It’s a cold and dark February morning. Four bags line the hallway. Four lunchboxes. Four warm hats to cover little ears but slim enough to wear under helmets. Four illuminated yellow reflector jackets, gloves….and more recently, masks. These are the items my kids need to prepare each night before the following school day to avoid last-minute rushing in the morning, (even though there is always last-minute rushing). With the exception of last year’s lockdown we’ve been biking or walking to school for the past three years, you could say, we’ve gotten used to this routine, or, it’s become part of our busy daily schedule. 3.8km one way, 3.8km another. The km start to add up, as a family (all 6 of us) it’s possible that we covered over 6,000 km in one school year. To motivate the kids I used to tell them that we were saving the planet, but now I say we are not only helping the planet but helping our own well-being too.
Here’s what we’ve learned since we started incorporating physical exercise into our morning routine:
- We drink more water and need a variety of healthy breakfasts throughout the week
- We are more cautious on our journey - we don’t have a marked bike path so pedestrians always have right of way - we slow down and always cross together: SAFETY IN NUMBERS
- We live the seasonal changes and understand the importance of weather
- We’ve learned that getting up early means that by evening we are ready and willing to get to bed on time
- When we arrive safely at school we are ready to take on the day, embracing whatever it brings
All the studies show that physical activity increases cognitive awareness as well as executive functioning as our kids’ brains develop. Oxygen moves into our brain cells as we activate our heart rate, pedaling or walking briskly as the sun begins to rise over Madrid’s five towers.
Yes, I am fortunate enough to have healthy children and to be able to live close enough to either bike or walk. Many of us could do this, but you have to WANT TO…..this does mean there are some inconveniences. We have to wake somewhat earlier, bundle up so our extremities don’t freeze throughout the winter months, wear extra sunscreen in the warmer months, (on extremely warm days the Madrid summer breeze can feel like a hot blow dryer). SPRING is the most beautiful season in which to ride to school.
Many people say ‘oh I can’t bike or walk to school because my children won’t get up’ or ‘I don’t know a good, safe, path’. There will never be any perfect conditions to entice you to incorporate early morning exercise into your child’s daily routine, but growing up in Ireland we achieved numerous feats by repeating the old adage: if there’s a will, there’s a way.
Knowing you are giving your child the gift for life that daily exercise can enhance mental balance and well-being should be enough to get you started.
Enjoy and stay safe.