I define fitness as a mindset of getting and staying well by way of exercise, eating a clean diet and maintaining a sense of positivity through trials or tranquility. It’s not a physical state. It’s not a place to arrive at and be done aspiring for. It’s not a goal to reach. It’s a lifestyle. A daily, maybe even hourly decision.
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7
Here are some ways to cultivate that definition of fitness in your family:
- Be the example. This is not a new concept in parenting. If you are a parent you know that demonstrating a certain characteristic or movement is the best way to teach it. When you ask your child to do a chore, it’s only after you know she has seen you do it plenty of times, you have helped her do it, she has done it with you watching her, and now is ready to do it without your help. Same thing applies to exercise. When your child sees you exercise he is going to do it too, no question. I’m certain my children are not the only children who imitate their parents.
- Encourage participation. No matter what the age of your child, you can encourage him to participate in activities by providing them. We had a nice evening at a local natural resource center last week. Going there, I had an idea of what to expect and knew for certain we would be able to go for a hike. Even though we have a four-year-old and a two-year-old, I did not bring a stroller. I wanted all of us to be able to get the opportunity to hike. My husband did not get to come, so it was only me with all four kids. I established the rule immediately that everyone was going to hike. I would not carry anyone unless she/he got hurt (having apples as an energy snack was very helpful). When you let your almost-2-year-old set the pace for the family hike, you get opportunities to take in your surroundings and answer the questions that everyone is asking without rushing.
- Make it a family affair. If you are interested in a certain sport and spend time improving your skill in it, share that with the family. Baseball has been a family pastime since I was a child. I have fond memories of my dad pitching to us in the backyard and then, when we were old enough, driving us to the diamond to hit us ground balls and pop-flies. He loved the sport so much it was contagious. He shared his passion with us. He did not use it as his escape, or his “me-time”. He loaded us all up in his truck every Monday night for his softball game because we loved watching him play. I was very proud of my dad, the shortstop. He could have very easily left us home and spent that time with his friends, alone – a welcome reprieve. Instead he had to deal with us constantly asking him for money for Big League Chew. I’m sure it would have been more enjoyable for him, to be able to focus on the sport he loved without having to think about us potentially being launched across the playground on the old-school teeter-totters. And my husband does the same with our kids. His passion is not softball, but running. He brings the kids with him on his training runs once in a while. Our oldest daughters can now ride their bikes while he runs. He specifically plans a route that will loop him past our house so the girls can go with him for the last few miles. And when they were younger, he would push them in the jogging stroller. We also do our best to make it to all of his races, to show our love and support for him, but also to place the kids in that environment. Our kids have even all participated in at least one race per summer (except the almost 2).
- Play. Wrestle with your kids. Play hide-and-seek, kick the can, tag, leap frog, airplane, or any engaging physical activity. Set up obstacle courses in the house or backyard and time each child as they go through it. Not all fitness has to be structured exercise. It’s easy to add little bits of fun spontaneous play throughout the day. Don’t get too greedy with your exercise time. Involve the children as much as you can. I love to exercise at home to work out videos. Yes, it would be easier to not have the kids on top of me when doing a push-up, or right next to me when trying to perfect a roundhouse kick, but when they see me work hard while having fun, they want to do it too. Now, if I happen to exercise before they wake up, they’re sad they missed it.
- Slow down. It’s not about how many activities you can schedule in your and your children’s day. It’s not about being on the best team, with the best coach and the most talented players. It’s about serving the Lord by stewarding our bodies and learning to love our abilities, to enhance our skills and to enable our bodies to serve.
Play hard. Work hard. Have fun. Foster fitness as a lifestyle.