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Raising a child (or spousepartnerfriend) who likes to exercise.

I’m the first to acknowledge that, although I’m a mama, I’m still kinda in the early stages of motherhood.

The easier stages Id imagine as peer pressure & the junk food availability her independence will bring haven’t yet come into play.

(Much anyway. This blogger has been *repeatedly* regaled with the story of my returning from Blissdom & learning of her new-found fondness for rootbeard.  Thanks Ren Man!)
That said, I’m choosing to believe by laying a strong foundation for healthy living now she’ll tend toward the healthy choice end of the spectrum when she’s on her own.

I want my daughter to grow up enjoying the way she feels when she exercises, finding fun in the process of working out and loving her body for the gift that it is.

The six tips below are both carried in my head & posted on my fridge (at least until she learns how to read).

They have more than once served to remin me why I need to keep focusing on the exercise-love as well.

1. Practice what you preach (and it’s best to skip the preach part altogether).

My daughter already knows my day isn’t officially started until I’ve completed 30 minutes on our stationary bike.
I’ve never mentioned my workouts to her (mornings are her special dad-time) & the first time she asked: Mama? Are you going to do the bike now? I was astonished she’d noticed what I did while they played.

Our actions as parents are powerful things.

Our children notice everything we do even when we don’t say a word.

Especially when we dont say a word.

Walk the walk & there may never be a need to talk the talk.

2. Love your body for what it can do.

My daughter and I often chat about the importance of having muscles and being strong.

She knows that I love the fact I can carry her and all of our groceries from the store out to the car.

She comments on the fact that we don’t have to wait for daddy to come home and that we can lift the case of water out of the trunk all! by! ourselves!

Lately she’s begun flexing and asking me to check out her arm muscles (I know, this part is a little weird but Ill take it over her not wanting to be bigandstrong any day).

In my opinion, it’s all about role modeling for our children how we want them to view exercise/their bodies.

At first the body-love role modeling can feel a tad awkward & forced—but I urge you to stick with it.

You may be surprised how quickly it becomes habit to feel thankful for all your body can do and how quickly you can forget/let go of the tiny flaws upon which you used to focus.

That’s a gift to both you and your children.

3. Be positive.

Start paying attention to what you say when around your children.

Do you lament the fact you’re on a diet?

Do you whine, as even the most die-hard among us can do, about not being in the mood to work out?

Tiny ears are always listening and a few well placed (and loudly said): I can’t wait to get to the gym and SWEAT! Or I always feel better and more energetic after a good, long walk! can have a lasting impact on whether children view exercise as punishment or pleasure.

In addition, being positive (hello Law of Attraction!) never hurts the way we feel about exercise either!

4. Set a fitness goal.

Goal setting/working toward achievement is an important skill to model in all realms & healthy living is no different.

Let your children see you choose a realistic goal and watch you plan how you will achieve it.

No matter their age find a way to enlist their help along the way. Ask for their encouragement and be sure to share with them your struggles as you work toward your goal. Let them see you work through difficult or challenging times.

The importance here is not necessarily goal achievement (you may switch your plan from running a 5k to running three times a week or from losing a certain amount of weight to fitting into a dress you already own), but role modeling tenacity and overcoming roadblocks to healthy living.

5. Make it fun!

Just as we adults dread boring workouts—kids want their active time to be filled with fun as well.

Take the time plan creative activities for the family which just “happen” to fall under the umbrella of exercise.

Spend time at the playground.

Fly a kite & have family members race each other as you do.

Enlist the entire family to help build an indoor obstacle course as a way to get active on rainy days.

Try hula-hooping again (or for the first time) & bring the whole family into the fun.

Pick up a few cheap pedometers & make it a game to see which family member walks the most steps in a day or over a weekend.

The possibilities are endless as is (waitforit) the fun. A little planning and effort NOW can help create children who grow into adults who enjoy exercise and embrace a healthy lifestyle.

And the spouse/partner/family member/friend part? I have to say that in my experience it works the exact same way.

Much of my current workout love was sparked back-in-the-day by a boyfriend who never uttered a single word.

It’s amazing the power of silence and action.

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76 Responses to “Raising a child (or spousepartnerfriend) who likes to exercise.”

  1. karen says:

    Love this post!!! John is a big part of my workouts. 3 weeks shy of turning 4 and he’s got the whole stationary bike routine down pat (he has a Fisher Price SmartCycle next to my bike in the basement so we can do it together), has his own Tae Bo & Zumba dvds, LOVES Richard Simmons, and will randomly break into yoga poses when we go to the park. I can’t wait to see what comes next!

