Full disclosure: I had no intention of registering my four-year-old twins for Midtown’s new Tennis Explorers program.
I love them to pieces, but these two are “spirited” on their best days and the definition of chaos and mayhem on their worst. And, like many preschoolers, they are very active, very boisterous, and have very short attention spans.
Twinsanity and tennis? Like oil and water, I thought.
Boy, was I wrong.
We’re nearing the completion of our first 10-week, parent-and-child session, and my twins not only love the game, but have also mastered skills I never thought they would stand still enough to learn.
Tennis Explorers is unique because the emphasis is on fun, movement, and cultural awareness. Midtown created the program with childhood development professionals, so literacy, counting, and social skills are also incorporated with each lesson.
The kids spend the first 5 minutes of each lesson in a “circle time” atmosphere on-court, listening to their tennis coach read them a story about a different country from their Tennis Explorers book. They learn how to say, “Hello” in the language of that country, which was a huge hit with my kids. They’re stilling saying, “Jambo” to people they meet, three weeks after learning about Kenya.
Rest assured that your 3-year-old won’t be whacking around a regulation tennis ball with abandon. Tennis Explorers uses large, easy-to-hit foam balls, and in class, they aren’t even called tennis balls. They are “turtles” for one drill (kids practice hand-eye coordination skills by using the strings of their racquet-the turtle’s “shell”-to stop a rolling ball-the turtle’s body) and a “kangaroo” that needs to find its way into its mother’s “pouch” (a cone) for another.
Outside of the story, the class is kept in constant motion, which is a perfect format for active preschoolers. They work on balance, coordination, both large and small motor skills, and the proper way to hold and swing the most adorable, age-appropriate racquet you’ve ever seen. The racquet was designed especially for Midtown by Wilson and each Tennis Explorer receives one, along with these backpacks.
My kids’ tennis coach flawlessly integrates parent participation with each lesson, as we’re asked to toss the kids balls to hit, or even participate in a balance drill along with our children. Parents aren’t usually able to participate in softball, or soccer, or hockey right alongside their kids, so my husband and I are happy to have the opportunity to join our twins on-court in their first foray into sports.
It took just a single class to hook my kids on the game. By the end of the first lesson, my sometimes surly son was jumping up and down shouting, “I LOVE tennis!” He was even more excited to get his first sticker in his “Passport,” the small green book where kids collect a sticker upon completion of each lesson.
All four of us are looking forward to the next session, which begins next week.
While there are child-only classes on the schedule, where kids work with a pro sans parents as they do in other levels of tennis, I would encourage you to take the class with your kids, or have another caregiver take it with them, at least for the first time around. First, the class was designed this way, but more importantly it offers you a guaranteed 45 minutes of uninterrupted time each week to spend with your preschooler.
And with the fast pace of most of our lives, that kind of time is invaluable.
Has your child taken our inaugural session of Tennis Explorers? Please share what you thought of the program in our Comments section.
If you spent the weeks leading up to the summer season getting “swimsuit-ready” only to realize that mid-way through the summer, you’ve put on a few pounds, you’re not alone. Experts agree that summer weight gain is common among both adults and children.
Check out some easy ways to avoid the pitfalls, so you can stay healthy, fit, and ready to put on those skinny jeans this fall.
1. Plan Meals and Snacks.
Summer’s laid-back feel and variable schedule can derail your motivation and ability to plan and prepare healthy meals and snacks. However, maintaining a healthy menu and eating schedule over the summer is key to controlling your weight.
Schedule time during your day to shop for and prepare healthy foods. This might actually help you feel less stressed, because both your mind and body will appreciate a nutritious energy boost.
2. Watch What You Eat at Summer Parties.
From your son’s graduation celebration, to your cousin’s wedding, to the family backyard BBQ, summer calendars are packed with events that include an unlimited amount of fatty, sugary foods.
To avoid overindulging, focus on catching up with family and friends. Don’t overload your plate, and avoid going back for seconds and thirds. You will have more time for conversation and ready to take on the next activity!
3. Limit Summer Treats.
It’s perfectly healthy to enjoy an ice cream cone once a week, but if that cone is accompanied by a frappuccino here and a margarita there (even one made from our healthy recipe), the extra calories can add up quickly. Less obvious, or seemingly “healthier” options, such as frozen yogurt, lemonade or Gatorade, and light beer, can also lead to weight gain.
With a little willpower and planning, you can decide for yourself when it’s okay to enjoy a refreshing summer treat, and when to say, “I’ll try it next time!”
4. Maintain Your Exercise Routine.
When regular schedules are thrown out of the window, as they often are during the summer, it’s easy to let your daily trip to the gym fall by the wayside. Staying active with regular exercise will ward off extra pounds and preserve your fitness.
