While my younger 2 kids are at swim lessons this week, I have taken the opportunity to finally teach my 7-year old son Will how to ride a bike. We tried some a couple years ago when we lived in Indiana, but we basically set him up for failure back then. When he had his 1st small bike, the training wheels got installed a bit lopsided, and we unfortunately let him ride that bike with a slight lean to one side. Then when he got a bigger bike we tried a few times to teach him to ride it, but Will had gotten so used to leaning to one side on his 1st bike, that he did the same thing on the bigger bike, which meant he would instantly fall over. This led to much frustration, and we finally gave in and added training wheels to that bike too. Then he got a Razor scooter and loved that so much that he forgot all about his bike. We just let it go for about 2 years, but the last few months I have been feeling that we are doing Will a real disservice by not teaching him to ride a bike. I felt a bit guilty about it, and this has compelled me to teach him before he gets any older.
GIVING KIDS THE TOOLS FOR HEALTHY LIVING
After I took a hiatus from exercise for most of my 20’s, I got into long distance running the last couple years, and it sparked all kinds of dreams of potential athletic endeavors. I’ve already done 3 marathons (read about them), and now I would like to both try going longer with ultra-marathons and faster (dreaming of qualifying for the Boston Marathon one day). Another dream I have pondered, but not committed to, is to complete an Ironman Triathlon, and while I am confident in my ability to train and complete the running leg of an Ironman, I have concerns about the swimming and the biking. My problems with the swim are that I have no knowledge of proper technique and that I get motion sick when I swim for very long at a high effort.
My issues with the biking segment of an Ironman are also twofold. The 1st is financial. It is ridiculously expensive to get a quality road or tri bike. The 2nd is that, while I bike quite a bit on my stationary bike, I am a bit scared of crashing while road biking. Both of those concerns could be overcome one day, but what if my Dad had never taught me how to ride a bike in the first place? Then I would have zero chance of ever being an Ironman!
Now I have no idea if any of my kids will ever be triathletes, but I have made a decision that I want them to be prepared to be life-long exercisers. Whether they ever swim, bike or run for competition is irrelevant right now, but I know that these are 3 key forms of exercise that could keep them in great shape for the rest of their lives. I do not want them to be 30 or 40 years old and have their own dreams of doing triathlons and not have the basic ability to pursue those goals. I also do not want them to be 40 years old, struggling with their weight or health, and be scared to start new exercise routines simply because they do not know how.
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
-1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV)
LIFE AFTER TEAM SPORTS
Right now they love soccer, basketball, gymnastics, etc., but I know after high school or college there will be few opportunities for them to participate in regular team sports again. I believe this is why so many great high school athletes are fat and unhealthy by the time they start families. I want my kids to be prepared to live healthy, active lifestyles in the days long-after organized team-sports are a thing of their past. That is one of the reasons I take them hiking, and I sometimes take them on short runs. I also do pushups and pull-ups in front of them all the time, and they love to join in too. We are making sure all 3 kids are good swimmers, and hopefully as they get older they can each participate in swim team at least one time each so they can learn the different strokes and proper techniques. And finally, there is the bike. They have got to learn how to ride bikes!
DO KIDS STILL RIDE BIKES?
Honestly it would be really easy these days to just skip biking altogether. For starters, the world is a little darker than it was when I was a 10-year old riding my bike all over my hometown of Collierville, TN without a cell phone or my parents having any idea exactly where I was. Now there is a huge concern about pedophiles, kidnappers and sex-traffickers. Not to sound grim, but these are legitimate issues all over the country, even in the smallest, most innocent-seeming, Bible-belt towns. You simply do not see kids riding bikes (or walking or running) around town alone very much anymore. Plus, our house is on a huge hill, and we live on a curvy road with fast cars and no sidewalks. My kids cannot simply go outside and ride their bikes, but we have to make the effort to go somewhere else where they can ride. My mother-in-law lives at the back of a cul-de-sac where cars rarely drive, and there are some good school-yards and parks in town where they can ride. The point is that I cannot be lazy about bike-riding, and I must be proactive if I want my kids to learn and practice this skill.
So Jennifer and I decided that this summer we would make bike-riding a priority in our family. This week I took action upon this priority and carried Will to Walmart to pick out a brand-new bike and helmet. So far we have spent over 2 hours practicing the last 2 days, and I told Will that I would work with him every day the rest of the summer if that is how long it takes for him to become a good bike-rider. I have explained how it is a life skill that he can use all throughout his life for exercise and maybe one day for races if that is something that interests him, and he actually understands the deeper reasons. He is motivated to really learn now.
Click here to read my follow-up post to see pictures and videos of Will’s bike-riding experience and progress so far!