When I was 13 years old, I started working out with my mother. I should qualify that statement. When I was 13 years old, my mom had the rarest of all pleasures -- waking me, a surly youth, to take me for a jog before school.
My mom was (and is, in fact) my number one champion (sorry dad). She thinks I'm beautiful no matter what. This, at the age of 13, was certainly saying something, because I was no prize. I'd also like to make it clear that if I'd kept silent, my mom would never had made me run in the mornings. That wasn't her style. But when I went to her, teary-eyed, because I thought I was "fat" (ludicrous! I was a child!), she came up with a solution.
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You see, my mom's an athlete. I asked her -- just two weeks ago -- what she wanted to do for her birthday, and the woman wants to play lacrosse in the backyard. Sports and being outdoors have always made her, well, as happy as a blanket and a COPS marathon make me. We're both very competitive, which makes us playing a sport together hilarious. She's competitive and athletically gifted. I'm competitive and a hot mess.
My mom would have moved heaven and earth when I was teenager to make me feel happy in my own skin. As a woman, she knew what it felt like to view your body as the enemy. She took me to the YMCA and taught me about weight-lifting. She encouraged me on our (she swears we only went twice) early morning jogs. She listened. But the real stuff my mom taught my teenage self about exercising probably wasn't what she expected. They are lessons that I've applied to every sphere of my now-grown-up life.
1. Fun Is Crucial
When she's on a treadmill, she's not a barrel laughs -- but you should hear her hoot and holler when she's goofing off with a soccer ball or trying to shoot a basketball. She's the reason that at 13, I agreed to take cotillion-style dance classes (GOD HELP ME). The gym's all well and good, but movement (and life!) should be powered by joy.
2. Don't Be Afraid to Be Silly
When I'd scowl as we jogged along, my mom would tickle my sides and do goofy things with her arms to make me laugh. Life is too serious already -- we don't need to make it more so.
3. There's Good Hurt & Bad Hurt
While my mom is the first to admit that there's such a thing as "feeling the burn," she also knows when she's gone too far and doesn't try to push herself past her limits to prove a point. Unless you count that one race where she stopped and drank a beer at every mile. That was just bad-ass.
4. You Can Do So Much More Than You Think You Can
When I was a teenager, my mother went through a radical transformation. She made a decision to get in shape, and I watched her go from limping around the block to running competitive road races like a champ.
5. Routines Can Save You
When I'd get frustrated about my progress as a teen, my mom never rubbed my face in my mistakes. Instead she'd suggest going back to basics -- 20 minutes of exercise 3 days a week. It made me realize that sometimes the decision to go on mattered more than the exercise itself.
6. ... But So Can Shaking Everything Up
As disciplined as my mom is, when I was a teenager, she always reminded me to take risks. If she saw me getting too workout obsessed, she'd suggest alternate plans -- something fun like a movie or just hanging out with my family. There's a lot to be said for perspective, and she always made sure I had it.
What important things do you hope to pass on to your teenager in unexpected ways?