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Christina Edwards is a longtime runner and working mom of two. Since Stay at Home began in mid-March in the Austin area due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, Edwards and her husband have focused on balancing the family’s daily workouts with their children’s online schooling, all while continuing to work full-time from home.

The Edwards children—West, who is eight years old and in second grade, and Wynne, who is six and in kindergarten—attend Davis Elementary in northwest Austin. When school was still in session, they ran with the Davis Marathon Kids run club, and they have kept their running habits going since Stay at Home began.

“My kids are running five days a week,” says Edwards. “I tell them they need to take at least two days off, so they’ve been averaging about 10 miles a week.” West is largely self-motivated, thanks to his innate love of running. Wynne started running mainly because big brother was doing it. “My daughter is very stubborn,” Edwards says, “and wanted to prove she could hang with us for two to three miles.”

Parents Can Set a Good Example

“We never pushed our kids to run,” Edwards says, “but they saw us running and biking, as I do triathlons and have run a couple of marathons since West was born. He is obsessed with Usain Bolt, even though he considers himself an endurance runner.”

Earlier in elementary school, West kept asking his parents if he could run more. He even wanted to join a running club, says Edwards, “but we were not sure if it was just a fleeting thing. After begging for a year, and doing a lot of research—we found that a lot of running clubs that cater to kids are either very serious or too far of a commute with less than ideal hours for two working parents—we reached out to Austin Youth Fitness about starting a run club at Davis. Our PE Teacher and the AYF founder, Larry Chauvin, were amenable, and we got a run club started.”

They needed a minimum of 10 kids to make it happen. Fortunately, West wasn’t the only kid at school who was excited to join a run club. “There was plenty of interest, and I think the first run that started this past winter was at capacity with 26 kids!”

Building Up Mileage, One at a Time

Soon, West was covering two to three miles a day at recess with a couple of friends. “They use a scan card to run at recess and track the laps,” says Edward. At times, West has been at the top of the Davis mileage board, while at other times he’s fallen to fifth or sixth place. Now that the school has closed, she says, West’s PE teacher is allowing him to track his mileage from home. “He went back to first place in terms of mileage completed during this homeschool period.”

Even during the first couple of weeks of Stay at Home, when the Edwards family hadn’t yet started tracking the children’s miles, West was running almost every day. “His goal when he started was nine marathons, because that was the most the top runner ran last year at Davis.” The family started tracking mileage sometime during the second or third week of distance-learning, and in the weeks since, West has exceeded his own goal. “In total, he has run 11 marathons,” reports his mom—and counting.

Physical Activity Is Important, Especially During Trying Times

“Since we started staying at home,” Edwards says, “I have encouraged the kids to stay active because it is healthy and burns some energy, as both kids are very high energy. My daughter has also learned how to ride a bike, so that has been really fun. The kids tend to run early in the morning, around 6:30 or 7 a.m., after my husband and I get our workouts in. Then we’ll bike during the day, and if it’s a nice evening, we’ll go for a neighborhood bike or scooter ride, or walk our dog, Kona. It’s a great way to get out of the house and move a bit, since we obviously are not participating in our normal activities as we did pre-pandemic.”

Staying active has been especially important since Stay at Home began, Edwards says, “as it helps us maintain a routine that the kids were already used to before, since they would run regularly at school and on the weekends. Now, it gives us fresh air and a way to get out of the house regularly, and it is a great bonding activity. Beyond that, it continues to provide the physical and mental health benefits we need, especially during this time.”

Physical activity has always been important to Edwards, and is even more so now. “I have always been very active. I think, growing up, it was a good outlet for extra energy, but also to work out my emotions. Whether that is just leveraging a physical outlet or taking time to think through or problem-solve personal and work problems—for some reason, when I’m active, it gives me a different perspective.” She also appreciates running for other important life lessons. “Running itself teaches work ethic—set a goal, put in the work, and you can achieve it—and mental strength. Even when something is uncomfortable or isn’t easy, you keep on going.”

Tricks for Staying Motivated

On those days when running feels tougher than usual, Edwards has a couple of tricks up her sleeve to keep West and Wynne engaged. “For my kids, we have them run different animal speeds—for example, ocean animals: Starfish is walking, dolphin is jogging, and sailfish is sprinting. Or I will give them a goal to focus on: Run from here to the next mailbox.”

