by Julie Driver
On a warm Sunday this past summer, I found myself physically out-maneuvered by my three-year-old son. It stung.
I watched him run up a slide, dart right at the top, spinning on his heel and leaping down a “fireman’s pole” before cheering triumphantly. I followed him confidently, only managing halfway up the slide before I slid back down humiliatingly. I spent the rest of the day determined to get to the top of that slide. And I did succeed—eventually!
That day made me realize the importance of adults wanting to join in with their children, but more importantly being able to. When an adult goes for a run in the park, it’s not in the same way a child does. Children constantly change directions, they zig-zag, they zag-zig, they run circles around you!
It’s their agility, their ability to instantly change their course, that we lose as grownups. We don’t chase or evade capture from an imaginary monster/bear. We lose the essence of play, the ability to squat while building a Lego tower, to roll across the lawn, and to feel the sheer joy and achievement of movement.
Do the following exercises two to three times a week to help bring back the child in you; you can even do them with your kids (see “Kids Cue!” throughout). Because don’t forget, it’s our job to lead by example, inspiring our kids to keep moving. It’s a jungle gym out there, indeed.
ROLLING LIKE A BALL
Purpose: massages the spine while improving balance
Setup: Sit on the edge of a mat, with your knees bent into your chest while holding the front of your ankles. Focus your gaze on your navel, rounding your spine into a C shape, making your body into as small of a “ball” as possible. Lift your feet and balance just behind your tailbone.
1. Inhale, rolling backward onto your shoulders, maintaining the ball shape.
2. Exhale, rolling back to the starting position without allowing your toes to touch the mat. Do 5–6 reps.
Tips: Stay in as small of a shape as possible. Avoid rolling onto your neck. Change the breathing pattern if it feels simpler.
KIDS CUE! Imagine that you’re in a bubble that you can’t pop when you roll.
SWAN DIVE PREP
Purpose: strengthens the back of the body while opening the hips and front of the spine
Setup: Lie facedown, with your hands next to your shoulders, elbows bent and legs slightly wider than your hips and lengthening away from the crown of your head. Make sure your pelvis is as level as possible to avoid twisting your spine.
1. Inhale, lifting your head and spine, allowing the front of your hips to lift while grounding through your pubic bone.
2. Exhale, articulating your spine back down, imagining that you’re creating length along the front body.
Tips: Think of lengthening your forehead away from your pubic bone to open the front of your body.
KIDS CUE! Imagine that you’re a snake rearing up from your nest to scare away a tiger!
ONE-LEGGED SPINE CURL
Purpose: helps to mobilize the spine; strengthens the back of the legs for climbing (When you’re climbing a tree, a rope or a climbing frame, you need to push from your legs, not just pull with your arms!)
Setup: Lie on your back, with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor and spine/pelvis in neutral.
1. Inhale, lifting your right leg as close to 90 degrees as possible without allowing your pelvis to shift.
2. Exhale, tilting your pelvis toward the mat, and lift your spine bone by bone until you reach the tips of your shoulder blades.
3. Inhale, maintaining the height in your spine.
4. Exhale, rolling down bone by bone, reaching the big toe of your right foot toward the ceiling. Do 3–5 reps on each side.
Tip: Keep your hip bones level as you peel your spine away from the mat, being careful not to twist.
KIDS CUE! Imagine that your leg is the mast on a ship, and as you lift your spine, you’re raising your sails.
Purpose: challenges spine and shoulder stability
Setup: Get into Plank, with your hands underneath your shoulders and toes tucked under. Make sure that your body is in a diagonal line from ankle to knee to hip to shoulder.
1. Inhale, lifting your right foot without twisting your pelvis.
2. Exhale, pressing your left heel into the mat, and then rock back forward onto the ball of your foot.
3. Lower your right foot, and check the alignment of your spine and pelvis before repeating on your other leg. Do 3–5 reps.
Tips: Keep your hips level as you raise your leg. Make sure that your head stays lifted “on the end of the spine”—and isn’t hanging toward the floor.
KIDS CUE! Imagine that there is a grape under your heel that you want to squash in step 2.