Friday, December 23, 2005

Raising Kids Is Serious Exercise 

When I was younger, I used to work out at the gym on a regular basis. Then, of course, I had kids, and I learned that while the gym is a good workout, raising kids is serious exercise.

For awhile, I didn't give up on the idea of someday getting back to the gym. But it didn't really happen, even for the year that I was a paid up member at a local club. Raising kids was just too much exercise to get any exercise.

But this year, I finally figured out how I would get back in shape. I started with a little dieting, but that wasn't enough. I needed some serious exercise. So naturally, I turned to my kids.

The first thing in any serious exercise program is to stretch. This I remembered from my days at the gym.

Thanks kids. It feels so good to stretch out all those calcified joints and ligaments.

Once everything is all stretched out (I'll wait if you're following along) it's time for a few simple warmup exercises. I like to start with pullups.

I don't really want to tell you precisely how many I do -- it's a trade secret. Suffice it to say, it's marginally better than nothing.

Then after the pullups, a few pushups help build strong triceps:

When you're really trying to max out on the pushups, it's good to have someone to help you out, to give you encouragement and moral support, to say things like "Do it again Abba, that was fun!" and "Don't stop there! Ema (mother) did TONS more than that!" If you can resist the initial urge to snarl "Get off my back!" it can really help draw out your maximum effort.

Once I'm warmed up, I like to move on to the weight exercises. Since we did pushups for the triceps, it's important to stress the concept of balance by doing some curls for the biceps. Remember in weight training that you want to start with a lower weight and then work your way up from there. That's why I start with a few sets of my youngest, Miriam:

Be careful when doing the curls not to knock the thumb out of your weight's mouth -- with all the resulting squirming you could easily pull a back muscle. Safety first!

Once I've done a few curls and my body is ready for some heavier weights, I move on to the glamour exercises, namely, bench presses for the chest muscles. Again, it's important to start with a few sets at a lower weight, for instance, seven year old Tamar:

Once you've finished that set, you should step the weight up a notch. Weight-lifters call this increase-the-weight technique "pyramiding" for some obscure reason probably having to do with dead bodies buried under heavy weights. For me, I find that eight year old Rachel is a nice step up -- she's actually almost nine so it's not as easy as it sounds:

If your muscles aren't starting to shake and your kids aren't a little nervous at this point then you're really not pushing it enough -- go back and give me another set. But once your muscles are on the edge of incapacity it's time for your "killer set," the apex of your pyramid. They say, "you only get out of it what you put into it" and that is so true. So "feel the burn" and grind out one last set at your peak weight. My killer set is a Rachel and a Tamar together:

Don't worry if you feel like you've hit the wall, we'll have your kids clean it up later. And if you're not sweating by this point, then you're just not feeding your kids enough. But that's ok because we end the workout with some cardiovascular work which is guaranteed to get those sweat glands pumping. And your heart too. Start out with a few sets on the stairmaster:

Remember that posture is crucial. You want to do these sets until your heart rate is nearing your exercise threshold (consult your physician) or until your kids get bored.

Then move on to some aerobic dancing:

Lastly, of course, we can't forget the abdominals. I'd love to show you how my kids help me with my abs, but it doesn't really photograph too well. What they do is say things like:

Abba, I want you to know that it's ok with me that you're fat, or Abba, you're the best because you have a big belly.

At those moments, I immediately drop to the floor and do a set of crunches. Then I call the kids over. "Kids! Somebody climb up on Abba's back, we're going to work out now!"

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