was enough to get me excited about someday taking a multi-day horseback trip. I’m keeping that in my possibilities folder.
9 More Critical Factors To Making Your Family Weekend Adventure A Success:
Okay, once you’ve started collecting resources and ideas for things to do, start scheduling. Note, don’t plan something for every weekend since it can soon become overwhelming and not enjoyable. Especially for you parents who have to do all the organizing. Adventure is best when it punctuates the routine.
Then to make each adventure a success, here are some other tips:
- Get reviews. Talk to other parents and kids, look online, read a few books if you can. But get some perspective on the general activity; the specific place where you’re thinking about trying it out; and how best to go about trying it out.
- Ask questions. Get details. And then get some more details. When you plan something make sure you get all your questions answered and always ask, “What do we need to bring?” “How should we be prepared?” For example, it was important for horseback riding that we have shoes with a little bit of heel to them. Running shoes wouldn’t do.
- Take care of the niceties. The worst thing when you’re out adventuring is to be too cold or too hot. Or thirsty. Or hungry. Put together a cooler full of good snacks and bring lots of water. And always bring extra layers. If you’ve got littler kids, always always bring extra clothes. You never know what they’ll find to get into.
- Organize and pack the day before. Even if you’re just adventuring near your house, the more you can get done the day before, the more you can focus on getting out of the house and enjoying your adventure.
- Get some good rest the night before. As parents we often sell ourselves short on this one. But being well-rested can make the difference in how well your adventure goes. In the worst case scenario it can be the difference between enjoying your new activity and serious injury.
- Don’t plan too much on the other end. The second worst thing (see above) is to be enjoying an adventure and then have to rush home for dinner plans or another appointment. You also can never account for the unexpected. So try to keep the day open-ended so you can really take the adventure to where it will lead you.
- Document. As you go through your adventure, take pictures and notes. Ask about equipment specifics and write them down. Note down revelations or discoveries you make yourself. As a travel journalist I always carry a little notebook on me. And this has served me well personally as well. These notes will help you turn the adventure into a regular fun activity.
- Savor. Look through the photos, linger at the breakfast table the next day and reflect together. Talk about these memories and discuss where you want to take the adventure next.
- Build on it. Some adventures will end up being one-shot deals not worth repeating. That’s okay, that’s how you learn. Maybe it means you just need to try it in a different setting. However, if there is promise in the activity . . . if you all enjoyed it . . . think about how you can do this again or even on a regular basis.
So while much of family fitness falls in the little things, don’t be afraid to think big. Get adventurous. Explore. You’ll be amazed at what you discover around you.
And within you!
Any stories of weekend adventuring to share? We’d love to hear them below: