While having children is a great joy, life with children can be a difficult adjustment. It can be challenging to balance the important things in life and establish healthy routines with a family. As parents of two young children, Mike and Alli are an excellent example of people who have learned how to stay fit and active despite their busy schedules. They do a great job at enjoying a healthy lifestyle as a family. Their experience and example is an inspiration to others!
Mike and Alli, tell us a little bit about you and your family. How long have you been married? What are the ages of you children, and what are their personalities like?
Mike: Well, we just celebrated our 6th year of marriage this month. Pretty exciting for sure! We have had the opportunity to live in some cool places along the west coast, and are currently in Oregon. The Eller clan includes 2 little kids. Our daughter Dayvanee is 3 and our son Asher is almost 2. They are pretty unique in their personalities except for one common trait: there is no such thing as slow with them. Dayvee is our little firecracker: you can always tell when she enters the room, and she loves to laugh, sing, play, etc., and wants to get everyone else involved. Asher tends to be our risk analyst: he observes the situation, and if he likes it, he goes for it. If not, he hugs Mommy or Daddy’s leg. He loves to laugh and play. Also, both kids follow the “play hard, crash hard” style. When they fall apart, it is to the max. It seems to be a fair reflection of their parents.
Alli: I think Mike answered pretty accurately.
Were you fairly active before having children? Was it difficult to stay active and fit after having children?
Mike: We were both pretty active before kids. Alli played basketball in high school, and I have tried to keep myself doing something outside as long as I remember. Before kids, you would find Alli and I camping, rafting, or hiking together. I liked to go out mt. biking, trail running, triathlons, or doing stuff I won’t tell my kids about, as I long as I was outside. Since kids, well, it has really changed. The first year is a challenge because you are really limited in what you can do: did you bring enough diapers, bottles, formula, warm water (doh! forgot that a couple of times). We tried some little day hikes in the winter and had to resort to stuffing our daughter’s onesie with extra clothes to keep her warm – won’t win “father of the year” accolades like that. But now that Dayvee and Asher are a little bit older, I think that it is getting easier to get outside, explore, and have fun with them, especially as we are establishing a method for doing it. For example, I still trail run and cycle on a regular basis but do it before work or before the kids wake up. Alli will run when I get home or after the kids fall asleep. Also, we try to involve them as much as we can in getting outside and exploring.
Alli: I did play basketball in high school and I do love camping, rafting and hiking. However, it wasn’t until I had a baby that I started running and exercising more consistently. While it was difficult for Mike during the first year, it was easier for me. Dayvee went to bed around 7 so I could run in the evenings and go to the gym after. We would also walk for an hour plus everyday. It is harder now to go for walks that get your blood pumping, because Dayvee likes to stop and pick up rocks, smell the flowers or just explore around us. It makes for fun walks, just not as much exercise. I do make time to run after Mike gets home from work and before dinner, and I also find time a couple of days a week to do a workout video during nap time.
What types of activities do you like to do, and how do you do them with children?
Alli: I just like being outside. Unfortunately Oregon is usually pretty wet, but we find a way to still be outdoors. Corvallis has what seems like a park on every corner and the kids LOVE the park. I try to walk to the one right around the corner from us as much as possible. Camping is always an adventure with the kids, and they love to pick blueberries. We also love to bike around town as much as we can when the weather permits. We have a trailer that the kids sit in and they love it. Dayvee is getting a little big for it though, and we are going to buy a trailer bike so she can pedal along with us.
Mike: We love to take our kids camping. Recently, we just did our first family canoe camping trip here in Oregon. Also, we take them on bike rides, runs, little hikes to pick berries etc. We started joining some friends with kids who run weekly at a track here in town. The kids all play in the sand pit or on the grass while the parents run/jog/walk around the track. The older kids are encouraged to run as well, and in the end, we celebrate by getting some ice cream afterwards. Also, we take advantage of the commuter-friendly atmosphere we have in town and ride our bikes while pulling the kids in the trailer. We commute by bike for groceries, eating out downtown, going to our community church, etc. Also, my son thinks that when he holds his baseball bat, everything is a ball. So we are frequently playing baseball outside on the grass, which usually turns into dodgeball.
