6 Healthy Habits Every Sports Parent Can Model

As a Mom of six, I give instructions. Every. Day.

Sometimes they’re received well and other times, not so much.

I admit I have been called “bossy” on occasion – usually by a friend, sibling, or my hubby. But it’s hard to switch out of “Mom mode.”

“Don’t stack the dishwasher like that… do it like this.”

Although giving instructions is a necessary part of parenting, a more effective way to shape healthy behaviors is to MODEL them in front of your kids.

As an on-the-go sports parent, you can easily slip into unhealthy patterns that aren’t setting YOU or your kids up for long-term success.

Here are 6 spaces where this can happen with a more beneficial alternative to consider.

1) Don’t Go on a Diet, Do Eat More Whole Foods

In my experience as a personal trainer, diets just don’t work for the long haul. And the more complicated or restrictive it is, the higher your chance of a quick-fail.

When it comes to our growing athletes, the word “diet” really shouldn’t be in the conversation because their bodies are not only being pushed physically but are also still developing.

Instead, keep it simple.

Focus on including more whole foods in your daily nutrition.

The majority of snacks and meals—for the entire family—should be food that is in its natural state. Think fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, fresh meat, seafood, eggs, beans, and legumes.

There are a lot of good choices in that list.

Pro Tip: Make it easy on yourself. Aim for 80% of your purchases at the grocery store to be whole foods. Limit your processed meals and snacks to only 20% of what you buy – and what you eat.

If this seems overwhelming, begin by replacing one processed snack with one “whole-food” option every day. For example, replace an afternoon granola bar with a piece of fresh fruit.

And then when that step seems easy, do it again but with a meal—replace chicken nuggets and french fries with baked chicken breasts and sweet potato.

The small steps add up.

2) Don’t Do Exercise You Hate, Do Physical Activities You Enjoy

There will come a day when your athlete is no longer on a sports team and will have to make decisions on their own about staying active.

Are you modeling a lifestyle of regular and purposeful activity? Or do they only hear about how much you hate sweating?

It will have a far-reaching impact on your health and on your child’s future decisions if you figure out a physical activity that you enjoy. And then be purposeful to make it a priority at least 4 days a week.

There are a lot of choices out there. Here are some to consider:

Cardio

  • Walking or hiking
  • Running
  • Rowing
  • Swimming
  • Biking
  • Roller-blading, ice skating
  • Dancing
  • Group fitness classes

Strength training, flexibility, balance

  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Body-weight exercises
  • Kettlebells
  • Workout bands
  • Dynamic stretching
  • TRX straps
  • Battle Ropes
  • Lifting weights
  • Cross-fit

Pro Tip: Choose more than one option from both categories. Variety will keep it fun AND work different muscles. A few effective but gentle combinations from each group might be:

  • Walking and Yoga
  • Swimming and workout bands
  • Biking and lifting weights

Remember the best combination is the one that you LIKE. And always be creative about how to fit it in—perhaps during one of those long practices you have to sit through, go for a walk.

3) Don’t Set Unreasonable Goals, Do One Thing Better This Week

I love BIG HAIRY GOALS.

Living outside of comfort zones is what causes you and your athletes to grow.

However, the best way to go about accomplishing great things is by breaking the task into doable chunks. It needs to be small enough that it is almost a no-brainer.

Pro Tip: This is a great exercise to do with your athletes that are working on learning or fine-tuning a skill. Write the goal down. Then underneath it write down at least 3 smaller action steps.

Focus on just 1 of those each week.

Here is an example of how to break it down:

Suppose you want to lose 15 lbs before an upcoming event. Instead of focusing on the overwhelming task of losing 15 lbs, concentrate on any one of these 3 smaller steps each week:

  • Replace a late-night snack with a healthier food choice or a relaxing activity
  • Cut down on sugary drinks and be purposeful to drink more water
  • Add 10 minutes of intensity to your 4 weekly workouts or add one more day of physical activity each week
4) Don’t Ignore Stress, Do Activities That Help You To Relax

Your body does a pretty good job—most of the time—of handling stress.

However, when it is ongoing, it does take a toll on your health—even if you don’t see it.

Something as simple as an argument with a spouse, worrying about finances, or dealing with the logistics of getting several kids to their practices, can trigger your body’s stress hormones to be released.

And when the stress response becomes chronic, it can trigger more severe health issues such as:

  • Headaches
  • Heartburn
  • Increased chance of depression
  • Rapid breathing
  • Insomnia
  • Weakened immune system
  • Risk of heart attack
  • High blood sugar
  • High blood pressure
  • Pounding heart
  • Fertility problems
  • Stomachache
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Low sex drive
  • Missed periods
  • Tense muscles

Chronic stress should never be ignored.

Engage regularly in activities that help you to “check out” of your stress-inducing thoughts. Things like:

  • Prayer
  • Yoga
  • Taking a nap
  • Going for a walk
  • Reading a book
  • Sharing a cup of tea with a good friend
  • Spending time with a pet

The stress you allow to linger in your life does not go unnoticed. Your kids have a front row seat to your responses—good and bad.

Take action to eliminate stressors that you can, and use relaxing activities to manage the day-to-day stress that shows up.

5) Don’t Be a Victim to Triggers, Do Come Up With Alternatives

A trigger is a person, place, or thing that leads you to do something—good or bad. It’s usually a pattern of responding that you notice in yourself.

It’s critical to recognize your triggers and come up with an alternative response when your natural reaction is negative. For example:

  • If certain foods or drinks trigger unhealthy behavior, then don’t keep them in your home
  • If overspending is a problem, then keep catalogs, ads, etc. out of view
  • If your phone is a significant distraction from real-life, then turn notifications off
  • If you lose track of time and become a couch potato in front of the TV, then only turn it on for 1 show

Be creative with how to deal with your triggers. And don’t give up on replacing them with better choices.

6) Don’t Allow Bitterness to Fester, Do Forgive and Resolve Issues

If you’ve felt the weight of hanging onto anger towards someone, you know it’s a miserable place.

It might look like this:

  • You replay the conversation over and over in your head, making you angrier each time
  • At the mention of their name you can almost feel your blood pressure rise
  • You tell yourself that what they did is unforgivable
  • Avoiding them at all costs is something you expend energy on, regularly
  • A feeling of helplessness settles over you when you think about “fixing it”

It’s a hefty burden to carry – and it just feels yucky.

Unfortunately, too many of us are not purposeful when it comes to getting rid of bitterness.

And you guessed it – your health is impacted.

Forgiveness, on the other hand, is equally powerful and allows us to reap great health rewards.

If you find yourself in this space take a breath and try any of these:

  • Pray for a forgiving heart
  • Empathize with the person – remember that unless you are walking in their shoes, you cannot completely understand
  • Let it go – your anger hurts you way more than them
  • Remember why you liked or loved the person at one time
  • Write a letter to them – even if you never intend to send it
  • Choose to have compassion – whether they deserve it or not

Kids that hear their parents say, “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you” are freed up emotionally to pursue healthy relationships now and in the future.

Always remember that living a healthy life is a purposeful endeavor.

Did this help you today? Please share this with someone else you think could benefit from it.

Michelle is a wife to one and a mom to six, with 20 plus years of experience at both. With a love for being active in sports, she took her passion for competitive training to the world of triathlons where she rocked the elite age group level for several years. In an effort to share her enthusiasm for a balanced and healthy life she inspires others through personal training and freelance writing.

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