For herself, when she needs motivation to keep moving, she uses repetition to trick her brain into pushing through the difficulty. “I count to 100 on repeat, or repeat a song lyric stuck in my head over and over. Sometimes they’re kids’ songs!”

Watching her son develop his joy for running has been especially rewarding for Edwards. “We really didn’t push him to do it, but coming from a family of recreational runners, it has been great to see him pick up a healthy interest and stick with it. I think it has instilled confidence and taught him about intrinsic motivation, which I find a really important characteristic to develop, as well as discipline. It also helps get him ready for his day, as it is part of his routine.”

Adjusting to the New Stay-at-Home Lifestyle

“It definitely took a while to get a routine in place,” says Edwards, “with homeschool and both my husband and I working full-time. Both my kids have always responded better to understanding expectations ahead of time versus not really knowing what is going to happen, so when we first started staying at home with them, one of the first things I did was set a schedule that included active time, be it running, biking or just playing outdoors, as well as how much screen time they could have. I had to adjust it a lot based on what was working and what wasn’t, for the kids as well as for our work schedules.”

Before Stay at Home began, Edwards was used to rising by 4:30 a.m. to get a workout in before the kids woke up. The kids, for their part, were doing most of their running at school. “Now,” Edwards says, “I actually get to sleep in! I wake up around 5:30 during the week to work out.” The kids take turns choosing the route for their morning runs, and the whole family covers their miles together.

Seeing West’s evolving love of running has been fun for Edwards; she also loves seeing Wynne follow in her big brother’s footsteps. “My daughter is now just as motivated to run, and I think that is the case of big brother rubbing off. I love seeing her strength and determination to keep up with West, and her unabashed confidence that she has the ability to do anything she sets her mind to. It is really refreshing to see her mindset as she runs and stays active without any of the gender stereotype influences on her abilities and what brings her joy.”

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Looking for PE agility games to help you and your kids develop strength, speed, balance and bodily control? If so, you’re on a smart track. Agility is all about thinking fast under shifting conditions, and being quick and agile on your feet—important skills for people of all ages to develop in this modern and rapidly changing world. And we’ve got you covered!

Here are six fun PE agility games that you and your family can play at home, either indoors or outdoors. If your children play sports, they’ll definitely benefit from these activities—but everyone can benefit from increasing their facility with pivoting quickly, adapting to new conditions and heading in a different direction.

One of the best things about these games? Your kids won’t even realize they’re getting moderate to vigorous physical exercise as they play—they’re that much fun! If your children are school-aged, they might already be familiar with several of the following games—which means before you know it, they’ll be tweaking the rules and customizing the activities to make them even more dynamic.

Wacky Weave

Set out cones—or canned goods, stuffed animals or whatever else you have on hand—to create an obstacle course for kids to weave their way through. The closer together you place the cans or cones, the harder it is; the farther you place them apart, the easier it becomes (which can be an important adaptation for children who are younger, less balanced or less stable on their feet). Use a stopwatch to time their progress so each kid can compete against themselves, trying to best their own times. They can also dribble or kick a ball through the course for added challenge.

Agility Ladder

Set up your own agility ladder by marking off squares in a line indoors with masking tape or with chalk on the driveway or sidewalk. Then let children determine their own activities and rules: Will they hop on one foot in each square, or alternate feet while skipping every other square? Will they hop into the first square on both feet, the second square on just their left foot, and so on? Kids love making up their own sequences. You’ll be amazed at how many different ways they can figure out to use a simple ladder drawn on the ground!

Crazy Hoops

Set out colored hula hoops or use different colors of sidewalk chalk to draw large circles on the driveway, and have children jump from one circle to the next according to the colors called out by the leader. If you have several children playing at once who are all of similar abilities, you can mix it up (and make it competitive) by seeing who can process directions and leap into the right circle first. The last one in must jump rope or do pushups on the sidelines for the next round.

