Archive for the 'Fitness' Category

30
May
17

Being Reasonably Fit

Being fit as a trend or short term is not healthy, in fact it’s just the opposite. We have to know the reason we maintain a healthy lifestyle. We should be able to have healthy pursuits in a way that our happiness is not impeded. This is exactly why “getting healthy” as a new year’s resolution never works; we obsessively push ourselves to be unhappy out of guilt and shame until we just give up and validate our poor self-image. Sounds odd for me to say, but sometimes chasing a healthy lifestyle is not what people need.

To clarify, it’s the chasing, the never satisfied, pursuit of being fit that is the problem. Fitness, like all things, needs to be balanced with being happy and living a satisfied life.

I try to stay healthy. I run a few days a week and as a former competitive athlete I sign up for a few races each season, just to add meaning to my exercise. But there are some people who go too far. Training 7 days a week, obsession with calorie free, carb free, flavor free food (that always seem to be posted in food photos online) that seems to add salt to the wound, but not really because the diet is also salt free. Geesh.

The right motivation

landscape-1445011678-rbk100115fitbitessay-002I have a friend that posts every run on social media. I always felt that social media was great for staying in touch with friends you don’t see every day, but having to review the training plan for old college pals seems weird. I’ll see him face to face in the future and we’ll talk, he’ll say, I saw what you’ve been up to online, and I’ll say, I see you can do an 8-minute mile. Perfect, all caught up. I often wonder if he, or countless others would continue working out if they couldn’t post a “Look-at-me” on Facebook. I feel that it’s like the gymnasts I train doing the sport just to hear applause at meets. The focus in fitness needs to be the same as the focus in the gym; pushing your own potential and maintaining a healthy and highly functional body.

Information vs. Obsession

I have been around label readers, calorie counters, sodium intake monitors, and fat analyzers before and I believe that sometimes it is valuable and necessary to compare products to make good decisions. I commend people, like my wife, who take the time to look and read before deciding. Our FDA has done a good job of requiring the labeling of ingredients and nutrition information on products even though most people don’t read it. However, though I commend those people who do make decisions based on that information, I also believe that, for some, it can go too far. Reading everything on the label, only choosing based off a particular quality often leaves out an important factor…. taste. I have long been a follower of the middle path, leaning toward neither extreme. Though I look at labels when comparing types of butter, I won’t avoid butter because it’s “unhealthy”. It’s also delicious and though I don’t slather it on everything-Paula Dean style- I do occasionally like to cook with it.  Choices.

There is more to life than working out

I’ve been around people who only seem to have conversations about their workouts and I can tell you, it’s boring. I’m even in the workout business, and I find it boring. There is so much that people can share that make conversations enjoyable, why stick to only one topic. It’s likely due to one of 2 reasons. Option 1; they are obsessed. Every waking thought is a delusional fear about how they will die instantly if they do not push maximal training, run faster and further, lift more weight and more times, take another boot camp or spin class, and even eliminate anything enjoyable from their diet. That type of obsession is not only potentially harmful but often really tedious to your friends who just wanted to order a pizza and watch a movie.

Option 2: they are insecure about their body or their training and they want you to validate that they are OK or that they look good. I make it a point to never comment on either thing. The closest they get from me is “Well, how are you feeling?”

Walking the walk

If we want to help other people feel healthy, and don’t get me wrong, that is one of my industry’s driving forces, then we need to lead by example. We need to walk the walk of the talk we talk. Being obsessed or shoving diet choices down other people’s throats will cause them to rear back from health rather than embracing it. Not to mention it makes our lives less enjoyable to be unable to occasionally have a treat without guilt. Your body doesn’t implode if you have a cheat day, or even a cheat week. If you have clear and precise thoughts on what is healthy and what is not, then your diet can be made on choices and smart thinking not binge, purge, and self-hatred. Diets in moderation allow a healthy lifestyle and an enjoyable life.

If you can discern between staying fit and obsessively working out, then you will not only feel and look great but others will see you as the result of healthy pursuits rather than the poster child for crazy obsessive fitness.

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07
Mar
17

Shamrocks are not lucky (for your diet)

 A while ago, my team kids asked me if I had a Shamrock Shake yet this year. I explained that I read that the shakes at that establishment contain a chemical that is also found in leather softener and so, I don’t think I’ll be indulging in a minty green shake this year, unless I make it.  ( not to mention that many shake recipes contain a chemical called  Castoreum provides added sweetness, but it comes from the anal gland of a beaver. No kidding)

I wasn’t wrong. Much of the food at fast food establishments is laced with the least likely (and least explicable) of ingredients. But so are many other foods we frequently consume.

