by Rebecca Alwine
Spring has sprung and military families around the world are bursting out of their houses, ready to embrace the season. Here in Southern Arizona spring brings winds and the heat gradually increases as we edge towards summer. My friends on the East Coast look forward to longer days, warmer temperatures, and the decreasing chance of snow. Overseas, spring brings the promise of exotic vacations and green grass, and military families around the world look forward to a summer of moves.
Some of my favorite spring memories are outside with my siblings and my parents spending time in the green grass. Watching soccer games, playing outside, and looking forward to the last days of school. As my children are growing older every day, I want to put an emphasis on their health as well as the fun things we can do in the spring.
Four years ago, we began a tradition of participating in the Spartan Race. The first year, my husband and I did the Spartan Sprint and both kids participated in the Junior Spartan half-mile obstacle course. Abigail was just 3 and Declan was 5 and they had so much fun. That year they also participated in a 1 mile fun run through the elementary school. They had so much fun exercising and being outside, and it was even more fun to watch them.
When their father wanted to do the Spartan again in 2015, I encouraged him (from the sidelines, once was enough for me) the kids demanded I register them for their race as well. When Declan learned to ride his bicycle without training wheels, he wanted to know if there were any duathlons he could participate in. The kids love to be active and there is really no reason they shouldn’t be. Here are some ideas on how to get into the swing of an active family lifestyle this spring.
Soccer, T-Ball, and Track, oh my! Spring sports are a great way for families to get and stay active. On most installations, soccer begins at age 4 and there is always a need for coaches and extra parents for help corralling those littles. Depending on the local community outside the gates, there may be several additional options. In our small town, there are even intramural sports for adults. And let’s not forget the Commander’s Cup year-long sports competition. There is something for everyone!
Family bike rides can be really enjoyable. While I’m not a huge biker, my children love their bikes. I encourage them to ride daily now that the weather is turning warmer. My eldest loves to ride his bike to school each day, and my middle is starting to outgrow her training wheels. The baby likes to watch the big kids do everything! My husband spent our first six months here riding his bicycle to and from work. I’m so happy when I say, “Let’s walk to the mailbox or the park,” and the kids respond with, “Can we ride our bikes?” Exercise and fun all in one!
Playgrounds & Parks
Playgrounds and parks are a parent’s best friend! It’s an easy place to have a playdate, with no required preparation or cleanup. If you’re lucky, you have one within walking distance and a trip to the park can double as a nice walk. A few years ago, friends put together a playground passport idea, with plans to explore all the playgrounds and parks in the area. Some even have splash pads or other fun additions to break up the monotony of swings and monkey bars. Make a list of your local parks, especially those you haven’t been to yet, and hit a new one each week.
Mountains are not required for a good hike. Anywhere there is a trail (paved or rugged) is the perfect place to start. Kids can run ahead, or around in circles, or even ride their bikes if the land is flat enough. Hikes are a great (usually free!) alternative to movies, bowling, or even lunch out. Pack a picnic basket, hunt for certain flowers, birds, or plants, or race back to the car when you’re done. Don’t forget, National Parks issue a pass for military service members and their families, so admission shouldn’t be an issue with the park system.
In some parts of the country, it’s warm enough for outdoor swimming. In those colder states, an indoor pool would certainly do the trick. I’d even consider a night in a hotel with a heated, indoor pool for a change of scenery. Kids love the water and adults love how it tires out the kids! Visit your local YMCA and check out the membership discounts and opportunities for your military family. There are so many ways to engage your children, family, and friends in to an active spring season. It’s hard to get motivated when it’s cold and snowy, but there are so many ways to change it up. Snowshoes, skiing, even shoveling those feet of snow (Hi, Fort Drum!) can be a fun family activity. What I think is most important is showing your family that both fitness and family time are a priority, and the easiest way to do that is by showing them. What ways do you spend active time together?
—Rebecca Alwine is a freelance writer currently living in Arizona. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @rebecca_alwine and on her website: www.whatrebeccathinks.com