The other day, my daughter had a friend over to play. I just finished the infamous “Murph” workout (1 mile, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats, and a 1-mile run, all while wearing a weighted vest) when I heard her friend say to her, “why do your parents always workout?”
I’m 35 years old and am in the best shape of my life. Sadly, many 35-year-old men and women will mention, “I was such an athlete…in high school, but now (insert excuse of any sort here).” It is even more upsetting that children witnessing fit parents is out of the ordinary.
I can’t control what other adults choose to do with their life. If they want a sedentary lifestyle, one where children don’t admire their parents' physical achievements, that is up to them. I, however, cannot let that happen; I value the impression I put upon my children too much.
Wow, that’s an epiphany. After all this time, I thought the number one goal of my fitness career is for my wife to think I look good without my shirt on, and here I’m saying it’s more about what my children see in me. I must be growing up or something.
In the end, I hope my children learn from me an idea of what it means to be healthy and active. After all, we only get one body. We had better make it a good one. With that, here are five lessons I want to teach my children about being healthy and let’s be honest, about life in general.
Whatever you do, invest yourself in it.
I learned quickly that golf was not my thing. I don't have the patience, and frankly would rather do a million other outdoor activities than walk around and hit a small ball into a hole with a stick. So, I don't do it. Instead, I invest my time in the stuff that matters to me, and I go all in on my investment. I don't want to be okay, or good—I want to be the best. If you are going to do something, be known by that something, otherwise, why do it? You may not be famous for this thing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t commit to success. This doesn't mean that I want my kids specializing in one sport, hobby, or activity. What it means is that they should try out a variety of things and see what works out and what fits them the best. You know, the old spaghetti method? Throw it at the wall and see what sticks. But I guess in this analogy, you'd take that wall pasta and make it into a fine dish.
Food is good when it comes from real stuff.
Speaking of pasta, I want my children to understand one of the fundamental pillars of being healthy besides fitness is food. It's funny, I've got my kids brainwashed with the idea the protein builds muscles. My five-year-old will eat her meat during dinner and flex her bicep and say, "Ewww, Dad, look at them grow!" While I would like to humor the audience and say that in my house we only eat the finest meats and organic fruits and veggies, I would be lying. I'm on a budget. I do, however, almost always cook our meals, and our meals are very well balanced in proteins, fats, and carbs. And yes, I am happy that I have boiled my nutrition into those three categories. The biggest success that my wife and I have with food is instilling the idea that food is cooked and not purchased in a box. I think too many families have lost that. Slow down, cook your food, and have a meal with your family. Kids are learning how to be parents when they are watching us, so do it right.
Be a grinder.
Besides being a parent, I'm a teacher. Fourteen years of teaching has given me one undeniable trait that I hold higher than all others—grit. I love a student that works at their assignments until they are successful. Give me that over intelligence any day. I guess that carries over from how I approach training. I'm not the fastest or strongest, but I will grind it out until I'm either dead or I finish. For my eight-year-old, true grit comes pretty natural. She will come home from swim practice dead tired and take it on day after day. She is my kid that learned how to ride a bike in a day because she was hell-bent on getting it done before all of her other friends. I would like to think that it comes from sweet parenting, but for as much success as I've had with her, my five-year-old is another story. We are in the midst of learning how to ride a bike, and the determination is not quite there. She will ride a little, and then I get, "Dad, I think I need a little break," and go and run off and play with the neighbor's cat. But because I'm a super awesome dad I come back with this: "Okay daughter, if we can ride down and back on the street 10 times, I will get you an ice cream pop." She gets back on that bike and each lap she counts down with an "I'm going to get that ice cream, Dad" and a look of determination I've only seen on people nearing the top of Mount Everest. She's a grinder in training.
Be competitive, but find the fun in it.
My wife and I are two of the most competitive people on the planet, and fortunately/unfortunately our daughters have inherited this trait. We will occasionally go bowling and both my wife and I will witness the fruits of our loins go at it in intense competition, so much so that it ruins the fun for whichever daughter ends up losing. We are blessed to have two very strong/independent girls that have a competitive streak in them. I always want them to know that I expect their best efforts in what they do, but there is a fine line between being overly competitive to the point of not recognizing the purpose of what you are doing, and being competitive and recognizing the fun in the situation. This has been the hardest value to teach as a parent, particularly with my older daughter. She has to be great at everything, and when she doesn't she gets frustrated. I get it though. I too wanted to be great at everything I did. And if it didn't come as easy or as effortless as I had hoped, I got mad. It has taken me years to figure out that I have to breath and realize the moment that I'm in is a good moment and that I need to relax. When I do, I often perform better than if I'm fixated on being the best or comparing myself to those around me. With my daughter, pulling her off the hyper-focused competitive edge is no different, but getting her to recognize it on her own? Well, that will take some time.
Prioritize your time
Adults are busy. We have the priorities of life: jobs, kids, groceries, taxes, all that extra minutiae that occupies us. Some of us use it as a primary excuse not to exercise or get work done that needs to be done. It's an odd thing: the busier I get, the better my life runs. I seem to run on "I have to do this now" rather than if my life is less busy and I run on "eh, I can just do this later". My wife coaches track in the spring, which forces me to be a one-man show on the days where there is a track meet. This means the only time I can work out is from 4:45 am-6:00 am. This is my only option. I do it though because I know that if I don't, I won't get a chance at any other part of my day. My eight-year-old daughter is learning this as well. She has a small window where she has to do her homework. She tries to give the excuse that she can do it after swimming or later at night, but she and I both know that she will be far too tired and cranky to have anything to do with homework. Once this is explained, she huffs and puffs and gets her homework done. Now you would think this would be the norm with parents, but again, as a teacher, you get to see parenting at its finest. I've had kids tell me that they couldn't get their work done because they had practice or a game. My old Political Science professor said that the greatest failure of students isn't their academic ability, it's their inability to prioritize time. Prioritize around the must-haves in your life because they make you happy, but don't neglect what needs to be done.
So far, I haven’t screwed my kids up too much. In fact, they are pretty awesome. I may be biased though because I am their dad. Regardless, in my experience of being around kids and their parents, those that are the most successful with their families are the ones that are consistently supportive, proactive in interests, and fun. It’s pretty cool being a parent. Embrace its twists and turns, but always try to have a rough outline to guide you along the way.To see more from Adam, follow him on Instagram: @agura16