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McDonalds fries vs KFC fries after 3 years.

Did you know that a fast food burger will remain unchanged for approximately 14 years if left uneaten? There is such a low content of water and natural ingredients that the “real beef” burger doesn’t even spoil.  Oddly enough the French Fries at most fast food establishments are also resistant to age. They usually rot out in about 3 years, but you have to ask; if bacteria won’t eat away this “food” why would I?

Did you know that due to the high levels of High Fructose Corn Syrup the soda we drink at fast food places will damage our stomach walls, debilitate our vital organs, and strip our teeth of enamel? In fact it may be safer you nuzzle up to and eat straight an entire bowl of sugar rather than suffer the consequences of the substitute. HFCS also keeps us from quenching a thirst, that’s why we can finish off that “Thirsty-Two” ounce pop and still be…. Well… thirsty.  But it does satisfy our consumer bone. We feel that there is value in being able to refill a drink for free, when in truth, that might be the worst thing you can do.

And don’t get me started on the dispensers. Most places that have “serve yourself” dispensers have been found to have trace levels of fecal e.coli evident on their surfaces. That means that most places have nozzles touched by people who don’t clean their hands after using the toilet. Mmmm. Still thirsty?

Did you know that breakfast is just as bad as a shake? We have, in the past, often traveled to meets and had to resort to a quick grab and go breakfast at a fast food stop. But we hardly will ever do that again since we found that most places substitute eggs with something called Premium Egg Blend, a chemical mixture that has many of the same ingredients as my soap and shower gel, namely glycerin. Though eating glycerin won’t kill me, it’s good to know that if I’m really late, I can eat half my breakfast and shave with the other half.

Did you know that when you eat beef from a fast food place, or even a large chain family dining restaurant, that you are likely filling up on ground up bits of over 100 different cows? Usually the less choice cuts are ground and combined with fat and chemicals, then shaped into patties and sent off.  I have had friends tell me that they would rather eat at this fast food place than that place because at least this place uses “real” beef. It may be real, but it’s not any more appealing when you know the process.

Did you know that in Wisconsin, we have access to real cheese? Unfortunately, you won’t find it on you McBurger or Whopper. Fast food cheese is less than half dairy product and mostly oil, chemical and preservative. I recently went to visit a gymnast that graduated into college and we went to eat. When my food came out I looked at the cheese and asked “what is that?” We here are pretty spoiled by having access to real cheese, when the rest of the country has to eat that mystery orange square they call cheese. But don’t be fooled, it’s still mystery square at the corner fast food place.

Did you know that we are tricked into eating sand when we order spicy fast food? It’s true, most fast food chili’s or Tex-Mex menus use and ingredient called silicon dioxide in their recipes. It makes the taco or chicken nugget taste a little peppery and manufacturers don’t have to use as much real food, higher cost, ingredients. Now, I’ve gotten sand in my mouth before, but never once did I think “mmm. Chalupa!”

Ok, I’m grossing myself out, and probably you too. So here are a few more remaining thoughts to leave you with:

Did you know that most fast food chicken nuggets are not chicken but comprised of fats, bone, nerves and “additional tissue”.

Did you know that fast food salads are usually laced with saturated fats and high levels of sodium. The intention is not to offer a healthy option, it’s to make to thirsty enough to order the free-refill-extra-large soda.”

Did you know that much of fast food is laced with coloring and dyes that have been shown to change behavior in children. Kids frequently exposed to these chemical colors often become irritable, hyperactive, and bad-tempered.

Did you know that the caloric intake from one small meal provides us the equivalent of what we would burn on a 4 hour hike. So to maintain a healthy balance or intake and output, remember to allow for 4 hours of activity following the consumption of a small burger, small fries, and a small pop.

Did you know that honestly, I have been no stranger to the ordering queue at fast food places. I grew up on McDonalds, Burger King, Arby’s, and others. But as I grew and became educated I have made more informed decisions. I am a firm believer in the philosophy of moderation. I don’t eat fast food 6 times a week anymore, maybe once every other week. But I stay away from the pop, the chicken nuggets, and the shakes.