  2. Yum Yucky says:

    Your children are ALWAYS watching. I’ve had them point out the negative AND praise me for the positive on things I didn’t even realize they noticed.

  3. Tia says:

    Walk the walk.

    You nailed it there and this post could have been 3 words.

    Thanks for this.

  4. Helen says:

    No kids yet here (not married :) ) but I would love my boyfriend to join me in my workouts.
    Somehow I have started nagging him to come along and this weekend it ended in a fight.

    How did you know.

  5. katie says:

    That photo is PRICELESS.

  6. cammy@tippytoediet says:

    No kids, but I am trying to drag my entire neighborhood into the exercise fray with me. These tips will work for seniors and kiddies alike.

    Oh, and thanks for the hula hoop reminder. Time for my semi-annual attempt again. :)

  7. Jenn @ Watch My Butt Shrink! says:

    I so totally, whole-heartedly agree with you! It makes me feel so good when my girls ask me if I’m going to the gym today, or when my 4 year old proudly tells me she ate all her green beans.
    Even at such a young age, they know about being active and healthy, which I think will go a loooong way toward instilling good habits in them as they get older.
    It’s a tough fight, but we can do it!

  8. Erica says:

    I think its amazing how much kids catch onto. I heard a child one time turn to her mother in the grocery store and asked her about the calorie/fat content of a certain product (she was probably 7 years old)…In terms of health and fitness, I think leading by example and being positive are both so important!!

  9. Hallie says:

    This was a lightbulb moment for me, Carla.

    I nag my daughter to exercise while I sit on the couch :)

    Yes I am exaggerating a bit.

    Only a bit.

  10. Evan says:

    To your point of rolemodeling tenacity I ran a 5k last weekend and came in close to last.

    I had a talk with my son afterward and he asked me if I were sad about that.

    I told him I was proud of the fact I trained and ran the race.

    I shared how nervous I was but I stuck with it.

    They really do look to us and not their peers, MizFit.

  11. Ron says:

    Sounds like you have a great start,hopefully peer pressure & the junk food availability & her independence will play little to none into her lifesytle.

  12. Laura says:

    Love this post. We were trick or treating and my 3 year old said, “This is good exercise,” I try and model the importance of exercise daily.

  13. Irene aka FitHungryGurl says:

    I love this post Carla. You are so on point!

    Kids definitely notice what we do if we do it consistently. When I do my push ups Olivia now comes next to me and tries to do them too. It’s so cute.

    When I was home with Olivia, it was easy for me to get her to playercise because we’d go out nearly every day to the park or the indoor playground.

    It’s harder now that I am going to work and she is going to school. But I think I am going to start having Gary and Olivia come with me on my runs. It’s lighter later now and I know I have the ability to promote a better lifestyle for both of them. I just gotta do it more.

  14. Sagan says:

    Actions are powerful indeed! The boyfriend saw how much I love exercise and he took up running, just for kicks (and apparently he NEVER would have done that before). Now I have to get into better shape to keep up with HIM if we go for jogs together :D

    On the reverse side, the boyfriend is really into backcountry camping and hiking; it’s made me get very excited to try it out for myself, too.

  15. dragonmamma says:

    I lament the fact that I didn’t start taking care of myself until my kids were teens. Their formative years are filled with memories of mom staying on the couch while dad did the fun stuff with them.

    I can only hope that my fitness turn-around also has an impact.

  16. Tiff says:

    Many thanks for not just focusing on children.

    As a ‘mother without bio.kids’ this is helpful to me as well.

    Right now I spend lots of time volunteeting with at risk youth and these thoughts apply there too.


  17. Joanna Sutter says:

    You should write a manual on how to raise a healthy, happy, mizfittin child. Just sayin.

  18. Marci says:

    What Joanna said.

  19. messymimi says:

    I exercise and eat right.

    The kids play in the creek, bike to friend’s houses, swim at the club across the street, and eat the fruits and veggies that are always ready for them.

    Don’t tell them, show them.

  20. Miz says:

    busy morning working on day job writing, but the arrival of yer comment messymimi gave me an ahha!moment.


    Not so different.

    Both are far more successful when we SHOW DON’T TELL.

  21. Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman says:

    This was great. I don’t have kids, but I hope that when I do one day I can lead by example. And I hope to show them how to love eating healthy and working out without forcing them. I think when a parent forces a lifestyle on their child the kid has a tendency to rebel. (I know because my husband was raised with strict food rules and he maxed out on fast food the minute he went to college.)

