Fitness and Sports: Two Different Animals

We need to teach our children to love fitness and there’s no better method than through your example. Behavioral science tells us people learn primarily by imitating.

Sports may get kids off the couch but don’t think playing team sports teaches fitness as a lifestyle. Too often when their sport ends so does their physical activity- whether for the season or for the rest of their life.
Fitness activity should be as much a part of one’s day as is getting out of bed.

Have you ever wondered why so many former athletes are eventually just as out of shape as everybody else? Physically talented people who at one time were in incredible condition- at the top of their game- often end up in worse shape than people who were never athletes. This is partly because fitness was never their motivation- never their reason for playing sports.

Sports and fitness are two different animals and are often at odds with each other. Consider these ideas when contemplating how you will teach your children the value of a fit lifestyle:

• Achievement is a fundamental component of sports and requires one to push oneself “beyond” to perform. The higher the level of competition the greater the pressure to push to perform. Pushing oneself to perform to attain victory is commonly encouraged in sports but can be risky and unhealthy.

• Moderation is a fundamental component of a healthy fitness lifestyle. You don’t become the best or a great athlete by practicing moderation.

• Fitness is a side effect of playing sports- not a primary objective.

• Comparing oneself to another person more physically talented can be very discouraging-especially for a young person.

• There is nearly no “quality assurance” for children’s coaches. They can seem harsh, show favoritism, or not be well-qualified for the job. It’s nice to get volunteers but that doesn’t make them a good coach- or a bad person.

• Coaches commonly punish “poor performance” by assigning healthy activities such as extra push-ups or extra laps around the track. Doing so teaches kids to associate fitness with punishment.

• Competition and fitness butt heads because competition produces winners and losers. Participation is the winning paradigm of fitness and everyone who participates is a winner.

The greatest beauty in sports is found in what we don’t see with our eyes- the human spirit trying to reach new heights, the strength of character wrought from enduring heartache and from not giving up. The victory comes from doing- not from making someone a loser.

An individual can compete with himself or herself to reach a personal best or simply to be healthy. The lessons learned from developing a fitness habit are valuable life lessons- perseverance, moderation, and self- love.

If parents lead by their example there’s a chance that their children will imitate them. Teach your children fitness as a lifestyle. Teach them self-love by teaching them how to take good care of their body. Take a walk with your kids. Let them see you work out while you’re at home or make going to the gym a family outing.

Some people thrive on competitive sports. That can be excellent, fabulous, extraordinary- a wonderful fabulous experience. It can be whatever it is for them- it just doesn’t teach fitness as a lifestyle.

If playing sports teaches kids to be fit we wouldn’t be a country with more than half our population overweight and out of shape. Teach fitness for fitness sake and present sports as a separate entity.