So, no on the shamrock shake this year. But I did find this yummy, healthy, natural substitute that I made at home. I plan on bringing it to the team and fooling them into loving spinach shakes. If you are interested in the outcome of my switcheroo, comment below.

21
Feb
17

Training Confident Kids (Part 2)

In the last post we covered how people can gain confidence by pushing the envelope of what is comfortable and what is a little out of the comfort box. Doing this frequently allows us to see things that would normally throw us into a fit of panic as only moderately stressful, and things that were stressful before are now simply acceptable.

That exposure to things outside our comfortable little world is a Macro plan. It’s a big idea, it’s something that we do that effects everything we do, everything we are and everything we think. It’s easy to sit back and say “I can do that pretty easily” but in fact the practice is effectively pushing, in small ways, everything we do. That’s not so easy. It’s a very large undertaking and requires a complete paradigm shift, a new way to see stress: as an acceptable challenge.

But there are other tactics coaches and parents can take to instill more confidence in our kids and athletes.

1: Allow children to intelligently and safely define their comfort box and it’s boundaries.

Explain to your children how and why things are done the way they are. This allows them to accept or deny the challenge. If I explain to a gymnast that the upcoming meet will require skills on the high beam, and the calendar allows this week to be on a floor height beam if next week goes to a medium height and up again the following week. If I explain that the skills and drills they’ve been doing apply to the new skill, and I give them the choice to decide in which level they will train today. They can evaluate the supporting reasons and make an appropriate decision.

It’s important to allow them in on some of the decision making because kids want to feel, a least a little, in control of their outcomes. When the progressions turn out to lead to success they are reinforced at making good choices and creating the successful outcome. This reinforces their confidence, not only in themselves but in the coach and the coaching process.

  1. Skinned knees are Okay

If, in the above scenario, the athlete decides to take an easier path, one that doesn’t step outside the comfort box too far; you have to be accepting of their error.  When the athlete, or anyone, experiences failure based on their own decisions it still reinforces the process and even fortifies the other un-chosen options that were available to the athlete. When they are not ready for the competition on the high beam, they (in conjunction with you, the coach) should reconsider the plan they made. Make amendments. And try again. At Gymfinity we have a saying; “Sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn.” Failure can be a powerful teacher.  Note: it’s imperative that we, when processing the re-evaluation of the plan, do not take away their power to make a new plan. We can offer advice, or personal anecdotes of when we faced similar issues, but we should not make the plan for them.

  1. Reading is fundamental

Every child was a winnerYou have to know what it looks like when your kids are pushing the envelope to a little discomfort and stretching the acceptable levels of stress. You also have to know the symptoms of when your kids are over their head.

Every kid is different. Some will be enjoying the thrill of pushing boundaries, others will appear nervous and tenuous. Just like watching people return from a rollercoaster ride; some are smiling and excited, some are tearful and look like they are done for the day.

In any case, you as the coach or parent, need to be sure the child knows that they are allowed to experience the exhilaration of being out of the box, but that you are there for when they are done playing. They should feel that they are free of judgement and criticism, until they feel more competent. In addition, for the times when they are  over their heads, they should still be aware that you are there as their safe harbor.

  1. Everything is a work in progress

Experiences should be created for every child to dabble outside their own comfort area. Occasionally throwing in a challenge keeps kids forward focused. It also allows them to check their progress on their own confidence. If, in the beam scenario above, I explain to the child that next week we will be on the medium beam for the new skill, then I unexpectedly put a stack of mats under a high beam to create an equal in height to a medium beam, I can challenge the gymnast to up the discomfort while still being within the plans of gradual growth. She may balk or she may accept the challenge. Balking means that she is still pretty firmly placed in her discomfort zone. Whereas trying the challenge means she is ready to progress.

  1. They’re looking at us

Our kids are always looking at us to see how a “real adult” handles the things they encounter in their day. We can actually allow the kids to hear us self-talk as we evaluate potential outcomes, the possibility of success or failure, repercussions of each, and the development of a plan of action. Again, what we show kids is what they learn.

In addition, we need to reinforce their efforts regardless of outcomes. A “nice try” or “good effort” goes a long way. I find myself frequently saying (following a failed attempt) “I see what you were trying to do, and I like that”.

