It was mid-way through a group exercise class when Brynn Harrington checked out. She wasn't looking for a break, she wasn't tripped up by a complicated sequence. It was the words spoken by the instructor that made her take a pause. Over and over she heard the words and all she could think of was her three-year-old daughter.
Harrington says she heard the instructor repeatedly shout, “Come on! Get that body ready for your winter beach vacation! Think about how you want to look at those holiday parties! PICTURE HOW YOU’LL LOOK IN THAT DRESS!
” Instead of digging deep into her motivation stores, and picturing some dress hanging in the back of her closet, she imagined her daughter trying to digest these words. She says, "my daughter’s little brain is making sense of the world every single second, taking in verbal and non-verbal cues about how things work and what things mean. And when it comes to exercise, I want her to grow up seeing it as a joy, and not a utility…as a gift, and not a chore…as an opportunity, not an obligation." She wants her daughter to exercise because she loves it, not because it will help her fit into some dress.
Here are the things Harrington wants her daughter to know:
Strength equals self-sufficiency.
Being strong is empowering. This self-sufficiency is not only practically useful, it can mean the world when it comes to personal safety. Harrington says, "It will feel good someday to be able to carry your own luggage down the stairs if the airport escalator is broken, and it will be important to have a solid shot at outrunning a stranger should you meet one a dark alley."
Fitness opens doors.
Being fit and healthy can change the way you see and move through the world. Harrington explains, "the planet looks different from a bike or a pair of skis than it does from a car or an airplane. Out in the elements you have the time and space to notice details and meet people and remember smells and bugs and mud and rain and the feeling of warm sunshine on your face. And those are the moments that make up your life."
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The bike is the new golf course.
Being fit can help you be included in important conversations. Networking is no longer a golf course-based boys club. "The stronger you are – and the more people you can hang with on the road and trail – the more people you’ll meet," Harrington says.
Exercise is a lifestyle, not an event.
Living an active life is about so much more than hitting the gym three times a week. Harrington explains that being an active person is "about things like biking to the grocery store and parking your car in the back of the lot and walking instead of taking a cab and catching up with friends on a hiking trail instead of a bar stool."
Health begets health.
"Healthy behavior inspires healthy behavior," Harrington says. "Exercise. Healthy eating. Solid sleep. Positive relationships. These things are all related."
Endorphins help you cope.
When everything feels like it is falling apart, a workout can help. As Harrington says, "You will have days when nothing seems to go right…when you’re dizzy with frustration or crying in despair. A workout can often turn things around."
Working out signals hard working.
"The discipline required to work out on a regular basis signals success," says Harrington. "Someone recently told me they are way more likely to hire marathon runners and mountain climbers because of the level of commitment that goes into those pursuits."
If you feel beautiful, you will look beautiful.
It starts on the inside. Harrington notes, "And being fit and strong feels beautiful."
If you are fit "and if you’re able to hike/run/bike/swim/ski/snowshoe, you can see more of it."
Little eyes are always watching.
Harrington wants you to remember that we all learn from each other. She says, "You may have a daughter—or a niece or a neighbor or a friend – one day. And that little girl will be watching and listening to everything you say and do. What messages do you want her to hear?"
Harrington believes that we should be teaching our daughters about a different side of fitness. Not the side that is strictly about fitting into "that dress." She wants our daughters to know about the side of fitness that is about strength, commitment and being the best version of yourself possible. The side of fitness that encourages you to notice, take stock of and care about the world around you. She says, "I will talk to her about what it sounds like to hear pine needles crunching under my feet and what it feels like to cross a finish line and how special it is to see the world on foot. I will talk to her about hard work and self sufficiency. I will teach her the joy of working out by showing her I love it. And I’ll leave the rest up to her."
All of this begs the question, what message are you sending to the young women in your life?
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