I used to hide from my children when it came to exercise. I got up earlier than my children so I could get in a work-out before they awoke. This only ended up with me collapsing into bed exhausted without any energy left to spend on my husband. I used to wait until they went to bed before getting out the elliptical. This gave me a burst of energy right before bedtime but made it impossible to get up the next morning. I tried going to the gym after dinner and leaving the kids home with my husband. This sucked time away that I could have been spending at home with him. To work out as consistently as I should have, it just wasn't good for our relationship.
I didn't want my kids to see me all hot and sweaty. I didn't want them to interrupt my workouts. I was trying to get healthy for their benefit, after all. According to the experts, a healthy mom has more energy to help her family. I even justified that if I wasn't getting my form right, they wouldn't see it and try to copy my bad habits.
That all changed when I hired a personal trainer. I wanted to get healthy, and I was willing to hire a professional to help me achieve my goals. I gave myself a year to gain control of my regimen. I checked out the personal trainer at the gym and the cost was way out of my budget, so my other option was to hire someone to come to my home. I did a quick internet search and sent out a request for someone to help me. Within a week I had a call from a guy in Miami. The only hitch... the earliest we could meet was at 10:00 in the morning.
Within a few weeks my three year old decided to join us. We were working out in my garage and front driveway, in the blazing heat, but still she persisted in joining us. The older kids had chores and independent schoolwork to do, so they only came out if they had a question, but the three year old wanted to be by my side the whole time. It got to the point where she would be dressed with her shoes on within minutes of the doorbell ringing.
At first I was annoyed. Why was she so intent on following me around, trying to copy me. She was getting in the way. She was interrupting my workout time. Then one day something clicked. I decided to pick-up a few things from the fitness department at Wal-mart so I could do some workouts on the days my trainer wasn't there. I was comparing the 8 lb and 10 lb work-out balls when my three year old asked if she could get "this one." It was a smaller orange 4 lb weight ball. She was carrying it gingerly and trying to put it in the cart.
In that moment I realized allowing her access to my exercise regimen was teaching her a positive side to exercising. From that moment on I made sure all my children understood that as long as their chores were finished they could join my work-out. They couldn't take it over, but they could do what I was doing and learn from "Mr John" alongside me.
Here are a few of the benefits children receive from watching their mom exercise:
1) They see that exercise is normal. It's not an activity saved for special occasions. It's a part of daily life.
2) They learn that you're willing to step outside your comfort zone. When you push yourself to complete five more reps than you did the week before, they learn to push themselves farther. They see that you must challenge yourself to get results.
3) They find that maintaining good health is not easy. They discover that people on TV who have healthy bodies and lean figures don't just magically get that way. They know learn first-hand what it takes to maintain their health. Hopefully this will, in turn develop some compassion.
Children can even learn positive lessons from what may seem like negatives:
4) They may see inconsistency. Children need to see role models fail. They need to realize that life isn't just a series of successes, but a mountain of difficulty to climb. Perfection is for heaven, and until we get there we must be over-comers. Managing failure is an important step to success.
5) They learn that it's ok to rest. They need to see mom take a break now and then. There were several times I had to cancel my appointment with my trainer due to illness or because something else came up that was more pressing. But they also saw that the next week I was right back on again.
6) If you allow it, they may even become accountability partners. When you know that your children are aware of your regimen, you are much less likely to skip because you "just don't feel like it."
So, don't hide from your kids. Invite them to exercise with you. Include them in your successes and let them see your failures. Allow them to interrupt you, but teach them boundaries. Show them by example that there are parts of life that aren't fun, but are necessary and beneficial. And get your little girls smaller versions of your equipment, because watching a four year old do adult exercises with tiny pink exercise equipment is just priceless.