Intentionally Designed, Active Lifestyle with Kids

A few weeks back I had the pleasure of leading workshops at festival focused on intentional living for the outdoor-minded called Outwild. The founders and the people in attendance are simply the best! Jeremy Jensen, Sanni Mccandless, and Courtney Sanford have followed their passions and are at the forefront of a movement focused on living by design rather than unknowingly falling into constructs created by society. I could go on but this post is about one of the topics I lead, living an active and intentional lifestyle with kids.

As a Mom who refuses to accept fitness and adventuring outdoors peaks after having kids, this is a topic I am extremely familiar with. Having kids doesn’t make intentional living less possible. In fact, despite the added complexity, it makes it even more important.  I have found that being active with my kids outdoors brings us closer together and makes us happier people. Yet, it can be a struggle to get out there especially when daily routines are built around being moved around by cars indoors.

My workshop attracted a broad range of people, some parents and some not with different levels of experience around intentionally active lifestyles with kids. Some said, ” It isn’t that hard. Just pack up a bunch of snacks and water bottles then hit the trail.” While others struggled with WHEN to fit it in, logistics, and prioritizing their own outdoor time without feeling selfish.

Couples with no children attended wondering how having kids would impact their ability to get outside and be active. Then there was Alex Honold, climber and Free Solo star, who thought he was attending a nutrition workshop. In the spirit of Outwild, he stayed and participated much to Sanni’s amusement. Haha!

The challenges and fears were similars across the group. Everyone wanted to involve kids in an active lifestyle without losing what they loved (climbing, hiking, gardening, trail running, skiing, surfing etc.) and be able to support the whole operation.

My approach to intentional and active living is much like my approach to trialing a new food in the market place or a fueling approach for an athlete.


When advising a food company on the nutrition profile of a new product, I start by asking them what purpose this food serves in the lives of their audience. Then we consider principles that support how to make it happen based on audience and market preferences. After that, we outline the plan.

Then it is time to move into action. Iterating, prototyping, and problem-solving. No matter what happens we are active in the right direction and it is all training for something.

The purpose of living an intentional active lifestyle is based on values. I value fitness, outdoors, learning, and exploring. Principles of well-being support my husband and my preference for being active with our kids and on our own. So we create a plan for living that intentionally prioritizes outdoor activity.

My  approach to involving my kids has always been “it is all training for something!” A short walk around the block or backpacking trip – add kids and instant adventure and workout. Expect to carry the extra weight (literally) and walk the extra mile with it.

Running and skiing have remained none negotiables in our family. Those who don’t value those activities would advise us to “wait until the kids are older”. That just didn’t compute with our values. What did we do instead of wait? Three important things:

  1. Reset expectations of what a run or ski day both with and without kids looked like
  2. Became flexible with plan A, B, and maybe even C and always the option to abort the objective
  3. Adapted as we all grew with our ultimate adaption being to move closer to the activities we loved doing in the mountains.

Carrying 4-year-old Noah on my back in full ski gear up a mountain to the magic carpet only to be yelled at (appropriately) by the twenty-something lift operator for ducking a rope to take the shortcut was absolutely training. Running while pushing jogging stroller loaded with a kid, push-bike, and snacks down the black-topped path to see if I could maintain pace between snack, water, and bike breaks, was also training.

It is the endurance and resilience of parenting that has trained me for ultra-running and adventures like that before kids I would have been too apprehensive to say YES. In fact, I didn’t pick up trail-running and racing again until after having kids! I am running faster, further, and have more fun than I was running in my twenties!

Think about……..What do you want for you and your family right now? Are you there already? Not there right now? Why? What is holding you back? Are those things self-limiting or actual things? Write down it all down and reflect on it.

Society today is moving fast and structured to keep us churning and burning at both ends. It can be easy to miss dismiss signs that it is time to adapt. 

Recognizing signs it is time to adapt is kind of like heading off meltdowns before they happen. There are signals that show up when we need to adapt to avoid family meltdowns. I tried to push past signals until I could no longer shoulder the weight of the giant snowball I was pushing up a mountain alone.

My husband lost his job. Our marriage was suffering. The kids’ school was closing, and I was at a personal tipping point in my career. These were signals that told us it was time to act

“Dear Sir or Madam, Tara has permission to leave this amazing job that has launched her into who she is today and move to the mountains with her family. Thank you”

Give yourself permission to do the thing. Recognize signals it is time to adapt. Walk next to fear. Mitigate risk with preparation.

Common fears we all have are time, money, our own judgment or judgment of others. It is easy to rationalize these fears and problems that hold us back from doing what it is we actually know we should do for our family. The real problem is that it is easy to get stuck in what we think we must do instead of what we feel is most important for us and our families.

One of the main tenants of Outwild is acknowledging that fear exists and choosing to move forward anyway. Fear is a normal response to something that scares us. Adapting can be scary but it isn’t the saber tooth tiger. Acknowledge the fear and in the theme of Outwild, walk patiently beside it.

With Alex in our parenting workshop, we took a closer look at his approach to fear. “If there is a high level of risk you should be feeling fear. It’s a warning that there is real danger. Typically if I’m feeling a lot of fear, then I wait and prepare more, do whatever it takes to mitigate that, and then do the climb when I feel comfortable.”

Recognizing the signals allows us to prepare and mitigate risk to reduce fears (not eliminate). It is unnecessary and unwise to make one big leap into the pool of risk and uncertainty. Preparation is key.

Define what it is you want, how you will involve your kids and prepare to adapt by assessing the situation.

Adapting doesn’t have to involve a list a mile long to determine readiness. It depends on how BIG you are going! Are you adapting from camping out in the back yard to backpacking? Or, do you live on a giant hill and your kids are now able to ride bikes and you want to move to mitigate risk?

Most things come down to intuition, timing and developmental stage of you as a parent and your child as a kid. Eventually, you have to just do it or you will get stuck in expending too much mental energy and harboring resentments.

Be resolute in your purpose, principles(values), preferences, and plan because you will face judgment and criticism that will challenge who you are and what life you want for your family. You will have self-doubt and question your own sanity at times with questions like, “ Should I bring a newborn with me to the crag? Sail for 3 three months with a 4-year-old and two -year -old?” Reset, be flexible, and do what feels right.

This entry was posted in: Parenthood


Nutrition Strategist and Registered Dietitian with twenty years of experience creating nutrition strategies that influence and inspire people to accomplish big things.

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