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10 Things I Want My Daughter to Know About Working Out

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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…

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Health begets health.  Healthy behavior inspires healthy behavior.  Exercise.  Healthy eating.  Solid sleep.  Positive relationships.  These things are all related.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. If you feel beautiful, you look beautiful.  Looking beautiful starts on the inside.  And being fit and strong feels beautiful.
  9. Nature rules.  And if you’re able to hike/run/bike/swim/ski/snowshoe, you can see more of it.
  10. 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 she 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.

863 Comments Post a comment
  1. Reblogged this on My Thought Scramble and commented:
    Do it because you want to, not because you have to. This is the best reminder.

    August 7, 2014
  2. Reblogged this on Suslick Step's and commented:
    Excellent thought from Heather Perkins: “I’ve always told Bronte it’s about being healthy.”

    August 7, 2014
  3. Yes. Yes. Yes. Thank you for this!

    August 7, 2014
  4. Reblogged this on From the mess to the masses and commented:
    This post really resonates with me. I agree with so many of the points, it practically speaks my mind.

    My exercise goals was never really to lose weight but to gain strength. That goal really paid off when I felt so much stronger to do things which I thought I would not be able to do. I realize using the excuse of being a girl so I do not have the same strength as a guy is so limiting to oneself. By being stronger I saw myself doing things which I do not normally do, like archery, pistol shooting, wakeboarding and lifting. It is empowering to feel strong. Plus that adrenaline rush after running is like a natural high, who needs drugs.

    No matter how many times I go out to the mountains or go hiking near the river, I never cease to be amaze by the beauty of nature. It reminds me that God created this stunner and brings me closer to him.

    August 7, 2014
    • Donald Mundo #

      That was great until the last sentence. It really made you sound like a crazy person. Being AMAZED by the beauty of nature should have reminded you to be curious and appreciative of the opportunity to enjoy it.

      August 9, 2014
      • Crazy is just a matter of perspective. People used to think those who think the earth was round were crazy. To each their own beliefs and how they interpret the world around them.

        August 12, 2014
  5. Reblogged this on life, the unravelling ball of yarn and commented:
    I couldn’t agree more…

    August 7, 2014
  6. Sarah #

    Great article that I immediately shared with friends. So relevant especially now as I am recovering from an eating disorder and moving from doing grueling workouts by myself for the sole purpose of burning calories to hiking and running and biking with friends in order to grow strong (not skinny!) and explore the world and celebrate what my body is capable of.

    August 7, 2014
  7. kariglio #

    Loved reading your article- and you are right, the bike is the new golf course…I got a job through a contact I met at a mountain biking race:) Besides..mountain biking is a heck of a lot more thrilling than golf!Thanks again.

    August 7, 2014
  8. kariglio #

    Reblogged this on Die Frau's World and commented:
    My first re-blog – this is a great read. If I had a daughter this is what I’d tell her about why to work out too.

    August 7, 2014
  9. That is all so true! I hate the image-obsessed world of today, telling people that you should be tall and slim. I’m short and curvy and always will be, but I love swimming and hiking, and the outdoors. It’s way more important to have self confidence however you are, and to do the things you love, because that is what will make you happy and give you life satisfaction. I’m currently traveling, and doing things to stay fit and healthy, and things that make you happy is so important, as there are so many people in the world who don’t even have that choice.

    August 7, 2014
  10. ladyrider #

    Very good article! I saw it on FB and shared it!

    August 8, 2014
  11. Reblogged this on bewelltheblog and commented:
    I’ve definitely experienced the same reaction during some exercise classes and when seeing all the fitspo photos on Pinterest. Sure, exercising is a little about looking good for me, but it’s also so much more than that. Focusing on how much stronger/faster/determined I’ve become by challenging myself physically is so much more rewarding and motivational than focusing simply on a number (be that weight, size, etc.).

    August 8, 2014
  12. Kaylee #

    This blog is absolutely awesome. Especially since as a teenaged girl, I struggle with the same problem she is terrified her daughter will experience. My mother never really taught me the importance of being fit -and don’t get me wrong, she is an amazing mom, but as I got older, I started gaining more weight. Im not overweight now, but I am certainly not healthy-a problem that could have been solved by a solid exercise ethic started early. I now have an independent enough of a thinking process to see my own beauty, but it is buried deep beneath the insecurities of not being able to fit into THAT dress, even if it was a size 3; and the tears I shed the first time I put on my first pair of size 10 (juniors) shorts. Even though I’m not overweight, it took some serious mistakes for me to feel beautiful, and even now, its not permanent. Yes, I understand what Alli is saying. Those clothes can be great motivations; however, I have found that is is most important to make sure that your sister, or cousin, or daughter, or niece, or grandaughter or whoever she may be knows that she is beautiful because of who she is, not what size she wears.