Fit-Tac-Toe

This game can be played as a warm-up or as the main event, and there are many different ways to structure it. Set out hula hoops in the pattern of a tic-tac-toe grid (three rows of three), or use chalk or tape to mark out a large tic-tac-toe grid on the ground. Children can play a traditional tic-tac-toe relay game by forming two lines a certain distance away from the grid. Each line is a team, and everyone on a team is given a shirt, bean bag or whatever items you have on hand, all of the same color. The first players from each line run to the grid, drop their items into their chosen section of the grid and then run back, so the next players can take their turns. It’s also fun to play a rousing game of fit-tac-to by giving kids set activities to perform, depending on which section of the grid they choose to run to—such as hopping, doing lunges, doing pushups, dancing or performing high-kicks.

Jump the Noodle

Children can play this in pairs or groups with a pool noodle: One holds the noodle close to the ground and swipes it back and forth, while the other players try to jump over it a set number of times without touching the noodle. The person holding the noodle can choose to speed it up, make it choppy, or otherwise switch things up so the jumpers must think quickly on their feet.

Sneak Attack

This game works best with several players, and requires at least three. Two or more players hold hands, facing one another, while one player outside the circle darts around, trying to grab a scarf (or colored shirt, stuffed animal or other item) that is tucked into one of the circle players’ back pockets. The players forming the circle together try not to drop hands as they twist and pivot together, turning the scarf-bearer away in order to protect the precious item. This activity builds teamwork skills along with agility—and, of course, it gives everyone a fit of the giggles.

More Free Resources

ABOUT MARATHON KIDS

Marathon Kids is on a mission to get kids moving. The nonprofit organization offers free physical education programming through Marathon Kids Connect, a cloud-based PE and run club management platform that includes a mobile app for digital activity-tracking. 

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For many, January is a traditional time for setting fresh health and wellness goals to improve their lives in the new year. So, why not up your game in 2019? Marathon Kids running clubs aren’t just for schools—they’re for anyone and everyone, including families that want to get and stay healthy together! If you’re looking for a way to be active with your family, why not start your own Marathon Kids at Home running club? Setup is quick, easy and affordable, and the benefits of regular running or walking with your kids are immeasurable.

Meet the Trammel Family

Take it from Katara Trammel, a Kempner, Texas, mother, teacher and mentor at The Homeschool Mommy. Trammel first learned about Marathon Kids when her son, Jermal Jr., attended Taylor Creek Elementary for kindergarten. “Jermal Jr. loved running with the Marathon Kids program,” Trammel says — so much so that she decided to incorporate his new passion into their family’s summer activities as well as their home school curriculum. “I love the fact that it allows us to spend quality time doing a physical activity outside,” Trammel says, “and that it eliminates the want for screen time.”

Marathon Kids at Home

The Importance of Staying Active Together as a Family

Before Marathon Kids came along, the Trammels were already used to being active together as a family. For years they have enjoyed mountain biking, road cycling, hiking and gardening together, and they love playing sports like volleyball and football as a family, or simply playing on teams with Nerf toys. They also do taekwondo and jujitsu together. “We love anything that raises our heart rates for at least 30 to 45 minutes,” Trammel says. “The key is to always have fun!”

Trammel believes that maintaining physical health helps to promote mental health. She reports that doing something physically active helps improve her son’s mood before it’s time to start his schoolwork for the day. “Running, walking or riding his bike really allows Jermal Jr. to come inside and start our school work eager and focused.”

She feels that the importance of staying active as a family is about even more than just the physical and mental health benefits. “Believe it or not,” she says, “being active together is a time when we learn and share with each other. Even in the midst of fun, our children will talk about things that are happening in their day-to-day life. They can ask questions or just feel comfortable to make jokes and be silly — just be kids. It definitely beats having every conversation only at dinner or in a structured environment!”
Marathon Kids at Home

Advice for Other Families Wanting to be Active Together 

Here is Trammel’s advice for other families that are hoping to add more physical activity into their family time: “As a parent, don’t be afraid to get out there. Even starting with a family walk is a great beginning, and you can build up from there.” She encourages families to focus on making it fun for everyone, such as by conducting a scavenger hunt or playing I Spy along your walking or running route.