Having a good plan and knowing things you can do to help a child is only part of the process. You will also need to know how to process the results of trips to the discomfort zone, and do so consistently. Questions I usually ask are: What did you learn? And what would have made that easier? Come up with questions that you can use to help them talk about and own their new found confidence.

Coaching, like parenting, is a paradox of urging children to dare risky things and the fear that they may not be successful. We also have to encourage risk while simultaneously being afraid that they may be totally safe. It’s often a fine line to balance upon.

I have stepped over my kids before to tell them what to do, I have pushed my agenda for growth without consulting the athlete, and I have also done it right several times as well. This is all very natural. Just like our kids we have failures too, and hopefully we learn from them. Yet if we do it right, we can develop confidence in our kids so they will be able to attempt and fail, many times if needed.

We will develop kids who can confidently make decisions about how to proceed in skill development, performance, maintenance, and growth.

Our kids will be powerful in mental, emotional and cognitive strength as well as being physically strong.

And best of all, our kids will not feel shame in failure because they will know that it is a means to an end. In so doing, they will never be afraid to try.

07
Feb
17

Training Confident Kids (part 1)

I had some people ask me questions regarding a past post discussing motivation and it’s relation to confidence.  Here is the first of a 2 part post on Confidence and how we get kids to be more confident.

As coaches, we always want the best for our athletes. We train them physically to be strong, flexible and powerful. We train them cognitively to know the skills, routines, and rules. And we train them emotionally to be strong, brave, and confident. Or do we?

For our discussion lets explain confidence in relation to our comfort level in doing things. Our comfort levels are depicted by a box. Within the box we have everything that we are comfortable with, things we do easily, people we know, experiences that range from typical to mundane. Right outside the box are new and different things.  Experiences that put us on edge, make us a little uncomfortable, new places, people, and things. Far away from the box are the things we are very unsure of; things we feel very uncomfortable with, things that make us stressed or nervous.

Confidence is developed by knowing we can perform or interact with the world in a way that is comfortable to us. Things we do that are within our comfort box can be done confidently and things outside might be done with less confidence.

While the majority of our lives occur within our comfort box, it’s only when we reach outside the walls of the box  that we can truly grow and learn. Our comfortable box is where we wish everything to be, but sadly, that is not reality. In the box, we often operate by rote memory, we do our routines and our day to day existence just seems to happen. Chicken or egg? Are we comfortable in that “box” because we do things there easily, or are things easy because we have the confidence to do them? The answer is both.

I remember as a young baseball player, I played 3rd base, shortstop, second base, and catcher. Our coaches rotated us, what seemed at times to be, randomly. It’s likely that they were trying to find our ideal position, the place where we were comfortable playing and where we would be the most effective for the team. But what it also did was allow us to “try” other positions; positions outside of our comfortable little boxes. This was imperative for expanding our proverbial comfort zone as players and as kids.

We are always being advised to “step outside the comfort zone”, or “think outside the box”. When we are confronted with occasional challenges, it allows us to expand our acceptable “zone” or, put another way, our “box” gets bigger and more of the world outside comes within.

When we are no longer afraid of stepping outside the comfort zone, we find that the space within, where we feel in control, becomes bigger. When our coaches moved us around, often unexpectedly, we found that we became a more confident team. I know personally that I gained a lot of confidence because I knew I could handle more than I originally had thought.

For another example, let’s take a gymnast learning a new skill. At first the skill is new and requires focus and a lot of effort. After practicing it for a bit it gets added to the repertoire and becomes “just another thing she can do.” It no longer causes her stress or discomfort, it has become “easy.” But, that same gymnast no longer trains that skill, it is possible for her to “lose” it. That’s obvious. But also, if that gymnast is not challenged with performing the skill in a new combinations, on a new apparatus, or in a performance situation, like a meet or a public demonstration, the skill again may equally be lost. Coaches have to allow that gymnast to perform the learned skills under pressure so that when that skill is needed in a meet performance  it falls within the skills in the comfort box. When it does, it reinforces confidence in performance and positions the athlete to seek more new skills and more growth.

Confidence come from challenges

Confidence come from challenges

Sometimes we can be asked to reach far away from the box; this is when we have greater discomfort over a task or skill. When we feel that we are over our head or incapable of performing, it manifests as a lack of confidence and the feeling can be so strong that we believe that we cannot be successful without the help of someone else.

