5 Traditions for Athletic Families

By: Kevin P. Allen

Want to establish an athletic tradition for your family? Running together is a good start.
Want to establish an athletic tradition for your family? Running together is a good start.

Traditions are about celebrating the past, and that can in turn build stronger relationships and pave the way for a better future. If those traditions are athletic in nature, all the better. A fit family can maintain the motivation that initially led the members to good health, and they can have fun doing it. Traditions, after all, are meant to be enjoyed -- not simply endured. And while endurance is a component of fitness, it's a meaningful kind of perseverance that ultimately leaves a smile on the participants' faces.

If your family is lacking fitness, it makes even more sense to install some athletic traditions. We're not talking about washing sweat socks together, treating each other's blisters or collectively moaning after a visit to the gym. These time-tested activities might just enliven your reluctant troops and give you a new perspective on what it means to work out.


Instead of viewing physical activity as a calorie-burning chore, you may soon see it as a chance to take part in an exciting sport or two, rather than just watching some jocks on television while you crack open a beer and a bag of chips.

So lace up your shoes, dust off your bike and prepare to get your blood pumping. The first tradition is a scheduled race.

5: Annual Competitions

It's hard to get anywhere without a tangible goal on the calendar. Why else are fitness centers full right after the New Year but virtual ghost towns come March? Resolving to be healthy has to be tied to something like an annual competition. Race directors learned this lesson long ago, creating events like Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot 5ks or summer sprint-distance triathlons and relays which draw the same families year after year [source: Rosenzweig].

Yes, they are competitions, but that doesn't necessarily mean that mom is racing dad, or little Billy is trying to humiliate sister Suzy. Your family can train together, hold one another accountable, then set out on race day in pursuit of personal records -- attempting to better your times from years past. If you finish ahead of your loved ones, cheer them on as they enter the home stretch. What better place to build camaraderie than within your family?


You know what they say about all work and no play. Next, a tradition that may add a few calories but will keep your family focused for the long run.

4: Treat Night

Give your athletic family a break -- but just once a week -- for some high-caloric fun.
Give your athletic family a break -- but just once a week -- for some high-caloric fun.
Jupiter Images, Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock

Consistency over an extended period of time is one of the keys to athletic success and good health. Even elite athletes know, however, that seeking perfection in your eating and training habits can backfire. If all you and your family do is work out and munch on rice cakes, your eventually going to crack and abandon the healthy lifestyle altogether. Indulge in some less-than-ideal food choices once in awhile, and you'll find you're better able to maintain your fitness regime [source: Omidi]. Enter "Treat Night."

If the family has met its athletic objectives for the week, enjoy a Saturday night meal of your high-calorie favorites. Barbecue ribs? Mashed potatoes? Maybe some cheesecake? As long as you understand the difference between a staple food and a once-in-awhile food, you'll be fine. Remember, however, it's called "Treat Night" not "Treat Week or Month."


3: Paying it Forward

Without a strong back, good cardiovascular health and a reasonable amount of agility, a parent can find it next to impossible to teach his or her child to ride a bike. But the reward to those moms and dads who can is immeasurable. Make it a tradition to guide your children as they learn to pedal with your hand there for guidance. Periodically release them to steady the bike themselves. Sure, there will be bumps, bruises, tears and making even some angry moments, but it's a tradition that can truly be unforgettable [source: Allanach].

What does the athletic family do when sibling rivalry rears its ugly head? The next tradition is aimed right at the problem.


2: Staggered Starts

Whoever said, "the race is long, and in the end it's only with yourself" didn't have an older brother. If you and the family head over to the local track, the oldest and youngest children will almost always decide that someone has to be declared a winner and someone has to be declared a loser. In most cases, the older child will win, the younger child will cry and the entire proceeding will turn into a debacle. Unless you get creative.

Age group classifications and staggered starts are common in participatory footraces across the United States and the world. If it works for adults, why not for kids? Without telling your children what you're up to, time each child individually over a quarter mile. If Bobby finishes in 2 minutes and Jacob finishes in 2 minutes, 45 seconds, stagger the next quarter-mile race. Bobby doesn't get to start until little Jacob is 45 seconds around the oval. True, there will still be a winner and a loser but both will be so winded, it'll be difficult to brag or cry.


The final tradition can be done with a nice, slow, even pulse -- but it will still inspire you.

1: Journal

Keeping a training journal is a great way to remember how far you've come.
Keeping a training journal is a great way to remember how far you've come.

Forget the notion of athletes being dumb jocks. Sports are full of hilarious moments, unexpected challenges and life lessons, perhaps more so for family sports. That's why keeping a journal can be a priceless tradition for your fit family. Sometimes re-living the events can almost be more fun than the experience itself.

Imagine the whitewater rafting trip when Dad was bragging about his hand-eye coordination, only to get tossed overboard for one exhilaratingly cold moment? How about the time when Mom and Sis finished their first marathon together? Moments like those can be documented to ensure that all the colorful and moving details are captured and, perhaps, shared with the next generation.


Don't worry about being a Hemingway -- even just jotting down notes about finish times, weather conditions and the date of the event can spark wonderful recollections.

Click ahead for lots more information on traditions and athletics.

Lots More Information

Related Articles


  • Allanach, Jeff." My Daughter and No Training Wheels." For Fathers Project. (Aug. 2, 2011) http://www.forfathersproject.org/2011/05/02/guest-editor/
  • Heaven and Hell Ultra Relay Series. (Aug. 2, 2011) http://heavenandhellrelay.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=4&Itemid=3
  • Omidi, Sam. "Weight Loss Motivation Tips: Dessert and Still Skinny." WeightLossandTraining.com. (Aug. 2, 2011) http://weightlossandtraining.com/weightlossmotivationtips-desert
  • Rosenzweig, Fara. "9 Family-Friendly Turkey Trots." Active.com. (Aug. 2, 2011) http://www.active.com/active-family/articles/family-friendly-turkey-trots.htm