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Four times Olympic gold medallist Libby Trickett shares her tips on how to get your family to find joy through movement.

Growing up in Townsville, Queensland, it might be easier to ask Libby Trickett what sports she didn’t play, than what she did. The four times Olympic gold medallist credits her environment and her mum with giving her exposure to different activities including gymnastics, tennis, athletics, rowing, touch footy and obviously swimming.

“Mum loved tennis. She grew up on a farm in North Queensland and they made a makeshift tennis court. Dad did a bit of swimming, but I can’t say he was particularly proficient”, she laughs warmly.

Here she shares her tips on how your family can find their own joy through movement. You can't be what you can't see

“The most important thing for kids to be active is having parent’s role modelling that. That’s how to create a sustainably active family” explains Libby.

She says the easiest way to do that is to go for walks, anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour long. If your family has progressed past walking, Libby loves Park Runs, a series of great free running events around Australia, and free play in the park, though she has this warning. “It’s super tempting and I’ve done it myself, so no judgement here.

But instead of sitting on the bench and taking photos or scrolling through social media while the kids run around, get involved. Help support them while they learn about their body, the space around them and take risks to see what they’re capable of” Libby says.

Explain the why

The feel-good factor is what motivates Libby and her husband to move, now that they’ve retired from professional sport and have a growing family. “Exercise is about my mental health and taking the time to fill up my cup” explains Libby.

“In my family, we have a history of emotional eating issues. I had a problem with that, but just happened to train 35 hours a week for most of my adult life, so didn’t have the same weight gain when I was bingeing.”

Libby recognises as a mother of girls, who she wants to have strong self-esteem and positive body image, that it’s really important to talk about movement encouragingly, “We try and show that movement isn’t about punishing our bodies, or saying ‘I ate too much, so will have to go for a run in the morning’. Rather, it’s something consistent that makes us feel good, that we get to do.”

Teach the value of tech

While around 1 in 8 children (aged 2–14 years) were classified as obese, according to the New Zealand Bureau of Statistics data, Libby believes we need to teach the importance of technology, but also offer children opportunities every single day to move their bodies – whether through organised sport or free play. “Kids will have jobs we never dreamed possible because of technology, so it’s crucial as parents we teach them how to use it healthily” she says.

Unearth their passion

Libby is committed to helping her children find their own joy through movement, even if they are still too young to understand mummy’s passion for swimming.

“I genuinely want them to find a passion and dedicate their life and time to it. That is what swimming was for me. Swimming was my first love.” she recalls.

But while offering support is important, Libby believes it’s important to never put pressure on your children, offering this helpful reminder, “it’s a really tough slog if the drive doesn’t come from the person doing it.”

Libby’s 8 Ideas for Active Family Fun:

1. Park time! This is an almost daily activity for us.

2. Beach – our favourite go-to activity in summer.

3. Bush walks – now that our youngest is mobile, getting the whole family out into nature is wonderful!

4. Bike rides – we haven’t done this as much recently as I’m pregnant, but bike rides are a fun way to explore the city.

5. Catch a bus or a train to wherever you want to go – it makes the excursion even more of an adventure.

6. I can’t wait to take the girls to a theme park. Our littlest isn’t quite at the age that she’d be able to last the distance at the moment though.

7. Going to the local pool (I know I’m totally biased!)

8. In the afternoons, if we’re not heading to the park, we still try and get outside whether it’s playing on the trampoline or doing chalk drawings on our driveway, it’s a nice way to wind down into bedtime.