Did We All Forget What It’s Like to Be a Kid?

Times have changed.  Times are still changing for that matter, and in some cases we (as parents) tend to overlook or maybe even forget what it’s like to be a kid.  Think back to when you were young for a minute.  Can you remember the fun times, the innocence, the joy of just being a kid and having fun?

I have experienced training  athletes who are prospects or who are current players in the OHL (Ontario Hockey League), NCAA and other top athletic leagues.  These athletes can range from 15-20 years old, and most of them have a definite goal set to continue their careers/education by playing their particular sport.  On the other side of things, I have experienced kids as young as 9 years old coming in for sports conditioning;  to get faster, stronger, more agile etc…  These young “superstars” have even been in on a one-on-one basis.

Some of you reading this may be thinking, “9 years old!? Really!?”.  To add to this, the most recent research articles which are appearing more and more state that we now can say resistance training for youth is safe (and even recommended).  Highly respected health and fitness organizations such as CSEP (Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology), NSCA (National Strength & Conditioning Association) and ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) all have recognized this new research and have great information regarding this topic.  As a parent of two beautiful girls, and as a Fitness Professional for nearly a decade, although I completely agree with this recent research, my experience has concluded some tips of my own (and things for parents to consider):

Taylor Hall, Ontario Hockey League

Tips for Parents to Consider:

Is this for myself or for my child?

Who is the benefit actually for?  Parents who bring their 9 year olds in for one-on-one Personal Training often give me the story of how fantastic of  a player their child is.  You can actually see the “NHL” dream twinkling in their eyes as they tell the story.  There is also the belief that their 9-year-old will stay focused, motivated and interested in 60-minutes of conditioning for their sport. Can the average parent (or even scout) actually see a professional future in a child who has not even hit puberty yet?  Who is the benefit actually for?

Does your child really want this?

I have dealt with kids (and currently do) who are 11-12 years old who are very keen on improving their fitness levels; whether it be strength, endurance etc… But there have been many who you can tell would rather be doing something else.

What is the biggest motivator as a child?

The biggest motivator as a child growing up is FUN!  Let kids be kids.  Let them play, run around, play games etc.. This may not be the stereotypical “NHL-style” workout, but it still promotes strength, endurance, flexibility etc… Whether the child sees a Fitness Professional on a one-on-one basis or as a group of kids, FUN will keep them fit, educated and interested in being healthy.

Some simple examples from my clientele are;  my 11-year old (elite) motocross racer who performs balance games and timed “challenges” with me to train for his sport.  Or my 11-year old former client who was overweight and had poor self-confidence;  we played dodge ball type games, hide and go seek, and even had Nerf wars to promote movement and FUN. By the end of his sessions, his parents saw huge leaps in his self-confidence and attitude.   These are simple and fun ways to teach kids about fitness and health without focusing on testing, their size or how good or bad they are at something.

Be a role-model.

As parents, our children (regardless of age) watch us, mimic us and grow up in many ways to be like us.  If you’re bringing your child to a Fitness Professional, ask yourself why?  Is it so you can go to Tim Horton’s for a coffee while they workout?  Is it because you know that as a family you’re not as active as you should be?  Perhaps there are changes at home that you can make as a family that will cost less, create an even greater family bond, and create new memories for everyone.

Remember the child’s body and what it goes through.

Often parents will think their young pre-pubescent child is going to get “ripped” or become amazingly fast.  Although it is possible to see some improvements, we cannot forget that a child’s body is constantly in a state of change;  especially in the puberty years (10-14yrs).

The important things to remember as a parent during this time is to create healthy habits.  Focus on quality nutrition, keeping your child active, perform balance activities and games to keep your child’s proprioception up during this time of immense physical changes.

We as a society have now begun to recognize the importance of keeping our kids healthy, but are we really always going about it in the right way?

Derek Arsenault

-Certified Personal Trainer - CSEP-CPT -Fitness & Health Promotion Graduate - Loyalist College, Belleville, ON, Canada -Reiki Level 2 Certified -Specializes in Sports Conditioning and Kids Fitness -Contributing writer to livestrong.com -Member of CSEP's Editorial Committee for the (Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology) "Exercise & Fitness Bulletin

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