When an athlete  has rarely been challenged to step outside their comfortable box and are then confronted with change or challenge, they often cannot adapt. Usually this person must rely on others to carry them or assist them through their tasks. I have seen this situation in several scenarios: kids who freeze up, suddenly cannot do more simple skills, or devolve progressions for new skills. There are other reasons that these outcomes may occur too, but it’s often the lack of confidence is the culprit.

Confident people have a larger comfort box and  it affords them a expanded ability to adapt and feel adept.  Also, by occasionally being challenged it allows for a greater tolerance for uncertainty, which means that the areas that cause panic are minimal. However, people with confidence are not fearless. They do experience fears but the fear is often mitigated by both feeling that they can accomplish things with a little  effort, and/or with minimal help. Confident people have either made choices to be challenged or had life throw them enough curve balls that they have learned that they have the capacity to hit any pitch. Or more easily put; they’ve learned, by adaptation, to figure out problems and conquer what once seemed daunting.

Next time: 5 things we can do to create more confidence in our kids.

25
Mar
15

Why we do what we do (My lunch with Ed.)

I had lunch with my old friend Ed the other day. We coached together over 20 years ago, I coached 2 of his daughters and in fact met my wife at one of his daughter’s wedding. The best part about reconnecting with an old friend is how you re-validate who you are, or possible the converse of that, maybe you realize how much you have changed. In the case of our lunch, I found re-connection to a kindred soul and met myself again in the conversation.

Ed told me how he ran into a young woman that we coached so many years ago. They spoke for some time while in a store. As her children grew antsy waiting for the grown-ups to stop talking she shared with Ed how her life had some rough spots and that there was a time when she was very nearly homeless. At the time she was out of work and her first child was due soon. It was stressful for her but she overcame it; she worked tirelessly to finish her education, get a new position and establish some security.  The baby was born, 7 years ago, healthy and happy. She explained to Ed that she was so happy now and has a family of 3, a great job, a loving husband and a truly fortunate life. Ed, as any of us would, felt so happy for her that he got a little misty eyed even when relaying the story to me weeks after it happened. As they separated and went off to finish shopping, Ed had a fleeting thought. He called her back and explained to her that he was no longer coaching and was retired from his career job as well. Left to ourselves, guys like Ed and I, could wander into a belief of self-doubt that we ever had an impact, or a belief that we did when we didn’t. Introspective people like us are always seeking a sign of validation.  He wondered, again, as we all do, if he ever made a difference for her. Was there anything that he taught her that she found of value?  She responded, I’m sure with a smile, “Of course coach, you taught me to set goals and keep my eyes on them. Without that lesson I would have never made it through those hard years.”

When Ed shared this story with me we both had tears in our eyes because it’s short stories like this that remind us that gymnastics is only a vehicle that we can provide that gives these children valuable life skills. They learn so much from us aside from cartwheels and somersaults. I think that every once and awhile we need to check our perspective and remember why we have this job. We teach perseverance, determination, focus, and goal setting. We bring skills, strength, flexibility and healthy lifestyles to children. We teach physics, anatomy, bio-mechanics and psychology. Gymnastics is merely an activity that allows these lessons to be presented.

I’ve had champion gymnasts and champion teams, but the things I brag about most often are the wonderful children that turned into strong and healthy adults. I’ve coached scientists, therapists, business people, doctors, moms and all points between. I can confidently say that gymnastics; that I provided, helped them, one and all, be who they are; successful and healthy people. This is what fuels my day. What does it for you?

31
Dec
14

Resolve for a better life by moving

Another year and another reason to start working out. Right? Will it be another year where you do it a few times then you hear the siren call of extra sleep, or worse, the beckoning of the couch and TV remote? What you need is a good sound reason. A reason that resonates with you and covers the attraction of the couch’s lure.My son asked me the other day, why I was going for a run when it was so cold outside. Usually not at a loss for words I stumbled around to justify changing clothes, different shoes, and bracing for the cold to and sweat outside until little icicles form on my cap. I think I had a hard time because I too was wondering: “what the heck am I doing?” But now I have had some time to think and a chance to sit inside and warm up a bit: so here are some reasons for you. I am writing them as I should have said them to my son (s). Maybe visualizing talking to your children will help. Find one that motivates you and get yourself moving.Winter runner1. Why are you going to run when it’s so cold outside?  And I say “Well, you know how sometimes you still feel sleepy when you get to school? After a run, my body is awake and alive. I get so much more done on days when I run.”

