After last year’s success, Link once again held a city-wide indoor cycling competition with the aim of raising public awareness on health and fitness. “Tour de Link 2022” was hosted at six of Link’s shopping malls and opened to the public in August. This year, Link even added a family category to allow parents and children to take part together. While the competition is now over, we want to keep the momentum going to build a healthier community. In this issue of Channel 823, we invited Jerry Lau, coach at InspiringHK Sports Foundation, to share a few fitness drills that parents can do with their children. What’s even better, they can all be done at home!
Pre-workout: Warm up with a towel
The first drill is a stretching movement that requires two people working together. All it needs is a couple of towels. The movement itself focuses on adding range of motion to the limbs and joints, while also improving the overall flexibility of the entire body.
- Both adult and child stand facing each other holding two towels between them on an exercise mat. Stand with feet hip width apart and keep the knees over the toes.
- Squeeze the buttocks. Inhale and squat down until the thighs are parallel to the floor. Exhale and come up, stabilise the ankles and return to the standing position.
Things to note: Do not pull the towels with excessive force, nor loosen the grip. As Jerry points out that squatting normally involves little stretching when performed individually. Yet if it’s done with a partner, it can work the shoulders and abdomen while training balance and stamina. Furthermore, it can reinforce trust between child and parent.
Boosting self-esteem with high-five drill
The second exercise is to use a high-five movement to train reflexes.
- Stand facing each other in a position where both parent and child can extend their arms to slap each other’s raised palms together. Avoid standing too close or too far.
- High-five each other. The “attacker” can perform “blitzes”, while the other person “react.”
This adversarial training involves two participants slapping each other’s right and left palms together alternately, which can look like cues for “Give Me Five”. Performing this can boost the child’s self-esteem. One thing to note for the adults: because of the differences in strength, they should refrain from applying excessive force to avoid injuring the children.
Upping the intensity gradually – full body workout
After completing the previous two sets, it is now time to increase the level of difficulty. The following exercises can help train the balance, as well as the abdominal and leg muscles for both adult and child.
- Adult stands with feet hip width apart, and squats down;
- Child places one leg on the adult’s thigh with the foot about 50cms from the ground. Spread both arms for balance;
- Maintain the position for about 10 seconds. The adult then kneels on one leg to lower the height;
- Child places leg onto the adult’s shoulder, with foot about 100cm off the ground;
- Maintain for about 10 seconds. After that, the adult can slowly return to standing position (in accordance with the child’s height). The maximum height of the child’s foot should be about 150cm from the ground.
This movement helps train children’s flexibility and balance, in addition to the parents’ stamina. Both should be sweating shortly after the exercise begins. Jerry points out that the adult should avoid standing too high as it may cause the child to over-stretch. They should also make sure to maintain stability while squatting.
Parent-Child airplane plank for full body training
The last movement is also the most difficult. Both adult and child will need to apply full body strength, in particular the core, arms, and hands.
- Adult lies flat on the back and holds onto the child’s calves. Straighten the arms with elbows slightly bent;
- Child holds onto the adult’s calves and performs plank. Be sure to keep the wrists directly underneath the shoulders.
As children normally cannot withstand the weights of adults, the latter should always be at the bottom. For children, this represents the next level from the basic plank, which involves no interaction. Being able to perform this with parents can add more fun to the exercise. For adults, as they need to apply strength to help keep the bodies of the children straight, their arms, core and waist will all be involved.
Jerry reminds parents to act within their own capabilities since this movement is still quite difficult. For example, they should make sure that they do not have any pre-existing wrist joints before attempting this weight-bearing training. When the movement is complete and the child is about to step down to the floor, parents should lower them slowly at a steady speed. It is recommended that the child's body weight should not be more than half that of the adult. For instance, if a parent weighs 60kg, the child should be under 30kg to meet safe training standards.
Growing together through parent-child workout
Parents and children can benefit physically through these four progressive exercises. The optimal workout time at the beginning should be around 10-15 minutes, says Jerry. When the communications between parents and children reach a certain level, this can be increased to half an hour, which can also teach children the importance of persistence.
As a father who regularly train with his children, Jerry believes these parent-child workouts can help strengthen the bonds between family members. “Many parents work all day. If they can spend time to exercise with their kids, it can really help strengthen the bonds between them. It’ll also make all the hard work worthwhile!”.
Last but not least, Jerry issued these reminders: parents and children should only attempt the exercises if they are physically fit enough with no medical conditions. And if they have any fitness or exercise-related questions, it is always better to consult a professional coach.