Editors Note: This is a contribution from Stacey Cavalari.
I’ve learned a lot from “my” kids, and one of the best things I’ve learned recently is how to keep fit like an 8 year old. I used to be kind of a fitness and diet junky. At one point the “dieting” got to a very unhealthy level and I ended up struggling with an eating disorder. Conquering that meant that I had to stop focusing so much on my “image” as it would just depress me. Well, luckily, I got out of that place, and now I’m doing quite well on the food front.
However, I haven’t been as active as I used to be, and the “pudge” that originally sent me over the edge was getting a bit too noticeable for my liking. I knew I needed to find a healthy way to keep fit without falling into the “perfect image” trap as I had done before, but I wasn’t sure if I knew how to do this. All the fitness programs I was used to doing were all very “goal” oriented, and quite rigorous. They were catered to those who needed to “feel the burn” and get that high you get when you know you’ve just punished your body. Well, I was done with that. It just wasn’t for me anymore. I didn’t want to judge my fitness level by how much pain I could endure and how much I wanted to slap the guy on the TV telling me “Come on! Just ten more!”
I was still thinking about this when I spent the weekend with my siblings at the beach. I have quite a few nieces and nephews, and they are all great, and I love them to bits. But, when it comes to playtime, there’s no one better than Ryan and Mandy. They were born about a week apart from each other, and right now they’re both lucky number 8. I really love this age because: 1. They’re not really little kids anymore so they’re quite tough and they LOVE to play rowdy. And 2. They’re not really big kids yet, so they aren’t afraid to get dirty and stinky in the name of fun.
I had a blast playing with those two that weekend, and I also snagged some great fitness tips. Here are the five things I learned from my 8 year olds that day:
1. Exercise Is More Fun With A Friend
Running laps by yourself is good and all, but really not too fun. Playing tag, on the other hand is awesome! It’s just loads of fun and you forget that you are exercising at all! That is, until you have to lie down in the grass and gasp for air. I do run, and I’m not that out of shape, but chasing and running away from 8 year old kids is exhausting. I’m not entirely sure, but I think that playing tag with kids (or other likeminded grown ups) is way better exercise than running laps (and definitely more fun!)
2. Don’t Be Afraid To Get Dirty And Look Silly
I was just thinking how “fashionable” exercising has become. When I used to hit the gym, I would always feel a little competitive with the other ladies there, and mentally judge who had the cutest exercise outfit, and who looked best mid-workout when your face is all flushed and your hair was all sweaty (because anyone can look good under the proper conditions, but if you were still hot while squatting forty pounds, well…) Just some crazy=lady mind-chatter. But 8 year olds don’t give a hoot what you wear when you play. As long as it doesn’t get in the way when you’re trying to shimmy up the coconut tree! Plus wild looking hair gives you that “crazed animal” look that really gives you the edge when playing “Mad Dog”.
3. Laughing Gives You Abs
No joke! When’s the last time you laughed till you cried? I spent the day laughing at EVERYTHING (because Ryan thinks everything is funny and his laugh is infectious) and when I got home that evening it felt like I had spent the day doing planks and those Pilates ab movements that just kill you… and I wasn’t even trying to work those darn trans-abdominals!
4. When You’re Tired; Stop
Have you ever just skipped a section on a workout DVD because you knew it was too hard for you? Well, I’m guilty of this. Instead of trying to do it, when I know I might not be able to do the whole round, I just don’t do it! For me, pushing the pause button was a sign of defeat! But, Mandy and Ryan push the pause button to the point I think it’s not fair (like calling a time-out right when I’m about to tag them!). But, they can play for hours like this! I can make it through one gruesome hour of workout and then I’m exhausted and feel like throwing up! Sometimes I can’t even finish the workout because I feel sick. I think I need to learn how to call time-outs more often.
5. If It’s Not Fun, Don’t Do It
A lot of people I know lose interest in workout routines because the long term physical benefits don’t seem to make up for the short term lack of anything remotely enjoyable. If you don’t enjoy your exercise, chances are you aren’t going to stick to it. What Mandy and Ryan taught me that day is that you don’t have to “exercise” to stay fit. They wouldn’t “exercise” if it meant they could stay up all night and eat candy, but they still burn more calories than any other living being, simply by keeping active and finding fun stuff to do. I think as adults, we can learn from this and think outside the box when it comes to fitness. Why not try rock climbing, Frisbee, soccer, Taekwondo; basically anything that’s fun and keeps you moving and active. I learn a lot from my kids, but the thing they constantly remind me to do is have fun!
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