Exercise for body and mind, for all ages

After a week of bad behavior brought on by the doldrums of summer vacation, the lack of any routine and profound boredom (the bane of parents everywhere), I decided that what my 9-year-old needed was an exercise routine.

Suited up in athletic gear and with a smart bun in her hair, she looked every bit the part of a Carli Lloyd or Serena Williams.

Before leaving the house, I had her stretch to avoid injury and drink water to avoid dehydration. I’d chosen the apex of a Memphis summer to begin this routine; it would not be my last miscalculation.

As we walked a bit to warm up, and to acclimate our bodies to the 100-degree heat index, we discussed our day. In the neutral setting of neighborhood sidewalks, Genevieve opened up about her bad attitude of late, admitting that she’d behaved poorly. The talk was calm and rational, and we agreed that she should try a different tact when the frustration once again becomes too much.

A few blocks in, I suggested we jog. I coached her on pacing and not overexerting herself as a new runner. The first 20 yards or so went fine, and then Genevieve began skipping and pirouetting. She stopped to look at a stick before sprinting to catch up with me. She passed me, then ran backward to meet up again.

A mile in, I suggested we walk so she could catch her breath. She shrugged and we fell into step together, her breathing normal and without a hair out of place. She looked on in disgust as sweat poured from my face.

I’ve been exercising irregularly for years. Someone recently asked what I’m training for and I said I’m training to turn 45 years old next month. But I also exercise for my mental health, as a way to relax and purge all of the stress and pressures of a day as an adult.

I think it’s good for children in this same way. Just think back to childhood and how the world came at you. Everything is new; day to day, our kids are processing what they see and hear to judge whether it’s important enough to retain for the future. It creates the frustration and confusion that leads to bad behavior. It’s something we’ve dealt with in our 17 years as parents, and regular exercise is a great way to cope, a way to keep in shape to keep up with the speed of childhood.

I wheezed as we finished our three miles, Genevieve a half a block ahead of me and laughing as I searched for relief from the closest lawn sprinkler. She said she had fun, and told her siblings how much I sweat and how often I stopped to walk. Then she drank down the glass of water I gave her and bounced out of the house to play with friends, leaving me to my sore legs, blistered feet and a newfound bad attitude.

Link to The Commercial Appeal