To Parents, From Kids

My parents gave my siblings and I everything we wanted growing up. And to clarify, not in an “I want this new bike” kind of way, but in a “we will drive you to every practice, take you on lovely vacations, shower you with all our love” kind of way. And honestly, we were pretty spoiled with bikes too.

Just like many of your parents, they were rockstars who somehow managed to find a seemingly impossible balance between work and parenting. For over 30 years they’ve prioritized their children over themselves. We took and took and now, after all this time, we’re almost ready to stop taking and start giving. We do have one more request though, and it’s the hardest thing we could ask of you.

You who have given us everything, we need one more thing. We need you to stay alive. It’s morbid, we know, but it’s the truth. We need you to walk us down the aisle. We need you to play with your grandkids and help us learn the intricacies of parenting. We need you in every family picture and every family vacation.

And we’re not saying these things to guilt you. We’re saying them so you understand the larger picture. You have given us the world, so asking anything more of you is painful, but we must. There is nothing we want more than for you to live; the best way for you to live is to exercise and eat well.

You have spent the past 30 years looking after others and putting yourself last. We’re asking you to reassess this behavior. It’s easy to serve those who rely on you. Now is the time to serve yourself, and we want to help you (in the least condescending way possible).

Exercise culture is intimidating and it’s marketed exclusively to a younger demographic, so we know that what we’re asking of you isn’t easy or fun, but it’s necessary to add years to your life.

We want to work through some of your potential thoughts to help assuage your fears:

  • My body can’t handle working out.
    • Working out is meant to make everyday tasks more manageable, not less. We do exercises at the gym to make sitting on the couch, walking up the stairs, getting up after a fall, easier. If your workouts are hurting your body long term, we need to pull back. Exercise is infinitely scalable – meaning that if you have a bad back, or bad knees, or bad anything, you can still work out with the right instruction.
  • I hate being sore.
    • Soreness is absolutely a component of working out that is tough to overcome. The first two weeks of starting a workout routine is never fun. But being sore is not perpetual. We’re not asking you to do workouts that make you impossibly sore. You should not be getting consistently sore after the first two weeks.
  • It takes too much time.
    • Give us three 30 minute sessions a week to start. That is literally an episode and a half of your favorite tv show and is all it takes to greatly decrease your risk of heart disease and many cancers. From there, it’s up to you to decide if you need more or less exercise for your goals. Time with exercise is an exponential investment. An hour and a half of exercise doesn’t just add an hour and a half more time to your life, it adds years. It’s the best investment you could ever make.
  • I don’t know how to workout.
    • No shame here. Workout culture has completely changed even in the last ten years. The answer? Personal training or group classes. I completely understand the fear and intimidation with both of these options, but please trust me when I tell you that being an older member at the gym gives you a badge of honor, not shame. Our older members are humble. They want to learn and work hard, and I can’t tell you how refreshing that mentality is. Find an option that makes you feel comfortable and safe.
  • It costs too much.
    • You paid for our piano lessons that were ungodly expensive. If you want us to pay for your personal training, we will gladly do it. We love you and want you to succeed in this endeavor. But we also will not accept that this cost is too much because any extra time we can have with you is invaluable.

Tips for Starting Workouts:

  • Slow down.
    • You have time. Ease yourself into exercise to avoid burnout. To begin, twice a week may be more than enough for your body.
  • Find friends.
    • Finding a community that holds you accountable is one of the biggest factors you can control to help your journey. At my gym in Wisconsin, the 5:30 am class consisted of ten older members who all worked out together. Find your tribe.
  • Find a trainer who makes you comfortable.
    • All gyms are not made equal and it takes a while to find a trainer who is right for you. Take your time but know that the right person is out there.
  • Throw away preconceived notions of exercise.
    • The exercise that is right for you will most likely not be the exercise you see in movies or on the internet. How often you go to the gym, how much weight you lift, what kind of workout you do, these are all components to your gym routine that you will decide with your trainer. The “right” way to exercise is whatever works best for you.
  • Enjoy the wins.
    • Exercise gives you the opportunity to feel better than you’ve felt in years. It doesn’t only keep your body physically healthy, it keeps your brain healthy too.  The amount you have to put in initially is big, but the wins are huge. Let them fuel you.

For the past thirty years your life has been about routines. Adding exercise to your routine is just the next step. Our goal is to find exercise that strengthens your joints, focuses on functional movements (squatting, pressing, pushing, etc), and gets your heart working. We are NOT looking for your body to hurt, for you to get bulging muscles, or to push your heart to the limits.

Exercise and eating healthy are the best ways to add years to your life – truly the greatest gift you could ever give your children. It will be hard at first. You will be sore, embarrassed, tired, scared, maybe even angry when you start down this road. But I can promise that you will enjoy your time with us, your time seeing the world, your time seeing your grandchildren, so much more than you’ll dislike exercise.

It’s not fair of us to ask this of you. We know that ultimately we can’t ask you to take this seriously for us, you need to want it for yourself. So want it. Please. And if you ever have any questions or need any help, we will always be there for you – as you have always been for us. 

Yes, I did write this after seeing Mufasa die in the new Lion King movie, and yes, I did start crying in the coffee shop while writing. None of the ten introductions were right, and it was stupid hard trying to come up with the words that showed you my deepest love, yet complete seriousness on the issue. I wrote this because we love you more than you can possibly imagine.

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