The Spectacular Spider-Squirrel

Family Fitness and the JFK Challenge

Many of my friends have reposted that cool video of the 1960s high school workout promo, wherein high school kids are put through a rigorous training system involving calisthenics performed in a military/academy style. There’s a cadence, DI (drill instructor), coaches & trainers, and so forth. Orders are barked out by everyone, at the command of the DI, and fitness explodes throughout the school. If you haven’t seen this video, then here it is:

Inspired by this, and being a fitness guy myself, I decided to adopt this program for my family. All of them. For those unaware, I have 7 children, ages 21, 15, 10, 9, 8, 4, and 2. My wife would be joining us for this little adventure. She’s barely old enough to have a 21-yr old, for those wondering. 🙂

How would I go about doing this? How would I involve such a wide range of ages & skills? How would I go about getting such young children to perform a workout meant for high school aged children/young adults? These were great questions that I needed to answer.

Answer them I did.

First, the how: I planned to work the family out three (3) times weekly. I’d break it up into Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, allowing them a chance to recover the day in-between. This is a slight modification from the LaSierra High School PE program, which was performed five (5) days in a row (Mon-Fri). I did this for a couple of reasons, not the least of which was I wanted this to be somewhat fun. By giving a day in-between each workout, the kids were given days to sleep in (and recover) as well as enjoy their regular play, but it also gave them something to look forward to and not becoming a doldrum in their schedules (my children are homeschooled).

Next, I had to figure out how to accommodate the age spread. Particularly, I needed to figure out how to accommodate the younger children’s lack of skill and strength–at least, that’s what I thought… After reviewing the video, and purchasing the instructional videos from the Lean Berets, I decided to *NOT* modify the workout at all. I was confident that my kids could do these exercises, but I also gave them variations for each move so that they could still complete the reps necessary (e.g., kneeling pushups). So, off we go!

Now, LaSierra’s coaching staff would put the athletes in differently colored shorts to denote differently developed skill levels. Not unlike Westernized martial arts, where students “graduate” from one belt color (“level”) to the next. White to yellow. Yellow to orange, etc. I decided to adopt this idea, but I am using wrist sweatbands to denote current skill levels. My kids know that they can graduate to the next level, yellow in this case, by achieving near-perfect form throughout the entire routine and every single rep. I watch and coach them as I workout beside them (thankfully, I only have to deal with five students, since my 21, 4, and 2 year olds don’t currently join us).

As they progress, they’ll continue to workout alongside the rest of the family, but performing more difficult variations of each move (e.g., diamond pushups, burpees, etc.) Eventually, they will graduate to a level that will require them to follow a different regimen altogether, but that’s a ways away, and I’m still developing that program.

We are three weeks in, and it has been the single most successful family fitness adventure to date. Everyone loves doing it. The kids look forward to their morning calisthenics. They have also been eating better to provide better fuel for their workouts, and this of their own choosing! My wife loves it and it fits her schedule–and she’s sometimes doing pushups with a 2yr old on her back, haha!!

~Charlie~