In fact, research has shown that people who exercise are more productive than those who are sedentary. Whether you exercise early in the morning, in the mid-day, or even late at night; your body becomes a more efficient machine.

2. Why are you going to run when it’s so cold outside? And I say “Sometimes I feel like I need a little time to get myself feeling better. When I exercise I feel good about myself. Sometimes the best cure for feeling down is to get yourself up and workout a little.”

Exercising hold many benefits when it comes to enhancing self-esteem. Being more fit makes you feel good inside. Even if you lose a few pounds or inches, or maybe you don’t; internally hormones are triggered to provide a feeling of happiness. Just like some people find with a beer or a candy bar but this is free and it has a longer lasting positive effect. That’s win-win.

“There are sometimes when I also just need to burn off some steam. Maybe if I had a stressful day or it’s a rough week, it helps me to deal with feeling overwhelmed by stress. I don’t like feeling like I have no time to do everything I need to do, and weirdly enough, when I spend some time exercising it seems to make more time for me during the day. Then I’m not so stressed out.”

Exercise releases endorphins that not only make you feel better, but help your mind prepare for stressors that might arise later. One of the best strategies to alleviate stress is to get up and move. From executives to laborers, exercise outside of normal activity gives you the strength to deal with stress.

3.  Why are you going to run when it’s so cold outside? And I say “You know I have to be sharp. I have a lot to know for my job and sometimes I have to make split second decisions. Plus, being your dad it’s important for me to stay on my toes. I always want to be there for you if you have questions or need help with your homework. When I exercise it keeps my mind functioning well.”

Not only does exercise prevent memory loss but it aids in production of cells in the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory and learning. You could say that exercise not only reduces memory loss, it reverses it. Also, research has shown that your chances of dementia are drastically reduced. Exercise is a “smart” thing to do in more ways than one.

4. Why are you going to run when it’s so cold outside? And I say ” Exercise makes me happy. What do you do to be happy? Maybe your Legos or playing with your friends makes you happy, and running just makes me feel good.

As I mentioned; exercise releases happy juice in your body. This creates a feeling of euphoria and can make you feel pretty good.  When you feel good, your days are better and you get through life with more smiles on your face than frowns. There is great research that shows the correlation of exercise and feeling fulfilled in life.

5. Why are you going to run when it’s so cold outside? And I say ” Well, I want to be healthy so I can be with you a lot longer.  If I make sure my body is healthy and working like it should I won’t get sick as much and I will live a lot longer. Maybe I can be around long enough to see your kids and I’ll get to hear how you answer these kinds of questions.”

Regular exercise is shown to reduce the amount of cellular damage to tissues and organs that lead to many chronic diseases and even many acute sicknesses like colds and flu. A system of regular exercise makes you less likely to have heart disease, Type II Diabetes, Hypertension, and a myriad of other ailments that our US sedentary lifestyles have blessed us with.

There are studies that link extended life expectancy to exercise (This is just one study, there are literally thousands).  So out of all the reasons that I stated here: feeling energized, reducing stress, better self-concept, better brain function, and a happier life, this one may be the most important. Whether you have kids or not, the fact that you could contribute to our world for a longer period of time is paramount to a fulfilled existence.  Knowing that I may someday see grandchildren, or that I will get to see my team kids grown up and be successful, makes the temporary discomfort of a cold weather run well worth it. 30 minutes of exercise and icicles on my hat is a small price to pay to feel good, think better and still be around to play human for another 50 years. Honestly, is it too much of a price for you?  

05
Nov
14

Every moment is a teachable moment

I was a nerd in school. My mother was a librarian and so any books that were assigned by teachers were read. Cliff notes were not an option. Now as an adult, I utilize book summaries, and sadly am addicted to audio books (while working out). My mother would cringe and ask if I forgot how to read a “real” book.  So with apologies to my mother, I will offer the “cliff” version of a parenting/management manual. I have always felt that whether I am managing my team athletes, my staff or my own children that these axioms are invaluable. So here is the abrev. vers. of my manual.

We are the teachers of children: Understand that your child is in fact, a child. They are made from experiences that you have provided. Whether they are frustrating or a generator of great pride remember that you had a hand in it. Every time I have to “direct” my children I have to remember that I am the parent and they are the children. I have an obligation to teach them from every experience. If every moment is a teachable moment than it is up to me to be the instructor.

