I remember the first time Rebekah suggested we walk…for fun! We were seniors in college, neither of us had classes on Tuesday and Thursday, and would be going to work soon. I loved her so I went with it, but I thought it was dumb!
Just walking. What was this going to do?
We walked off campus, to a park down the road, walked through the park, and back to our college. Then we went to work.
It might be important to explain that I was quite overweight at this point in life. I thought, in my obesity, that I knew a lot about health. Therefore, walking wasn’t going to accomplish anything significant, I thought.
What I didn’t know is that we changed the course of our future and our relationship in so many ways through that first Tuesday morning walk. But it would take years for me to grasp the significance.
It was the following Thursday morning and she suggested we do it again. Somehow, this became our thing. Every Tuesday and Thursday of our senior year, we got up early (on the days we didn’t have to!) and we walked. And we talked. About everything.
A year later, we got married, moved to another state, ditched the classes for jobs, but we kept walking. Our lives were different, our conversations were different, and so was the neighbourhood.
Three years later, we had a brand new baby. We put her in a stroller and we walked her through our walking path, continuing to talk and dream about our life.
The neighbourhood was the same, but other things were starting to change. We started this journey just the two of us, and now we had a new lifetime member.
A little over two years later, this baby (who was growing into a strong-willed young girl) was on the verge of having a baby brother who was going to push her out of her comfy stroller.
So we started going for walks without the stroller and making her walk. Her ability to walk the distance really depended on her mood (but I distinctly remember a time when she was two-and-a-half that she walked over 2 miles without either of us picking her up!)
Looking back to this time many years ago, I don’t think I was being intentional. I was on my own journey to better health and physical education and without even realising it, I began passing on my knowledge and experiences to my kids because it was exciting to me.
And as I dreamed of my kids’ future, I started evaluating my past.
Everyone loves physical activity because we were made to be physical. Some would disagree with this statement because they don’t think they like physical activity. Some people consider the things that they think are boring, extra difficult, or draining as physical and discount the very things they actually love that happen to be physical.
Take me, for example. When I think about physical activities of my childhood, I think about baseball, karate, and basketball.
I gave baseball two different chances and hated both times. I still don’t like baseball (Sorry if you do. Can we still be friends and think entirely different about the subject of baseball?) I didn’t naturally play baseball with my friends. Even playing catch seemed boring to me. So going to baseball practice felt like “work”.
Karate would probably have been good for me, but I hated it. It was too tedious. Karate required going to lessons. I just wanted to get to the point where I could break a stack of bricks in front of bullies so they’d know not to mess with me. I didn’t understand the process and I didn’t have patience to get there.
With basketball, there was definitely a love for the game, I had an amazing coach, and I was on a great team. The problem was that I was the worst player on the team. Trying to keep up with the guys on my team in skill, fitness, and remembering plays was so much mental work, I was dying inside. This took away from me enjoying it for what it was.
What I didn’t think about until I was an adult and begin processing through things is that I’ve always loved physical activities, I just didn’t know it because I only considered the physical activities as organised sports and discounted the things I loved doing as “physical” because they were fun!
As a kid, I just wanted to ride my bike. All over town. I wanted to find fun places to ride. The explorer in me even wanted to find places no one knew existed. When I was riding my bike, I wasn’t thinking of how it was doing my body good, I just knew I enjoyed it!
Once I learned how to swim, I discovered I loved swimming and I loved water—lakes, ponds, oceans, pools. I wasn’t thinking about how swimming is great for resistance training or how it’s great on my joints, I just knew I enjoyed it!
And when I was in high school, it wasn’t really work to carry a 40-pound bass drum on my shoulder and march in the Oklahoma heat. I loved music, being a part of the drumline was my favourite part of high school, so I rarely noticed the physical aspect of it because I was doing something I loved.
I didn’t want my kids to think that they hated being physical. And without knowing it, I began to pass some things on to them.
It’s been more than 13 years since I went for that first walk with my girlfriend (now wife!) Not only have we continued to walk, but we’ve since added three lifetime members (even little Beckett joined us for a few months)
And over the years, our family walks have turned into adventures! We’ve walked miles along the shores of Ormond Beach, Florida and explored the River Walk in San Antonio. We’ve hiked through some of Snowdonia mountain ranges in Wales and covered a lot of ground on the streets of London.
When we make physical fitness fun and when we do it without treating it like it’s an obligation, kids join in the fun. Their tiny muscles begin growing as well as their endurance and they get to experience a whole new world as a result.
A few years ago, I discovered Brent Kruithof on Instagram. He started a company called Flyup Fitness. The idea behind his business was to inspire dads to incorporate their exercise workout into their time with their kids.
I had this ‘aha’ moment where I thought of a lot of simple, physical things I do often—like sit-ups, push-ups, burpees, and body squats. I’m not consistent with most of these on a regular basis, but I definitely wanted to experiment with some things I was learning from following Brent’s story.
