Teach them to run
I’m not what you’d call an athlete — at least not by my standards. I practice hot Vinyasa a couple times a week and try to get a short run in once or twice a week as well. (I prefer floating on my paddleboard, but snow and ice hinder that in winter.)
I’ve learned that, for me, it’s all about the exhale.
I was the kid in middle school who defiantly walked the mile run. I was even a bit prideful about crossing last with a few of my anti-PE comrades.
I didn’t grow up playing organized sports. My extracurricular interests were dance and music, so I never felt the need — or imagined I might have the ability — to demonstrate sports skills.
Instead, I spent most of my youth avoiding them.
Exercise is ubiquitous
Today, unlike when I was growing up, exercise is everywhere.
We have gyms in our shopping centers, TV shows dedicated to watching people lose weight, and a plethora of 5Ks, marathons and ultra-marathons — not to mention the many extreme-racing franchises, including, in one race, electric-shock obstacles.
I don’t really want to be electrocuted, but I do want to model a healthy lifestyle for my kids.
My tween and teen have been blessed with more of a sportsman’s gene. (Phew!)
They’ve both been involved with team sports including soccer, gymnastics, baseball, football and many others all throughout their youth, all by their own choosing. They’ve stuck with some things longer than others, but group athletics have remained a constant for them.
Our kids today have so many opportunities to play sports. But, I fear, if they become too focused on becoming varsity players once they make it to high school, they might lose the simple pleasures of their sports and, eventually, even the physical release that exercise brings.
Playgrounds to sports
When my kids were in their baby and toddler years, I discovered my need for physical exercise and found my cure in nature. I got up early and took cool morning walks on the San Francisco Bay Trail. It was my respite before a day of floor play and plastic toys.
I also took my kids outside daily. Temperatures of 65 degrees and higher year round — and plenty of parks and trails in Northern California, of course — made this very doable.
My kids grew to crave the outdoors and learned their trail etiquette while navigating their training wheels and scooters at an early age.
Now, as they move from childhood to adulthood, I want them to have the ability to replenish themselves physically. I also want them to be playful and open to the same sense of discovery, adventure and freedom that came when they, as little kids, found a new park for a picnic or a new trail to race down.
I want them to remember, even into adulthood, that feeling of pedaling faster than your trike wheels can carry you, forcing you to put your feet in the air, feel the wind on your face and just coast.
Activities to lifestyle
I resisted the urge to jog for many years. But eventually, I gave in and my morning walks became my morning runs. I willed myself to feel comfortable with the discomfort of heavy breathing and sweating. I started dragging the kids with me, assuring them that running would improve their endurance in their many sports.
It took a bit of prodding and prompting especially for my younger one. Come on let’s run to that lamppost there! (Eyes are rolling behind me.)
I can’t guarantee my kids will ever run for fun.
They may just realize that all they need to do is go out on a paddleboard, take a few strokes out to a quiet spot in the lake, stretch out their feet, feel the wind blow and, then, of course, exhale.
And that’s good enough for me.