Photography by Andrew Breig
If you walk around Tom Lee Park on a weekday afternoon in August, you might find a family with children ambling about with cell phones in search of water-type Pokémon. But it's just as likely that you would see a family trying out one of the stations on the Memphis Grizzlies Riverfront Fitness Trail.
The “RiverFit” Trail and PopUp Park, a joint project of the Memphis Grizzlies, the Riverfront Development Corporation, and the city of Memphis, provides eye-catching views of the Mississippi River and its bridges, as well as opportunities for singles, families, and other groups to work out.
Instead of a typical gym setup, six exercise stations are spaced at intervals around the park: monkey rings, polyboxes, an abs station, a pull-up station, battler ropes, and an obstacle course. There are also two sand volleyball courts and a soccer court.
On the other side of town, Memphis families can incorporate fitness into their routines via biking, hiking, and walking the trails provided by the Shelby Farms Greenline and Wolf River Greenway. One of those families is the Kearneys of East Memphis: Richard and Emily Kearney, and their children, Reagan, 12, and Owen, 10.
Richard works in operations at Youth Villages; Emily works as a social worker and as a lactation consultant. Emily says she made a resolution this year to move a mile every day, but the couple’s long-term goal is to instill habits in their children that they hope will last a lifetime. Reagan and Owen both run cross country and track. Richard ran cross country in high school. Emily got into running when Owen was 18 months old.
The Wolf River Trails and Shelby Farms Greenline are easily accessible, so they hike and jog there regularly.
“I love it in the summer because there’s a 10-degree difference,” Emily said of the Wolf River Trails’ shade.
The family also rides bikes, throws frisbees, and plays with soccer balls in their yard. There are benefits to being active as a family that go beyond physical fitness.
“You’re generating memories together,” Richard says. “It’s a time to focus on each other.”
Aisling Maki, a writer and public relations specialist (and mom to Bridie, age 8), cites adventure as a key to their fitness activity goals.
Maki, who hiked and canoed as a child, says that because of her daughter’s age it’s important to find activities to do together. They are members of the Salvation Army Kroc Center, which is close enough to their house that she can still connect to her home’s wifi signal. Bridie is too young for the workout areas, which have a minimum age of 12, and too old for the child-care area but the two can swim together in the center’s pool. They also often walk to restaurants and other places in their Cooper-Young neighborhood.
Bridie plays soccer and basketball. Last school year, Maki served as a coach for Bridie’s team at Immaculate Conception, which allowed her to spend time with her daughter, volunteer at the school, and be around other parents and children. And it helped her stay physically active.
“We would also practice on our own,” Maki says. “We both love shooting hoops.”
Other activities the two like include jumping rope, kicking around soccer balls, hula hooping, walking by the river, horseback riding at Shelby Farms, and hiking at Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park.
“[Shelby Forest] has great hiking trails,” Maki says. “There’s an opportunity to see a lot and combine physical activities with looking for wild turkeys, chipmunks, and all types of birds.”
The physical benefits are great, but her approach to family fitness isn’t focused on that. “It’s more about adventure than it is about exercise.”
Some families prefer to incorporate their fitness activities as part of a larger group. Celinda Smith brought the FIT4MOM pre- and postnatal fitness program to Memphis two years ago. With the mission of “help[ing] moms make strides in fitness, motherhood, and life,” the group’s Stroller Strides classes give moms an opportunity to work out with their babies and toddler-aged children in tow.
Classes are held in Overton Square Tower Courtyard, in the Mississippi Greenbelt Park on Mud Island, at Shelby Farms, and at St. John’s Episcopal Church.
The classes are about making moms feel healthy and happy, according to Smith, but the kids play a part as well. “We sing songs and move the little ones in the stroller throughout the class to keep them happy and engaged,” she says.
Overton Square’s Delta Groove Yoga (DGY) offers classes that allow parents with children aged 3 to 8 and 9 to 15, respectively, to drop them off, but some parents opt to bring their children with them to the adult classes, according to founder and teacher Olivia Lomax.
Lomax says that modifications are available to make most classes friendly to children aged 13 and up. She recommends that parents try the class first and meet the teacher before bringing their child with them.
One regular DGY family participates with both a middle school- and high school-aged child. They attend the junior class, as well as the restorative yoga, meditation, and slow flow classes with their parents.
“It’s a good experience to have because you get a physical workout,” Lomax says. “All classes are geared around meditation and breathing.”
Another DGY family includes a teenager and a college-aged sibling in a kundalini class. Some teens who are more athletic are able to attend ashtanga yoga with their parents. Classes for students under 18 are a $8 flat fee.
Lomax, herself the parent of two teenagers, says her children practice yoga, but with other teachers at the studio. “I know [teens] will better listen to other people than always the parent,” she says.