Xtend Barre Old Town studio owner shares tips on how to keep your family active at home

Natalie Strahorn, fitness guru and mother of two, gives insight on how to stay healthy as a family while schools are out and gyms are closed.

xtend barre old town owner
Natalie Strahorn (Photo courtesy of Xtend Barre Old Town)

Kids in Virginia are out of school for at least two weeks (and potentially longer), and parents in the region are figuring out creative ways to keep their families entertained. But another factor to consider as everyone stays at home is how to keep children (and yourself) active.

We spoke with Natalie Strahorn, the owner of Xtend Barre Old Town, to get her advice on how to stay healthy during these uncertain times and how to keep up with the kids (she’s a mother of two young children herself). See highlights from our conversation below.

For parents who are at home with their families and don’t have at-home gym equipment, what is your best tip for keeping kids (and themselves) active?

I see two options here: Get the kids involved, which I’ve seen a lot of my clients do, or get your workout done during nap time or quiet time for your little one. My family has been going on daily walks and we’re lucky to have a swingset, so it’s getting a lot of attention right now. Streaming live or online workouts is huge right now and a great way to stay connected to our local communities. Most online workouts being offered are being designed specifically for those at home with no equipment. We also do daily dance parties in our house. I love Kidtopia on Spotify, which is a playlist with Disney soundtrack songs and, of course, KIDZ BOP is a hit.  Homemade obstacle courses are a great option too.

What are five workout moves the whole family can do together at home?

Jumping jacks, squats, planks, crunches and lunges.

For parents with children under the age of 10, what activities do you recommend that are healthy, fun and get the parents’ heart rates up too?

My son is 11 months old and crawling like a baby guerrilla, so I’m already chasing this little guy all day because he gets into everything! But for families with younger kids like mine, we create obstacle courses using our mini trampoline and a gymnastics kids’ mat, all purchased on Amazon. My husband and I take turns creating exercises with our 3-year-old and rotate with her. Believe it or not, it actually works. Bouncing on a trampoline is great low-impact cardio, but for folks that don’t have that home, you can still create a simple obstacle course and give your kiddos a few exercises to rotate while you rotate your own. Here’s an example:

  • Scarlett does 10 forward rolls while I do 10 burpees.
  • Scarlett does 10 jumping jacks while I do 10 mountain climbers.
  • Scarlett does 10 crunches while I do 10 plank up-downs (moving from hands to forearms).
  • Repeat as long as you can until your little ones lose their attention.

You can use cones, stuffed animals or large toy cars/trucks to create stations to move around too, and hide-and-seek and tag are also really simple games that will allow you to get your heart rate up and double as bonding time with your kids.

In your opinion, why is staying active during the coronavirus outbreak important?

Physical exercise is so important for our mental and physical health. It’s a great stress reliever, a coping mechanism for anxiety and it plays a role in helping us maintain a sense of normalcy. If you worked out in the early mornings before quarantine, then I suggest keeping to that same schedule.

Is Xtend Barre Old Town offering online classes for at-home workouts right now?

Yes, we are!  Anyone can access them by purchasing a virtual pass here for $30. And, 100% of the proceeds are going toward paying my team members. Upon purchase, they can use their passes to book any of the virtual classes on our schedule, and will be emailed a link to join 15 minutes before class starts.

Do you have tips on how to avoid snacking too much during this time? A lot of people are staying home, and the kitchen is right there …

For one, I try to be mindful that grocery stores are limited with what they’re stocking, so just keeping this in mind helps me mentally ration what I have in my home. I also suggest keeping a food schedule, even if you have to write it down. Plan your snacks and meals and set a goal to stick to that schedule. Set a reward for yourself for sticking to the schedule, like, “I can earn that extra 4 ounces of wine if I stick to my meal schedule today!” Get your kids involved too. Kids love reward charts and routines, and I’m sure they would be thrilled to turn the tables and be in charge of helping Mommy or Daddy earn that glass of wine!

How are you staying positive and motivated to stick to your goals during this concerning time?

This is a big one, because I had to close the doors to my barre studio, Xtend Barre Old Town, on Monday. Needless to say, it’s been an extremely trying time. I have to worry about not just paying my bills, but there are also team members who rely on my business to pay their bills and feed themselves. This is an immense amount of pressure on me. Staying connected to the community that I’ve worked hard to build and nurture has been a big motivator for me. The outreach and support that I’ve received reminds me why I started my business to begin with. You don’t have to be a small business owner to receive support right now. Everyone is in a mindset of helping others. These are trying times. Staying connected by joining Facebook Groups, FaceTiming family and friends … My husband even did a Google Hangout last night with two friends and had cocktails virtually. We have to get creative, but I believe that staying connected to others will truly help unite everyone and help us from feeling alone.

I also suggest setting up a designated workout space at home. When you enter that space, even if it’s a corner in your bedroom, mentally shift into thinking about making time for your mind and body. Otherwise, it’s difficult to dedicate workout time when you’re surrounded by distractions.

What are realistic health and exercise goals Northern Virginians can give themselves right now?

This is not the time to start any crazy diets. We all need a sense of normalcy right now. That said, everyone should aim for 30 minutes of exercise daily, whether that’s walking around your neighborhood or streaming an online class. Staying home also doesn’t mean we can’t get some fresh air. Get outside; just keep the safe distance recommended by the CDC.

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