Texas Round-Up: Family-friendly fitness Training and nutrition tips for busy moms

Keep your training or exercise program consistent. Realize that fitness is a lifestyle change, not just a one-time event.
As an Austin-based personal trainer, running coach and elite-distance runner, I'm familiar with the challenges most of us face as we try to balance careers, personal health and family life. Most of my clients are busy moms, and I see how these challenges impact them as they're pulled in so many different directions, while trying to keep themselves and their families happy and healthy.

Over the years many of these women have become good friends, bonded by our commitment to fitness and nutrition, and our determination to pass these values on to children. Fitness should be a family affair; good exercise habits start with an example set by the parents and they are easily picked up by our kids.

One of the most family-friendly fitness programs in Texas is the Texas Round-Up. The Texas Round-Up began in 2004 as a progressive statewide fitness initiative to help people become active and more physically fit by motivating adults and kids to incorporate exercise into their daily lives.

Through an online activity tracking program, available at www.texasroundup.org, the Texas Round-Up provides a simple tool for beginning and experienced athletes alike to keep a visual record of their activity. Then on April 28-29, 2006, the Texas Round-Up culminates in a Texas-sized fitness festival at the State Capitol in Austin.

The festival includes a Health and Fitness Expo, 5K run/walk, 10K run/walk, Family Mile, live music, health screenings and more. It's a day for families to come together and celebrate good health and fitness. The Texas Round-Up is one of the truly great events that has made Texas one of the most runner-friendly states in the country.

But I know that for many beginners, being out in front of people and running -- or even walking -- can be intimidating at first. Plus, just getting into shape can be a challenge, especially for busy moms. To make exercise and healthy eating simple and fun, I've developed some training and nutrition tips that work for everyone, but are especially useful for busy moms.

Training tips

Be realistic in your fitness commitment
How much time can you commit to your exercise program? I encourage moms to make the most of their free time or "me" time, so make it count! If a client sets a goal, most tend to stick to their programs (running a road race, competing in a triathlon or joining a Masters swim program or class). Joining a specific training group or class tends to keep clients in a regular training routine; it's also a great way to widen your circle of friends with similar goals and interests.

Stay consistent
Keep your training or exercise program consistent. When starting out, realize that fitness is a lifestyle change, not just a "one-time event." Make an aerobic exercise appointment a minimum of four to five times a week for at least 40-60 minutes in duration. Additionally, engage in strength training one to two times a week, combined with yoga or Pilates to keep your program balanced. Depending on your fitness level, these recommendations vary in duration and intensity.

Keep it fun
Busy moms are always pressed for time, therefore it's ideal to combine exercise with social time away from family. Many of my clients and friends treasure their training times, whether it's running together or lifting weights in the gym. This "girl time" allows fellow moms to communicate and share the highlights and challenges of their worlds, and usually builds a workout fellowship while getting in shape.

Nutritional tips

Take care of you first
The old saying that 'breakfast is the most important meal of the day' is true. It's also important for mothers to prepare their food first and satisfy their hunger with nutritious meals before they're tempted to indulge in unhealthy snacks.

This philosophy may seem selfish, but when busy moms take care of the kids' nutritional needs first, they often end up snacking on unhealthy scraps. By the time the children's food is prepared, mom is full or unwilling to prep another meal. So, prepare your food first and everyone's nutritional needs will be satisfied.

Eat whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible
Treat yourself to "whole foods" when you're on the run, not processed foods. Take advantage of healthy convenience snacks such as pre-washed and cut produce, bulk food including nuts and grains and health food or organic snacks. Try to designate a shopping day for food and plan your meals for the week. Always have food in your car and your purse and put healthy snacks such as fruit, nuts, trail mix and whole grain breads in the kids' backpacks. If children are denied the option to choose unhealthy foods, they tend to eat what's available.

Keep hydrated
It's important to stay hydrated year round. The more active you are, the more you sweat, increasing the need to replace the body's vital fluids. You can replenish your body with an energy drink or with good old-fashioned water, which is the best choice. Keep bottled water in your car, bag, purse and backpack to refresh your body. For moms who train early in the morning and then rush home to get the kids ready for school, I recommend two rules: Make time for breakfast and drink plenty of water before indulging in morning coffee.

You set the example: Training and diet tips for kids
Parents set examples for their children throughout their lives, so don't leave your kids at home on race day. While training for a race or an event, encourage the children to come out for support. The Texas Round-Up is an ideal opportunity to involve the entire family in a fitness experience that will stay with them for life.

Technology is amazing, but as parents we need set limits on sedentary, indoor activities. When society is struggling with adolescent obesity and diabetes, it's important to take advantage of community parks and recreational facilities. Make a commitment as a family to engage in an activity every weekend and let your kids be involved in the decision to select the activity or outing.

Keep it fun
Many moms who have younger kids plan "play dates" at different locations where their kids can be active. Play dates allow children to socialize and interact with each other, while moms get some much-needed adult time with friends.

For more information about specific training guidelines and programs or to learn about and join the Texas Round-Up, visit www.texasroundup.org.

Cassandra Henkiel is an Austin-based, ACE-Certified Personal Trainer, running coach, and elite-distance runner.

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