Just came across a video by Nike. The Jogger, in the "Find Your Greatness" series. Nathan is a 12 year old from London, OH. He is overweight and they have him jogging in the video. Take a look here:
The first thing I thought was. Yay, Nike! It's about time we see some images that inspire kids to move. Not just any kids though -- those kids who think they can't even begin to start! This image, in my opinion, is so much better for our kids! These are the kids who really need to be moving, playing, jumping.
It just might make them think, "If Nathan can, then why can't I?"
And if you get them thinking, "Why can't I?" and they start to believe it's possible, you get them DOING.
It also made wonder how I would have received this message as a teenager. I was constantly doing things I was told I was too "fat" or "overweight" to do. It was a limiting factor over everything I wanted to do in my teenage years. I never saw anyone like me doing the things I wanted and tried to do. My family only saw the world through the eyes of a dancer... these were the messages I received:
"You have natural ability to dance but, you don't have a dancer's body."
"You need to lose weight."
"You can try out for the [insert any number of sports here] team, but you won't make the team,
"You are too heavy."
"It won't matter how good you can sing, you'll never land *that* part."
"You're too heavy; you don't *look* the part."
"You can audition for that scholarship, but they probably won't take you because of how you look."
"You need to lose weight to find a job after college."
"You can't ride a bike that far."
"Are you crazy? You're much too heavy."
"You can't do a triathlon."
"Your weight will make it soooo hard"
Kids should be encouraged to move before it's too late and before they've grown accustomed to coming home from school and hitting the couch with the remote. Kids need supportive reinforcement when they start to move, so they feel good about themselves and positive about the experience, so that they want to return to it later.
I can remember starting to jog when I was in High School. I don't recall what got me started -- probably being told again how I needed to lose weight. Anyway, one day, I threw on some shorts, sneakers and shirt and began to run around the neighborhood pretty routinely, which is kind of funny since I pretty much have a love-hate relationship with running now. When I started running though, I had no support from my family in the way of encouragement. Granted running wasn't their thing... they just didn't have time to understand anything outside of Dance. I honestly don't think they knew how to be supportive of anything outside of the Arts.
My point is, a little encouragement goes a long way. A bit of positive reinforcement sends a message to the kid what they're doing is a good thing, no matter how awkward they might feel or look.
The images we're bombarded with are of accomplished athletes with beautiful, athletic, bodies! Kudos to them for bringing their bodies to that point. It just cannot the short-term goal for some kids who have a long way to go -- if it's even a realistic long-term goal at all.
They need to hear, you CAN move. You can play sports. Everyone starts somewhere. Everyone feels awkward to start, but with practice you improve. You get fitter. You will be healthier.
Kids need to see more kids like Nathan, finding their Greatness, no matter how imperfect or unlikely an athlete they may be. I know this, because I was a "Nathan."