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10 Things I Want My Daughter to Know About Working Out

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 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.

984 Comments Post a comment
  1. What a powerful post. Thank you, thank you for sharing. I love it 🙂

    November 7, 2015
  2. As a Mom of 4, New Marathoner & Mountaineer I totally love your post! Being in Nature & being able to continue to push myself outside my comfort zone are my prime motivators. Those ‘kids’ are now young adults & showing interest our big adventures 😄🗻👟 I began writing about our transformation & adventures this Summer. Hope you enjoy mine as much as I enjoyed yours.

    December 1, 2015
  3. My husband and I are living in Italy at the moment and we hiked to the top of the mountain that we are living on the side of today. The view was incredible. Snow capped peaks on one side and the ocean on the other. When we came home and were outside having a cup of tea watching the sunset, I said to him that I am so grateful that my body is fit and healthy and that I am able to hike. I know people who have arthritis or health issues and could not do what we did today.

    This is such a great post. Thank you for writing it.


    December 2, 2015
  4. Love this! Totally how I feel – I work out for ME and how it makes me feel. I could careless what the “dress” feels or looks like. If I feel healthy and happy thats all that matters.

    December 2, 2015
  5. Shannon #

    I don’t have a daughter but great article.

    December 4, 2015
  6. Martha #

    Relevant insight for EVERYONE! Thanks so much for this beautiful post!

    December 5, 2015
  7. Exercise is medicine!!! The Surgeon General says Step It Up!!! Please also check out Walkapocket LLC a perfect accessory to get out WALKING. I designed and manufacture in the USA specifically to get people out walking….take your next business meeting out walking w/ your phone in your Walkapocket. Thanks, Cathy

    December 6, 2015
  8. Nancy Cripe #

    Wonderful message! Just made your Sunset soup yesterday. Thanks for the cookbook. I love it!

    December 7, 2015
  9. YES! This is a wonderful post. I make a point of looking in the mirror sometimes and telling my girls that I like the cool things my body can do. When I’m feeling a little bummed about my body, I’m careful to use words like “getting stronger” and “staying healthy” rather than losing weight. I love, love your post.

    December 11, 2015
  10. Aongelic #


    December 15, 2015
  11. This is gorgeous. Thank you!

    December 16, 2015
  12. Dinnie #

    I think she made some valid points, points I agree with but yes one of the reason I workout is to be able to fit into my clothes. I think fitness is a lifestyle & to be able to exercise regularly is indeed a privilege however fitting into clothes is a great benefit of exercising regularly & there’s nothing wrong with saying that & that being a motivation to exercise. You won’t lose your feminist card if you admit that fitting into your clothes is one of the reason you make exercise a lifestyle.

    December 18, 2015
  13. Thanks for sharing. It’s very powerful.

    January 3, 2016
  14. Becky #

    I liked this article. It’s hard to explain the smell of worms on the wet pavement or knowing where the next chunk in the road to avoid is while running. This knowledge comes only from experiencing it for yourself. The weight of life is off my shoulders when I’m working out. Passion for exercise and good health is passed on like any other love. Show them the way.

    January 8, 2016
  15. Love this! I also have a three year old daughter and this resonates so much with what I want her to believe!

    January 16, 2016
  16. I love this and shared it with my daughter. A workout as a lifestyle not an event is a great way to put it. I am getting super fit doing Black Fire on Daily Burn and it has changed my life.

    February 2, 2016
  17. I loved this! Number one especially!!

    February 4, 2016

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