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Keeping in Touch With Fun

When people tell me they hate exercise, I often find myself asking them, “Well, what’s fun? It’s OK to focus your activity on something fun.” When I was a kid, we had Little League and ballet class and soccer and so on, but we also did a lot of play, just for fun. In my case, it was mainly bike rides, walks, and poking around in the nearby nature areas and parks — and those are all still a major part of my activity.

Well, that was long before the World Wide Web, smartphones, and even cell phones, and kids’ experiences of sports can be very different today. Just as today’s amateur athletes have the benefit of far better training information than the Olympic champions of 100 years ago had, school kids are often under greater pressure in team sports, with early specialization leading to dramatic increases in serious childhood injuries. If I’d grown up with that kind of pressure, I wonder if I’d be as interested in outdoor sports as I am today.

“Stage parents” have always been with us, but with some of the changes in how kids sports operate, some organizations have had to ask those parents to throttle back, please, like the Buffalo Grove Park District, which posted the sign above.

(A local radio station posted a larger version of the full sign, too.)

As adults making a new commitment to fitness, the kind of competitive attitude being warned about in this sign can be a strong risk factor for injury, for ignoring signs from your body that you should step back a little. Parents should definitely calm down and not ruin their kids’ fun — and we should expect the same of some of our destructive inner voices. Exercise, like healthy eating and getting enough sleep, should make our lives nicer, not tougher.

My favorite part:

Imagine how you would feel if you saw a parent or coach from the opposing team cheering for your child when they made a great play. Then envision what kind of person you would think they are for doing that. You can be that person.

Let’s get out there and be our own biggest cheerleaders.

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