The following fitness tips are from certified personal trainer and former Olympic athlete Matthew McClain-Trobridge for Bonita Porte, founder of Energetic Juniors.
1. Become a Good Sport Using Clever Motivation. A great trick to motivate kids is to do a best out of three games challenge, but only allot enough time for two of the three games. The perfect scenario here is to win one game and lose the other without throwing the game overtly. Your child will get a great feeling of accomplishment for his or her hard-earned win, but the loss does not let them off too easy, so handicap yourself accordingly. The taste of a win flanked by the sting of a loss will often motivate children. Plus, if there is only time for two of the three games, then tomorrow can be the tie-breaker! Now your child has a good reason to be more active the next day!
2. The Mini-Challenge. A great thing to do with kids who have a surplus of energy is to create fitness based mini-challenges throughout the day. It can be a very simple challenge, such as challenging each other to a wall sit contest. The winner gets to pick a favorite side dish for dinner or gets to play an extra 10 minutes of video games. Just remember that your child needs to win and lose, or else he or she will lose interest in the challenge quickly!
3. Don’t Bounce. When you stretch, try hard not to bounce. I used to do it myself when I was a young gymnast, and I didn’t find out until years later that I was literally wasting my time! When you bounce as you stretch, you limit the tension on the muscle in seconds — which in turn limits the effectiveness of the stretch. In extreme cases, bouncing while stretching can even damage muscle tissue! Instead of bouncing, try to focus on breathing in deeply and breathing out even deeper. As you exhale, reach into your stretch further and repeat. Now hold it for 30 seconds.
4. It’s All in the Tunes. Having an exercise routine is key — at the very least it helps keep you on track on the days you would really rather just sit and drink tea! On those days when you just don’t want to go to the gym, you can psyche yourself up with music (like many athletes do). All you have to do is pick a song that you know you won’t get tired of, and make sure it has a fast beat — about140 beats per minute or more. (You can also use a slower beat as long as you can double the tempo (hip hop is usually around 80-90 beats per minute, so you should work out at double that speed).) The music is your mental motivation for the workout, while your program guides you through the exercises you need to accomplish.
Superstar athletes like Michael Phelps use this technique to the max by making a certain song a part of their routine during competition. The routine is used to tune out distractions prior to the competition, and can also help an athlete sync his mind and body together in order to perform better.
5. Chart Your Progress. You know what I miss? Those shiny stars in kindergarten that you earned for doing something awesome like tying your shoes correctly. Well, that child-like need to feel rewarded for small accomplishments doesn’t need to disappear when you get older. If you’re having trouble staying motivated, make yourself an old-school star chart to visualize your progress. To do this, you’ll want to divide your long term goal into equal small pieces. The trick is to be sure that each step is harder for you, but not unrealistic because you don’t want to fail.
Now give yourself a star when you accomplish the smaller goal. When this works, people often become addicted to getting the star — just like in grade school. This is extra motivation that doesn’t cost you anything, and if it helps you to do more and sit less, then I’d say, “Bring on the stars!”
How do you motivate your kids to exercise? What’s your g0-to workout song?
To find out more about Energetic Juniors and how to help your child or teen become more physically fit, check out energeticjuniors.com