family · fitness

Family vacationing: exercise in/as compromise

Every year I go on some sort of vacation with my sister and her family, which includes her, her husband, and three children ages 16, 13 3/4, and 11.  Sometimes we go to the beach in South Carolina, and sometimes they come to Boston to visit me.  I look forward to spending time with them and relish hanging out with and being active with the kids.  I bought them their first bikes and try to give them active wear and gear that will be useful and promote/encourage love of sports and active living.
Okay, yeah, I’m a tiny bit pushy about it, but I do come across with cool sporty merch for them (as a good sporty auntie should).
This year we are embarking on an ambitious trip:  we are going to spend a week in Arizona and Nevada, exploring the Grand Canyon, Sedona and Red Rock canyon, touring the Hoover Dam and then:  Vegas, baby!
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Now I should say that I’m not a serious hiker by any means.  I love moving around in the outdoors on foot, bike, kayak, etc.  But backpacking rim to rim is not my idea of a good time.  That said, my sister and her family are much less sporty and outdoorsy than I am, and not as all-embracing of the wondrous variety of conditions that nature offers us.  To wit:  my niece just said to me on the phone today, ” please tell me we don’t have to hike when it’s hot.”  Hmmm.  Arizona in late June.  Uh, honey, let me explain something…
In addition, my sister is one of those people who, when walking around within 50 yards of trees and grass , intermittently stops, points, and says, ” do you think that was a snake?”  My brother in law, during a recent trip on foot from a beach condo to the pool, told me that he was looking at the wet marsh area at the complex, preparing himself in case an alligator should make his presence known.
This is what I’ve got to work with here.
Enter the delicate art of exercise compromise.
This blog has talked a lot about the virtues of exercise in groups of mixed abilities and mixed goals.  Cycling with faster riders can make us both faster and better bike handlers.  Practicing with newbies in martial arts and yoga helps us reconnect with the beginner mind and deepen our appreciation of the fundamentals.  Tracy and her Niagara women’s half marathon posse just blogged about finding pleasure and joy in running together while completing a variety of course goals.
But what if those persons of mixed abilities and levels of enthusiasm happen to be members of one’s own family?  It’s not clear that I can single-handedly motivate a week’s worth of esprit de corps tramping around in the hot Arizona desert with my sister and three grumpy sweating kids.
Short of doing a tour of northern Arizona malls, this trip WILL involve some outside-in-the-hot-sun time.  And I want them to have fun– enough fun that they’ll be interested in pursuing their own outdoor adventures in the future.  So I’ve made some compromise plans.
We are staying in motels with good pools, and will cool off and frolic in them at the end of each day of hot weather activity.
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We are doing a bike tour along the south rim of the Grand Canyon, which should be fun, allow us to cover some  ground and see spectacular vistas, but not be too strenuous ( I hope).
We are going to Slide Rock state park in Sedona, where we can all get wet in rock pools and their natural water slide.
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Okay, I’m insisting on a few short family hikes, but will try to do them as early as we can pry the teenagers out of bed ( wish us luck).
I’m not going off on my own, as much as I’d like to kayak and hike on the Colorado river in Black canyon.  It’s not something that the rest of the family would enjoy, and I’m there for family togetherness fun.
Luckily, once we get to Vegas, we can spend hours hanging out by a pool that looks something like this:
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So, readers, what have you done on outdoorsy family trips with reluctant hikers or walkers?  Any tips or strategies?  What has worked for you?  What has failed spectacularly?  I’d love to know.

11 thoughts on “Family vacationing: exercise in/as compromise

  1. Need to slow down for everyone else. Focus on the social aspect, comfort level, lovely sensations/views and less on the mechanics, speed and competence.

    and share a lovely dinner /lunch together. Take lots of photos…those occasions become very rare over the years.

    1. Hi Jean– yes, that’s why I’m doing this; those kids won’t be kids much longer, and I really want to maximize fun together time with them. And you’re right– pretty views, feeling comfortable and engaged are all key. Speed and distance don’t matter. Will report back!

  2. My fiancee is less active/outdoorsy than me, and the compromise I’ve found is to encourage him enough to get him out the door– and then let him lead, go at his pace. That might mean a 4 mile hike rather than 10, but if I’m looking for a workout I’ll go on my own, you know? This is about spending time with him in the outdoors.

    And if he’s miserable he’s going to be that much harder to get out the door next time.

    1. Thanks, G– it is about spending time in the outdoors and sharing our love of it and of them in ways they can take in and appreciate. We don’t want misery– we want enjoyment above all else!

  3. Hi Catherine!
    Two years ago my then-partner and I took our dog to the Lake District for a week of walking fun. He is perhaps less totally outdoorsy than me (though the differences are/were minor, really), but the dog was old and was our wild card. To accommodate her, we rented a car, and drove rather than walked to the start of many hikes. We packed a lot of snacks and water (took turns carrying it, though I coveted a doggie saddle bag!), and let her sniff and play and rest to her heart’s content. It was a reminder to us to slow down, as Jean says, and enjoy the gorgeous views; it also encouraged us to rest more, which in the end was wise. These were 4-6 hours walks, and we would have plowed through without the dog, probably missing views and the pleasures of the air, and arriving home more exhausted and less keen to cook and drink wine and so forth. So in the end, compromising for the dog meant we had a more enjoyable, even if slightly less fitness-oriented, time.

    1. HI Kim– thanks so much for this story. Yes, we can enjoy ourselves through less strenuous, more inclusive (of old dogs and grumpy teens) outings. The big thing is to enjoy the outdoors together. And as a commenter below said, it’s going to be hot hot hot, so some prudence will be called for. Will let y’all know how it goes.

  4. I live in Phoenix and do not hike in late June. Just too dangerous. Several people have died in the past week. I rode my bike Saturday at 5:30 am and it was nice then – but as you said, most kids that age don’t want to get up early to do outdoor activities. The bike ride on the GC rim sounds fun and it will be cooler. Slide Rock is great, although crowded. If you have time, check out Lava River Cave north of Flagstaff, or Mt. Humphreys. You can hike all or parts of the trails around Mt. Humphreys (Kachina or summit) or take the Snowbowl chairlift up to 11000 feet. I’ll be doing those things with my son’s girlfriend visiting from Colorado later this week.

    1. Thanks for the tips, Linnea. I have friends in Tucson who hike in the very early morning only during the summer. Any other time is definitely risky, as you say. I’ll check out the other places you mention, and who knows– maybe we can get the kids on an early-to-bed-, early-to-rise schedule, since we are all coming from eastern daylight time anyway.

      1. You can hike and bike early in the summer, it’s just that this week is especially hot. A 28-year-old woman died yesterday mountain biking. She apparently did everything right — was a fitness trainer, started at 6 am, had plenty of water, would have been done by 9, and her companions were doctors who started CPR right away, but it didn’t save her. Oh, if you do go to Lava River Cave, bring flashlights. I guarantee it won’t be hot or bright in there!

  5. Las Vegas is experiencing very high temps this weekend. Take 2 one-liter bottles with you—freeze one if possible. Outdoor hikes before 8am or wander the Strip after 8pm. Best place to hike during Vegas summers is Mt. Charleston. It’s a 45 min drive from the Strip and it’s usually 30 degrees cooler. Midday activities = water. There are 2 waterparks in Vegas–Wet’n’Wild and Cowabunga Bay. Mandalay Bay has a wave pool & a lazy river. Lake Mead for boating & waterskiing.
    PS. Really like the angle of your blog. I am curious–have you experienced or know about Kettlebell Sport? It’s creating some powerfully empowered women & men with amazing endurance. If you are interested in more info—let me know!!

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