For far too long now, the pursuit of fitness has been equated with individual achievement. In the media and general culture, fitness has typically been about performance (who can go farthest, fastest), or it’s been about possession – washboard abs and seductive good looks. The body as object.
I prefer to view fitness from a broader perspective, one that includes fitness as a family value. Think about it a moment: Fitness teaches us care, discernment, discipline and determination. It teaches us to perceive our potential and respect our limits. It teaches us the power of good choices, the art of forging good habits and the value of hard work. It teaches us how to handle responsibility, to set goals, to pursue delayed gratification and to take pleasure in a job well done. It also trains us to be a good sport, to weather difficulty and disappointment without giving up.
Those sound like fine family values to me, and I believe that a family environment is the ideal place to start learning them. So much of the life we choose as adults has to do with the way we are raised. If you grow up in a household where things are kept relatively neat and well ordered, that’s what you know. If you grow up with fit parents who demonstrate healthy habits, that’s what you know. Of course, each of us is free to make his or her own adult choices, but if you’re raised in a family with poor health and fitness habits, it can be much, much more difficult to break away from that model.
When we started Life Time Fitness more than 10 years ago, it was our vision to create an organization that would support a healthy way of life for the whole family – whether that happened to be a family of one or a family of five. We wanted to make it easy and fun for families to play together, but also easy for busy adults to get their personal workouts in, even in the midst of other obligations and demands.
Certainly, if you are on your own, it’s important for you to take good care of yourself. You’re the head of your own household. But as the heads of families, parents have a special responsibility to provide their kids with good models, good habits and good opportunities to enjoy an active, healthy, balanced way of life.
That means teaching your kids about how their bodies are designed to work at their very best, about how to care for themselves in a way that brings them a lifetime of discovery, vitality and enjoyment. But it also means being there for them – being healthy and energetic enough to enjoy your kids and participate in an active life right alongside them. It means having enough strength, balance and equanimity in your own life that you can notice and be present when your partner or kids just need to talk.
In this issue of Experience Life, our editorial team has pulled together a variety of articles designed to help you instill fitness as a family value in your current home, even if your own family wasn’t particularly strong in that area – and even if you happen to be a family of one. What you’ll see is that it doesn’t take extreme measures, and it doesn’t mean taking all the fun and pleasure out of daily life. All it takes is a healthy dose of moderation, a little patience and a whole lot of love.