Summer is a great time to enjoy a wide variety of fitness activities – from the pool, tennis court, and golf course, to regular classes and exercise equipment at the gym. The bonus? You can do many of these activities with friends and family who need to exercise too!
5. Have a Goal.
Spending the hot summer months inside a cool, air-conditioned house, moving from the couch to the computer with stops at the fridge in between is a quick way to gain weight. Avoid falling into this rut by aiming for specific goals.
Combine physical goals, such as training for a summer 5K or learning a new sport, with activity-based goals, such as volunteering, working a summer job, or taking a class. Keeping goals in mind may just be the motivation you need to stay energized, healthy, and slim this season.
What strategies keep you and your family healthy over the summer?
A recent study published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture revealed that although junk food was found to be cheaper per calorie, healthy foods (foods from specific food groups whose nutritional values fell below a maximum amount of saturated fat, added sugars, and sodium) were cheaper by portion size and weight. In other words, it costs less to put healthy food on your plate than junk food when you adhere to serving sizes.
Here’s an example. According to this Mark Bittman column, four “complete” meals from the leading fast food restaurant cost just under $30. But you can easily feed four-to-six people with a roast chicken, vegetables, salad, and milk for under $14. Choose a meal of rice and beans instead, and your total bill goes down about $5 more.
You might think, “that’s all well and good, but it still feels like junk food is cheaper and easier to put on the table. Why is that, and what can I do about it?”. In a country whose obesity-related medical expenses already cost $147 billion per year, that is one of the billion dollar questions.
The answer is complex. But that doesn’t mean we’re powerless.
Here are some steps we can take now to curb the ever-widening effects of our “junk food” culture:
Ignore Manipulative Food Marketing: Fast food companies alone spent $4.2 billion on marketing in 2009, and the Food and Beverage industry as a whole has done a pretty good job convincing consumers that the foods they sell are cheap, convenient, and tasty.
It’s important to recognize that the tactics used are just that – ways of enticing you to buy products. Their bottom line doesn’t care if you enjoyed your burger after you bought it, or if it caused you to gain weight. But, your body cares, and who would you rather listen to?
Banish the Fast-Food Habit: Sixty years ago food was less plentiful and more expensive than it is today. Now, in part because of the overabundance of food, Americans dine out about five times per week. We have to reverse this trend. Our bodies do not need large portions of oil-saturated foods, a staple in many fast food restaurants.
We can also get more comfortable saying “no” to our kids, who sadly, are unfair targets of manipulative marketing. We need to show them that grilled chicken and potatoes can taste just as good as chicken nuggets and fries.
Know Your Options: Healthy food can be cheap and convenient too; it just takes a little more knowledge and forethought than ordering a Value Meal. The cost of organic produce and $5 loaves of hearty whole-grain bread (vs. $2 white loaves) can be discouraging, but buying store brands and in-season produce, and taking advantage of coupons and sales can help keep costs low.
Embrace substitutions. Less expensive, conventionally grown foods can still be healthy, and brown rice is an alternative whole grain that costs under $1 per bag. Take 10 minutes to plan your trip to the store, and you can be in and out in less time than it would take for you to wait in a drive-thru line. Plus, you’ll have a smaller tab!
Get Cooking: Americans are watching more cooking shows, but spending less time in the kitchen. What’s wrong with this picture? There is a misconception that cooking takes lots of time and skill. Stock “staple” items, such as rice and beans, chicken breasts (which freeze well), and spices. Also, invest in a good knife and large cutting board, and use the Internet to find healthy and easy recipes you can prepare in 15-minutes or less.
If you have time to watch your favorite TV show, you have 15 minutes to prepare dinner for your family. Try it for a month and see if your bills and your belt stay a little tighter.
We don’t like to hear that healthy food is cheaper than junk food because it gives us one less excuse to eat junk. While it’s easy to go out and eat 5,000+ calories a day, our bodies simply can’t handle that lifestyle, even with exercise. Our choices impact the quality of our lives, and it’s up to us to embrace a healthier lifestyle that doesn’t include junk food products.
Do you think it’s possible to eat healthy on a budget? What challenges have you faced in providing healthy meals for your family, and how have you overcome them?
Warmer weather has finally arrived and with it come the inevitable thoughts of summer. If you’re like many parents, you’ve already begun to plan ways to keep your kids active, happy, and engaged through the upcoming summer months. Luckily, you need look no further than Camp Midtown to ensure quality summer days for children aged 6 to 13.
The summers we remember from our youth are different than the summers our children experience. Kids today reportedly spend an average of 4-to-6 hours a day in front of screens: televisions, computers, and cell phones. The number of hours of screen time sadly often rises, not declines, during the unscheduled days of summer.
In order to continue the active games, social interactions, and learning experiences they crave in the summer months, kids need to be around groups of their peers daily.
