Thursday, 10 April 2008

Fit or Fat?

Yesterday, while watching Oprah (yes-I do have occasion to watch Oprah! Snicker if you must!) I had occasion to see Martina Navratilova. Now Martina, at age 51 has a better body than I did at 20. While she readily admits to still being obsessive about her workout regime, she also acknowledged that she is, and always has been a natural athlete. If she hadn't excelled at tennis, she probably would have been a world class runner, swimmer, biker or some such other athletic pursuit afforded to women of her day. Most of us are not so fortunate. High school memories are filled with stories of phys. ed. class horrors. (rompers not excluded!!!) Some sado-masochistic teacher who felt it was his or her duty to watch klutz after sad sack klutz try to vault or high jump. For those of you out there who have never experienced the humiliation of never being picked for sports teams or have never understood that track and field day was a nightmare, given the fact that you have always consistently finished first in the relay as opposed to last, please know that it wasn't because we were lazy, we simply couldn't keep up with the Navratilovas of the world. That was supposed to change with new ideas in child rearing and education. It didn't matter if you could do 60 crunches in a minute, what mattered was individual levels and marked improvement. As a society, we started understanding that it was more important to be fit on our own levels. And then..... governments got involved. Please understand, that this is not a railing against a particular party or level of government. This is for every single politician who, over the past 25-30 years, has tampered with kid's fitness. This is for the feds that decided to offer tax breaks and credits for parents of kids in organized hockey, (God forbid that anyone should every criticize at the altar of hockey in Canada!!) but refuse to offer the same tax incentives for parents of kids in soccer, gymnastics, dance or martial arts. This is for the provinces that have introduced legislation banning trans-fats, soda pop in schools and food advertising aimed at children, while, all the while eroding school physical education programs so much so that elementary kids only have gym 3 times a week maximum. (In some places, it is decidedly less than that!!) This is for the municipal politicians that search for funds to renovate old ice rinks, because there are so many hockey programs that they have to fight for ice time, (again-be warned to the politico that goes against the hockey god!) while all the while closing public pools. This is for the school trustees that while existing and subsisting in a bloated bureaucracy that costs taxpayers millions of dollars a year, and continually refusing entreaties to realign said bureaucracy, is closing high school swimming pools that would only save about 4 million bucks!!! This is for those who want to cut community centres and house leagues. How are we expected to instill in our kids that it is okay to love and participate in athletics without being an athlete if our leaders refuse to send the same message. We are constantly hearing how our kids are fatter and less active than ever before, yet we continually place obstacles in their access to phys. ed. We are telling our kids that "sure you can play hockey--if you can afford it!" Or--"if you need to learn to swim kid, there is a pay for play program at the Y!" I didn't start regular workouts until several years after the younger son was born. As I huffed and puffed my way through my thirties and forties, I always wondered how much easier all of this would have been if I was raised in a culture of physical fitness? If I wasn't constantly told in gym class that I didn't measure up. It is soooooooo hard to start at 30, let alone 40 or 50!!! (Oy-my knees, and back, and shoulders and every other *&%$ body part that is talking to me right now!!!) Should we be attempting to raise a generation of Martinas (not that there is anything wrong with the elite athlete-let's just understand that they are the anomaly!) or should we be trying to raise a generation of healthy and fit young people? Let's go people! Move!!!

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