  22. Helen DoingA180 says:

    Excellent Miz! Plain facts are, children learn what YOU live.

  23. Leah J. Utas says:

    All good, of course, but I think being positive is the very best. No matter how hard one tries to sell anything to anyone if there’s a hint of negative, then it will not work.

  24. Jody - Fit at 52 says:

    That Tornado pic is sooooooooooooooooooo cute! Great points, Miz, all of them! YES, children do see, listen & mimic us.. you are one fantastic role model!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  25. Laura Jane says:

    Great post! I especially like number one - it is so much more important to actually do the things you say than to just say them. And the being positive, I could use that just for myself. I tend to case my working out negatively by saying, “I have to go to the gym now.” I really should think of it in a more positive light. I have no kids but hope to in the future, and this is something I’m already thinking about. I don’t want them to have all the issues that I have had.

  26. Nelda says:

    Why am I longing to know if you asked the Tornado to pose like that or if she just did?

  27. Jules - Big Girl Bombshell says:

    What an awesome, awesome post! I have found that if I want to take a hard honest look at myself, I don’t have to go any further than my kids eyes! Some of the best teachers in my world are my KIDS!

    Maybe that’s why their is no parenting manual…the story is right there in front of our faces and it is about taking the time to LISTEN and SEE and PAY ATTENTION to them!

    THANK U! for walking your walk!

  28. Felice says:

    Great post! I love, love, love it when my son sees me in shorts and asks, “You going running?” And I love that he’s become a little runner “like mommy!” How proud does that make me? Very!

    Thanks for the reminder to stay positive, too.

  29. debby says:

    No kids, but this was a good reminder to me-”It’s amazing the power of silence and action.” As one who always wants to instruct people on the best way to do anything. I will try to be silent more often this week.

  30. Jen, a priorfatgirl says:

    I’m not sure yet if kids are in our future, and if so, when but this is the part that scares the bejesus outta me. I love how you broke it down such an foundational understanding. Seems so simplistic yet I’m quite confident, it is such a hard, fine line.

  31. Shannon says:

    Such good advice!
    I love that you brought up using the term diet around children. I learned a while back that my actions had a major inpact on my boys. They were counting calories thinking it was so bad and having no idea what it was all about.
    Yeah that was an eye opener! Now we talk about grams of sugar and dietary fiber instead ;)
    I have found that there are so many activities that incorporate fitness. Kids LOVE it if they have the chance.

  32. Fiona says:

    I love this - especially the FUN part because my kids really love when I get down and crazy playing with them … my kids are all aware of the role nutrition and fitness play in my life and they really do mirror it. They’ll talk about the vitamins in the broccoli they are eating and what food is doing what thing for their bodies. My 4 yo dd’s teacher even told me that she talks about healthy veggies and fruits while playing in the kitchen area.

    I love you!!!!

  33. Fitarella says:

    LOOOOOOOOVE this post! am printing & posting for me to see everyday!! xxoo

  34. Ren Man says:

    “Much of my current workout love was sparked back-in-the-day by a boyfriend who never uttered a single word.” Who is this boyfriend?????

  35. Laurie says:

    What is the line about I can’t hear what you are saying your actions are speaking so loudly?

    That applies here too.

  36. MrsFatass says:

    Okay, first I loved the post. Then I giggled at Ren Man’s comment. Now I’m back to loving the post. And though I think we do a fair job of modeling healthy behavior, you held up a mirror with this - and the fact that I DO preach. And I CAN be negative. GOOD reminder for me to pay attention to my language and when I should just let my actions do the talking.

  37. Karen (KCLAnderson) says:

    “it’s best to skip the preach part altogether”

    Yes! In all situations…great post!

  38. Elisabeth says:

    This post is so thoughtful and necessary. Thank you!! I can’t wait to have children and Practice what I Preach!

  39. Jessica says:

    Love the tips. My daughter is always flexing her muscles and asking me to feel her “big” muscles. She’s only 4 but its hilarious. She loves to exercise. She will see me on the treadmill in the basement and decide to do laps around the basement at the same time. Its so cute!!

  40. Ryan Sullivan says:

    What a good post. One of the best experiences I’ve had with this recently was with my 20 month old. We eat right over 90% of the time but we were at a party and I was eating a brownie. I cut him a little one and handed it to him. He pushed it away and walked over to the fridge and started pounding on it and said “Bapple” (apple). THAT was an incredible moment for me.

  41. Lori (Finding Radiance) says:

    Leading by example silently is one of the best things you can do. You really never know who is watching.