Attaining Mindshare: Our kids are hit with so much input every day. (see the post “The Battle for our Children” August 27, 2014). If we just throw input at them they will eventually callus over and all that effort on our part ends up falling on closed ears. I always remember that in marketing the rule is to get what’s called “Mindshare” a message must be seen 8 times. With that as my guide I set out to repeat the most important messages several times knowing that eventually I will attain Mindshare. Messages of lesser importance often fall away after being said and/or acted on immediately. “Clean your room” is a direction that calls for action, as opposed to “picking up your floor makes it safe for me to come in at night and kiss you goodnight.” The latter message might need several deliveries, but because kids are so overloaded with messages from all sides, I have to be patient enough to repeat myself…..a lot.

Me and the boys (vintage picture: 2010)

Me and the boys (vintage picture: 2010)

Look for Common Ground: Every day, seek a common areas of interest. My kids might find it very important to tell me about how their Lego guy makes pizza in the same room where he parks his laser guided hover-cycle and though I may not have a lot of interest in the Lego-verse,  I need to find the interest because it’s important to my kids. I feel that finding common ground is laying a framework for communication skills both now and in the future. This, finding the DMZ, exercise is an investment for tomorrow that takes a little effort today.

Talk to them like little adults, not children: Every day, try to have a conversation with your child that illustrates how “people” talk. It is a pet peeve of mine to hear adults baby-talk to their children. Children learn language skills by listening to you and emulating your speech. When we dumb down our conversations or change our speech patterns we are doing a dis-service to the widdle cutey wooties with our big BIG words that widdl-ums can’t understand. Honestly, isn’t this nauseating? Would you talk to any adult like this?  Also by having real conversations you can reinforce behaviors or implement changes if their behavior is not what you want. Either way, a conversation, just like you talk with your friends, will incorporate the concepts of Instruction, Mindshare, and Common Ground.

Compassion is a taught skill: Look for every opportunity to teach it. The best way to teach it to another person is to demonstrate it. There will be times when things don’t go right and your child is feeling bad, sad, or mad. Our job is to not discredit the sentiment but to be the shoulder they cry on. Compassion is basically allowing a person to feel and trying to see things from the perspective of those feelings. “All moments are teachable moments”, I said that earlier, but sometime the lesson is simply, “I know you are down. I feel for you.” Children learn from this and will eventually emulate your compassion with others. This makes them invaluable as friends, admirable as adults, and definable as good people.

There is a reverse to this suggestion too. If you are one to complain about people, speak negatively about them, or belittle them: you are still teaching, and you will see the pay off of those lessons too. And that payoff likely won’t make you proud, but still you need to understand it was you that taught it to them. Well done Jerk Face, you are so stupid. (awkward isn’t it?)

“Dad, I’m not you.”: One of the hardest things for me to understand sometimes is that my child is not me. Everyone always says, “Oh he’s just like you.” But I have to remember that they are not me, nor will I ever want them to be. They will arrive at who they are by experience and learning. I got where I am the same way. I can’t expect them to love gymnastics because I do. I can’t expect them to take over the business one day, or love cauliflower casserole just because I do. That is so unrealistic. So the perspective is that they will do, say, and think things differently than you do. That has to be OK because it’s the differences in people, even our kids, that makes them special.

Making kids feel smart guarantees that they will become smarter: Every day I try to say something to make my kids feel smart. Compliments are great and reinforcing good behavior is important, but complimenting intellect is essential. It’s so simple: “I forgot how much you knew about the Statue of Liberty”, “You really made a cool Lego house, I love the combination pizza oven/hover cycle parking room. How did you think of that?”, “You know how to use the lawn mower, can you help me out?” These are all statements that point out that the child is a smart, thoughtful and creative person.  The old teaching adage of What we notice gets repeated, really applies. When we notice good brain power a child strives to provide us more impressive traits to recognize.

In the beginning I said that these are suggestions work for team kids and children in general. They apply, with some tweaking to building and maintaining a staff of employees too. Like a team gymnast who is training for higher levels, or a staff person who seeks more responsibility or a pay adjustment, training is required. I see children as adults in training, and every interaction is a potential lesson on how to be a good grown up. I see adults as teachers and like it or not, we are, in fact, always teaching. My suggestions are axioms that I aspire to live by, they are not for all people, and some you may even disagree with. OK. I can learn to live with that.

 

 




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