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Slurpee run, anyone?

August 29th, 2003 · No Comments

Distressing news in the past couple weeks, how children ( “American children even less active than thought” ) – and adults ( “Report finds suburban sprawl mirrored in residents’ waistlines” ) are becoming out of shape and overweight.
What bothered me the most in the article about children was: “Parents said the main obstacles to their children getting more exercise were high costs, transportation problems and parents’ lack of time.”

Is exercise really too expensive? Perhaps we have become a culture where “exercise” has come to mean a coached sport, competitive, with uniforms, shoes and equipment that cost time and money (and clutter up the back of a minivan). But how much does it cost to run around the block a few times? It seems sad to me that parents can’t find the time to exercise with their kids, the way our dad did with us.

I remember Dad pitching wiffle balls to us in the park or in the back yard: white ball, yellow bat, lots of fouls and pop flies, running home around imagined bases. On our weekends with him, we’d often go to playgrounds: clamber up ladders and zip down slides. Or tromp around the beach in boots. But what I remember most were Dad’s Slurpee Runs.

Weekends, he’d take us to the local public school, where we could access the track or big grassy field. Then Dad would challenge us to run some laps around it: our reward a Slurpee at 7-11. I remember it was hard work. Sometimes we didn’t want to run. But I also remember laughing with my brothers and father as we raced each other across the grass. And certainly the Slurpees were sweet.

Now one could argue, of course, that the Slurpee is counter-productive: dumping sugar and lots of calories into a young body after exercise. Not necessarily part of a weight-loss program or a good habit to begin.

(As research for this article – since I haven’t had a Slurpee in years – I looked at 7-11’s site (www.slurpee.com, of course) and read “Slurpee Grows Up!”
This summer’s flavors include:
“Mountain Dew LiveWire, Crystal Light Pineapple Orange, SoBe Energy, Sprite Remix, Banana Split, Memphis Melon, Hawaiian Punch and … the first ever 0-calorie (per 8-ounce serving) Slurpee flavor – Diet Pepsi.”
“Targeted to the 18-34 physically active customer, SoBe Energy is perfect as a treat before or after a trip to the gym or working out.”)

Well, don’t worry. I have no intention of repeating the past by getting Slurpees for my girls. For one thing, as you might imagine after reading my Starbucks post , there is not a 7-11 on the island, and I don’t think there ever will be one. And I agree that it’s not a good idea to use junk food as an incentive. Better to use fruit or stickers. Or maybe try to not use any reward at all – just the fun of the run!

But my dad’s exercise with us had an effect on us, Slurpees or not. It was cheap and fun. All it cost was the change for the drinks. We wore basic tennis shoes and used parks and public school grounds. As I entered high school, with athletics a graduation requirement, I decided to be a runner, lettering in cross-country and track. It was one of the experiences of my adolescence that changed me the most. My brother and sister also became athletes in high school. We are all still runners as adults. I have taken some time off and slowed down to have children, but my other two siblings run long-distance races. And I think it all began with the simple Slurpee runs, with fun time spent with a father. It is one of the best memories I have of him; I’m grateful for how he blessed us. It is a sweet picture in the pain.

And I am trying now as a mom: taking the girls outside on sunny summer afternoons, going to playgrounds and parks, encouraging them to push pedeals on a bike, kick a ball, even weed and water the garden with me. I hope it is the beginning of blessing: the beginning of learning to love activity. Of learning to use the body as God made it to be, not couch potato eating potato chips but moving muscles through this wondrous world. The sweetness – even better than a Slurpee – the fun and the joy of exercising together as a family.

Anyone else learn to love exercise as a child? Any ideas to share for parents today?

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