BEAT THE STREET

I peek out through the blinds, everything crossed, hoping for a dry morning. I watch as the sun rises above the houses in the distance, its golden brightness illuminating my bedroom. I breathe a sigh of relief.

‘Wakey-wakey everyone! Time for school!’

The kids grunt and groan and eventually roll out of bed. Breakfast. Wash. Dress. Lunchboxes. Coats. Bikes out of garage. Ready to go. That’s our routine. It’s only September so thankfully so far there hasn’t been too much complaining or resistance. However, as the weeks and months go on and we find ourselves in the midst of Winter it can be challenging, to say the very least, convincing 3 tired children to extract their bodies from their cosy beds and put on their bike helmets for a dark, dreary and chilly cycle to school. They love to cycle of course, but when the frosty mornings set-in, the luxurious heat and comfort of a car looks way more inviting than the seat of a bike, head down, into the wind ride through the park to school.

So, when the Beat the Street initiative started last year I was delighted to have an extra argument in my morning ritual of persuasion to brave the elements in the name of active travel. The aim of the game is to walk, cycle, scoot, run, hop, skip or bounce your way to school (as long as you are moving those bodies), work or just get active in your daily routine and when you pass a lamppost with a Beat the Street box attached, tap your card or key fob to accumulate points for your chosen team. Visit http://www.beatthestreet.me/ni for more information.

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My kids are registered through their school and parents were sent home a card, which we then registered online, so as a family we can collect points which all contribute to the school’s total. Pretty nifty, huh?

In a culture of computer games I personally think it’s a great idea. Kids love to gather points, get the best score, compete, take on a challenge, aim to WIN! Only this way, the sit-on-your-behind, screen-in-front-of-your-face inactivity is removed and replaced with something to get kids, and grownups, outdoors and active. Deep breath, fresh air, stretch your body. GO!

It can only be a good thing encouraging families, and as a direct result, communities to be more active. We’ve all heard the stories of obesity costing our NHS millions of pounds, and the sometimes lifelong consequences of a lethargic lifestyle, not to mention the damage being done to brains by too much time spent gaming and in front of a screen. The Beat the Street challenge will aid us in striking a balance, enjoying the benefits of new technologies while also improving our overall physical and mental wellbeing.

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Last year, my kids competed for the duration of the challenge. Their school didn’t win. Did that deter them from participating this time round? Not at all! They ran out of school last week waving their new key fobs at me, eager to get stuck into the game once again!

This morning, on the first day of the 2017 Beat the Street campaign, we enjoyed a dry cycle to school. Dark clouds weren’t far off. This is Northern Ireland after all!

My youngest child cycled alongside me.

‘Stupidious,’ he said. ‘Isn’t that a great word?’

I laughed and agreed. I thought for a minute, unsure if it was even a real word. But I liked the sound of it.

‘Sounds like a spell from Harry Potter,’ I said.

‘It really does,’ joined in my middle son.

The conversation continued on this topic of spells and enchantments the whole way through our local park. The boys concluded that the newly named ‘Stupidious Charm’ would be ever so useful for days when you are most tired. It would be used to render teachers stupid and therefore unable to teach, making for an easy day at school.

If we had been stuck in a car, radio on, me stressed by traffic, I truly believe that conversations of this nature wouldn’t happen. It’s a different dynamic altogether being outside and moving. There’s something about being outdoors and walking or cycling together that brings about a sense of fun and adventure that ignites imaginations and sparks little chats that are the golden moments of my day. I’m still smiling as I think about the boys waving their pretend magic wands as they cast their ‘Stupdious Charm’. It was a fun start to an ordinary day.

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Certainly I cannot walk or cycle with the kids to school everyday. I work part-time and on the days I am in work I leave much earlier than everyone else in the house. On days when he doesn’t have to be away too early my husband will cycle with the boys, but sometimes they will travel in the car with him and get dropped off. That’s just life. This is the reality for working families as they try their best. However, we can endeavour whenever possible to make our morning routine an active and positive one. And it’s worth bearing in mind that Beat the Street points can be earned at any time, so an evening or weekend jaunt about town, be it on foot or on wheels can be a worthwhile activity too in a bid to collect the most points.

Are you ready to get involved in Beat the Street?….visit the website to find out more.

http://www.beatthestreet.me/ni

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