Families make exercise part of holiday traditions

11/11/2012
BY MELISSA KOSSLER DUTTON
ASSOCIATED PRESS
This 2011 photo provided by Lisa Kent shows her family, from left, Scott, Lisa, Peyton, and Tanner Kent, during a hike on the glaciers of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in Alaska. The family has spent more than a decade visiting national parks during the holidays.
This 2011 photo provided by Lisa Kent shows her family, from left, Scott, Lisa, Peyton, and Tanner Kent, during a hike on the glaciers of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in Alaska. The family has spent more than a decade visiting national parks during the holidays.

For the Kent fam­ily of Am­herst, N.H., get­ting dressed for the hol­i­days of­ten means lac­ing up hik­ing boots or buck­ling a hel­met. For the last 11 years, they have made a tra­di­tion of spend­ing many Thanks­giv­ings, Christ­ma­ses, and Easters at a na­tional park do­ing some­thing ac­tive.

Many Amer­i­cans find hol­i­day breaks an ideal time to pur­sue fit­ness-ori­ented ac­tiv­i­ties, from hol­i­day-themed races to just ex­er­cis­ing to­gether.

“More com­mu­ni­ties are of­fer­ing fam­ily-ori­ented events. It just cre­ates an­other op­por­tu­nity to cre­ate last­ing mem­o­ries,” said Cheryl Rich­ard­son, se­nior di­rec­tor of pro­grams for the Amer­i­can Al­liance for Health, Phys­i­cal Ed­u­ca­tion, Recre­ation, and Dance in Reston, Va.

The Kents’ chil­dren — Tan­ner, 18, and Pey­ton, 16 — have ex­plored caves in Carls­bad Cav­erns Na­tional Park in New Mex­ico, hiked gla­ciers in Wrang­ell-St. Elias Na­tional Park in Alaska, and rock-climbed in Yosem­ite Na­tional Park in Cal­i­for­nia.

“People as­so­ci­ate hol­i­days with a sit-down meal like Easter ham or Thanks­giv­ing tur­key,” said their mom, Lisa Kent. “We were re­plac­ing it with hik­ing or an out­door ad­ven­ture.”

Myrna Ryti and her fam­ily still en­joy a Thanks­giv­ing meal but they do it af­ter run­ning or walk­ing in the Huff­ing for Stuff­ing Thanks­giv­ing Day Run held in Boze­man, Mont.

“It makes for a won­der­ful way for a fam­ily to start the day,” said Ms. Ryti, who runs the 5-ki­lo­me­ter race with her daugh­ter and son-in-law. Other mem­bers of the fam­ily, in­clud­ing her 4-year-old grand­son, Cooper Bour­ret, walk the course.

“The first year, he rode in his jog­ging stroller,” she said. “He loves it.”

This Nov. 24, 2011 photo courtesy of Kalli Ryti shows her son, Cooper Bourret, racing a turkey to the finish line at the Huffing for Stuffing Thanksgiving Day Run in Bozeman, Mont. Ms. Ryti runs the race with her family every year before enjoying a turkey dinner.  (AP Photo/Courtesy Kalli Ryti, Mike Bourret)
This Nov. 24, 2011 photo courtesy of Kalli Ryti shows her son, Cooper Bourret, racing a turkey to the finish line at the Huffing for Stuffing Thanksgiving Day Run in Bozeman, Mont. Ms. Ryti runs the race with her family every year before enjoying a turkey dinner. (AP Photo/Courtesy Kalli Ryti, Mike Bourret)

His mother, Kalli Ryti, loves that it’s an op­por­tu­nity to stress the im­por­tance of ex­er­cise. “It sets a great ex­am­ple,” she said. “Through­out the year, we go and prac­tice. He likes to put on his num­ber and we run around the block.”

The event, which is a fund-raiser for the lo­cal food bank, has a real com­mu­nity feel to it, Myrna Ryti said. “It at­tracts lots and lots of folks. It shows where you’re put­ting your pri­or­i­ties.”

Run­ning a 5K also can make you feel less guilty about eat­ing sweet po­tato pie, said Christy Rez­abek, who runs the Tur­key Trot race with her hus­band, Doug, ev­ery year in Hunts­ville, Ala.

“We get up and run. We know we’re go­ing to be eat­ing bunches of junk food,” she said.

She and her fam­ily were pre­par­ing for the St. Jude Re­search Hos­pi­tal’s an­nual mar­a­thon, in Mem­phis on Dec. 1. The race, which at­tracts some run­ners in Christ­mas-themed cloth­ing, is nor­mally sched­uled be­tween Thanks­giv­ing and Christ­mas.

Mr. Rez­abek plans to run the full mar­a­thon, his wife the half mar­a­thon and their three chil­dren the 5K. And they’re mo­ti­vated by more than fit­ness: Ms. Rez­abek’s daugh­ter, Lakelee Leach, 8, has been treated for can­cer at the hos­pi­tal.

“St. Jude’s does so much,” Ms. Rez­abek said. “We wanted to give back.”

They have en­joyed train­ing to­gether, she said, part of their ef­forts to be ac­tive as a fam­ily.

“We’re not the [par­ents] that sit on the side­lines and watch,” she said. “When they go ice skat­ing or play base­ball, we go ice skat­ing or play base­ball.”

Teach­ing chil­dren the value of phys­i­cal health is also im­por­tant to Robert Tuch­man, a father of two in New York City. His fam­ily’s tra­di­tions in­clude a trip to a fit­ness fair at the JCC in Man­hat­tan on New Year’s Day. The event is spon­sored by the JCC’s Marti M. Mey­er­son Center for Health and Well­ness.

“Most gyms are closed on New Year’s Day,” said JCC spokes­man Erica Wer­ber. “We’re open. We want to be there for the com­mu­nity.”

Many fam­i­lies are grate­ful for op­por­tu­ni­ties to ex­er­cise to­gether at the hol­i­days, said Jerry Bocci, whose fam­ily has or­ga­nized a New Year’s Eve run in Belle Isle Park in Detroit since 1970. Fam­i­lies come out in all kinds of weather to par­tic­i­pate in the 5K or chil­dren’s run.

“The kids have a good time in the some­times snow, some­times sleet,” he said. “When you look out over the crowd, there are a lot of smiles.”