I asked my two young children if they wanted to join me when I exercised. And they did! Interestingly, their favourite move is burpees—a move that is hated among many because it’s hard.
To keep it easy, I teach them that burpees start with their entire body on the floor and when they get their entire body off the ground, that’s “one”. My daughter’s form is better than my son’s, but they both go down, get up, jump up, and clap with smiles on their faces!
Recently, we were at the beach at sunset, and I saw an opportunity to incorporate our workout and our family time at the beach. My daughter joined me and we did 10 burpees on the beach together!
But my journey wasn’t just about the physical education, I was also learning about food nutrition.
Another guy I’ve been following for years is Steve Kamb, founder of Nerd Fitness. Through many of his articles and eBooks, I’ve learned a lot about nutrition.
I’ve personally discovered that “the food you eat will be responsible for 80-90% of your success or failure.”
Because of my consistent change in my eating habits, I’ve personally overcome obesity, food and drink addictions, lack of confidence, and my ability to do normal things without becoming short of breath. I have been on a journey to learn why I had been unhealthy and how I could make better choices.
And as I’ve learned these truths about nutrition, I’ve unintentionally taught them to my kids.
My kids know that chicken, beef, and fish are good sources of protein and that protein fills you up better and longer than carbs.
Sadly, they know that most of the food they crave has sugar in it and that their minds, teeth, and their bodies do not respond well to sugar—even if their mouths do!
They know that a lot of fruits and vegetables and even some of their cereals have fibre, which is good for their stomachs.
And they know that their bodies need water and that’s the best thing they can drink.
Just a side note: My kids are normal. They don’t always eat what we put in front of them. They love something one meal and the next meal it makes them gag. If you know my kids, you know this is true. We also don’t ALWAYS give them real food—they often get sweet treats, frozen pizzas, and fried processed meat called nuggets. And for the record, I also indulge in sweet treats and fried goodness once in awhile. Eating healthy isn’t a “30-day diet”, it’s a lifestyle that is sustainable over time. I just wanted to clear up a few things.
Okay, back to what I was saying…
I don’t know how many young kids think about the nutritional details behind the foods they eat—I certainly didn’t as a kid! Honestly, I didn’t set out to teach my kids this specific information, and it wasn’t until just recently that my wife pointed out that it’s just a part of my normal conversations with the kids.
It’s a normal thing for me to talk about food because I view food as Art, as life, and as a gift—and this is something worth talking about!
In his book Meals with Jesus, Author Tim Chester says this:
“The quality of our food should matter to us. We’re to treat food as a gift, not merely as fuel. We’re to treat creation as a responsibility entrusted to our care by God to be used for his glory. We should take an interest in the ingredients in the meal.”
The reason we have anything to talk about in the first place is because our food is real and we made it. When you pull a pre-made dinner from the frozen section and pop it into your oven, there’s not a lot to talk about. But when you chopped up the vegetables, seasoned the meat, made the sauce, and put it together, there’s a sense of accomplishment as you put your Art on the Table.
My classroom is the dinner Table because the best way to teach about food is by sitting together and eating the food. It’s more fun to talk about how chicken is a great source of protein when we’re putting a piece of chicken on their plate. And no child likes to be hungry so when we explain to them that this will keep them full longer, they’re more willing to accept it (even if it looks nothing like the “chicken nuggets” they had imagined when they heard we were having chicken for dinner!)
Discussing why we chose a salad for a side item as opposed to chips (or fries) allows us to talk about the difference between fried food and fresh food. We also have an opportunity to point out the different ingredients of the salad while we’re placing it in their bowl. They may pick around what they don’t think they like, but they’re looking at the various colours and textures and talking about it.
And when your family comes to the Table to enjoy your work of Art, it’s natural to talk about it.
To quote myself from my first article:
My journey to understanding health and my journey to following God would eventually collide and I now realise that they are not separate paths.
God created us to be physical, to enjoy His food, and to need relationships and community.
Everyone is different, but we all enjoy doing something physical. If you’re not having fun moving, don’t assume you don’t like being physical. Be honest that you haven’t found your passion. Whether it’s biking, powerlifting, yoga, climbing, CrossFit, ultimate Frisbee, taking walks with your family, or any number of physical activities, discovering what this is, including others, and building it into your everyday life will unlock a greater passion for you.
Everyone is different, but we all enjoy good food. There’s some who believe that real or “healthy” food doesn’t taste good, but this may be because you haven’t had real food prepared the way you would prefer it. Through experimenting with dark meat to white meat, less spice or different spices, fresh meat versus store bought, trying new vegetables and preparing them different ways, you will discover what you like. And having it prepared to your taste buds may help you realise that real food is good food.Sharing this life with others by enjoying the physical activities with your family and eating the good food with friends is an incredible way to celebrate the God who loves us all and this is the stuff that makes life great!
Thanks for sitting down for a chat. Now let’s get out there and enjoy life!