Like most families, mine was not sure what to expect when the COVID lockdowns came down last March. My wife and I are thankful to have jobs that were deemed “essential”, with mine being flexible enough to telework as needed. My son was in third grade at the time and his immediate future was more in question. We had concerns over how he was going to stay up to date with his education, the psychological and sociological impacts of staying home, how he would deal with the uncertainty, etc. One area where we had much less concern was his physical well-being.
Not the New Normal, Just Different
As we adapted into our new routine, we discussed our best and easiest options to stay healthy: maintain a good diet, maintain our physical fitness and get outdoors often. My wife and I have always emphasized our physical health and vowed to set the example for our son when he was born; he’s grown up knowing that fitness is important – it’s a lifestyle, not a fad. With school being out, I no longer had the option to pick him up from after-school care covered in sweat and dirt. With the lockdown forcing our local parks and recreation department to cancel baseball, that component of his physical activity was shut off as well.
So I decided to write a kids workout program for my son to keep him active, healthy, moving and to further ingrain the importance of an active lifestyle. I don’t have a background in children’s physical education, but thanks to the Power Athlete Methodology Course I was confident in my ability to write one for him. While the barbell is the Power Athlete preferred tool to enhance power and athleticism, proficiency in the primal movement patterns is what allows us to seamlessly and effortlessly accomplish known and novel tasks. At nine years old my son was too young to put under a barbell so we focused on bodyweight movements to gain that proficiency.
And So It Begins…
As I thought about each primal movement pattern, the planes of motion and what tools I had available for us to use and his athletic skills, I put together a solid program to keep him active while making him faster and stronger. We’d use jumps and sprints to coordinate major muscle movements, banded pull ups and incline pushups to build upper body strength, squats to build his posterior chain. Reviewing it with my wife, I was pretty proud of myself for coming up with something so simple yet effective. The only problem was I didn’t make accommodations for his willingness to participate.
The first week or so went well: I demonstrated each exercise, coached him through them and he was eager to workout. Then his mindset shifted from a fun, new thing to a chore. He complained that it was too chilly or too hot, he didn’t want to do vertical leaps or wanted to push it off to later in the day instead of when I set time aside from my work. Did he not get that I put a lot of thought and effort into this? Did he not understand that no matter what the complaints were, he’s not going to get out of physical activity? Did he not care that I was setting him up for future success on the field and in life?
Schooling the Teacher
As I began to go into all the reasons why it had to be done my way, I realized I was the one that was wrong. None of that mattered because he’s nine and just wanted to have as normal a spring as he could without a domineering dad dictating mandatory fun to him. That’s not who I wanted to be as a dad and coach; that’s not how I coach my athletes in the gym so I shouldn’t have expected to change for him, no matter how much I wanted him to love and appreciate physical fitness and the process of getting stronger. If I made his workouts a chore, he’d resent it. He wouldn’t want to do them and could possibly make a negative, lifelong impact on him; the exact opposite of my intentions.
So I stepped back and listened to him. Instead of demanding he do my prescribed reps and sets, I asked for his input on what he liked doing and what he wasn’t as thrilled with and we compromised. By allowing him to have a say in substituting an exercise, rep scheme or sprint distance he became a part of the process and allowed him to feel as if he had some autonomy in it as well. Besides, I was still guiding the process and he was still hitting the primal movement patterns, just not in the manner I intended.
That’s when I got his buy-in. And that’s when I got him hooked.
His personal investment was key to the whole thing and at 9 “because it’s good for you” wasn’t enough motivation. So we quickly went from a structured, mandatory fun time to an outline with options for extending, limiting or changing exercises altogether and we had fun doing it. We often finished sessions smiling, thrilled with his progress and him excited to tell mom what he did that day.
Now that I’m back at the office, he’s in school and back playing baseball and his daily workouts in our garage gym have decreased. But he still likes to go there and crank out some pushups and pull ups. He still likes to see how high he can jump (“I bet I can touch that!”). And when baseball season started, he asked if I would work with him on sprints again to get better at base running. This wasn’t the path as I imagined it, but it led into as good of a direction as I could have ever asked.
Parents! This is your call to action! Interested in how you can set your kids on the right path for a strong and healthy life? Sign up today for the Power Athlete Methodology Course. No, it won’t teach you how to coach – that is up to you and your child – but it will give you the foundation you need to start and guide them on their fitness journey for the rest of their lives.
BLOG: A Mindset of Movement – The Power Athlete Guide to Substitutions and Swaps by Bryce Wolcott
BLOG: The Parental Checklist for Finding the Right Coach by Ben Skutnik
BLOG: Empowering the Next Generation by Carl Case
BLOG: What the Science Says – Effects of Youth Resistance Training by Ben Skutnik
PODCAST: Episode 457 Building Grit in Kids These Days with Jim Davis
Dave grew up playing multiple sports and was introduced to weightlifting in high school. In the Army he developed a love for combat sports. Combining weightlifting and combat sports led him to Power Athlete and becoming a Block One coach in 2018. Dave is the strength and conditioning coach at Claymore Fighting and Fitness in Huntsville, AL, applying the Power Athlete Methodology to empower his combat athletes' performance in the weight room and the ring.
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