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As a professional athlete and mother, fitness has become a way of life for me. We know we need our kids to start physical activity to keep them healthy, but we also want to find the right balance; we want them to grow up loving fitness instead of getting tired and resentful. Here are some lessons I learned along the way:
1. Lead by example
Seeing what parents do, children naturally want to try, so the most important thing for children to participate in fitness is to do it by themselves. They would love to see all my different self-massage and stretching tools and give them a try. They approach them with the same interest and curiosity that children have for toys.
To get them more involved, we put them in some sprint children's races that I ran a half or full marathon. My kids love watching me win, and of course they want to try it for themselves. I absolutely believe in letting kids "find their own way" and discover their unique passions and talents, but it's only natural for them to do what they think they emulate. Bonus points for letting your actions help hone their love of fitness. When they see you prioritize exercising and hear you talk about the benefits of exercising, they are forming a positive connection. While none of our children grow up to be professional athletes, our goal is for them to have a love for sports and physical activity.
2. Give your child a choice
Kids need some level of control over their lives, but I think we often give them the choice to do what they want, even if it means sitting in front of electronic devices for hours on end. In our family, we let our kids choose to do what they want, just work hard and sweat. For many days it jumped violently on the trampoline, played football, skipped rope, ran, lifted weights, and even chopped wood. Also, buy them a blood pressure monitor to help them monitor their heart rate.
We want our children to be free to focus on the things they are interested in, but we also teach them that our heart is a muscle and if we don't make it work, it becomes weak, which is not good for our health. In our house, we all want to exercise four to five days a week. Even if your child is artistically or musically gifted like some of ours, these activities should not replace doing something physical; our bodies are designed to live healthy lives.
3. Make fitness fun.
Exercise is also a great way to play and interact with your child. We often jump on the trampoline or swim together after school as a way to bond. We also love physical challenges like doing 100 push-ups for a prize or seeing how many times they can go up and down the stairs. Our kids love that they don't even know they're exercising; for them, it's a game.
Another great way to make fitness fun is to embrace nature and go hiking and trail running together. Even if you don't consider yourself a true runner, venturing out to a beautiful location in nature can add a new element to your run that can help you take your focus off the steps while boosting your energy and Improve your mood.
4. Meet all challenges
One of our core family values is to take on challenges. We believe doing difficult things is fun. We value comfort. There's nothing wrong with that, but just being in your comfort zone is boring. When kids work hard and overcome challenging things, it builds their confidence, which translates to the rest of their lives. If we keep them in their comfort zone and never know the joy of persevering in the face of adversity, we are doing them a disservice.