Over the last couple of years my kids have developed a simple understanding of health and fitness by watching my wife and I workout out and taking note of how we choose to eat. If you browse through my earlier writings you will read about how I keep my kids active and how I choose to feed them. To avoid writing the same article twice, I will not cover these points again, but I do urge you to first read Lead By Example before continuing on.
Mallory is the third of four children. Mallory recently celebrated her 5th birthday and is the quintessential little girl – everything is princesses, pretty, and pink – from her pj’s to her dishes. When it comes to physical activity, her preferred activities are dancing and ballet. When it comes to food, her preference is avocado, tomatoes, and all things pasta. Mallory is my clone, so to speak, and she shadows me every chance she gets.
To fill a spell of boredom the other night, I decided to squeeze in a quick round of HIIT and some core work in my basement. My kids tend to follow me downstairs and they play around for 45 minutes or so while I do my thing. I’m not a big fan of working out at home, but it does serve many useful purposes.
1. It is convenient – especially on the weekend when gym hours are limited and the day has been consumed with other obligations.
2. I can listen to good music as loud as I want without having to use annoying headphones or having to fear that I may accidentally start singing.
3. It provides a much-needed break for my wife while satisfying my own needs.
4. I get to work out naked (do I kid?)
5. *My kids get to watch me.
Prior to beginning my workout, whether I plan to go to the gym or just go downstairs, I spend a little time warming up by stretching and using a foam roller. For thirty minutes prior to my workout the other night, Mallory sat with me and mimicked my every movement, from stretches to foam roller movements. Having watched me so many times before, I can only assume that curiosity got the best of her and she had to see what all the fuss was about. Expecting her to lose interest within minutes, I guided her through a series of stretches, telling her what muscle we were stretching and asking if she could feel the “ouch” when executed. It was an adorable scene and I enjoyed every minute of it.
Once we got downstairs I expected her to go and play with the others, as was the norm. Instead, as I jumped on the treadmill she jumped on the elliptical. I ran intervals on the treadmill, so after a warmup I would do my sprints followed by a short rest. When I ran, she too ran (as best she could on the oversized machine). When I rested, she rested. During rests I would sip BCAAs, and she too would take a sip. Mallory hung in there for the whole time, eventually completing a twenty-five minute bout of cardio.
After cardio, I moved on to some light core work which involved a series of hanging raises and various leg movements and core stabilizers. Starting to break a sweat, Mallory was eager to move on to the next round. We took turns doing leg raises, her new favorite activity, and she even moved on to some pull ups. She then joined me as I did laying leg raises, crunches, scissor kicks, and jack-knives.
Once the workout was over, we sat down together and shared tuna patties and a veggie filled salad.
I’m not so naïve that I actually believe Mallory has developed a genuine interest in working out. What we have here is a daughter’s desire to bond with her father in an activity that her father enjoys. Fitness is commonplace in my household, and as far as my kids know, it is something everybody does. Including them in my activities allows them to get an early and enjoyable experience. I cannot help but feel that if this keeps up, Mallory will grow up with an outlook on fitness that associates only enjoyable moments. It is my hope that continued experiences like this will foster the desire to continue the lifestyle into her adult years.
Despite what many believe, it is not a futile effort to get kids of today to be more active. All they need is the right stimulus in the right environment. Health initiatives in schools and other extra-curricular activities are good, but they aren’t enough. I applaud the efforts of the fitness crusaders that are working to make our kids fit and healthy; particularly as it applies to the time they spend at school. If the same effort is not maintained in the home, I fear that very little benefit will be realized for the individual child.
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