The next generation of girls who love to be strong

Rachel Flanagan Uncategorized Leave a Comment

I just came back from a 10 day vacation, most of which was spent up in Canada at my brother’s place on Lake Temagami. For 7 whole days, I was completely off the grid – no phone or electricity, which meant no internet connectivity.

A lot of people asked me, “How did you do it? How can you just disconnect like that for a week?”

Well, you just do. And it was glorious.

I spent many mornings working out with my niece Katie and afternoons playing games with my niece Sarah, or kayaking with my kids. I loved my paddling trips. On the days I felt itchy for a workout, I’d go paddle really hard in intervals. On my days I felt like chilling, I did just that – paddle for a while and then drift. I saw a moose three days in a row alongside the shore (and of course always forgot to bring my camera) and a baby bear. Nature at its finest.

But the best part, to me, was spending the time with family.

At 12 and 15, my nieces are now teenagers, so the chance to hang out with them without any distractions like iPads is special. I spent a lot of time talking with each of them about the sports they’re each into and how things are progressing. Katie only picked up gymnastics a couple of years ago and she has progressed like you wouldn’t believe. She also has some pretty impressive shoulder definition, which makes this auntie pretty damn proud. So proud, in fact, that I bequeathed one of my favorite workout shirts to her, which is the one of Yoda squatting. Truth be told, she looks better in it than me, but the best part is that she walks around proudly wearing a shirt about lifting.

Katie’s older sister Sarah has been doing ballet since she was small, and is now at the point of doing summer intensives run by big ballet companies. Her lower body is CRAZY STRONG (you wouldn’t believe how long she could do airplane with Paige on her feet) but so elegant. I am in awe of her.

I love that each of them has found their sport. It can take a while (and sometimes never) to find the one right for you, but when you do, it’s a beautiful thing. You get stronger, more dedicated, more organized (so you can make sure you have time to do the sport you love), and usually make new friends. I didn’t find that community for myself until I was in college, and I envy Sarah and Katie for having discovered it earlier.

When I worked out with Katie this year (with my TRX straps this year!) I noticed a new sense of drive and focus. She told me she’s started doing conditioning at night to make sure she stays strong. There’s nothing like gymnastics to make you understand how important full-body strength is to your success on each event. But to have that drive at 12 years old just impresses the hell out of me.

I think this next generation appreciates the value of being strong. I think we’re getting away from the attitude toward fitness that was largely about working out to counteract bad food decisions and moving to a place where fitness is valued for more than just calories burned.

It brings confidence. Better posture. A calmer demeanor.

As I’ve said in this post about Paige wanting to run with me, the next generation is definitely watching how we fit in exercise in our lives and listening to us talk about it. If we say, “Ugh, I have to start running again because bathing suit season is coming,” you better believe you’ll hear them say that at some point. Or, “Ugh, I have to run tomorrow to burn off this ice cream . . .”  They’re like little sponges, and unfortunately usually pick up the phrases we don’t want them to.

But right now, I feel pretty good about this next generation. I think we’re leaving a legacy of fitness love, and that makes me happy.

I hope I’ll never hear Paige say, “Ugh, I feel fat. I better go to the gym,” but instead say, “Hey, I need to get stronger to play better in soccer. Want to work out with me?

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