By Leo Babauta
I’m a big subscriber to using whatever you can find to work out: pullups on trees, throw big boulders, flip logs or big tires, jump over things, sprint up hills (see Minimalist Fitness, part 1 & part 2).
As a parent and a minimalist, I’d like to share my ultimate minimalist workout secret: my kids are my gym.
Fellow parents, if you’re not doing this yet, I can’t recommend it highly enough. How are they my gym? Instead of paying hundreds of dollars (even thousands) a year for a gym, I use my kids to get in shape.
How? Every way I can, but here’s a few:
- I carry them on my shoulders as we walk around town.
- We race each other to the corner, sprinting. Often up hills.
- I do pushups with them on my back.
- I lift them up in the air — it’s like lifting weights.
- I’ll let them hang on me as I do chinups.
- We climb and jump around in the playground.
- We play with the soccer ball — getting lots of sprints in as we do.
- We jump around in the ocean. A great workout.
- We wrestle.
- We challenge each other to do pistols (one-legged squats) or handstand pushups (what they sound like). Mostly we can’t, but it’s fun.
- We do lunges while walking up a hill.
- I carry them slung across my shoulders — a fireman’s carry — which is a great workout btw.
- I’ll carry one on my back, piggy-back style, while racing another kid up a hill. Yes, I love hills.
Awesomer than a gym
So why is this so awesome?
1. We bond. Instead of spending time away from the kids at a gym, I spend time with them. And get a great workout in throughout the day. It’s two birds, one stone, saving time while helping me bond with my kids.
2. Work becomes play. It’s not exercise, it’s not a workout, it’s *play*. And that’s a whole different ballgame. Play is fun, it’s challenging, it’s easy, and yet it’s a great way to get in shape.
3. No cost. OK, kids aren’t cheap — but I have them anyway, so why not use them? I’m saving money and getting fit — that’s all kinds of win.
4. I’m being a role model. Kid learn most of all from what they see others doing, especially their parents. You can tell them things all day long, but unless they see you doing it, you’re not teaching them much. When we go to the gym, they don’t see us working out. When we workout as we play with them, they’re learning how to be healthy, and that is a gift that will last a lifetime.
5. It’s a lifestyle. I don’t work out at one time during the day, and then stay sedentary the rest of the day. It’s all throughout the day, every day, which means it’s woven into my life, not a small segment of my life. This is what a healthy lifestyle looks like.
6. It’s functional. When you do a bicep curl with a dumbbell, you’re making a motion that you never would do in real life — when have you ever lifted something heavy while keeping your upper arm fixed to your torso? Instead, when we lift heavy things, we bend at the knees, and use our legs, our torso, our shoulders, our arms — basically most of our body at once. When I lift my kids, that’s the same motion I’d use to lift anything else. Functional exercise is much more useful than isolated lifts.
Working out using my kids as equipment is the best thing I’ve done with my fitness. It’s fun, so I never want to stop. It’s functional, it’s cheap, and best of all, I get to do it with my kids. I love it.