  42. MizFit says:

    Are we seeing a Ren Man commenting trend up in herre?

  43. Karla Bond says:

    Thanks for the post. I need to be a better example for sure! No more wasting time. My so is 2 so I need to make sure I set him up for a healthy future.

  44. Stephanie says:

    This is fantastic. I especially like the “practice what you preach…and go easy on the preaching”. I hope many, many parents read this!

  45. Dani says:

    Such great tips… my little one is only 11 months but I agree that it it is important to have her see Mommy and Daddy exercising and feeling good. I’m thinking if we take her on our runs and hikes we can start to build it into her subconscious…. at least that’s what I’m hoping:)

  46. Mary (A Merry Life) says:

    Like I said…. you teach me how to be a mama one day.

  47. Kat says:

    I like what Joanna said too. This post is great. You are doing an awesome job.

  48. Syl says:

    I can relate to this post so much. Once I started my journey my whole family grabbed hold of it. They knew exactly how importand weight loss was to me and eventually even joined into the activity. My oldest son (6) wants to run with me. It’ really great when the whole family joins in, or even gives you the space knowing that you need to get that done.
    Good for you for teaching your daughter so young!

  49. Jack Sh*t, Gettin' Fit says:

    I love this, Miz. You rock all the way!

  50. Skyler Meine says:

    It is crazy the impact we can have on our kids. Because I am a personal trainer my kids think that I workout for my job. They don’t get that I work other people out as well.

    I always get the question, “Are you going to the gym to work?” I guess my answer should be: No! I am going to the gym to have some fun and stay in shape, so I can do all the things I love to do.

  51. Erin says:

    I don’t think its odd that she flexes her muscles. My son walks shirtless around the house telling me “Check out these guns!”, “Welcome to the gun show!” and “Suns out, guns out!” on a regular basis. He’s got some nice definition started, I must admit. I encourage him to be healthy and strong - I think he learned the gun phrases from my brother, who has some nice guns himself. :-)

    Your daughter has one awesome mama!

  52. big_mummy says:

    I love LOVE this post!!! Having a 4,7 and 9 year old I am really conscious of parenting them the RIGHT way! Thanks for making me reassess my ways, sometimes we need a kick up the butt lol

  53. Shelley B says:

    Wish I could have set a better example when my kids were younger…now all I can do is encourage (I bought one Body Glide for running and the other an iTouch armband) and challenge (10K in November?). Much harder to influence kids once they go away to college!

  54. DestinationAthlete says:

    Oh, I can’t agree more!

    My daughter, even at the “ripe old age” of 2.5, knows that “mama goes to the gym” whenever I am off and stay home with her. She knows “mama go running?” and “daddy go swimming in da pool” and that gym time is non-negotiable. She’s a smart little cookie, that 2.5 year old.

    And you know, they say routine is key in young children, and who am I to break up the routine she’s come to expect out of me. ;)

  55. Katdoesdiets says:

    SO true. I hope by modeling a positive example my kids will skip the struggles I went through. I never thought about the goal setting. I do that, but not sure if I’ve talked about it or done it in a way they’re aware of. GREAT post. Every parent should read this!

  56. Michelle Horwitz says:

    as a dietitian i cannot tell you how impressed i was by this post. if more parents thought like you, we would not have nearly half the levels of obesity we do today. one thing i did for my kids early on was instill fruits and vegetables in their diet. recently, i saw this new frozen fruit bar by Dole in grocery stores that i wish i had when they were young. it’s all-natural, but tastes like a popsicle (you’d better believe i tried it myself before recommending it), which is the perfect summer treat. any of you parents reading this who need a little boost in your kids’ diets, please consider trying something like this. way to go mizfit!

  57. Jen says:

    Agreed - and you don’t always need to have little-uns in the household to be a healthy role model for - even the spouse, neighbours, friends and family can pick up a good level of motivation simply by watching ‘Us’ make the most of things. And I love the “best to skip the preach part altogether” (sometimes I find this part hard when I get a little over excited about a new routine, or a new food research fact!) Leading by example really is the clincher. Nice one Miz!

  58. charlotte says:

    Oh how did you know I needed to read this today? Especially the part about modelling the good behavior. Will you send me the therapy bill later?

