Physical Education 101
Physical Education 101Making the Grade in Family Fitness with Tonya Larson
As the lazy days of summer come to an end and the kids head back to school, the last thing you want to think about is adding a workout program to your never-ending list of things to do. But considering the routine nature of the season, now is the best time to start building healthy habits for your family.
Recently MTL had the opportunity to speak with Tonya Larson, an AFAA Certified Group Exercise and Step Instructor, mother of two and wife of a U.S. Navy pilot. While sharing her time and insight with us, she proved that exercising as a family is easier than you think and a lot more fun!
Test your exercise IQ and see how your calisthenics quotient measures up.
True or False: As a Christian, exercise is important.
In 1 Timothy 4:8, Paul writes, Bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things. After reading the beginning of this verse, it is very tempting to conclude that Paul was merely confirming a fact about exercising that many people would like to believe. But Paul is by no means suggesting that exercise is useless. On the contrary, he is simply making a comparison between being physically fit and spiritually fit. Paul does not deny the fact that exercise is good for some things, things such as your physical and mental wellness. Rather Paul emphasizes that spiritual exercise which produces godliness is more beneficial because godliness is profitable for all things.
As Christians, we want to have a balanced and healthy lifestyle because we want to represent that to people who don’t know the Lord, Tonya explains. And we want to live a fruitful life so that it is pleasing to the Lord.
I found that if you don’t do healthy habits, if you aren’t in a consistent lifestyle of healthy habits, you end up picking up bad habits and it snowballs. And it affects more than just food or exercising. It starts to affect much deeper things like self esteem and self control and self discipline. As a Christian, exercise is just a part of having a balanced lifestyle so that I can live a fruitful life.
True or False: Exercising should be easy and fun.
Exercise can be something that everyone actually has a good time doing, Tonya clarifies. Just because you have a good time doing it, and you don’t feel exhausted and in pain when you’re done, doesn’t mean that you didn’t exercise.
The key to exercising is to make it fun, especially for kids. It may surprise you to learn that some of the activities and outlets you already enjoy doing might be considered exercising. Think about your family. What are your interests?
People don’t want to do exercise because they think, with my limited amount of time I want to enjoy myself and that doesn’t sound fun. And that’s where the challenge is, Tonya adds, to be a little adventurous and try some things out.
Some simple activities that everyone can enjoy include swimming, walking on the beach, biking, canoeing just to name a few.
Like the portion of Nehemiah 8:10 states, Tonya reflects, The joy of the Lord is our strength. . . . And I think that’s true in any area of life, including exercise. If we’re dreading it, we’re not going to be consistent about it, but if it brings us happiness and we’re joyful and we’re having a good time, then we’re also more likely to be consistent and we’ll grow stronger in that area.
After dinner, instead of plopping down in front of the TV in one room, while your spouse gets on the computer in another room or the children play video games in the next room, take a 30-minute walk together or go for a bike ride around the neighborhood. Play basketball or throw a football or Frisbee together. Visit a recreational center or bouncy house. Just remember to keep it age appropriate.
Whatever it is that the family likes whatever it may be there is some bonding involved in that, Tonya shares. Anytime that you’re not staring a TV or looking at a computer screen or talking on the phone, and you’re just with your family away from all of that distraction, you connect more and you build a stronger relationship.
Even with a limited amount of time, you should be able to find something that works for your family.
I think getting some exercise every day is ideal, even if that was just a 30 minute walk, Tonya advices. But if that’s not realistic, at least three times a week.
For most people, you could say twice a week after dinner, we’re all going to go on a bike ride. Once every weekend, we’re going to some activity together as a family. . . . You can plan this together, you can talk about what you want to try next hiking, camping, kayaking, horseback riding, gymnastics, karate. You can plan it as a family, and it can be fun as a family to try these things out.
True or False: Exercising can become habit forming.
We are not sedentary physically, spiritually or mentally, Tonya explains. We are perpetually growing and developing and living. Whether it’s spiritual, physical or mental, we’re always trying to challenge ourselves and experience new things and be consistent about it . . . Present an example to the kids of a balanced lifestyle, and then they will follow your pattern.
If you’ve never had this pattern to follow, though, it may be easy to feel defeated or discouraged when it comes to exercising. For this, Tonya advices baby steps. Don’t expect too much of yourself. And, if you have a desire to develop that kind of lifestyle for you and your family, pray for God to strengthen and lead you in it.
If you’re wondering where to start, Tonya shares the following tips to help make this a routine, family affair:
1. Schedule It. One of things I do is schedule that time. I can’t do it at the same time each week, which is ideal. If you can, that makes it simple. But for me, at the beginning of the week, I look at what activities are possibilities and also what the weather permits. And I try to plan for that week like I would plan my meals.
2. Start Simple. Try simple activities like taking a ball in the backyard and kicking it around. That’s part of having children. There’s always soccer and t-ball and dance. But as a family, you could even do things like that in the backyard. That sort of thing, where it doesn’t feel like forced exercise, just having a good time, trying out something new and being silly.
Another thing that we do at our house we call it the Larson Dance Party. We throw on some fun music and just dance around with the boys, especially if they’re really hyper and getting in trouble and we’re all getting agitated and stir crazy. We turn on the music and they hop up and down for half an hour. Dancing is an excellent way to get wonderful exercise without feeling like you’re working so hard. And nobody has to dance well.
Now, before you put on your walking shoes (or dancing shoes), how’d you do? Did you make the grade in family fitness? Take a few minutes to prayerfully come up with a plan of action for your family and commit to it this school year.
The challenge, Tonya warns, is always that it not become the center. That it not become the self worth and the self esteem. This is just something that we do that we enjoy. This is not your identity. It’s something that you do to have a fruitful life that glorifies God and it is not your god. That’s always the challenge keep it balanced. And we can’t do that without the Lord’s help.