What Little Kids Can Teach You About Fitness

Last night our posse from the beach came over for a little post-dinner ice cream/dance jam/freeze tag bonanza, and while watching kids ages two through 12 race around my yard, I got to thinking about confidence and competition. Knowing they would lose every time, the four year olds still ran their hardest when racing against the "big kids." A little Dominique Dawes in the making attempted to teach my son to cartwheel at least 25 times. And the dad next door served as "onsite medic" for the kids trying (and failing) to jump the edge of my driveway on scooters.

Kids seem to love game playing and competition, and when they are among good friends and family, they don't even seem to notice who's winning or losing. My question: When do things change? When do we decide to only participate in activities that we're already good at or avoid playing all together?

I spent years paying for a gym membership I never used because I felt out of shape and out of sync with the scene. I once made the huge mistake of thinking my high school cheerleading days served as the perfect foundation for an advanced hip-hop dance class—I was dead wrong. It was like walking into a rehearsal for MTV's The Grind, but I was prepared for Lawrence Welk. It was a humiliating disaster and I never returned to that gym again.

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Sometimes we think being among the strongest and the best will motivate us, but it can also have the opposite effect. When the women on surrounding treadmills are wearing workout outfits tinier than my swimsuit, it doesn't prompt me to pump up the incline; It sends me racing to the locker room and smoothie bar. I see the same thing happen down here at the beach. I've spoken with six women this week who love tennis but never play because they’re afraid they’re not good enough. Instead, they sit court side during their kids' lessons typing away on their smartphones.

When it comes to working out, playing sports, or even playing games, finding the right people and the right place are key. If your yoga studio only sells pants in size extra small and your tennis club thinks you make an excellent spectator, drop those people, not your passion. Real life is hardcore enough, so spend your free time with people who make you feel good.

The bottom line: You don't have to be good at sports. You need to be a good sport. That's it!

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I'm headed to play some doubles tennis this morning. The score may end up 6-0, but I don't care. What I do care about is that I won't be wasting my time sitting in the bleachers.

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