  59. Natalia says:

    Hey Carla! What a great post. I’ve been trying to lead by example. Watch what I say and how I say it! My son has found an activity that he loves to do swimming. Do I love putting my suit on and trekking to the pool EVERY day so that he can jump and splash and move about. Well, actually I love to swim, so most days I do love it. But I’m doing on the the days when I don’t love it, because HE does! I don’t want to squash it, it’s the first bit of moving about he has shown a love for. He’s loving how he can hold his breath and how he can move his body like a dolphin. When he kicks harder and paddles stronger his body goes faster through the water! It’s fun to watch him enjoy something so much. He doesn’t know it’s exercise and I’m not about to tell him! Just let him love the discovery of how his body works in the water!!!!

  60. Hanlie says:

    Great post, Miz! These are very useful ideas.

    BTW, I love the new look!

  61. Bernard says:

    Thanks for the great tips and advice this is great info. Keep it up and i look forward to reading more.

  62. Rachel says:

    This has got to be one of my all-time favorite-posts. Leading by example is the WAY to go! And I absolutely love that you are so conscious of those ‘little ears’. You’re such an amazing mama.

  63. Michelle@Eatingjourney says:

    This is SO true. Miz I wish that I had parents that were positive, enjoyed even moderate exercise. To be honest, when I saw the obese parents pushing their kids in strollers at the zoo I knew THEN that I didn’t want to be an overweight parent. I desperately want to save my kids from the anguish and torment that I went through growing up. Thank you SO much for writing this. I suppose it’s good to think, even if you don’t have kids, that you’re setting up your life to one day (perhaps) to be in a relationship w/ children. My patterns and thinking and acting now are just as important, if not more, as to when I have kids/hubby some day.

    Thanks Miz

  64. joan says:

    This is an issue I struggle with. My 17 year old son is very athletic mainly as a football player. It’s a chore to keep him fed enough to maintain his weight. My 13 year daughter has the gift of being talented in music and art. She has no interest in sports. We do other things: walks, hiking, biking. Still a struggle though

  65. Anne says:

    Being a pilates instructor and someone who’s always been interested in exercise/healthy living, I am often thinking of new ways to include my daughter in my activity. Most of the time, she just gravitates to me if I’m working out near her and tries to follow along.

    I love it and I’m glad it’s more of a natural inclination for her than it was for me when I was kid!

    Great article and blog. Love reading about you and your daughter. :)

  66. Linda at Bar Mitzvahzilla says:

    Well, I must have done something right in this area. During our recent vacation, my little family kept taking over the workout room at the hotel we were in, two on the treadmills, me on the stationary bike and my son lifting weights! The kids know that exercise machines aren’t my preferred form of exercise (they may get a little sick of vacationing near Jazzercise centers…) but they do know that exercise is something that isn’t skipped.

  67. Alexia says:

    love this post! seriously! every parent should be forced by law to follow these! our health may be the only thing we have control over. i’ve realized this.

  68. heather says:

    Can I just say that this post is EXACTLY why I make the statement that, although, at the time, I don’t ever want to have children (though, at the time, I’m also aware that this may change as I grow) if if ever do find myself with a child in the womb, I hope to be as fantasticly brilliant as a parent as you are - seriously. It blows me away. Thank you for being a role model not only for your daughter, but for all the mothers, present AND future, who read your words, see your actions, and embrace that it IS possible. I may not ever have children of my own, but I can promise that because of what you share, the children in my life in other avenues (neighbors, cousins, friends, etc) are better off because of your influence. THANK YOU. Times a billion.

  69. Sarah says:

    This is a great post. I don’t have any children yet but it is one of the reasons I am trying to get healthy again. I want to be a fit and healthy Mom for my kids.

  70. Sabrina says:

    Wonderful insights! It’s nice when everyone in the house become health conscious=)

  71. Lisa says:

    My mom passed on her food issues and body issues to me and as a result I rebelled from her over-restrictive diet and in turn gained 100 pounds.

    Now that I am healthy and much happier, I wonder about HOW I can pass on to my future kids the love for exercise and healthy eating without being restrictive like my mom. I don’t want to give my kids issues like I had.

  72. Julie Lost and Found says:

    I saw this flash by at the top of your website and I must say, I *really* appreciate it! It was just what I was about to google. Thanks so much!

  73. fitnessjourney says:

    I received the best compliment from my 17 year old daughter a few months ago when she said “Mom, you’re a good role model.” Why? Because I workout regularly and buy her fitness DVD’s that she can relate to. (Strangely enough she isn’t into workouts where the host is over 40, weird, huh?) Because I always cut up fresh veggies and prepare salads and hard boiled eggs on Sunday afternoons. This way she has decent makings for school lunches.

    Being a good role model is more than lip service.


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