Mid-way through a recent group exercise class, the teacher lost me. She didn't lose me because of some complicated step sequence or insanely long set of burpees; I mentally checked out because of a few words she kept saying over and over. "Come on! Get that body ready for your winter beach vacation! Think about how you want to look at those holiday parties! PICTURE HOW YOU'LL LOOK IN THAT DRESS!"
"THAT DRESS?" My brain couldn't focus on an image of some random dress hanging in my closet. All I could think about was my three-year-old daughter hearing and trying to process those words.
My daughter's little brain is making sense of the world every single second, taking in verbal and non-verbal cues about how things work and what things mean. And when it comes to exercise, I want her to grow up seeing it as a joy, and not a utility. As a gift, and not a chore. As an opportunity, not an obligation. I want her to do it for the love of it, not to fit into a dress. I want her to grow up knowing that...
Strength equals self-sufficiency. Being strong - particularly as a woman - is empowering. It will feel good someday to be able to carry your own luggage down the stairs if the airport escalator is broken, and it will be important to have a solid shot at outrunning a stranger should you meet one a dark alley.
Fitness opens doors. Being healthy and fit can help you see the world differently. The planet looks different from a bike or a pair of skis than it does from a car or an airplane. Out in the elements you have the time and space to notice details and meet people and remember smells and bugs and mud and rain and the feeling of warm sunshine on your face. And those are the moments that make up your life.
The bike is the new golf course. Being fit may help you get a seat at the table. Networking is no longer restricted to the golf course, and the stronger you are - and the more people you can hang with on the road and trail - the more people you'll meet.
Exercise is a lifestyle, not an event. Being an active person isn't about taking a class three times a week at the gym. It's about things like biking to the grocery store and parking your car in the back of the lot and walking instead of taking a cab and catching up with friends on a hiking trail instead of a bar stool.
Health begets health. Healthy behaviour inspires healthy behavior. Exercise. Healthy eating. Solid sleep. Positive relationships. These things are all related.
Endorphins help you cope. A good sweat session can clear the slate. You will have days when nothing seems to go right, when you're dizzy with frustration or crying in despair. A workout can often turn things around.
Working out signals hard-working. The discipline required to work out on a regular basis signals success. Someone recently told me they are way more likely to hire marathon runners and mountain climbers because of the level of commitment that goes into those pursuits.
If you feel beautiful, you look beautiful. Looking beautiful starts on the inside. And being fit and strong feels beautiful.
Nature rules. And if you're able to hike/run/bike/swim/ski/snowshoe, you can see more of it. Little eyes are always watching. We learn from each other. You may have a daughter -- or a niece or a neighbor or a friend -- one day. And that little girl will be watching and listening to everything you say and do. What messages do you want her to hear?
I'll never talk to my daughter about fitting into "that dress." But I will talk to her about what it sounds like to hear pine needles crunching under my feet and what it feels like to cross a finish line and how special it is to see the world on foot. I will talk to her about hard work and self sufficiency. I will teach her the joy of working out by showing her I love it. And I'll leave the rest up to her.