Saturday, May 16, 2009

Exercise - Lifelong Values

Having watched my own dad and some of my uncles live their lives in less-than-stellar physical condition, the direct result of eating the wrong foods and never exercising, I decided that I would be the first in my family line to reverse that trend when I became an adult.

Long before I stopped playing competitive sports after high school, I had decided that I would embark on a lifelong journey to stay in good shape and to stay healthy. My goals included establishing a regular workout regime and mostly eating and drinking items that were healthy for me (of course, the occasional candy bar or ice-cream never hurt anybody!). I decided to not be excessive and allow the regime to control my life, but I wanted to be in good shape, healthy, and relatively pain free, unlike my own dad and uncles.

Starting at about age 13 while watching the Summer Olympics on television, all the while hoping that nobody would notice that I had started a “plan”, I began to do several minutes of jumping jacks for cardio, sit-ups for flexibility, and lifting bowling balls to build strength (to get dumbbells or barbells, I would have had to reveal my actual plan to my parents!).

My plan worked and I later escalated to jogging outside, investing in a treadmill, a rowing machine, and actual weights, while mostly staying away from the beloved Twinkies, pies, and Dunkin’ Doughnuts!

Throughout the rest of my adolescent years, through college, and into adulthood right through to this very morning, I have worked hard to keep myself in fairly decent shape – some would joke that it’s why I seem to have more energy than many who are much younger ….. and they’re probably right!

Of course, as I wanted to be the first in my family line to live a healthy lifestyle, it was also my goal to ensure that my own children would get it in gear and follow the lead of the favorite dad! As a part of my journey, I made sure that I worked out with them in the room, showed them how to use the machines, often discussed the benefits of lifelong health, gave them books to read, designed workout plans for them and ………. other than a few passing glances and some minimal involvement, my own kids, while showing an interest, always seemed to find other activities in which to engage, such as playing video games, watching television shows, and other such valuable endeavors.

However, I never gave up! I continued to workout in the house when they were present, jogged on the beach in front of them during vacations, and kept on with my quest to get them to engage in exercise ….. all to no avail!

FINALLY, when my youngest son was 13-years-old (the same age as I was when I began my health journey), I suddenly heard the rattling of weights and the motor of the treadmill emanating from the basement! YES, my son was working out!!

And, wow, was he ever working out! For a variety of reasons, he had decided to engage in workouts at a frenzied pace, almost too much of a frenzy in my view, as his type of frenzy often leads to burnout and quitting exercising. However, he had kept it up and now he is the epitome of physical health for a teenager! No more Twinkies (well, not too many!) for him! Now, he runs several miles and utilizes the weights every day.

For years I tried to get my kids involved in physical fitness as a part of their lifestyle and, for years, I failed miserably. But, then one magical day, it all changed and my son, realizing the benefits of working out, had adopted a healthy lifestyle of his very own!

So, while I decided to be the first in my family line to be healthy on purpose, my son has obviously decided to be #2. Hopefully, his son will be #3, and so on!

The lesson to be learned: Decide the values and habits that you want your kids to develop for their own good; teach them well; consistently model the desired behavior; and, who knows, they just might decide to adopt the desired values as their very own!

How about you? What values or behaviors do you want your kids to develop? Which goals have you set forth for your kids that have come to fruition? Write back and let me know!

Paul W. Reeves

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