Are there any special tricks you’ve learned to stay physically active despite having a busy schedule?
Alli: I would say the most important thing is not to be discouraged if you can’t find time. There are stages to life with kids. Sometimes you’ll be able to exercise more than others. For instance, the summer after Asher was born we weren’t able to ride our bikes with the kids because he was too little. I had to remind myself and Mike that it was just for the summer and that next summer we could break out the bike trailer again.
Mike: The main trick that works for me is to set tangible goals and to try something new every year, while never forgetting what really is important. You won’t be able to do everything, but you can try and see what comes of setting goals. You will find the activities that you enjoy the most and work the best with your new responsibilities. Also, involve your kids in these activities as much as you can. They will be introduced to it and hopefully will participate with you in the future.
What type of gear or accessories do you recommend for parents who want to stay fit and active?
Alli: We use our bike trailer A LOT! I also use our jogger stroller all the time. I like it so much better than the strollers with 4 tiny wheels. I’m able to walk/jog and I only need one hand to steer. I also recommend an ergo baby carrier. I never had one, but I’ve used them and they are amazing. So much better than a lot of the other front pack carriers. They are good for going for walks or hikes. I would also suggest a good BIG tent. If you have a family of 4 I would suggest a 6 man tent. Especially if you are camping for more than one or two nights. It’s amazing how much stuff you bring when you have little ones.
Mike: The main recreational gear we use right now is a bike trailer that can fit both of our kids. We use it extensively. Also, when they are younger, the backpack/kid carrier is great to have. Not only do you get to go hiking with the fam, you get a huge workout carrying these guys as you are their BOB (beast of burden). Also, we have friends who have several canoes and kayaks. We recently borrowed their family canoe for the camping trip and found this to be a great piece of equipment for family recreation.
What are some of your greatest memories of being active and outdoors with your children?
Alli: I remember a lot of great hiking trips with Dayvee in the backpack. We also have some great camping memories with family and friends. Beach days are always memorable, especially the clean-up (as most everyone knows, sand get’s everywhere). Mike is definitely the brave one when it comes to taking the kids on adventures by himself. I like to have him with me.
Mike: Our recent canoe camping trip stands out the most. The kids were thrilled to be in the canoe, camping at the beach, and swimming. Also, there are plenty of hikes that we turn into “explorations” here in the surrounding forests where we climb on fallen trees, find newts and banana slugs, and throw rocks at ducks (can you blame us, we live in Beaver country…Note: no ducks have been hurt in the raising of our kids to date). Once I had the kids while Alli was out having some girl time. We went hiking to a nearby waterfall on a trail that went downhill for about a mile. I didn’t even think of it, but when we started heading back up, Asher was in the kid carrier and Dayvee was too tired to walk. So, I loaded her up on my shoulders and hiked both of them up. At that time with all of our snacks, that was over 80+ lb. I was worked over by the time we got to the car. I laid in the grass while the kids threw pine cones at each other. Fun, exhausting, and definitely memorable.
Is there any final advice you’d like to give to new parents about staying fit and healthy?
Alli: Buy the bigger tent! Just kidding. I think if you want it you can make it happen. That seems to be the motto we go by. It may take a lot more work, but it’s worth it in the end.
Mike: Get in the habit of trying something new every year, and when possible, introduce your kids to it as you yourself are learning about it. They look up to you so much and will naturally gravitate to what your interests are. If you have a healthy perspective on fitness, both physically, mentally, and spiritually, I think that your kids will be more inclined to explore a similar direction.
– Mike and Alli, thanks for giving us a little insight into life with kids and sharing the ways you’ve learned to stay active with two young children. You’re an inspiration, and you have an awesome family!