    August 8, 2014
  13. Mike Vogl #

    When my daughter was born, I pictured myself teaching her all the things I loved about the natural world, and gently sharing with her my love of good health and fitness, and the outdoor activities that were so much a part of my life. Alas, she wanted not much of it, and only in small doses, if at all. I hoped that the seeds I tried to plant were just dormant, that they would suddenly sprout and grow when she passed into adulthood…but no, she’s still a girly-girl, smart and beautiful (and healthy) in so many ways, and we laugh now about her sometimes highly dramatic rejection of outdoor recreation while growing up. She’s chosen her own path and her own priorities, is remarkably kind and compassionate, successful in so many non-material ways, and l love her to pieces – in just one small part for her independence and the way she has identified, and pursues, what makes her happy. Not every young woman will choose the lifestyles we want for them, for reasons both good and bad, understandable and inexplicable, even when we model those lifestyles in healthy ways. We must still love them deeply.

    August 8, 2014
    • Beautiful post, Mike. Your daughter sounds special….and lucky to have you as her dad. Thanks for this comment.

      August 11, 2014
  14. Nick #

    Exercise is an opportunity as well as it is an obligation. It’s not about fitting into a certain dress size, it’s about keeping yourself in shape to the degree that you don’t die from an overweight-related illness before your prime. It’s about learning to not eat anything and everything around you. Exercise is literally what modern human beings are made for, and if you don’t supply the body with its need for exercise and movement, it will break down.

    August 9, 2014
  15. Nicole #

    I think this message is important for boys too. Too many children are sedentary, boys and girls. Too many are hyper focused on appearance and weight, boys and girls. I would not change a thing about this post, except to add that it should be for all of us.

    August 9, 2014
  16. Tex #

    I’m reblogging this as well on my site. I have an 8-year old daughter and I absolutely do not want her to be obsessive about fitting into a dress as a measure of her health and ability to succeed in life.

    August 9, 2014
  17. robinakagoatmom #

    Nearing 60 and back to working out but for all different reasons. In the past it was about the dress now its about me. It’s about walking my 1st 5K this past year ever and planning 2 more this coming year, for causes and people dear to my heart. It’s about slowing, then reversing my osteopenia without medications whose risk I didn’t want to take. It’s about losing some of the daily pain from RA, managing my thyroid better so I need less medication and feel better overall. It’s about sleeping better and waking up feeling refreshed, It’s about more energy, strength and vitality. It was about the rest of the equation I’d cleaned up my eating but still needed more to be the best me right here, right now!

    August 9, 2014
  18. Your words beautifully depict the essence of Striking Beauties boxing gym! I created SB to empower women and everyday I’m reminded how the mission we have undertaken has colored my children’s understanding of the world. My daughters were 3 and 15, my son 6, when we opened the first SB. from that young age my babies understood that women boxing -some in the ring others on heavy bags- is a matter of fact, normal activity. SB engrained in my girls that they can do anything ! Just as importantly, it shaped my son’s view on women…. Growing up with women boxing, and seeing your mom have her first amateur fight , my son naturally assumes women can do anything. He projects no preconceived limitations on our abilities.
    But the presence of SB has not only molded my children. Over the past 5 years my members have brought hundreds of children through our doors. Some partake in boxing while others just watch monmy or gramma wrap up and hit the heavy bag. Again, these little girls and boys have been exposed to gender equality during the all important formative years as their minds are just learning about life ‘a social norms and mores.
    And THIS is one of the greatest accomplishments achieved by Striking Beauties.

    August 9, 2014
  19. Reblogged this on WildlyLived and commented:
    No need to add my thoughts, really, as this perfectly sums up how I try to live my life and what I hope to pass on to my own daughter someday.

    August 9, 2014
  20. Reblogged this on Reflections and commented:
    The topic of “standards of beauty” has been bothering me for a while, as well as women’s obsession with losing weight. I LOVED this article!

    “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.”

    August 10, 2014
  21. Reblogged this on muddydancer and commented:
    Beautiful way to look at fitness

    August 10, 2014
  22. Makere #

    Reblogged this on Makere's Blog.

    August 11, 2014
  23. Karen #

    So appreciate these thoughts… and agree with each and every point. Being outdoors and exercising is so life giving. Even if you can’t actually exercise due to physical limitations you can get outside and enjoy the beauty that is revealed through a blue sky, mountains, ocean, clouds, a strong tree, flowers, a pond, stars… even city lights if you are living the urban life… parks, no matter where we are we can find beauty surrounding us. Once we realize that our inner beauty is what matters then we often can appreciate the environment we live in. No matter where it is. Aren’t we blessed to have daughters in our lives that end up appreciating what we appreciated while they were growing up.

