Wearing a sheer turquoise dress and high-top sneakers, 7-year-old Lilly Brady nimbly dropped to the ground chest first and then stood up and clapped her hands over her head.
“I did five before my dad,” she told the other nine exercisers taking part in the first family fitness workout Tuesday morning at Lake Elmo State Park. Her father, Scott Brady, gave her a high five.
“She’ll work out if she can wear a dress,” he said after the program. “I have a photo of her when she was 4 doing kettle bells in a pink dress.”
The first of the three-a-week, hourlong Family Beach Fitness programs being offered for free are the innovation of Katie Hull, co-owner of Alternative Athletics gym in Billings. The classes are being held on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 10 a.m.
“The idea is to get families in Billings up here and have some fun,” she said.
Hull is gearing the workouts to be a bit less intense, less weight-oriented and more fun, with activities like Hooverball (which resembles volleyball but is played with a weighted medicine ball) and relay races. She will also take advantage of the surrounding terrain, incorporating a new retaining wall into her workout and, on hot days, allowing participants to jump in the lake to cool off.
“It’s important for kids to see their parents work out and sweat,” Hull said, and it’s also important for the youngsters to be taught physical activities from a parent rather than just a coach.
The setting for the workouts couldn’t be less gymlike — the air’s not stale with sweat, loud music isn’t throbbing from speakers and it’s brightly lit. Instead, a bullfrog groans along the beach grass. Ospreys circle over the lake in search of fish. A pair of mallard ducks flutter overhead as a redwing blackbird trills from a tree branch. On the flat surface of the shimmering lake, kayakers paddle past.
“In the summer, this was a great opportunity to get the kids out,” Scott Brady said. “They love this; it’s outdoors.”
The exercisers drew curious looks from an angler, dog walkers and a motorist as the group performed five Burpees (the pushuplike pop-ups), 10 squats, 20 kettle bell swings and 15 flutter kicks.
After learning each exercise separately with some individual coaching, Hull then had the adults do 15 minutes of “as many rounds as possible,” or AMRAP. Seeing that the youngsters were getting tired, she cut their workout to 10 minutes and then allowed them to sit in the shade and cheer on the adults.
“Come on, Daddy, woohoo!” Lilly Brady yelled, raising her arms over her long, blonde hair. “Only 10 more, Daddy, you can do it!”
Kelia Hart, a trainer at Alternative Athletics, brought her 5-year-old son, Sam, to take part in the exercise program.
“I’m always looking for something for him to do in the summer,” she said. “This is a chance for him to play, meet some of the other kids and be active.”
Although the participants had a wide range of athletic ability and varied in age, Hart said the workouts are scalable to the person.
“It could be a totally different exercise, less reps, cut the rounds down and cut the weight,” she said. “So everything is scalable. If you can’t run, you can walk.”
Hull said she would keep the workouts down to one or two pieces of equipment for her ease as well as to demonstrate to participants that they can utilize what is around them to exercise.
Terri Walters, manager of Lake Elmo State Park, said she had been looking for a yoga instructor to offer a program on the beach when Hull approached her with the idea of the family fitness workouts.
“State parks are all about healthy lifestyles,” Walters said. “And she’s a great fit. I’m pretty jacked about it.”
Hull is not being paid by Montana State Parks, offering the program for free as a public service and maybe to drum up more business.
Walters said she will measure the success of the summer-long program by getting people out and participating.
“If you can get people to live a more healthy lifestyle, it’s a win,” she said.
Hull said she’d be happy if she could get one more family to attend and be active.
“That would be worthwhile for the summer,” she said.