Eat. Play. Love. (Part II)

The premise is that Ben probably BEGAN working on his hops a LONG time ago...

Shortly after moving to Harrisburg, Amy and I strolled purposefully through Sofas Unlimited. We stressed over color coordination and texture. Nobody needed a drink or had an emergency pee. In those days we cared, really cared, about our sofa, love seat, and over sized chair.

Now days, the precious furniture takes a beating at the hands and feet of four little ones. Especially on rainy days. Obedience is a top priority to us (no jumping on others sofas or on ours until we say). Furniture is not. And it's more convenient and less costly than 4 memberships to MiGym.

No furniture or bones have been broken yet. I'm just not up for the battle of going gently on the furniture, a relentless, thankless battle indeed. Perhaps we'll prioritize the sofa some day. But not right now. What a shame when furniture is outdated and demoted to the basement without having taken some hits.

Bear in mind that I'm a PT/trainer guy and not an interior decorator or furniture person. It's understandable if furniture is important to you. But for the kid's sake, have a horseplay couch in the basement. If you find it hard to let go of the whole furniture situation, go ahead and cheat by just starting with a 10-year old ugly couch. Think of your ugly old basement horseplay couch as an investment in their future.

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Side note, as ironically, I had to pause to address my 4-year old after he literally rolled out of his bed while asleep.

Risk is inherent in almost everything. Video games can become addictive. Kids ride in vehicles every day. I'm sure there are stories of kids getting horribly injured by falling from furniture. I don't know those stories, but there are many kids in close proximity to many couches, so I'm sure they exist. The key idea here is relative risk. 
Horse play on a couch has it's relative risks and rewards.

Encourage (OR discourage) it at your child's own risk. 
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What do couches have to do with athleticism? As stated in Part I (below), athletic potential in adolescence and adulthood has much more to do with acquiring an early love of physical activity than it does with genetics. The fundamental elements of athleticism are tied directly to natural sensitive periods in the development of the nervous system. The actual existence of these critical periods for motor development has been academically debated, but it makes sense and fits my personal observation.

Couches are the perfect gear for tuning little brains to spatial awareness, movement synchronization, and rapid acceleration and deceleration. Cushions awaken the smallest ones to the consequences of gravity.The process occurs conveniently and naturally, with far more stimulation than standing around waiting for a turn during "practice."

So leap. Chase. Hang. Lift. Throw with one and two hands. Any activity that your old aunt Edna yelled at you for doing in the sitting room is probably what kids should be doing. And often!

The best fuel for young athletes is frequent servings of a wide variety of physical activities. That's why starting them young does not have to mean soccer camp for toddlers and after school gymnastics. There are certainly worse things that 3- and 5-year olds can be doing with their time. But what I'm suggesting has little to do with organized anything. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Think couch.

I'm not saying that learning to cooperate and work as a team is without value. Those are needed lessons, but they are not lessons in motor control. Waiting your turn is probably a concept that should be introduced in the home and classroom before it's attempted during active times. We should expect a 12-year old to be patient and organized on the field during play time, but not a 6-year old.

Luke had to wait his turn.

So protect the kids, but don't hover. Let them learn about their body and gravity while the stakes are relatively low. Far more than any coach or trainer, you know how to challenge your little one in a way that also sets them up for success. And make it fun.

Mom and dad, be active yourself and look to praise their attempts at physical achievement. Encourage the horseplay, to some extent. Help them see their body as a performance machine good for more than sitting in front of electronics for 44 hours per week (the reported average for kids).

[Above] The author succeeds as an active model for the kids, but fails as a show boat.

On that note, send the kids outside. A lot. This link includes a referenced compilation of the benefits to being outside as well as many problems associated with the fundamental move of childhood to the indoors.

The brothers getting some fresh air.
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Lastly, point the little athletes toward the best finish line. You can train an athlete to run faster, but let's just go ahead and say that it probably won't make them a super star someday. Or content.

His Super Bowl ring is not what's making him happy right now.

Athletics truly helped keep me out of trouble and doing my homework. They still help me to get through long days, working as a father and a PT. The real value in training and competing is in the journey toward wellness of the body and mind. Lets set our children up for the love of physical activity without plastering them with commitments. Should they decide to pursue athletics, the foundation of higher level skill will be in place. '

The Promised Land is not some championship destination flowing with champaign and money. Anyone who is fed, loved, and given the opportunity to play is IN the promised land. And there, if you find that sweet spot between having fun and working hard...

....ooooh! You can let go of all the rest.

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1 comment:

  1. I love that you have an exercise post about the Couch. Awesome.