I have a secret work-out weapon. It’s not a trainer, it’s not an extreme diet. It’s not a competitive running buddy.
No, the trick up my sleeve is three-foot tall and very loud.
It’s my daughter.
Our weird work-out alliance began completely accidentally. As a busy woman (is there any other kind?), there’s only one time of day that works for me to exercise, and it’s called Stupid O’ Clock. Uncomfortably, that’s also the time my daughter likes to get up.
One morning, as I tried to creep out of the house under the cover of darkness and silence, Matilda busted me.
‘Where are you going?’ she demanded. ‘And can I come?’
There’s nothing to say about the argument that followed that question, other than that it’s impossible to win a fight with a six-year-old when you are trying not to wake up your entire house.
And so, Matilda and I started running together.
Sydney weather conditions are no deterrent for us! Image: Supplied.
Now before you start wondering if I’ve birthed a prodigy, let’s get one thing straight - my idea of running and her idea of running are not the same.
A six-year-old’s idea of running is really, really fast, for a really, really short time. And my style? Plodding and long.
So as she dashes ahead of me, delighting in the speed of her feet, the feel of her body whooshing through the inky morning, she laughs and calls out to me and I swear under my breath and try to keep up.
Or she stops. Just stops dead to examine something suddenly fascinating on the street, or the sand. ‘What’s that mummy? Have you seen that lady, mummy, what’s she doing (yoga, Matilda, you should try it, it’s relaxing). Where are we going, mummy? How far? Run faster, mummy!!!’
Who needs Michelle Bridges, right?
It's important to get your kids playing outdoors as much as possible. Image: Supplied.
Yes, jogging with your six-year-old might seem a bit out-of-the-box, but when time with your kids is precious, and everyone's getting busier and bigger by the day, it pays to find things you can share that make you move AND make you laugh.
Apparently, mother-daughter bonding does not always have to happen at the shops. In fact, what happens at the shops is much more likely to be a mother-daughter bust-up.
So I'd rather:
I never seen the smile on my daughter's face like the one that spreads across it when she's in the water. And if you're in there with her, it's even wider. I don't know if we'll ever be cheering her on at the Olympics (who needs even earlier mornings in their life?) but I can already see that her love of being in the water is a life-long pleasure. In summer, we're hunting for crabs in the crevasses of the ocean pool. In winter we're shaking off the chlorine at our local club. Either way, she's moving, I'm moving, and the hot chocolate afterwards has never tasted so good.
You can't beat a day at the beach. Image: Supplied.
Climb a tree.
Why do we lose the love of scaling trees as we get older? It's good for the mind and body to shimmy your way up a knobbly bark. In our family, it's what we do when everyone's getting on each other's nerves after being cooped up at home, or on their screens too long. We head to the end of the street and pick out trees to scale. The kids love it, and if the branches are heavy enough, so do we.
Why do we lose the love of scaling trees as we get older? Image: Supplied.
Go for a bush walk.
Have you ever dragged an unwilling child along a trail in the bush, wondering why they're not enjoying the great outdoors as much as you are? Then you're doing it wrong. I worked out that my daughter will happily keep walking with me if I can keep her talking. Giving her things to spot and run ahead to find for us, short races with me, anything to keep her interested. I have no idea if one day she will love the outdoors as much as her Dad (and Mum, on a sunny day), but for now, bushwalking and talking with my girl has formed the base of some of my happiest weekend-away memories.
Now this is a weird one. If you had told me six months ago that my crazy-energy-filled daughter and I would be meditating together of a morning, I would have laughed you off the couch. But Matilda learned about meditation at her school, where her genius teacher decided to give all the kids five minutes of it after lunch to calm them down and set them up for the afternoon. Now, I do the same thing in the morning, sometimes immediately after our dual plod along the beach. We sit. We Shush. We close our eyes and we breathe.
And just for a moment, my whirlwind of a daughter is still.
I'm not the fastest, or the strongest, or the most Zen of all the mothers in my world, but I’m glad my daughter sees me trying.
What do they say? Show, don’t tell.
What are some activities you do with your daughter?
Join the Movement is a Queensland Government social media campaign that is designed to inspire and encourage more women and girls to participate in regular sport and active recreation. It is a grassroots campaign, made by Queensland women, featuring real Queensland women, for Queensland women. Join the Movement recognises that lifelong participation in active pursuits can bring a number of benefits including, health, happiness and a sense of achievement.