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5 ways to make sports a family affair

Competitive cyclist and co-founder of the Ride for Karen, Kirk Tobias, shares five ways to encourage your family to get active

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family cycling sports bike

A family of cyclists

At 11 a.m. on a Saturday morning in July, Liberty Tobias (11) and her sister Brooklyn (7) are standing outside a bakery in King City, Ontario, clutching pamphlets for the Ride for Karen, a charity bike ride in memory of their grandmother who died of breast cancer at age 53.

The bakery is the rest stop for the weekend training ride favoured by the girls’ dad Kirk, a competitive cyclist and co-founder of the Ride for Karen, along with his brother, Kris. The annual fundraiser helps to send children with cancer to camp. As the pack of 100 cyclists arrive at the bakery, the sisters run circles around the bikes, handing out information and chatting with the riders. When the pack races off again, the two girls and their mom, Paula, hop on their bikes and head home to wait for dad. He’ll return in an hour to join them on a more leisurely bike ride, with a stop at the local ice cream shop as the reward.  For the Tobiases, cycling is a family affair.

With daily newspaper articles warning of rising obesity childhood rates and the health dangers of desk jobs, the need for regular exercise is common knowledge, yet that doesn’t always translate into an active lifestyle. If you’re among those who need no encouragement and have found a sport you love, getting a significant other, or your child, to join in the fun can be the way for you to inspire your loved ones to get active and stay healthy.

Kirk Tobias agrees. “I believe a big reason my girls love to ride their bikes is because they see how happy I am when I ride – and how proud I am of them when they accomplish their own cycling goals, whether that is participating in a charity ride or just committing to riding to school.”

As an elite cyclist, husband and dad Kirk offers five ways to help encourage family to join you in the sport you love:

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active famiy jogging

1. Start small

If you love to run and your spouse loves the couch, do encourage him to join you but don’t take him out for a 10k on day one, even if he insists he can do it. “You want to ensure that the early experiences with the sport are positive ones. Finishing a long run will might make your partner feel great right when it is finished-but feel awful when he tries to get out of bed the next morning.”

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tandem bike

2. Level the playing field

Make it fair so that everyone involved feels like they can win. “I know a couple who love cycling together. But when they met, he raced and she was a recreational rider, so no matter how much she rode, she could never come close to her boyfriend’s speed, and she found it discouraging. The solution was a tandem bike, which meant they could both put in maximum effort while staying together on the road. They’ve been happily riding a tandem together for 12 years now.”

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couple running outdoors

3. Don’t show off

If one of you is better at something than the other, save the fancy moves for days you are on your own. “Don’t sprint ahead to the finish just so that you can say you ‘won’ the run. Don’t return a great serve just to prove how great your backhand is. And don’t sing while climbing a hill on your bike if your partner is struggling behind you. Be a good sport.”

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women running

4. Make it (lightly) competitive

This might sound contradictory to the previous advice, but many people are motivated by some good friendly competition, whether it’s the race to the end of the block, or a challenge for who can do the most sit ups in a week or who can hold the plank position the longest. The key to success? “Keep it fun and make the goals achievable for everyone involved, no matter their age.”

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family biking

5. Have fun!

“Kids are not interested in things like heart rate levels. Kids are interested in riding their bikes to the toy store, the ice cream store, or the movies. Some parents may not agree with this approach, considering it a form of bribery, but you’ll get some exercise and the kids will have a good time, which will motivate them for another ride.”

The Ride for Karen takes place in Vaughan, Ontario, on September 8, 2013.

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