Let's get N.U.T.S!!

We all know that kids need more physical activity. The 2016 ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth shows that only 9% of Canadian kids ages 5 - 17 are getting 60 minutes of heart-pumping activity they need each day (did that statistic shock you? It shocked me!!)

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When recess and phys ed are so restricted in public schools these days, how can parents take initiative to get their kids moving? I know for me, it's hard to find the motivation to get the kiddos out after a long day at school, especially when we have to get dinner made and bedtime routine started early (we prioritize an early bedtime in our house!) In the warmer months we always get out for a post-dinner walk or bike ride....but the winter months are HARD!!

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Just when I was despairing that winter would never end, I got a cool invitation from a new activity in Ottawa called N.U.T.S. The name stands for "Neuron Upgrade and Training Station." The facility is located near St. Laurent and Industrial Rd, and last week the Kids in the Capital team and friends got to check out this obstacle course where both your mind and body are challenged.

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When we arrived we walked into a huge dark room with glowing black lights and upbeat music. Friday and Saturday nights at N.U.T.S are glow-in-the-dark, courtesy of Glow Sport.

The first order of business is the waiver form. You then get to choose which type of trivia you would like, and I mistakenly chose Rock 'n Roll (mental note: I do not know ANYTHING about rock 'n roll.) When you give the staff your email address, all of your scores on the trivia portion of the obstacle are averaged out and you're emailed a score  - so you can go back and try to beat your last score!

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The premise of N.U.T.S is to run through an obstacle course, while stopping along the way to challenge your brain with trivia. The instructors showed us the entire course once, and explained how to move through it. The trivia is on small screens, and the passcode you have on your bracelet is entered into the computer so that your specific trivia questions pop up (my daughter chose Canadian History, which was a fun one to do together!)

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The obstacle course is not a race, but of course, some kids loved to see how fast they could do it! There is a lot of jumping, crawling and climbing. Most of the challenges along the way can be modified, so that older/stronger kids can choose the harder options on the obstacle, while younger kids can do something a bit easier. Anytime an obstacle is too much, we were instructed to do 10 jumping jacks instead!

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Have you ever gone for a walk and then had some brilliant breakthrough in your work or at school? Well, that's because physical activity is good for our brains! It gets all those fancy synapses firing in there, and answering the trivia questions was super fun.

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N.U.T.S is not just for kids. The idea is to run through the obstacle course three times, and I made it through it once. It was TOUGH (but of course, you can make it easier on yourself!!) I joked that this was clearly a mommy boot camp activity (and funny enough, N.U.T.S just introduced a mom and child fitness class!!)

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All the kids in our group declared it an amazing success, and were sad to have finished after three rounds. My daughter has already planned to hold her ninth birthday party there (and I got word that they supply a completely vegan cake, which is apparently out of this world!)

N.U.T.S is available for specific drop-in times, and they also tour all around the city visiting schools and having children take part in the obstacle course. They regularly host groups in their space, ranging from school-aged kids to workplace team building activities with adults.

This place is on our "must-return" list, and I can't wait to challenge myself again.

Choosing a soccer league for your child

I have a seven year-old who wants to do EVERYTHING. Over the past few months she's asked to try karate, soccer, pottery, dance, road hockey and forest school. 

As much as I love her enthusiasm and want her to try it all, I realize this is a) not realistic; and b) not affordable. So we have asked her to focus on one thing she'd really love to try, and she chose soccer.

My daughter did Sportball when she was younger, learning some basic skills and just having fun with the ball. I didn't go further than that because she was never keen to wear proper cleats, shin pads or the team uniform.

Can you spot my kid? :)

Can you spot my kid? :)

But all of a sudden she has grown up, and realizes that proper equipment means she can participate and feel comfortable. For a kid with many clothing sensitivities, it's a huge win to have her willing to wear a uniform.

I started looking at soccer league options, and was immediately confused. What was best? A city program? A soccer league run by volunteers? A soccer league with certified coaches? The option for her to play competitively at some point down the road?

I put the question out in our Facebook Group, and got a LOAD of information. I've put together a few things parents mentioned - you may want to consider some of these when choosing a soccer team or league.

Location and times

This seemed to be the most common thread from parents - choose a league where the location is close to you, and the times of the practices and games are doable for your family. It's going to cause a lot of stress if you are driving all over the city, or missing work to rush home for an early meet.

Long-term development and competition

Many leagues have a development soccer programs for youth. The goal in the younger years is not to push kids to the max - this way, they learn to enjoy the sport. Player positions are not assigned for younger kids, and many leagues don't even play games until a special festival weekend. At this stage, children are working on basic skills, often in groups instead of teams.

One suggestion I received is to ask if the children will be grouped in the same group, or if they're switching each week. Different groupings make it hard for kids to make friends, and can take away from some of the social aspect of the sport.