“Be encouraging throughout the activity,” she says, “even if it’s just a fast walk from mailbox to mailbox or doing a shuttle run/walk in the driveway.” (Shuttle runs are a fun interval activity that involves setting up markers at short, regular distances, such as 10 meters apart. Runners run from the starting line to the closest marker, where they touch the ground before returning to the starting line. Then they run to the next closest marker, touch the ground there, and return again, and so on.)

Trammel’s final advice for developing a lasting healthy habit as a family? “Plan it. Put it on the calendar! When we write it down and everyone in the family knows, someone tends to remind the family, and it keeps us all accountable. Kids get excited about fun activities with the ones they love!”

Ready to Start Your Own Family Run Club? 

kids run club

Families that participate in Marathon Kids at Home work together to reach a total of 104.8 miles — the equivalent of four marathons. By tracking their progress as a group, one walking or running mile at a time, families establish healthy habits together and discover that they can achieve more than they ever thought possible.

Marathon Kids provides the framework, resources and rewards, and each Marathon Kids at Home family takes it from there, determining their own schedule, pace and method of movement. Running, walking, skipping, strolling, taking the dogs around the block — it all counts!

Marathon Kids at Home registration is just $20 per participant (shipping and handling included; parents can choose whether to pay for the whole family or only for the children). The registration fee includes four Nike incentives — one for each 26.2 miles achieved. Have questions? Reach out to programs@marathonkids.org — or simply register your family and start logging miles today!

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Shelly Fisher gave Marathon Kids at Home a try, as a homeschool P.E. curriculum bonus for her 10-year-old son. Read about their experience, getting active together on the sidewalks of their neighborhood!

Marathon Kids at Home family as homeschool curriculum The author with her son and their homeschool mascot, Lucy.

When our Marathon Kids at Home package arrived, I was a little surprised that confetti didn’t shoot out of our mailbox. My son and I both were more than a little excited about the addition to our homeschool schedule.

My ten-year-old already participates in a P.E. co-op once a week and plays baseball for our local youth league, but this was something different entirely!   The Marathon Kids program would serve as an organized fitness break during our school day and offer us something more than just running and playing in our backyard with our puppy and school mascot, Lucy.

The unassuming Marathon Kids at Home bag yielded goal charts, a program guide and drum roll… PRIZES. And not just any prizes, these prizes were from NIKE!

Marathon Kids at Home incentives for homeschool P.E. run clubs Nike incentives included in the Marathon Kids at Home kit.

I eyed the 26.2 marathon shirts and said, “Hey! We can wear these today for our kick-off!” Seconds later, his nose buried in the guide and eyebrows peeking over the top at me, my son said, “No, Mom. We have to earn those. You have to run your first marathon, which is 26.2 miles.” Armed with this new knowledge and a sudden jolt of whopping competitive spirit, I said, “Hey, let me see that!”

A quick perusal of the guide summed up everything we needed to get started: mileage logs, warm-ups, cool-downs, running tips, session cards, games, certificates and so much more!

First Step of Our First Marathon

We quickly mapped out our neighborhood. The route was super familiar for both of us, but now it had a purpose, a goal, a mission. We saw each cul-de-sac as one semi-circle closer to our goal and our super cool 26.2 t-shirts.

It seemed only fitting that our kick-off occurred on the same sidewalk where my son pulled his wagon and rode his fire engine, tricycle, motorized tractor, bike, skates, and scooter. (I totally plan to have him pop the curb in his first car so that I can get a picture of his first real wheels on the stretch of concrete outside our home.) Armed with our walking (me) and running (him) shoes, we took the very first step of our first marathon. It was a beautiful day and the sun shone through the trees to dapple the sidewalk ahead of us. My son waved at me from the cross streets as he happily jogged our neighborhood.

Then, life happened…

In addition to being a homeschool mom and full-time teacher, I teach at our son’s co-op and I am a real estate agent. I was frustrated to find that when our full schedule pushed in on us, our Marathon Kids program was the first item to drop off our list. I began evaluating what we as family valued and invested our time in on a daily basis.

