It was “Health Day” at the local elementary school last Friday. “What’s that?” you ask. It’s an annual event where all regular lessons are suspended in exchange for a full day of teaching workshops by local volunteers including doctors, scientists and health instructors to teach the children on a variety of topics focusing on how to get and stay healthy. I was invited to speak and demonstrate on the topic “Exercise is Easy!” Well, let’s say I was more of a demonstrator than speaker. Teaching young children about any topic is more effective when it’s engaging and action-oriented, so we had fun spending most of our time walking, kicking, side-stepping and moving to the music as I taught walk-at-home low-impact exercises. Energy permeated through the hallways and classrooms, and the students wore their enthusiasm all over their healthy selves as they smiled, sweated and moved with me. The teachers got involved, too, with chorus-line kicking and marching amidst the giggling in the back of the room. One teacher was apparently familiar with the exercise routine and found herself in the front of the room leading the group herself for a few minutes. It was a blast. I had the chance to see eleven different groups of children in 20-minute intervals throughout the course of the entire day from 9 a.m. until past 3 p.m. “Exercise is easy!”, I’d shout, and the kids and teachers smiled in agreement, class after class after class.
Until the 3:00 hour. It was the end of six hours of a variety of activities for these children, and my last group, a first-grade class, entered the room with all the energy they could muster. But there was a look of defeat slipping in. Instead of rising up to the boot camp cry of “just five more minutes!” one little girl looked me straight in the eye and shook her head “NO!” I looked right back at her with a sweaty smile. “We’re almost done!”
And done she was. Down to the floor she sat, refusing to go any further. Several of her classmates followed suit. I smiled and switched gears – it was time to stretch and relax.
That little girl’s honest response to the prompting and motivation all around her was a sweet treat. There are so many times in my adult life I find I do things simply because I should. Eat healthy foods. Exercise. Manage family time. Nurture relationships. The discipline and motivation for all these areas grow out of a maturity earned through experiences, decisions and life choices. There are times, however, when I realize it’s just as important to be as genuine and honest as that little girl who said “NO!”
“Exercise is easy!” was the mantra I taught all day at the school. The lesson I learned, however, is that exercise can be easy, but staying true to ourselves as this little girl did is a wonderful balance to all the motivation in the world.