Learn to Run by Alex White is based out of Bergen County, NJ.
Alex provides running classes and private run coaching for adults and kids, USATF Level 1 certified.
Alex White is a Lululemon Run Ambassador, Cross Country coach, Lacrosse coach, Personal Trainer and Pilates instructor———————————————-
WHY YOU MAY BE SETTING UP YOUR DAUGHTERS TO FAIL
Yes, I know this is a loaded intro. But unfortunately, from what I have seen over the past several years of coaching kids, it is also somewhat true. I coach kids (ages 5-18) in running and fitness classes and many are girls. All of them are great kids; they try hard in our workouts; they generally smile a lot and are, for the most part, okay with the fact that they are supposed to “workout” during the time they spend with me, because that is what their parents do. They see their parents going to the gym, going for a run, doing Pilates and yoga, lifting weights… so the kids generally understand—although don’t always love—that they should probably be doing that too. But the girls and their moms are not so okay when it comes to diet and eating. As we all know, a lot of our society is obese. It’s a common fact at this point. “Healthy eating and exercise contribute to a healthier lifestyle.” We have all heard this statement so many times, that we don’t even listen anymore. But for some reason, from what I am seeing… a lot of moms are not listening to the first part of that recommendation. The healthy eating is falling by the wayside.
A HEALTHY DIET DOES NOT MEAN STARVE YOURSELF
“Healthy eating” does not mean dieting. Yes, if you are overweight your doctor may ask you to go on “a diet”. But it’s a diet of healthy foods, not a diet of not eating at all. The word has become synonymous with starvation around here, and it’s affecting our kids. The comment I hear most often from woman to woman around here is “OMG you look so skinny. You look awesome. Did you lose weight?” Let me tell you something, losing weight doesn’t always make you better. In fact, I hate it when people ask me if I’ve lost weight, because it implies that I wasn’t good enough before. But never mind how it makes me feel, here’s the bigger problem with all of this skinny talk: YOUR KIDS HEAR YOU SAY THIS STUFF ALL THE TIME. Little girls as young as seven years old ask me if our workout will burn a lot of calories. Tweens tell me they need to lose weight to fit into their bat mitzvah dresses, when they don’t weigh more than 110 lbs. to start. Teenagers come to their workout sessions not having eaten more than a cup of tea and a few crackers for lunch because they “feel fat”. Sound familiar moms? It’s because they are hearing it from you. Yes, your daughters are okay with exercising, but they are also okay with starving themselves, being waifs and having no muscle as long as they are “skinny”.
DON’T SET YOUR KIDS UP TO FAIL
The even larger problem is that we are setting these kids up to fail—not only at being thin, but at being healthy and fit overall. So many of my students are eating complete crap, for lack of a better word. Parents are fueling their growing bodies with packaged cookies, refined sugars, candy and chips, and they are overweight—a lot of them. I look around at some of the kids on the pickup lines at school and over half of them are too heavy. And parents, if they can’t get to the store to buy their own food because they are too young, then it is your fault if they are too heavy. Sure, I’m not accounting for a certain amount of genetic predisposition, but all in all, I believe that what these kids ingest is the main reason for their growing bellies. They can exercise all they want in my classes or on any other sports team, but their bodies need the right food to make it all work correctly. And if they aren’t eating the right foods, they gain weight and THEN they have to try even harder to “get skinny” like their ever-dieting moms.
What’s worse, is that no one tells these kids that if they workout regularly, they gain muscle and they might get heavier! They get stronger; they get faster; they might get larger legs and arms. They are not getting skinny, but they are getting healthy and fit.
I work out a lot; I run and sweat; I lift weights and do Pilates; I have a bubble butt and “muscley” legs that don’t fit well into skinny designer jeans. I’m not skinny. Sadly, too many kids (boys included) worry that they shouldn’t work out because their legs/arms might get bigger, and they don’t want to gain an ounce of anything—fat or muscle—for fear that they may be an iota heavier on the scale. They are starting out being unhealthy and overweight, and then striving to be unhealthy and overly-skinny. It’s an uphill battle, and certainly not a positive journey for their self-esteem.
HEALTHY IS NOT “A GIVEN”
Kids eat what they are given. They don’t understand what it means when doctors say “healthy diet”. They do understand what it means to exercise, but we as their guardians are the ones that need to help them through the rest. Tell them it’s okay to skip the doughnut because it might make you sluggish in your soccer game (not because it will make you fat). Make it okay to have strong quad or bicep muscles. Tell them to be proud that they will do better on that math test than the kid next to them, because you gave them eggs for breakfast instead of pancakes.
Yes, a healthy child means they are exercising. But it also means not feeding our kids Oreos or neon-yellow Kraft Mac n’ Cheese after school as a snack. (Anything in a package that can last for two years is pretty much guaranteed to be bad for your kid.) A healthy diet means not putting Gatorade in your kids bodies while they are sitting doing homework. They aren’t running a marathon, and they definitely don’t need all of that sugar. Heck, I don’t even drink Gatorade after I run 10 miles, so I’m pretty sure our kids don’t need more than water either. Eating well means you have to say “no” sometimes. “No” to plain white pasta with butter, which is about as nutritionally void as cardboard. “No” to pizza three nights a week because you have had a long day. “Yes” to lots of fruits and veggies—and I know it’s hard to do; I have two kids of my own. They complain and whine, and you become evil-Mommy. I get it. It’s hard work. But we have to remind ourselves of the REASON we are having our kids “eat well”: we want them to be healthy, strong, alert, and resilient. And while we are at it, we might want to be healthy, strong, alert and resilient instead of SKINNY as well.
Alexandra White is a USA Track & Field Certified running coach, certified pilates instructor, and personal trainer. She is also a middle school cross country, pilates and lacrosse coach in Bergen County, NJ. She lives in Oradell, NJ with her two children ages 5 and 8.