That is why Camp Midtown fills such an important need for both parents and campers. While they are enjoying their best days of the year, parents can rest assured that their kids are making friends, mastering new skills, and getting exercise without us having to coax, nag, and entertain them. Rather than meeting an hour a week for a sports class, campers spend each day, all week, with a group of their peers fully engaged in an athletic activity.
Still not convinced?
Here are a few more reasons you should make Camp Midtown a top choice for guaranteed summer fun for your kids:
We’ve all heard about camps with under-trained counselors, disastrous field trips to amusement parks, and overcrowded pools with questionable safety practices. At Camp Midtown, campers don’t need to take a bus or van anywhere – all the fun takes place in and around Midtown’s resort-like setting.
Says Aquatics Director and Youth Programming Coordinator Tim Auerhahn, “We keep a strict cap on the number of kids in each camp (30-40 campers depending on the week) and maintain a 5:1 camper-to-counselor ratio throughout all activities. Our counselor group is a mix of college students majoring in recreation sports and physical education, as well as teachers who are off for the summer. The average age of our counselors last year was 26.”
With small camper-to-counselor ratios and plenty of staff on hand in all locations, your child is in good hands.
No camp in Rochester has a nicer, private, outdoor pool setup than Midtown. Even on cloudy days your child will never be shivering in the 82-degree heated water. Two swim lessons and free-swim time are offered every day with trained staff and lifeguards, making the pool one of the most popular activities for Midtown campers.
Technical skills are developed during camp, but the focus of sports at Camp Midtown is fun. Summer camp is often the place where children develop their love for a particular sport. At Camp Midtown, kids receive instruction from top-notch athletic professionals, including certified tennis pros and swimming instructors. Campers enjoy an hour of tennis time daily as well as time spent with basketball, volleyball, large group games, and a sampling of many other sports.
Tim says, “Every week is full of activities designed to be fun and enriching. Camp Midtown is a great mix of tennis, swimming, yoga, Parkour, and themed events run by passionate youth programmers.”
There’s no need to worry about your child’s peanut butter sandwich getting soggy in her backpack. Camp Midtown provides its campers with the best lunches and snacks, prepared fresh daily by the chefs at one of Midtown’s two cafes. Parents are able to go over the menu choices with their children in advance and choose the best options, and campers can guarantee that their food will always be nutritious, fresh and delicious. And the club’s awesome smoothies are often provided as a daily snack!
Tim says, “Camp Midtown is a 180 degree turn from the typical Rochester mega-camps,” and from what I’ve seen, I agree. Your child will stay healthy and active this summer. Separated from their screens, and out enjoying the beautiful Rochester sunshine and our gorgeous club, they will enjoy new experiences with their peers, try new sports or refine their skills in their favorites, play games, participate in arts and crafts projects, and have a blast with the fun weekly themes, and not miss their Xbox one bit.
You can find the full camp schedule here, including pricing and theme week information. Non-members are welcome, so your child’s best pal need not belong to Midtown to experience summer camp at the club. Discounts are available for signing up multiple children, or for enrolling your kids in more than one week of camp.
There are spots left in all camps; however, Inventors Camp (July 30-August 3), Winter Wonderland Camp (August 13-August 17), and Camp Midtown Idol (August 20-August 24) are close to selling out, so if you’re interested in these, sign up soon.
What’s your favorite childhood camp memory?
As the obesity epidemic grows in scope, so too does the “blame game.” Lack of exercise, over-consumption of food, sedentary work environments, lifestyle choices, biological predispositions, genes…the list of possible culprits for America’s fatness goes on.
Fast food is a common target. Earlier this month, an advocacy group launched a campaign petitioning 26 hospitals across the country to remove a major fast food restaurant from their cafeterias with the aim of sending a “better message” to consumers.
Some of the reasoning behind the group’s initiative comes from a 2006 study published in the journal Pediatrics that concluded that allowing fast food centers to operate in hospitals not only affects guests’ consumption of fast food on the day of their visit, but also unintentionally boosts the perception of the “healthfulness” of fast food in general. Here’s more research that supports the initiative:
So being near to fast food increases the likelihood of obesity, but will removing fast food from hospitals (and other institutions and neighborhoods) help solve the problem?
Blaming fast food restaurants for obesity can place us on a slippery slope. Should we remove buses from our streets to force people to choose the less convenient, but “healthier” walking or biking options? After all, sitting for long periods of time is correlated with obesity, and most adults do not get the recommended level of exercise.
Similarly, while we should limit consumption of fast food, we can’t eliminate it from the American diet as long as there is a demand for convenient, inexpensive, and (arguably) tasty food. We need to improve health through education and develop incentives that encourage healthy lifestyle decisions, proper nutrition, and exercise.
Perhaps a partnership between hospitals and Weight Watchers (or other proven commercial weight loss programs), or the establishment of walking groups or active events within hospital walls, could promote lasting change.