    August 11, 2014
  24. Beautifully said from another fitness-running strong mom :)

    August 11, 2014
  25. Reblogged this on Run 2 Your Own Beat and commented:
    Definitely will keep all of this in mind when I have kids of my own!

    August 11, 2014
  26. Have always been active with my daughter whether it was playing tag, hide & seek, on the trampoline, in the pool…. now she’s 27 and I am 50-something and as a fitness trainer enjoy working out with her today … and certainly not to “fit int that dress”!!!

    August 12, 2014
  27. I really appreciated the post regarding 10 Things I want my daughter to know About Working Out . Ideal for any young lady, or someone’s daughter to read.

    August 13, 2014
  28. Joanne Wells #

    This is absolutely brilliant!! Love it!!

    August 13, 2014
  29. Tom Yorko #

    Are you kidding me! Every young boy and girl needs to have exposure to this upbeat article both by reading the article and and of course, seeing their parents in action. Good reading !!

    August 13, 2014
  30. Amen to all of that!

    August 14, 2014
  31. Reblogged this on wistful xtina.

    August 14, 2014
  32. Beautifully written! That’s exactly how we should be thinking about exercise. We should do it to enjoy life to the fullest, not to impress other people because of how we look in a dress.

    August 14, 2014
  33. Anni #

    If I start to spend any time worrying about other people’s reasons for exercise, I just eat an Oreo, watch another episode of Downton Abbey and head off to bed…..

    August 14, 2014
  34. Reblogged this on simplykristinedotcom and commented:
    This a wonderful summation of how I feel about diet and exercise. I try to stress the importance of living a healthy and active lifestyle NOT to be skinny, NOT equating it to be beautiful, but to have the energy and health to enjoy so much more of what life and our world has to offer. It’s not about trying to be a size 4. It has everything to do about making you FEEL good.
    I competed in Figure Bodybuilding years ago. It was A LOT of hard work, and took serious commitment. At the end of months on end of countless hours in the gym and near starvation tactics, I put on a little bikini and pranced around a stage so my body, my physique could be judged. I placed. I look back at that trophy now and remember that that moment felt a lot like a deflated balloon. All that hard work just to be judged by how I looked.
    Fast forward 10 years. At the urge of a friend I decided to try to race in a Spartan obstacle race. It required some pretty intense, challenging and tough training. It took commitment, hard work, drive. I raced and did pretty darn good for my age. There was something soooooo much different this time. Crossing that finish line donning that big medal, covered in mud, and fully clothed. There was a sense of accomplishment and pride that trumped that silly Figure trophy infinitely!! It was ONLY my hard work and drive that got me across that finish line. It had nothing to do with how I looked. It had nothing to do with what anybody else thought. You know what? Tired, sore, covered in mud, scraped, bruised and bloody – I felt beautiful!!! Far and away more beautiful than I did tanned, made-up, with a glitzy bikini glued to my butt.
    This is what fitness it. This is what being healthy is. It’s not a dress size. It’s not fitting into what anybody else’s ideal body image is. It’s about being able to get out there and take the world by storm. Climb mountains. Walk through forests. Play tag with kids.

    August 15, 2014
  35. Wonderful article! But I would be sure and tell her that like everything else in life moderation is key to perfect and lasting good health and happiness as well as maintaining peace of mind.

    August 15, 2014
  36. YES YEA YES YES! I absolutely love this post! It’s my hope everyone adopts this same attitude. Great words!

    August 15, 2014
  37. Reblogged this on klnobles and commented:
    This is so true. As I’ve aged and am trying so hard to hang on to the fitness and strength I had when I was younger, I hope others see this.

    August 16, 2014
  38. Rose #

    SO TRUE! I love this message & try to live by this philosophy! I go to the Y every day because I WANT to, not have to. I love feeling strong & fit at 64 yrs & plan to continue, hopefully the rest of my life! Hope this inspires others as it has me!

    August 16, 2014
  39. Reblogged this on BABY MAMA and commented:
    For Baby JoJo! My hearts desire is to raise my little girl to be a confident, creative, healthy, passionate, active, and loving woman.

    August 18, 2014
  40. balmtomysoul #

    Love this! I hate those radio commercials that talk about “that size” or “the swimming suit”. We need to send messages about being healthy, not being a certain size or shape. Thank you for a wonderful post! Love it.

    August 19, 2014
  41. lsjbentley #

    And that it’s not the end of the world if you cross the finish line at the back of the pack. At least you started.

    August 21, 2014

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