If at some point your child shows an aptitude for the sport, there are leagues that will funnel into competitive programs.

Volunteer coaches vs. certified coaches

Some leagues are run by parent volunteers, whereas others are run by certified coaches. As you can imagine, the coaching ability will vary widely when it comes to parents - some are naturals, while others require a bit of, um, work. 

I've heard some parents share positive experiences about volunteer-run leagues, whereas others feel that is too much of a gamble (will you get the great coach, or the not-so-great coach?) 

Cost

I've seen anywhere from $100 - $190 for the season. If this cost is prohibitive for your family, there are a number of programs that support low-income families:

- some clubs will lower the fee if parents volunteer

- the club may have scholarship programs, so be sure to check before you register

- Canadian Tire JumpStart program

- KidSport Canada

- Minding our Bodies Youth Grants

Competitive soccer is a whole other ballgame (no pun intended.) Parents are looking at hundreds of dollars in fees for the season. We're not there yet, and not sure we'll ever be, but it's good to know!

Finally, the last piece of advice I received was to get involved - make sure the rules and guidelines are clear. Find out if there are ways to volunteer (even for rotating snack!) This way you can see if coaches are encouraging team play and a supportive atmosphere. Sports at any age need to be FUN!

Is your child in a soccer league? What do you love about it?

Staying fit while pregnant with FITMOM2B

As an expectant mom with a two-year old at home, there are a few things that I could use more of in my life: exercise, a chance to unwind, time outdoors, hanging out with other moms, and sleep (in no particular order). I was thrilled to find Ottawa FITMOM2B classes where I can accomplish all of these things (yes, these classes even help me to sleep better!).

A girlfriend encouraged me to join her for these weekly fitness classes while I was in my second trimester, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience from my very first visit. I was greeted enthusiastically by the owner and pre/post-natal fitness guru, Sue, and after the arrival of another eight ladies or so, we got to work. The class strikes a fine balance of getting a good full-body workout, not a walk in the park, while doing so in a safe, controlled manner appropriate for most moms-to-be. The classes generally follow an interval structure, where strength exercises are carried out for a minute or so, followed by short periods of rest. Sue also ensures that all participants are mindful of the guidelines for exercise during pregnancy (as recommended by the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada), which include being aware of changes in balance, range of motion, caloric needs and hydration.

The classes have now moved outdoors to Windsor Park (Hunt Club near the airport) for the summer and it feels so good to be out enjoying longer summer evenings in the park and getting fresh air. The outdoor class also uses the park’s features to maximum advantage, incorporating benches and hills into the workout.

The class is rounded out with stretching and breathing exercises at the end of class, usually accompanied with some discussion about the importance of maintaining core strength and pelvic floor health before, during and after labour and delivery.

At 33 weeks pregnant I am so grateful to still be feeling strong and full of energy, and I know this is partly thanks to the FITMOM2B classes. I’m already looking forward to taking part in the FITMOM & Baby classes with my new peanut this fall. I highly recommend doing something great for yourself by checking out FITMOM; you can even try out your first class for free.

FitMOM Ottawa

About the author: I am a Calgary girl transplanted to Ottawa (via Australia, Tunisia, Mexico, et al), working for the public service. I’ve been married for three years, I’m mom to two year old Charlotte, a three year old feline, and we’ll be welcoming a little man to the family this summer. I’m also an avid cyclist, hiker, yogi, reader, coffee-lover and all around busy-body.

I blog about everything that is going on in and around town: festivals, special events, favourite yoga studios and great restaurants because I think that the ‘Hottawa’ is a fun and fabulous place to live.  Find me at @thehottawa.

Cate's first race

by Laura As a part of our family’s commitment to a healthy and active lifestyle, we are always on the lookout for fun and active things to do as a family. Having struggled with weight issues our whole life, hubby and I are determined to encourage our children to eat healthy, stay active, and most importantly, have fun doing it.

Since the arrival of our second daughter, Maddie (15 months), we’ve noticed the importance of have special one on one activities with our eldest daughter, Cate (3). An afternoon alone can work wonders for her attitude the rest of the week.

Recently, hubby and I have taken up running (more of the former, less of the latter). We’ve done a few 5K and 10K races between the two of us. Much to our surprise, Cate had started to express an interest in running too and so in February we decided to sign her up for her first race!

I researched many of the races in the Ottawa area. Some of them were limiting since the kids have to run on their own, which is fine for a “there and back” kind of run, but some of these races are far too long for a 3 year old to do on her own. In the end, we decided that the 2K race at Ottawa Race Weekend was the best fit. This way, we could all sign up and run together.

