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Fit by Association

My husband once accused me of lying in bed and dreaming up ways to injure our children.

“How about a zip line?” I suggested to Scott one morning over coffee.

That very afternoon our medium-sized daughter bounded off the bus and recounted the tale of how one of her dear friends had fallen and broken her wrist after playing on, you guessed it, a zip line.

“But that was one of those pointless mechanical numbers,” I reasoned later. The kind that takes two kids coaxing a monster pulley down a rusty track, while one kid clutches the rider’s feet in a certain death grip. I think we know how the accident happened.

With its delicate slope and strategically positioned oak trees – planted by God with the express purpose of one day supporting an authentic zip line – our backyard was perfect. And all my husband could do was picture our girls’ faces – splat! Smushed into one of those aforementioned trees. He wasn’t envisioning the smiles of gleeful, graceful freedom, the long hair blowing in the wind as the girls winged their way across the lawn, before coming to a gradual and safe stop just shy of the fence. He couldn’t hear the wheee! – the way I could, when I closed my eyes and imagined…

“How about a trampoline then?” Injury had nothing to do with it, of course. But I do cop to dreaming up ways to keep our kids moving. These backyard fixtures would at least get them outside, where the odds of everyone getting more daily exercise would be greatly improved.

Although I didn’t realize it back then, I was actually looking for a way to increase my own activity level, too. In the early going, I was the one who taught the girls how to jump-rope and hula-hoop, how to ride two-wheelers, skateboards, and scooters. It was me, ice-skating and rollerblading, and yes, even jumping on the trampoline. All in the promotion of family fitness. Back then, just parenting strong and confident girls was exercise enough for me.

So what happened? One by one, each of the girls mastered these activities. Suddenly, there wasn’t much call for Mommy to show off her mad skills on the driveway, or anywhere else for that matter. Besides which, no husband relishes the sight of the mother of his children on a skateboard – even if she is wearing the proper safety pads. Which I’ll admit, I never was.

I used to be able to live fit vicariously with my daughters as catalysts. But these days, things are different.

I’m realizing, for example, that driving my daughter to basketball practice, working court-side on my laptop, and watching her run wind sprints does not burn a single calorie. Nor does it improve my cardiovascular health. Although the dash out to the car to get my reading glasses was particularly taxing.

Similarly, clicking register to sign up our eldest for the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10k did not require a huge expenditure of energy on my part. But that run upstairs to get the credit card out of my other purse nearly floored me.

Not to worry – around the corner is spring, with soccer for all three of the girls, and a new slate of exercise opportunities for me. There’s the trek to the farthest field, the race to the port-a-potties, the lugging of the chairs, and let’s not forget the flapping of the gums while chatting with friends on the sideline. No wonder I’m so exhausted on the weekends. Way too tired to exercise.

But not too tired to sit on the deck and read. And there is that trampoline in the backyard. I can still join my youngest occasionally to get my heart rate up, to bounce and even flip – much to my husband’s horror

One day I’ll figure out a fitness strategy that’s all my own. But until then, I’ll keep jumping in on the family plan. I’m just glad we didn’t get that zip line.

Karen Schwartzkopf has her dream job as managing editor of RFM. Wife, mother, arts and sports lover, she lives and works in the West End with her family, including husband Scott, who not coincidentally is RFM’s creative director. You can read Karen’s take on parenting her three daughters – Sam, Robin, and Lindsey, also known as the women-children – in the Editor’s Voice.
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