Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Growing Up Fit

Every parent knows that they are a role model for their kids - good or bad. I have quickly learned that what I do has much greater influence than what I say. A perfect example is how I treat our dog. I tell Mckenna to be gentle, and she is, usually, but when our dog or parent's dog puts their nose up to her tray while she's eating, she pushes them away swiftly...just like I do...and says, "NO"...just like I do. Monkey see, monkey do. I have quickly realized that what they say is true, Mckenna is watching my every move and modeling it in every aspect of life...including exercise.

The APA (American Psychological Association) says this:
You are role models
  • Children are instinctively primed to imitate their parents and caregivers. They are incredibly sensitive to the messages that are sent about eating and exercise. You exert the most influence on your children’s behavior and can model healthy attitudes and habits toward food and physical activity that persist as they grow up.
And what's crazy, is I've already noticed this, just as 20 months of age. Mckenna is currently being influenced to exercise, and I think it may be one of the greatest gifts we can give her as her parents. She has recently done some things that makes me realize, quickly, that she is watching how we are behaving and modeling it.

Mckenna has recently decided that instead of riding in the stroller to the park on our morning park trip, she'd like to walk the .25 miles there, and .25 miles back (step one). And then, the other day on our way there, she insisted on running instead of walking. Now many of you may say, "Yes, she's a toddler, they do that." But it wasn't just the fact she opted to run. It was the fact that while she was running, she pointed out that she was running like mommy and daddy. BINGO. In that moment I realized that she was my little sponge every day on our run/walks in the stroller together. She was watching me, even though she couldn't really see me pushing her. She knew mommy was running, and now that she was out of the stroller, she wanted to run too. I have to say, I was so proud. It's so silly, but I felt a new sense of purpose in my exercise.

Another example is when we were staying at my parents while Ronnie was in for a tune-up. One day, I didn't have time to get to the gym, so I was in their garage lifting weights. While I lifted, so did Mckenna, without me saying a word at first. She imitated my moves. I squatted holding weights. She squatted holding a little metal thing. I curled holding a barbell, she curled holding some random metal bar. As I counted out loud...1...2...3...there went her little tushy up and down, up and down. 

And there I was "lifting weights"with my toddler. But you know what I flashed back to? Lifting weights with my dad, in our basement, as a toddler. My brother and I used to fashion all sorts of equipment to do the same exercises as our dad. We used Fisher Price chairs to hold a weight-less barbell while we laid under it to bench press, we used little things as dumb bells. You name it. It's the same brother that I lifted with at 4:30 in the morning with before work. The same brother who, with our spouses, belong to my same gym, and we take classes together. My same brother that is an avid exerciser himself, two decades after lifting with me in our basement...just like our daddy. Both children still carrying on their parents' examples.

Exercise can be a lasting legacy you leave for your family. There are many legacies I want to leave for my family and to be fit and healthy is one of them. I pray that Mckenna can know what it means to be healthy, to set goals, to get outside and a child and adult. I know that if I tell my kids to go out and play during the summer (which in AZ, is HOT), and they tell me it's too hot, that they will have no leg to stand on because I will be outside myself, exercising and playing...and will have their whole life. And better yet, I may not have to tell them at all because, hopefully, it will be through our actions as parents, and not only our (nagging) words, that they will instinctually just know they should be outside and playing.

Are you leading by example?