Go Outside and Play! 5 Fitness Lessons From Your Inner Child
In a few short weeks, kids will be flooding the beaches, malls, and playgrounds of the United States to enjoy their summer break. Many of us wish we were them. Of course, we once were and while you can never turn back the clock, all of us have the capacity to live our years ahead by drawing from the important lessons we learned as kids.
They say that pretty much everything comes back to what you learned as a kid. That the best way to know where you are and where you’re going is to take a good look back at where you’ve been. Where it comes to fitness, we can unearth much of what is blocking us and what will motivate us by digging deep into our formative years.
Here are five lessons from childhood and how they can help you on your journey to optimum health, fitness, and wellness.
Finish Your Commitments
My parents made me learn piano when I was seven. I hated it. While my friends were kicking back and having fun after school, I was learning chords. I pouted and complained, but my parents were steadfast, explaining I had to commit to two full years of piano lessons and then I could decide for myself. I ended up quitting after the two years, opting for the allure of Little League baseball and all-important hang time with my friends.
But as adults, if we don’t like something the first time we try it, we often don’t stick with it. Despite not getting summer break anymore, being an adult does have a certain upside in that if you don’t like something, you don’t have to do it. But deep down, we know that success in anything comes down to facing ourselves and tackling the things we don’t necessarily like.
Exercise for many is one of those disliked things. While I‘ve long forgotten the chords I learned in those piano lessons, I didn’t forget the lesson of finishing a commitment. When it comes to fitness, finish what you start.
Get Outside and Do Something
When I was a kid in the 1980s, video games were the craze. My aunt used to snap at us to turn off the video games and go play a real game outside. In the 1950s, kids were mesmerized by television and their aunts probably snapped at them, too. Now, kids are plugged in and connected 24-7 to every device imaginable. Still, every kid is likely told at some point to go outside and play.
"The treadmill intervals, heavy lifting, and gym time are great proving grounds for the limits of what our bodies’ capabilities. But the gym is about preparation. Playing outside is about expression."
It’s good advice, especially for us fitness junkies. While sweat equity is undoubtedly a good thing, the real games are out there. The treadmill intervals, heavy lifting, and gym time are great proving grounds for the limits of what our bodies’ capabilities. But the gym is about preparation. Playing outside is about expression.
Doing something with your body matters a lot more than what your body looks like. Going outside to play real games, run in real races, and ride on real trails is where we learn to do that something.
Everything Is a Competition
Even in our “every kid gets a trophy” era, all kids still ultimately learn one of life’s toughest lessons - everything is a competition. Everything. But competition can be a good thing. Competition brings about our best and our worst. We learn grace and gratitude from our victories, and we learn humility and perspective from our losses.
If you take a look at the lasting trends in fitness, such as group exercise and studio-based fitness programming, much of it is built in and around a competitive approach. Even at a yoga studio, if someone next to you is giving their best and able to take the heat, odds are you will, too. Finding your competitive inner kid will remind you how to compete with yourself and others to bring out your best.
Find Your Inner Artist and Inner Athlete
A good way to find your fitness mojo is to discover that athletic or artistic spirit from your youth. All kids are artists and athletes. While not everyone has natural talent in these endeavors, all of us are born with the ability to express ourselves.
I was more of an artist as a kid than an athlete, so it was the martial arts and boxing that resonated with me. Finding my fitness authenticity had a lot to do with finding the right mixture of art and sport. If you were more of an artist, maybe the martial arts or dance is a good way to express your fitness. If you were more of an athlete, perhaps expressing your physicality through a team sport or a competitive CrossFit will help you succeed.
"Finding my fitness authenticity had a lot to do with finding the right mixture of art and sport. If you were more of an artist, maybe the martial arts or dance is a good way to express your fitness."
Looking back at yourself as a kid will also give you insight as to how to be an artist or athlete. Kids express themselves through play with joy, exuberance, passion, and even anger or frustration. When kids play, they fight, scrap, and wear it all on their sleeve. That’s a good thing. Ever watch a youth soccer game when a kid scores a goal? For that kid, it’s like winning the World Cup. Conversely, tears of pain result when the same kid flubs and misses.
When you care and are emotionally invested, you’re going to put it all on the line. As kids we learn that part of life is losing and playing poorly. Such trials give us perspective and motivation to get better. Either way, you need not be born an athlete or artist to succeed when it comes to fitness. To be fit and stay that way, it takes will power and the humility to be introspective.
High School Still Doesn’t Matter, But Community Does
Who was good looking, fit, or fat back in high school doesn’t matter anymore. What did matter back in high school was learning to be part of a team. John Wooden once said, “Sports do not build character. They reveal it.” The same holds true with theater, dance, choir, band, or whatever your high school “team” was.
"[I[f you’ve ever worked with a therapist, counselor, or spiritual advisor, you know that you can’t get very far without taking a pretty deep look at your past. So, why should it be any different with your life in fitness?"
Fitness can be a lonely game, and if you want to truly succeed, you’re going to need support. The quarterback of the high school football team learns pretty quickly that no matter how good he is his ultimate success has everything to do with his teammates and coaches. Similarly, to have a hit theatrical production, the star of the show needs the right director and supporting ensemble. In fitness, if you want to find your best and live at your goal, find a tribe and coaches to support you.
Learn From Your Inner Child
Whether you were that star athlete, the kid with his nose in the book, or the kid sent to the principal’s office, we can all live our glory years now by drawing strength from the lessons we learned when we were young.
We all know you can’t be a kid forever and the past certainly belongs in its rightful place - behind us. That said, if you’ve ever worked with a therapist, counselor, or spiritual advisor, you know that you can’t get very far without taking a pretty deep look at your past. So, why should it be any different with your life in fitness?
If you’re stuck on a training plateau or unsure of your next fitness venture, a good way to see the future might be to dig a little deeper. This summer, take that summer break and find the passion of your inner child.
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