Some background: I didn’t grow up doing team sports. My Latina mother encouraged ballet, swimming, gymnastics, cheerleading, even track. She scoffed at the idea of women playing soccer, field hockey, lacrosse, or softball. So naturally, if a ball is hurled at me, my instinct is to duck or run away. I turned 30 the year I delivered my boy/girl twins and vowed to change my fearful ways.
Thanks to sheer stubbornness and good genes (gracias, Mama!) I set some goals so I could walk the walk, so to speak, as my kids got older. The goals ranged from holding a plank after delivering twins and running the Boston Marathon (both huge stretch goals at the time) to doing back walkovers and catching a Frisbee (also terrifying). The main take away in all this? Get off the sidelines and do THE THING. Whatever that thing is. As 40 comes hurling at me, I won’t duck.
The curiosity, courage, and tenacity of our kids are what I want to emulate. I might trip over the soccer ball but doing drills with my son, Jack is so fun! Walking on my hands with Elena? You can bet I fall 9 times out of 10 but that one time I stick it? Gold. They are so excited to see mom struggle, fail, and win at their side. Getting sporty with my kids breathes new life into my workout routine too. Hello agility drills, body weight exercises and mobility!
Aside from the physical challenge, the team aspect that a good coach fosters for kids is invaluable. Learning to find your voice, get along with your peers, solve problems, and be both a good winner and a good loser are lessons that we all need, no matter the age. As a Girls on the Run coach, I am reminded of this each season. Getting off the sidelines for you might be volunteering to coach. It’s truly a worthwhile experience.
So how do you do THE THING safely without breaking your body? Let’s face it, my 8-year-old can drop into the splits and that’s just not something I’m willing to try (yet!).
Start Small. Maybe it’s swimming laps at the pool. Start with two to four laps and add a lap each week. Or try a timed run/walk during your kids’ next baseball game and measure yourself against it weekly.
Don’t take yourself too seriously. It’s not the World Cup. Expect yourself to be slow, weak, and uncoordinated. Then give yourself a break. You are a kick-ass parent doing THE THING!
Practice makes perfect. Think back on the best piece of advice a coach or teacher ever gave you…it likely included something about practice, practice, practice. Add strength training and mobility to your practice to minimize injury and improve your recovery, speed, and general athleticism.
You may just find sharing a new sport with your kids brings new motivation to your gym workout. Maybe you’ll find it reboots your fitness experience and gives you the motivation to set new GOAAAAAAAALS! In any case, you are guaranteed to get off the sidelines and make a mark.
Andrea Jones is a founder of Alchemy and Union Fitness. She lives in Saint Paul with her 8-year old twins, a 4-year old boy, a Boston terrier, and a rescued cat. When she’s not training for this fall’s Twin Cities Marathon, you can find her getting sporty with her kids at the University Club.