Like all moms and dads, I am constantly seeking balance for our family, but I have recently learned that balance doesn’t mean that all things get equal time and attention. It means that the important things get more time and somehow that resolves all the little stuff. God has blessed our family greatly in so many ways and I am learning to find joy in the crazy unplanned days as well as the rare “hey-today-happened-just-like-I-planned” day. And guess what? Because we value our health and fun times together, Marathon Kids found its way back into our lives!

Life is a Marathon

Please forgive the cliché, but life is not a sprint, it truly is a marathon. Marathon Kids came into my life just as I was learning this within my family! If we miss a day of running, it’s okay. Our running shoes are still by the door and they’ll be there tomorrow and the next day and the next day. It’s not a “do it perfectly, or forget it” kind of program, and neither is life for that matter.

Your health and your family’s health are a lifelong pursuit and Marathon Kids is just the program to get you moving and KEEP you moving.

And… did I mention there are prizes from NIKE?!

Thank you, Marathon Kids, for bringing balance and perspective to our lives and a whole new way to view our neighborhood sidewalks!

Want to sign your family up to try Marathon Kids at Home? Head over here!

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Lace up and get ready to go! It’s almost 2018 – have you thought about your resolutions for the new year? Start 2018 on the right (or left) foot by getting the whole family up and moving.

3 great reasons to get your family moving

1.       Here’s your chance to show your kids that the holidays aren’t only about gifts and cookies.

2.       By this stage of winter break, everyone in the family has exhausted all of the apps on the iPad and they’re looking for something new to do.

3.       For a limited time, Marathon Kids at Home is available for HALF PRICE!!

Marathon Kids at Home, now just $10

With the Marathon Kids at Home program, parents can take their family on a 104.8-mile journey without going too far from home. One-quarter mile at a time, you and your kids will set goals, track miles, and learn how to fuel their bodies. They’ll earn rewards and watch you choose healthy behaviors, and those lessons will stick with them for life. Run around your neighborhood, a track at school or a local park and watch your progress. Honestly, a couple hours a week is all it takes.

What is included in the Marathon Kids at Home kit?

Register your family with Marathon Kids at Home, and you’ll receive the resources you need to get your family running, including a step-by-step set-up guide, Mileage Logs, Nike incentives including a t-shirt, online support, and more. For a limited time, you will get all of these items for just $10 per person (including shipping!).

Marathon Kids at Home kit – now just $10 per participant (a $20 value)!

Register your family for Marathon Kids at Home

If you’re ready to sign up, follow these easy steps and save today:

1.       CLICK HERE and click the “Register” button.

2.       Create an account via Google, Facebook, or email.

3.       Name your family’s Marathon Kids at Home group (it defaults to your email and “running club” title).

4.       Fill in name, age and t-shirt size for each paying participant (only list family members who want to receive the Nike incentives, including t-shirt).

5.       Check terms and agreements.

6.       Fill in billing details.

7.       Click on “Have a coupon? Click here to enter your code.”  Enter coupon code newyear18 (case sensitive) to save 50%!

8.       Click “apply coupon.”

9.       Place order.

That’s it! You’re ready to fly. This is a great opportunity to commit to get moving in the new year. Sign up today, and tell your friends!

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By Amy Spencer, Good Housekeeping Magazine

After a devastating loss, Rosie and Omar Gonzalez helped their motley crew bond by hitting the pavement.

The Gonzalez family is gathered on and around the sectional sofa in their living room. They explain that, in many ways, their clan is like the Brady Bunch. “Except we don’t have a maid!” quips matriarch Rosie. She and her husband, Omar, high-five as the six kids giggle. “We love that show!” the children shout.

Unfortunately, their story is no comedy — when Rosie’s brother died suddenly in 2012, his four youngest children moved into their aunt and uncle’s Los Angeles home. Rosie, 37, and Omar, 39, had two children of their own, Jasmine, now 17, and Omar Jr. (known as Junior), now 9. Nieces and nephews Alyssa, Jimmy III, Deanna and Nathan Hughes, ages 15, 14, 12 and 10 (plus Rosie’s dad, Jimmy Sr., 61) brought the head count to nine.

The other big difference? The Bradys didn’t run together regularly. The Gonzalezes have each pledged to cover over 100 miles — the equivalent of four marathons — this year.

