As a mom of daughters, I want them to be happy, healthy and have a positive self-image. I’m active and exercise makes me happy and keeps me healthy, but I don’t want to force it on my children, well, not too much! Keeping fitness fun, making sure the girls try different sports and also being careful to keep things challenging, yet not so hard, that they won’t come back for more, is always a focus. How much to push is the ultimate parent dilemma. While my hopes for them include going to the Olympics and full-ride scholarships, encouraging them to embrace an active lifestyle is probably a more reasonable goal – but I can still dream!
We recently had the opportunity to participate in a women’s bike ride. Distances varied from 33- to 100-miles, and I thought my 13-year old would enjoy the experience. We also discussed it with our 11-year old. She didn’t want to ride, but was interested in checking out the scene and enjoying the post-ride party – fair enough.
We rode the 33-mile route, and, thankfully, the day went off without a hitch – perfect weather, no mechanicals, super-supportive atmosphere and Adair asking for more. Success! And seeing the joy on Adair’s face was better than any race finish I’ve ever experienced. Even better, after witnessing her sister’s glee, our 11-year old is determined to ride next year.
After doing everything from 1-mile fun runs to 5k’s and snowshoe races to fun rides with the girls, I’ve noticed some common threads as to what makes an event fun for them.
–My girls like it best, when we participate together. This is not the time to PR, but instead to introduce a child to your favorite sport. Plus, sticking with them gives them confidence in a new situation.
–Let them pick the pace. If your child wants to meander along look at flowers, tell you all about school or tally bunny sightings, cherish the moment. You’ll be chasing them to the finish line soon enough.
–Choose events carefully. A fun atmosphere, great swag, well-stocked aid stations and a fun post-race party, all make it more fun for young and older alike!
–If they don’t like the event, don’t give up. This can be a great opportunity for both of you to try something new.
And don’t just take my word for it. Adair (13) gives her take:
“Doing the bike ride made me realize how much I like being active and exploring. When I finish a bike ride, ski, swim, run, anything active, really, I feel a sense of accomplishment. I feel confident, strong and great about myself. Being a teen, it’s important not to get forced into doing something – if you don’t like it say so. For me, even though Mom says, ‘Never is a long time,’ I’m never doing yoga again. So mix up your activities, go for a hike with your family or friends. Just have fun!”
Mom, wife, runner, triathlete, skier, Senior Contributing Editor at Competitor magazine
and co-founder of the website Outdoor Community Daily.