Have you flown recently? You know how before you take off you get to listen to the little safety speech about putting on your own oxygen mask before helping those around you? I’m guessing for those of you that are parents, this is a hard concept to grasp – your first instinct would be to help your child(ren) first, right? But in this case, in order to be able to help them, you need to take care of yourself first.
I have noticed lately that this seems to have a strong parallel to fitness and healthy lifestyle. On Sunday I ran a 5K at the conclusion of the 8-week session of the kids’ run club I have been coaching. As I ran the last mile, I found myself helping to pace two very determined young runners. While there were a lot of great young athletes in run club, what stood out about these two was their determination. They had goals. They wanted to improve. I then realized something else that set them apart – both of their moms are runners. I do not think there is anything even remotely coincidental about this.
I remember many years ago my youngest niece said something to me about “When I grow up and I’m a runner…” Her mom and dad are both runners. This was not an if statement, but rather in her young mind a given that one day she would also be a runner. (As a side note to this, she is now 12 and can pretty much outrun me already!)
I love seeing the push towards healthy kid initiatives in the last few years. This is obviously much needed. However, I do not think we will get very far with this initiative unless parents take action first. We have all heard the old saying “Do as I say, not as I do.” But would you ever really follow this? It is important to me to work with a trainer that is also working out and does many of the same things he asks us to do (albeit much faster & with heavier weight!). If he sat there and barked orders at us but was completely lazy and out-of-shape I don’t think any of us would listen or put in the same amount work. (That or we would just find a new trainer!) Put this back into the example of your kids. My guess is they do not have a trainer. They are looking at YOU. If you are not working out regularly, how do you expect them to want to do it?
I am going to take this even one step further and say that not only do you need to be setting an example by working out, you need to portray a positive attitude about it. We all know those people (maybe you are even one of them…) that hate working out. You do it, but only because you “have” to. You complain about it. You procrastinate. You then finish and complain how awful it was and how sore you are. Those same little eyes are watching. I can guarantee you that Missy’s two young boys know that Mommy loves going to the gym. The gym is looked at as a good part of the day to them, not something that is dreaded or thought of as a chore.
When I was growing up my parents were not active. Not surprisingly, neither was I. I tried a few sports through the years, but never stuck with anything. It was just not a priority. I followed the example that was being set for me. Sadly, it took both my brother and I over thirty years to make activity an integral part of our lives.
At the karate school my husband and I own and operate most of our classes are family classes. Mom and Dad work with other adults so they are learning everything as well, but they can train at the same time as their kids. The success rate of kids training alongside a parent is very high. These families are not only more likely to continue but also have a much higher rate of practicing at home because they can do it as a family. We joke that “the family that kicks together, sticks together,” but there is actually a lot of truth to that statement.
So if you want active, healthy kids (and I’m not sure who wouldn’t??) get active with them. Even if you are not doing the same thing (I am quite sure Missy couldn’t sign up for little league with her oldest :)), your active lifestyle will teach them that this is just how you live. It’s not a phase. It’s not part of a diet. It’s not a whim that you go on occasionally. It’s a lifestyle.