Nathan, Omar Jr. and Deanna on a run at Arroyo Seco Trail in Pasadena in 2016.

They didn’t start off as a family of athletes. When Jasmine and Junior were small, graphic designer Omar and Rosie, a nurse for assisted-living patients, got caught up in work and parenting and didn’t make time to be active. Then, when the financial market crashed in 2008, Omar lost his job and became depressed. Over 10 years, Rosie gained about 30 pounds, and Omar gained 100. That was when he began running.

By 2009, Omar had found a new job, and running helped him emotionally and physically. “I started with a 5K race. Then I ran a 10K and a half marathon, and I lost over 100 pounds,” he says. Rosie joined him on some of his training runs — sort of. “I would run behind Omar. I struggled a lot because I have asthma,” she says, “but running helped me focus on my breathing pattern. I learned how to breathe differently, through my nose more than my mouth, and eventually no longer had to use my inhaler when I ran.” Over the next couple of years, she lost the 30 pounds she’d put on and found that her energy skyrocketed.

In September 2012, just when life felt as if it was back on track, Rosie’s brother died of a massive heart attack while driving. That very night Rosie and Omar moved their nieces and nephews into their home. “It was second nature,” says Rosie.

The cousins adore one another, but, says Rosie, “it’s been stressful,” with the chaos of bringing six kids to their various activities as well as the financial pressures. “They’re growing and there’s only so much clothing you can hand down,” Rosie says. To increase their earning potential, Rosie went back to school for her RN degree, and Omar began working on a business idea. Running became their thrice-weekly dose of sanity.

Then, in fall 2015, a message popped up on Omar’s Nike running app about Marathon Kids, a program that guides participants to complete four marathons’ worth of miles (with kids!) each season. “My eyes lit up,” says Omar. The kids were so busy with their own interests that the Gonzalezes weren’t exactly a cohesive unit. I thought this would be a way to get all the kids to start running and a great way to do something together,” Omar says.

They signed up with Marathon Kids, but Rosie was nervous at first. “That number, 104.8, sounds like a whole lot of miles!” she says. But they were soon hooked. Several days a week after school, a few of the kids do one or two miles in the neighborhood or take turns on the treadmill in the house. On Tuesday mornings, Rosie takes three of the children on a 1.5-mile course to school. And on weekends, Rosie and Omar take turns leading a run along a hiking trail, on the beach or while touring a cool new spot. When the pack returns, the kids race to the foyer to fill in their taped-up progress sheets (they log up to seven miles per week) with a shared blue marker. “Nathan and Junior and I fight over who gets the marker first!” says Deanna.

The system generates some healthy athletic competition as well. “I beat you running outside,” Rosie teases her nephew Jimmy. “Barely!” he responds. “That was a while ago. It will never happen again!” When the thought of kicking one another’s butts isn’t enough to get them lacing up, they find other motivations. “One day, I said, ‘Who wants to go get ice cream?’ ” says Omar, “and everyone was like, ‘I do!’ I said, ‘Okay … we’re gonna run there.’ ” Two miles later, they celebrated with something cold and creamy.

Generally, though, the built-in benefits of running are reward enough. Omar is at his high school weight now, and Rosie is close to hers. “I gotta run,” says Rosie. “If I’m putting myself first, I can better take care of everyone else.” The kids say the more stress Rosie leaves in the dust, the better off they all are. “She’s more calm,” says Jasmine. “And always on top of things,” adds Deanna. The kids, too, are converts. “It helps me in other sports, like basketball,” says Junior. “I’m more goal-oriented now,” adds Jasmine.

The biggest win? They now function as a team. “I see them motivating each other,” says

Rosie. “When we go for a run and Nathan’s complaining, Alyssa is like, ‘Come on Nathan, you can do it!’ and she’ll slow down to run with him.”

As they’re gathered close, talking and giggling, it’s clear how tight they are. “They’ve had such a hard life. It isn’t fair,” Rosie says, wiping away tears. “I just want them all to be happy.”

And are they? “Yeah,” the kids reply.

“That’s my goal, to keep them happy and moving forward,” says Rosie.

This story originally appeared in the March 2017 issue of Good Housekeeping.