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Mom vs. Kid Fitness Challenge

December 17, 2009 Family Travel No Comments

It comes every year, as constant as death and taxes. And for me, just as dreaded. I’m not talking about 1040s. I’m talking the Presidential Physical Fitness Challenge.

The program has lasted far longer than any president, which in my opinion is too bad. I have fond memories of failing it repeatedly as a kid. Now my children are taking the challenge and we shall see if I have passed on the Fitness Challenge Flunk Out gene.

I have one out of three kids who takes this process very seriously. I think she’s been brainwashed by Arnold Schwarzenegger. It is her nine-year-old intention to gather us into a flock of believers. In exercise, that is.

She cornered me while I was taking a little catnap on the couch and wanted to know how many curl-ups I could do in one minute. I was too foggy to ask her to define “curl-up” so I mumbled one hundred as I rolled over.

She wouldn’t go away, however. Next she wanted to know how many push-ups I could do. That was easy. Zero. Little Miss Fitness announced that zero was not an acceptable goal, so I changed it to one.

Last, she badgered me about how far I could reach past my toes. Well, that all depends what I’m reaching for. I once dropped my sunglasses but I didn’t have to reach past my toes because my shades fell in the toilet instead. Anyway, I told her I could reach past my toes if I had enough incentive, but it had better be really good. She wrote my words down in a little notebook.

That evening she gathered us all together and said we were now going to practice for the Presidential Physical Fitness Challenge. What? See this is what happens when you don’t have cable. You sit around staring at the walls and each other until someone comes up with the lamebrained idea of exercise.

I tried to beg off with a “bad back,” but my husband thought it was a great idea. Probably because he can do more than one push-up. And so the P. (for Payne) Residential Physical Fitness Challenge was inaugurated.

Curl-ups were first on the torture agenda. I went last since I didn’t know what they were. Turns out it was just old-fashioned sit-ups. The numbers were coming in at 35-40 when Little Miss Drill Sergeant popped out fifty. I started to rethink my goal of one hundred. My turn. I did my first curl-up. Oh—ouch! It hurt. I’d like to say it was the weight of my massive chest that made it so difficult to lift my upper body, but that would be an exaggeration. I barely churned out ten before collapsing in a heap, making excuses the whole time.

Push-ups were next. Little Miss Purple Belt did twenty ramrod straight. I asked if I could do girl push-ups. I guess that isn’t politically correct anymore since they didn’t know what I was talking about. I assumed the position. My arms were shaking already. Everyone was shouting advice. “You need to go down!” Easy for them to say. Finally, someone put a pillow under my face so I wouldn’t break my nose with the impact and I once again collapsed in a pile.

Last was the V-stretch. This one we did together, sitting on the floor legs stretched out straight in front of us. According to Little Miss Workout Nazi our goal was five inches past our feet. I got to my ankles just fine. If I normally shaved my toes, then I would have reached them easily too. I had an idea. I asked my daughter to find some Hostess Twinkies. My husband made a disparaging remark. That’s when I noticed he could only reach to the top of his dorky dress socks. And his knees looked suspiciously bent. I couldn’t believe it. I was beating him! I took a deep breath, leaned into the exhale, and I was touching my toes. A few more breaths and I was substantially beyond my feet. If the Twinkies had been sitting there, they would have been history.

Little Miss Exercise Guru made up a chart and recorded our progress. Every night that week we hit the floor: timing, counting, holding each other’s feet and oh yeah, exercising. I’d made significant progress. I doubled my push-ups. On Friday, our nine-year-old fitness fanatic came home from school with big news. She had passed the Presidential Physical Fitness Challenge with highest honors. Maybe she does takes after me…


Jody Payne

Mom Living Out Loud

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