This is a guest post by David Monahan.
Several years ago I wrote a blog for Sprig Toys discussing the importance of exercise for teens and potential ways to motivate them to work out, particularly for teen girls. One of the options I found was to join a gym to provide an option that would allow our teen to work out with others and have alternate modes to work out.
We joined our local gym and started with a trainer to develop a workout program, as well as exploring the multiple classes offered. We also purchased a membership for our daughter’s friend so that she could have a routine exercise partner. After attending the gym with her for several months, I soon realized that routine exposure to the gym was not necessarily the best experience for my daughter. The multiplicity of modes provided by the gym has been great and she has found a love for yoga, but we have been increasingly uncomfortable with the other messages, both explicit and implied, at the gym.
For me a workout usually entails putting on a worn out t-shirt and pair of shorts to sweat in without worrying about appearance. This gym environment appears, particularly for women, to be as much about fashion as about getting a good physical workout. My daughter routinely commented on the preponderance of tanned, cosmetically enhanced females working out at the gym. Truthfully, I had never really noticed this trend but became acutely aware of the situation after hearing her observation. It seemed the motivation for many attending the gym was to focus on looking good as much as being healthy. And it does seem to be a focus for this gym as it also has tanning beds for the members. This was made more evident to me as one of her friend’s mom said she was beginning to work out so that she could look good for their Hawaiian trip in June. Interestingly, the dad doesn’t seem to have the same looking good on the beach concerns.
I realized that wanting my daughter to be healthy and stay fit also entails having a good body image. The feeling portrayed by many at the gym was there was a certain appearance one should strive to achieve. It’s ironic particularly with the “Death by Tanning” story on social media that we still hold these images for a healthy body. In fact, one of my daughter’s friends posted on Facebook recently posted “I wish I was tan right now..”.
So our solution? We do go the gym every so often but that is not our primary workout. She has found a teen yoga class in the local yoga studio where one sees many body types, many ages and no tanning beds. We also encourage walking with her friends, particularly since we have a park in our backyard. I acknowledge that my daughter will experience these pressures in many areas throughout her life, but I don’t want to want to be seen as implicitly or explicitly expressing support.
David Monahan is a serial entrepreneur as well as a stay at home dad. He has been involved in starting up 5 companies, ranging from fiber optics to pre-school toys and has coached others in all aspects of starting a company.
He is in the early stages of kicking off his newest venture, an artisan, organic distillery. Of all of his past and present job roles, his most important is to be the stay at home parent for his beautiful 16 year-old daughter