Physical Excellence: Why does it matter so much?
Physical Excellence: Why does it matter so much?
Physical excellence is the ability to handle any physical problem that comes along in a lifetime. This is our ultimate objective – one that we keep in mind in everything we do with our children and one that we hope will bring them great pleasure and, if need be, even save their lives.
To achieve physical excellence we must keep our attention on the development of coordination, strength, endurance, fitness and the product of all of these are confidence.
This is why a wide variety of physical activities are always superior to concentrating only on one activity no matter how brilliantly. We favor hiking, running, swimming, gymnastics, and biking for the basics. These are all activities that can be done in a park, a parking lot, a backyard, a nature path, the living room, and a YMCA.
The demands of these activities stimulate the brain.
The brain grows by use. Physical activities help to grow the brain of the young child and this is vital. The development of vision is highly dependent on physical movement. The more sophisticated that movement becomes the more the visual pathway must adapt and grow. Excellent coordination is a product of the repetition of the same physical activity. Practice really does make perfect. Balance is developed by providing increasing physical challenges on a very careful gradient so that the child is never outside his own comfort zone. It all goes back to what the great Temple Fay said more than 70 years ago. Dr. Fay pointed out “Where there is a need, there will be a facility”.
Our job is to create the need. When we do, the child and his superb brain will provide the facility. So the basics of convergence, coordination, and balance are fundamental. But they must be supported by respiration. Short-distance sprints provoke deep breathing, while longer-distance endurance activities require rhythmic respiration. Deep breathing and rhythmic breathing help to create respiratory maturity. If a child has excellent respiratory function, he is on the way to succeeding in any new physical challenge.
Physical challenges create tenacity and discipline in the child. Any training program must be designed so that there is a gradual increase in the physical challenge. When this is done properly it is very easy for the child to accomplish the objectives each day. When a child is successful in following a carefully created training schedule he learns that physical accomplishment is all about being consistent and going one step at a time. Children are so smart they quickly generalize this idea and realize that if they can conquer one physical challenge by doing it step-by step and being consistent then they can do another and another and another.
They get the wild idea that if they apply themselves – they can do anything. What a wonderful thing to learn at any age but to learn this at four or five or six—superb.
An example of this carryover occurs each fall with the children of The Evan Thomas Institute. Throughout the summer and fall, the mothers and fathers gradually train their children for our Annual International School Triathlon for Kids. Often after the triathlon the children there are fall races of five or ten-kilometers in Philadelphia. Our children enter and complete them without difficulty. In the early spring the same children will swim in their annual hour-long Swimathon. During these months of training it becomes easy for the children to move from running to biking to swimming, because they are extremely fit and accustomed to the consistency of a daily physical program. As a result, they greet any future physical challenge with confidence. Their success and confidence are all due, of course, to a prudent program designed by mom and dad.
Finally we offer these challenges to our children as opportunities for social growth. Frequently these events are done with many other children and sometimes with adults. This can be exciting and great fun for the children, as they learn to work together and help each other. Often the older children coach, encourage, and assist the younger children to succeed. It is good to be able to succeed individually, but better to unselfishly help another child to succeed as well.
The key to creating a successful physical problem solving is to make sure we follow a few simple guidelines:
- Be consistent – do the activity at least four days a week.
- Gradually build up to greater distances or challenges over a long period of time. This will make for cheerful training and prevent injuries.
- Write out the training schedule and present it to your child.
- Arrange a program that awards your child for his outstanding effort and establishes a special award for completing the event.
- Get out there and do the program with your child.
No matter what area you choose to challenge your child, keep in mind the basic steps of any problem-solving project:
• Clearly state the objective of the project.
• Choose a physical challenge that you and your child agree upon.
• Do any necessary research and teach your child the information he needs to know to master the challenge.
• Use checklists to help your child master any practical steps necessary to complete the challenge.
• Have one or many trials or “mock” challenges , so that success is assured on the day of the actual event.
• Complete the final objective, with plenty of family on hand to cheer and give support.
• Certify your child for the completion of the event.
• Enjoy yourself and this special time with your child.
Since the International School Triathlon is held in the fall, we begin training six months in advance. Since the event entails swimming 400 meters, biking 5 kilometers, and running 10 kilometers nonstop, our objective is to build up to those distances in each activity and to finally be able to do them back-to-back.
It’s obvious that by preparing well for this kind of challenge, children become confident, strong, and capable and ready to take on the next great physical challenge.