Stacy Morin and her sons, Ben, 12, and Jack, 10, have been active together since the boys were infants. Stacy began walking with each of the boys in their strollers, and when they were old enough they began riding bikes together. These days, they have a five-mile loop they ride regularly around their house in Auburn.

Both boys ride motocross and have seen an increase in their endurance from riding their mountain bikes with mom. The family travels for motocross, and they often bring their bikes with them. Earlier this summer, while camping in Andover, they rode for eight miles to Devil’s Den, the farthest either of the boys had gone.

“That was far,” said Ben.

“It’s fun,” said Jack. He and Ben agree the best part for them is going down hills as fast as they can.

Keeping up with their mom on their regular bike rides, Ben said, is probably the hardest thing about biking. They all agree that a healthy lifestyle is important to them. Keeping it fun is key, so they like to set small challenges like riding across a bridge into Lewiston and back home. Riding trails with their dad, John and hiking are some of the other activities that keep them active and busy.

“Time is precious,” said Stacy. “Why not incorporate exercise with spending time together.”

Families that run together …

The philosophy is shared by many parents in Maine, who have found that exercise can be a great way to also strengthen family bonds.

After having emergency open-heart surgery to repair a cardiac aneurysm in 2005, Eddie Rabasco of Poland decided to get active. He didn’t have to look far for inspiration or direction. His daughter Katy, 17, had been running track and cross country in high school, and he said she was all the motivation he needed. Rabasco said that when he first mentioned running together to Katy, she wasn’t sure he was serious until he decided to run a 5K with her.

“It took the entire summer and fall to go from couch potato to a 5K runner,” said Rabasco. “I’ve been addicted to running ever since.”

The two participate in Bob Brainerd’s Tuesday night track club in Auburn. Brainerd, owner of Central Maine Conditioning Clinic, meets at the Edward Little High School track with people of all ages who want to learn how to run
properly, increase their endurance and overall time in
preparation for road races, or just simply for good health.

Rabasco credited his daughter for his love of running, and sees the biggest benefit as the quality time he gets to spend with her, enjoying the same thing. The two have run several 5 and 10K races together over the past
three years, recently completing the Beach to Beacon for the second
time.

“It’s a great experience to share that with your daughter,” said Rabasco. “A teenage daughter has many other interests — friends, boyfriends and other stuff. This is something that she and I have, just us.”

Building a lifetime routine where exercise is part of daily life is what Alina Burke hopes her two children will learn from running. Chandler, 10 and Alyssa, 8, are both gymnasts, and Burke said she hopes they see that no matter how busy life gets, you should always make time to take care of your body and health.

“I get to be with them, but also introduce them to the importance of health and fitness,” said Burke, of Auburn.

Chandler runs most Tuesday nights with Burke as part of the track club and has said he sees an improvement in his endurance in gymnastics. Chandler said he also enjoys the challenge running provides. Alyssa has not run yet, but she enjoys watching the group and thinks it’s cool to get to do something like that with her mom. Burke said that being able to spend time with her children while also exercising is important, and they will have memories of these times for years to come.

“It should be a normal way of life,” said Burke. “Hopefully they see this.”

Kathy Lachance, occupational therapist for Central Maine Orthopaedics in Auburn,
has been running since high school. She brought her daughters Corryn,
10, and Sarah, 8, with her on a recent Tuesday night after Burke suggested it, to expose them to
running. Seeing other people and their children running is a great way
to introduce the sport. Corryn even ran for about a mile at the
beginning.

Lachance, of Auburn, who also runs a wellness program for CMO
employees, enjoys running half marathons, but decided to try the track
club with a friend.

“It’s good for their health and mine,” said Lachance of her daughters. “It was fun.”

Family activity = less stress

When Kevin and Wendy Robichaud’s two children were preschoolers, they introduced them to hiking and running. Both Kolby, 14, and his sister, Kelcey, 12, had run their first “fun run” by the time they were three. Since then, Kolby has run in six 5K races, and Kelcey has run five. The whole family makes the weekly trek from their home in Norway to Edward Little for Brainerd’s track club.

The family runs together, setting goals and celebrating when they reach
them. Wendy, who was involved in sports throughout high school and college, said she’s able to spend time with each of her children one
on one when they run, something she really enjoys. Kevin first began exercising in college, and the couple have both stayed consistently active through adulthood, keeping their children active by example.

The Robichauds,
who still hike and also bike, try to incorporate fun into their routine,
acknowledging the benefits of reduced stress and increased endurance.
And the kids appreciate being able to keep up with their
friends.

“We want to always be active and find something to help us relieve stress,” said Wendy.

Wendy said that most of the time Kolby
and Kelcey see the benefits of staying active, though they have times
when they just don’t want to run or work out. In the end, she said,
they figure out that it’s easier to maintain their involvement than to
start over.

“It is a requirement in our family to find something active you like to do, and enjoy it,” said Wendy. “I don’t care if they just walk. Anything to be outside and active.”

Bob Brainerd, owner of Central Maine Conditioning Clinic, says the key to exercising with children is keeping it fun.

“Make the activity game-oriented, fun-oriented” said Brainerd.

Ages 4 to 10: Any activity that keeps their interest — like biking, hiking, camping or similar — is good introduction and healthy habit-building. Stay hydrated and exercise in short blocks of time. (And don’t underestimate the influence of just exposing children to activities. Just bringing them along to watch helps build healthy habits.)

Ages 10 to 12: Team sports are a great addition to family activities like swimming, dancing and running.

Ages 12 and up: Remaining active and healthy either through team sports or any fun and safe activities.

“It’s the idea that lifestyle and fun, active behaviors, get people out of the house, away from watching television,” said Brainerd. “There’s a lot of different things you can do.”

Some activities for the family:
Walking
Hiking
Biking
Canoeing or kayaking
Fishing
Paintball
Swimming
Running
Tennis

Precautions:

Make sure to stay hydrated
Wear appropriate clothing based on the activity and season
Know the route or terrain
Avoid prolonged exposure to the sun in hot weather, especially with children
Don’t overdo it


Why exercise as a family?

“There are obvious (benefits) of course — lifestyle behaviors, better eating habits, maintaining weight, muscle strength, flexibility and endurance,” said Brainerd. “But I think the biggest part you see is overall communication, and the bond between parents and kids.”

In addition to healthy habits like eating right and keeping your body fit, Brainerd also says problem solving and concrete learning skills are benefits that are long lasting.

Chandler Burke, 10, runs form drills with his mother Alina during the weekly coaching sessions for Maine Track Club members at Edward Little High School.

Alina Burke, center, lines up for running drills with her 10-year-old son Chandler and 16-year-old niece Katie Delorme during the weekly coaching sessions for Maine Track Club members at Edward Little High School.

Stacy Morin and her son Jack, 10, go for a bike ride near their home in Auburn recently. Often, the entire family bikes not only for fun, but they all benefit from a good workout.


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