Friday, January 18, 2013

A Family that Plays Together, Stays Together

Ed and Julie at a mud run
Julie and I were raised in game-playing families; so since the time our kids could sit up, we had them playing games. It doesn’t require much science to reinforce the value of these shared experiences.

We then extended this philosophy to athletic pursuits. While I was playing competitive tennis and Julie was teaching aerobics, we decided to investigate what we could do as a family. Twelve-year-old Brandon was already dipping his toe in “Duathlon” (run, bike, run) and “Triathlon” (swim, bike, run) events, so we researched related options.

The multi-sport lifestyle fit with our values, time, and budget. We jumped in as a family. Although we pursued individual goals and races, we often trained together. Once per year, we competed as a team. Our capstone event was the annual Cleveland Family Triathlon. The way this was organized, each of us would select one of the three triathlon disciplines. Brandon was the outlier and competed individually. Most often our daughter, age 6 the first time, would take the swim leg, Julie the bike, and I would finish with the run. We went on to win 4 of the 6 years we participated. Our reward was the post race carb feast.

Brandon eventually excel at multi-sport races and winning many events in Ohio. In 2005 he was 4th in the nation in Duathlon, just missing the national team. Tali retired from multi-sport when she hit twelve, and I vividly recall the discussion. “Dad, you know the sign on your office door that reads Bring Solutions not Problems? I have a problem but have a solution. Tae Kwon Do.” I couldn’t argue her logic. She reached deputy black-belt, and we were proud of her.

Nine-year-old Tali in a triathlon
Brandon, Julie, and I continue to race multi-sports. Brandon and I have completed well over 100 races together including half-Ironman and Escape from Alcatraz, one of the hardest races in the world. Additionally, Julie and I often team up in the “Muddy Buddy.” Brandon is now married, and I’ve had the pleasure to race with his wife Nicole. They will be blessed with a son this spring, and I suspect we may have some multi-generational races taking place in a few years.

With both of our kids being college graduates, I recall fondly all the hours we spent playing together. Never ending rounds of Chutes and Ladders to marathon Mousetrap sessions. Shifting to active pursuits helped kill two birds with one stone: critical family bonding time while burning calories to maintain health and energy. We have logged many hours swimming, running, and biking together all over the country. Not to mention all the quality dashboard time, driving to and from practice sessions and lessons.

There is no magic formula or one-size-fits-all strategy for strong healthy families. But I can say there is nothing more this Dad loves to do than spend time with his family…especially whether indoors or outdoors.

My own Father spent Christmas with us. What did we do the first couple of hours each day? Worked out together! And the rest of the day? Played games! A Family that is plays together, stays together!

Ed Marx is Chief Information Officer at Texas Health Resources and a Dad to two.

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