What if soccer isn’t your sport?

As parents of an active 11-year-old boy we have spent a lot of time and money trying different sports and exercise programs. Ryan’s happiest days have always been spent outside and when he started school I thought Soccer would be a natural first sport. We found a local league and a place on a team but a few months into the season I had to admit this kind of structured activity may not be the best fit for him.  There were some good days but I would have been more gracious about the muddy laundry, frozen toes and extra layers of fleece if he came home from practice with a smile on his face. He wasn’t a bad player, his kicks were right on target and he could run for days but I started to see team sports required  a little more.

Loving my son means accepting that he moves through life at his own pace. In comparison I am a compulsive clock watcher and can’t stand missing a deadline so when my due date came and went without our baby I had to acknowledge the fact that parenting was going to require something that didn’t come naturally to me; patience.  Ryan finally arrived 11 days late via c-section and my Doctor laughed out loud when she saw his hands clasped comfortably behind his head like a tiny couch potato.

It isn’t fair to say Ryan has grown from a teeny to a tweeny couch potato but he sure follows a clock that looks different from mine. Parent teacher conferences about time issues started in pre-school but when first grade and soccer practice started I saw this problem was going to carry over from classroom to the field.  Ryan enjoys school and even though his assignments were usually late he looked forward to learning something new every day.  He also loved being part of the soccer team but it was obvious to us and the coach that he didn’t always feel the need to run after the ball with the other kids.  He spent a few years being a good sport as a defender but never fully understood why he didn’t get to play one of the goal scoring positions.  When it was time to look for a new sport my wish list shrank to two items; physical activity and the chance to learn at his own pace.  I quietly hoped that if he was happy and enjoyed regular exercise he would be more focused in the classroom.

Swimming lessons were our next choice. We live close to Puget Sound and love to boat and kayak with family so learning how to swim and respecting your limits in the water is important. We spent a few years at local pools and while I appreciated the fact he was learning water safety the only time he looked like he was enjoying himself was after class.  Again, not really what we were looking for.

In second grade Ryan asked to try Taekwon-Do. I’ll never forget his smile during that first class and I’m happy to report he is still smiling four years later.  I confess I spent many early classes flinching after each punch and kick. Aren’t we supposed to teach kids not to fight?  Talking to his teacher helped me understand that the practice of Taekwon-Do is about much more than kicking and punching. It also requires self-discipline, strength, physical conditioning, respect and yes, focus.  Finally, everything we were looking for.  Ryan’s goal is to earn his Black Belt before starting high school and his pace is right on track.  He still has some tough days managing school projects but I see improvement every year and sometimes, during a long homework assignment, I hear him quietly reciting the tenets of Taekwon-Do.




Self Control

Indomitable Spirit

Our Taekwon-Do school allows kids ages 10 and up to attempt one board break as part of the test for their advanced belts.  Ryan’s first chance at the board didn’t go as planned but he handled the disappointment well and worked hard to kick through it the next time.  When he received a new testing invitation last fall he was ready. Check out his success below!

I am so happy he has found an activity that feels right and I love how the basic principles of Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self Control and Indomitable Spirit are incorporated into every lesson.

What keeps me moving

U.S. Physical Fitness Program Exercise Book´s ...
U.S. Physical Fitness Program Exercise Book´s Front Cover (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A semi-structured routine of exercise and fitness has always been  important to me. When my initial ideas for this post began to surface I saw how my appreciation for fitness has evolved during three stages of my life; childhood, young adult and working parent. Taking into account the good, bad, stressful and amazing aspects of my days as a wife, mother and working woman I am discovering my ability to handle each new emotion and situation mirrors my degree of commitment to personal strength through exercise.  Something as simple as scheduling a small block of time to focus on myself before a busy day puts me in a better position to cope with the variety of decisions, actions and lessons I know are coming.


Growing up in a large family during the 1970’s daily physical activity was something I took for granted.  My brothers and sister and I spent hours each day exploring outside, riding bikes, climbing trees, digging in the dirt and playing until dark.  If the weather was too cold and wet for neighborhood running we always had dance lessons and soccer practice.  Of course I spent plenty of time with temper tantrums and slamming doors but I believe I would have been much worse without my daily outlet of physical activity, outdoor time and freedom. Thanks Mom!

Fitball Group Fitness Class Category:Fitness C...

With college came the opportunity to set a new workout schedule, however this second stage also presented new challenges.  Not only did I have to save my own money to pay for activities I also had to make myself go. These are two of the many lessons successful students and young adults must master; how to budget and how to start and finish a task.  Buying your own groceries usually means establishing a budget. Completing assignments on time and studying for finals are all part of the practice of motivation.  It took some hard learning but after six years of starting and stopping both educational classes and aerobics my college years came to an end and it was time to change again.

Once I settled into in a full-time job and new apartment I had to face my third and most difficult fitness challenge – boredom. I thought personal motivation and saving money for a gym membership would be the hardest part of adult fitness but now I know my need for variety is an even bigger hurdle. As a child exercise was everywhere. A kid can turn the smallest thing into a physical activity. In college if I couldn’t afford fitness classes the chances were good I was walking instead of driving and again exercise filled my days. Now, as a working adult I found my options more limited. With a constantly changing  schedule I couldn’t count on having classes available. Cardio machines were boring and by the time I drove to the gym and back it was time for bed. It took a few years of little to no exercise to finally admit this really wasn’t working.

In 2012 I began a new program that, so far, is a perfect  fit for me. I canceled my underused gym membership and invested in a mix of yoga and cardio CD’s. Yes, I have to change them every few months to keep things fresh but if my only scheduling challenge is getting up at 5am in order to workout before driving my son to school and beginning my day job, I can fit it into the day. Seven months ago I started the Insanity series from Beachbody. I love their 60 day cardio program and have completed it twice. Now I am in the third month of P90X and looking forward to combining the two into an Insanity/P90X hybrid in February. If I find my motivation slipping my 11-year-old son joins me as a “coach” during his breakfast. He loves shouting encouragement and joining in to try a new technique. We have a great time together and if I start to feel bored before the end of the session he lets me talk to him about finding his own motivations for success and fitness interests.  I like to think the process helps him focus in school and Tae Kwan Do and I know it helps me prioritize in my daily life.

What are your fitness challenges? Have you found the perfect match or are you in search of the next great program? I want to return to this topic every few weeks and am looking forward to hearing what works for you!