Secure Your Own Mask First

American Airlines 757 1

Image by aomd88 via Flickr

The kid was panicking and trying to use me to climb to higher ground.  The water was too deep for me to have any foothold.  Before I could catch a breath, the kid would push my head under the water.

I loved the swimming hole near my uncle’s house in Arkansas.  It was cool, deep and really clear.  At some point, while just a few of us kids were swimming, I found myself holding onto a kid that was younger than me and didn’t swim too well.

I was only 9 or 10, but I knew the kid would drown me, if I didn’t get away.  Don’t ask me how I figured out what to do next.  I just knew that if I didn’t make it, neither of us would. When I was able to steal a deep breath, I went feet first under the water.  The kid, not wanting to go with me, let go.

I found a way to push off the bottom with my feet and give the kid little shoves toward the shore.  Fortunately, I was a strong swimmer and regularly practiced swimming as far as I could on one breath.  We both made it with little damage, except bellies full of water.

Yes, I did go on to work as a lifeguard.  One of the first things you learn in lifeguard training is to protect yourself from the person you are trying to save.

A metaphor from the airline safety speech that I often find myself referring to with my clients, who are parents, is, “Secure an oxygen mask on yourself first before you try to help someone else.” Every day, things come up in a parent’s life that can prevent her or him from sticking to a fitness routine.  Parents would do anything for their kids.  So often though, I see clients, who are moms, sacrifice their fitness time because something comes up with the kids. Given the stress that families experience day-to-day, this can easily become a habit.  Parents can find themselves drowning in their kids’ schedules or the wind knocked out of them by family problems.

I think that so many women understand this now. Moms are taking over the gyms from the body builders, especially in the mornings, when kids are in school or day care.  Most of the yoga classes I go to are filled with women.  While I lead my outdoor camps, I see groups of women running or walking together.  They understand that the health of their families is dependent on their own health and well being.

Because they have a fitness practice, these women stay healthier for their families. When they catch some illness that’s made its way through the family, they bounce back quicker.  During stressful times, they are better able to manage.  They make healthier meal choices for their families because they understand and feel the difference when they eat right.  They also set an great example for their kids.

It’s difficult for me, even as a trainer and single person, to prioritize physical activity sometimes.  I cannot say I truly know how hard it is for parents.  That is why I so admire anyone, who is a parent and makes time for their own health, fitness and well being.  You are the saviors of your families.

  • Has fitness helped you be more available to your family?
  • Has your practice helped you manage stressful family situations?
  • How has your own fitness program affected your family’s health?
  • What tips for other parents do you have about managing time for a fitness or training program?

Please leave a comment below.

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