What does that mean coming from your 10- or 11-year-old?
There’s sensitivity around creating consciousness about body image at such a young age, and when your child tells you they want to get in shape, it can leave you with questions. Are they self-conscious? Did someone bully them about their weight? Do they really need to start an exercise program?
Creating Healthy Goals
As a youth trainer for three years and personal trainer for five, I feel the best way to separate “shape” from “health” is to redefine what getting in shape actually means. Instead of putting the focus on their stomach or the muscles on their arms, try to set small, achievable goals. On day one, test how many sit-ups they can do in one minute. Perhaps try to run one lap around the block together, and talk about the difficulty level. Then, set a goal to be able to run two laps or beat your sit-up record by ten.
Over time, your child will begin to reach these goals, and it will give them confidence about “getting in shape.” Don’t focus on weight loss or numbers. Focus on their actions and improvement in endurance!
What About Sports?
If your child is not interested in athletics, I recommend being cautious about putting them into a competitive atmosphere. Sports are wonderful, but if you feel your child is already doubting their “shape,” it may be best to focus on reaching their personal goals first. Each child is different, and while some may beg you to try out for the baseball team, some may prefer one-on-one work where they’re focusing on personal goals.
Why This Question Now?
So where did this question come from in the first place? They likely heard someone talking about exercise at school, or saw an ad on TV for a weight-loss commercial about “getting into the best shape of your life.” Diet culture is everywhere, and while I don’t think it’s a healthy mindset for anyone, it’s important to take this opportunity to explain what “getting in shape” means to you, the parent.
An Opportunity to Educate
I think education about what exercise actually does can change a child’s perception. Heart health, lower stress levels, more energy—the benefits truly are endless. Focus on these things and check in with your child to talk about the differences they feel. Take the time to explain why eating veggies and protein keeps your body from getting sick, and how protein builds strong muscles. Your child is likely looking to you to tell them what a healthy lifestyle is, and how to achieve it. “Mommy, how do I get in shape?” is not a bad question, but an opportunity to guide your child to self-care and a healthy lifestyle.
By Paytra Gessler, Certified Youth Fitness Trainer, Certified ISSA Fitness Professional
For more great tips or to find out more about our services, contact Bonita@EnergeticJuniors.com, or call 212-879-1566. Also check out our website at www.energeticjuniors.com.