In preparation for race day, Cate and I did a handful of practice runs. We talked a lot about what to expect at the race and how we had to train to make sure that we would be in good enough shape to run fast on the big day. I tracked each of our training runs with an app on my iPhone and we would check in with the map when she would start to get tired or distracted. She loved to see where we were on the map and it made it easier for her to understand how much we had left to go.

At first, it was a bit of a challenge to keep her interested in running, but soon I figured out that we could run from fire hydrant to stop sign to street corner. I watched her cues to stop and catch her breath but quickly set a new goal of when to start running again. When all else failed, I started running backwards, sideways, and skipping -  these were sure to get her playing around and not noticing that she wasn’t actually tired, just bored! I also made sure to bring water, especially on the hot days. Most of our training runs were about 1.5 kms, which really only took us about 15 minutes. Somehow, she talked about those 15 minutes all week long and continued to ask to go for another run.

Finally, the training was done and race day approached. We brought her to pick up her race shirt and bib (number). She even got to swipe her own timing chip to activate it. We toured the expo and she tried a bunch of the samples for health foods like organic granola bars, greek yogurt, and protein packed chocolate milk. She seemed to really get a kick out of the whole thing, knowing that she was just as much a part of it as anyone else.

When race day arrived, we headed downtown sporting our race shirt and bib numbers. Grandma and Grandpa watched over Maddie as Cate, hubby and myself headed over to the start line. Hubby hoisted her up on his shoulders so she could see the sea of people huddled around us – the look on her face was priceless. When the starting horn blew, the crowd started moving. We weaved our way through the crowd as a family and kept a good pace going on the way down Elgin Street. Once we turned on one of the side streets, Cate’s interest level waned and the heat increased. A few sips of water helped her to keep her spirits up and soon enough we were turning the corner to come back down the Queen Elizabeth Parkway in the dash to the finish line. Spectators had lined the street cheering us all on. Excitement was in the air and Cate just started motoring down the street!

We crossed the finish line as a family with our arms in the air and a time of 21 minutes and 3 seconds. Of course, Cate was .1 of a second ahead of the rest of us. There was cookies and Gatorade waiting on the other side – a real treat for this little girl! After catching her breath, we went on to collect our medals. What a treat!

We had a blast the whole weekend and really felt part of something so special to our city. Between the expo, the race, and the photos that followed the very next day, I can’t say enough about how well organized I found the whole weekend and I would highly recommend it to anyone - no need to be a runner to participate!

On another note, Cate has yet to take off her medal…

Laura is a Marketer by day and Mom by night. She recently returned to the workforce after spending a year dedicated to losing weight, getting fit, and of course, her new baby! Laura and her husband, Rob write about their trials and tribulations with weight loss, parenting, and everything in between over at lalaland

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Walk, Run and Roll for Roger's House

by Barbara Did you catch a little running fever over Ottawa Race Weekend? My family sure did and I think that there are a few others out there who decided that they wanted to tackle a race and for them – and you – I have a nice two-kilometre run for families to do together. I'm hoping more than a few Kids in the Capital friends will come out.

On Sunday, June 19th, start Father's Day off with the Scotiabank Walk, Run and Roll for Roger's House, which is taking place at Scotiabank Place in Kanata.  Roger's house is “a comprehensive pediatric respite and palliative care program with elements of outreach, residential hospice, pain and symptom management, grief & bereavement counseling and research.”

Two kilometres might seem like a long distance for a person with short legs but your kids will amaze you! They take off fast and run hard. Then, usually, they have to walk for a bit but that is okay, as long as they keep moving. They'll want to run again soon enough and, in this way, you'll cover 2 kilometres. It's an accomplishment that is all the more special if you share it.

There will be a full morning of activities, from registration at 8 am and Welcoming Remarks at 9:00, through the Spartacat stretch at 9:30 to the main event – the run – at 9:45. Following the run, the Family Fun Zone will be open until noon.

Participants four and over must pay a $20 registration fee. There is no fee for the three-and-under set. The registration fee covers refreshments prior to the start of the event, access to the Family Fun Zone and a barbecue lunch (with choice of hamburger, hotdog or veggie burger) and a commemorative t-shirt.

Participants are encouraged to seek pledges to support Roger's House and prizes are available according to the amount of money raised. Pledge form may be downloaded (PDF) or you can raise money through the personal fundraising page that will be created when you register. There is no need to feel obligated to raise a certain amount of money.

If you're interested in joining the Kids in the Capital team, and I really hope you are, please register as a  new participant and then choose the “Team Member” option and search for Kids in the Capital. If you'd rather make a donation, that's an option, too. Let us know in the comments if you'll be able to join us. Barbara is mom to Reid, a girl who is 6 and ¾ (and takes the fractions seriously). A public servant by day she nurtures her love of writing through social media. She blogs at Tales of Life with a Girl on the Goand Losing it in Ottawa and offers shorter thoughts as @OttMomGo.

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