Leading by Example

Or why I can’t let myself slip into old age

I’m lying on the floor. My heart is going thump! thump! Slowly my breathing returns to normal. I heave myself up and drag the exercise bike back to the hall. I’ve done it. My exercise session is over for another day.

Why do I do this to myself? Why can’t I let myself slip into an inactive old age? I have to exercise. I have no choice. I am the mother of teenage children.
I look at Sophie and Gemma-Rose. They run everywhere. “Stop! Walk! Go outside if you want to run,” I shout.  So out they go. They charge up and down the garden. Not even a long dress-up gown slows them down. Every game is played at a 100 miles an hour.
I know one day the running will stop. I will no longer have to shout as a girl goes hurtling past me. The problem will be getting my daughters to move, not slowing them down.
We weren’t homeschooling long before I realised there just isn’t enough natural activity in a typical day to give my children adequate exercise.
Years ago, we went to a homeschooling camp and we were given the cabin the greatest distance away from the action. We walked miles that week: up and down to the chapel, the dining room, the football field… By the time we returned home we felt fitter and thinner. And then we slipped back into our usual routine. It doesn’t take much effort to get from a bed to the bathroom to the kitchen table. At least schoolers have to pass through the front door and maybe walk to the bus stop.
So I decided something had to be done. Somehow my children weren’t leading themselves down the self-directed healthy exercise pathway. Can an unschooling mother interfere? Normally maybe not, but I decided to put exercise into the ‘expected’ basket, the same basket as learning and practising the Faith, being a considerate and polite  member of the family, being helpful and involved with the family chores… No we aren’t radical unschoolers. There are some things my children are expected to do.
So I thought about the problem of exercise. I imagined saying, “Right, you’ve got to exercise. What are you going to do?” I could just see that bunch of hostile teenagers. They’d probably say, “Do you exercise?” And then I knew exactly how to encourage my children to start moving: I had to move first. 

I think there is a very important principle of bringing up and educating children:  I have to be prepared to do anything I want my children to do. I have to lead by example.

So exercise has become a family affair. I often browse the exercise section of the library for new ideas and I share the books with my daughters. We have tried power walking, running (that was hard work!), bushwalking, Pilates, resistance work with hand-weights, the exercise bike… and mini-trampolining.
A few years ago, I picked up a trampolining book (or should I more correctly say, a rebounding book?) in a sale. It is called Starbound and was written by Michele Wilburn: “Bounce your way to balanced health and beauty. Streamline and strengthen your body.”  I’m not sure about all the advice on how to ‘energise and revitalise your whole being’ or ‘boost your immunes’. However, a friend tells me it makes sense so I shall have to go back and reread it. But the book is also packed full of trampoline moves with plenty of diagrams. Soon we’d learnt how to do frog leaps, threading the needle, liquorice twists, heel flaks, the mummy, the injured wallaby… We started with one mini tramp and took turns. Then we bought another and then a third… I found some great free bouncy workout music online which we downloaded.
It is midday. Two teenage girls are in their pink exercise shirts and track pants. They haul their trampolines to their bedroom. The music sounds. The girls bounce slowly for a couple of minutes and then the pace is increased to a jog and then the fun begins:
“The mummy!” shouts Charlotte. Two sets of arms and legs are held stiff and close to the body as the girls bounce in a circle.
“High jump,” yells Imogen as she pulls her legs up and shoots towards the ceiling.
“Slinky skier!”
Half an hour later, the girls are dragging their trampolines back to the garage. They see me replacing the exercise bike in the hall.
“Finished, Mum? How did you go?”
“All done. I feel good!” And it’s true. My muscles are satisfyingly warm and tired. I am ready for my lunch.
Slip slowly into old age inactivity? I look at my daughters. I really enjoy sharing exercise with them. I want to be able to keep up with them for a long time yet. No, I am not going to slow down and stop. I still have a lot of living to do.

And of course, Sophie and Gemma-Rose will eventually turn into teenagers too. One day they also might need encouragement to keep moving. I’ve still got a lot of leading by example left to do. 

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Comments

    • Vicky
    • September 12, 2011
    Reply

    You are such an inspiration, Sue! I'm afraid I can't persuade myself to work out, even though I know that Pilates is so effective. I always seem to have other things to do, instead. Swimming's different, though – perhaps, I make time for that because I enjoy it.

    The trampolines sound like good fun:)

  1. Reply

    Hi Vicky,
    Yes, I think we need to find some form of exercise we enjoy. I hate swimming, unlike you! But I do like the challenge of making my body stronger and more flexible and becoming aerobically fit as long as I don't get wet.

    I've been listening to the Rosary while exercising which is an added motivation to get moving each day. I tried saying the Rosary but I got too breathless!

    Thanks for your comment!

    • Suzie Andres
    • September 13, 2011
    Reply

    Unfair! I had just emailed you about skipping exercise in favor of online time, and then what did I find? You are being virtuous AND having fun! Maybe I need to look into the mini-trampoline approach. I have been thinking about a treadmill, since I enjoy that on vacation…Thanks for the inspiration,
    Suzie

  2. Reply

    Hi Suzie,

    I'm so glad you emailed instead of exercising! On my other blog a while ago, we had a fun discussion about whether it was possible to exercise without actually leaving the computer. Could a netbook or an iPad be attached to the front of an exercise bike or perhaps a treadmill? Does that sound like I am addicted to my computer??

    I am so impressed you exercised while on holiday! You told me all about those delicious breakfasts at the hotel and the wonderful food at your family's house. You didn't mention the treadmill.

    I'd love to try out a treadmill. Much more expensive than a mini tramp though. Maybe one day…

    God bless, Suzie!

    • Erin
    • September 17, 2011
    Reply

    You are so good!

  3. Reply

    Erin,

    I have to fight the temptation to be lazy. Having the girls to keep me on track helps!

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