We won’t make any progress in the fight against obesity by playing the blame game at the expense of taking responsibility for our health into our own hands.
What do you think? Will restricting fast food lead to a decrease in obesity? How can we as individuals, families, and institutions promote a healthier America?
It’s no secret that the media isn’t kind to girls. From unrealistic, Photoshopped pictures of women in fashion magazines to overtly sexualized images of tweens and teens on television and in movies, many girls grow up with diminished self-esteem, believing they’re neither pretty enough nor thin enough to hold worth in our society.
The consequences are devastating, as evidenced by the 2011 film, Miss Representation.
Enter Kids Yoga Instructor Jen Hess and her GirlPower! program, designed to help girls in 4th and 5th grades focus on personal strengths and self-empowerment, instead of the negative media messages surrounding them.
“Girls this age are at a confusing stage in their lives, “ says Jen. “My goal for this yoga-centered program is to help them increase their level of self-awareness, channel their feelings, and connect those feelings to actions and words.”
In addition to yoga, each girl will be given a book for journaling, and will create an individual magazine to capture the positive messages learned in class.
“I want to affect change in girls’ lives before they hit high school, and absorb the baggage that comes from strong peer influence, and influence from the opposite sex,” Jen stresses. “Girls need to learn how to recognize and trust their own voice, to choose wisely when something doesn’t feel right to them, and to be confident enough to do so. This program will absolutely help with this.”
As a longtime yogi, a certified instructor of children’s yoga for the past 4 years, and the mother to a young daughter, Jen knows firsthand how yoga can foster feelings of self-empowerment and trust. Yoga has been transformative in her own life, and she is passionate about giving kids the same opportunity to find ways to manage stress and how to listen to—and nurture—their bodies and minds. She hopes to teach girls in her GirlPower! program how skills learned on the mat can translate into their everyday lives, a topic she often covers on her yoga-inspired blog, karmaspotkids.com.
Each class will begin with 45 minutes-to-1-hour of yoga, followed by discussion and writing in journals. The class will be a safe space where girls are encouraged to talk freely about their feelings without fear of judgement. Jen, who holds an MFA, will then assist each girl with the creation of her personal magazine.
This amazing program is open to Midtown members only, and girls are encouraged to reach out to their friends and invite them to enroll. I wish my own two daughters were old enough for this program. Clearly, they believe they’re ready now.
GirlPower! takes places on Sunday afternoons from September 9th through October 28th from 4-6pm in Yoga Studio B. The cost is $140. Membership is not required.
If you have a daughter in 4th or 5th grade, the lessons she’ll learn in GirlPower! will prove invaluable for her as she navigates through the confusing and often negative world of our media-driven culture. We hope to see her (and her friends) in class.
We all have holiday traditions, from Aunt Linda’s green bean casserole to fireside carols to the annual donning of the matching sweaters.
However, a lot of our traditions around the holidays focus on heavy, fat-laden foods. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Traditions are important, and the holidays are a good time to indulge as long as we do not indulge to excess.
Still, it is a good time to assess whether your family has any healthy holiday traditions, namely involving physical activity. If not, then why not consider starting one?
Growing up, we watched my father every Thanksgiving morning amble through a Turkey Trot 5k. A former college basketball star measuring 6’8″ in height, he was by no means a runner and it was often humorous to watch him lurching down the final stretch. Nevertheless, he loved how running that race (which was, in fact, the only race he ever ran each year) made him feel on Thanksgiving Day.
As soon as we were old enough, us kids joined him, engaging in a friendly competiton with eachother for place and time. There was something special about knowing no matter the weather — and we had our share of unseasonably warm days as well as days with a foot of snow — we knew where we would be Thanksgiving morning. After an endorphin high of running a race like a Turkey Trot in a huge crowd of like-minded runners, the rest of the day was gravy (pun intended).
There are, in fact, many different ideas for holiday traditions involving fitness, with new opportunities forming each year. It’s not important what you do as long as you do your best to mix the holiday, family and friends (or even pets) with fitness. Here are some ideas for healthy traditions you may not yet have tried:
1. Run a Turkey Trot Next Year
Did you know that the first “Turkey Trot” was started right near us in Buffalo during Thanksgiving of 1896? Back then it had only six runners, but today that same Buffalo race regularly has over 10,000 participants. Now there are Turkey Trots all over the country, of differing lengths and terrains. If running bores you, look for a Turkey Day challenge obstacle-like race. The feeling of having accomplished something will make the food taste that much better.
2. Backyard Touch Football
This is a fun, special tradition that many families have already incorporated into their holidays for generations. Instead of sitting on the couch in a food-induced coma, head out for your own friendly-family or neighborhood competition. Children especially will cherish watching adults take part in a fun family game with them.
3. Take a Holiday Walk
There’s no sweeter image to me on holidays than when I see entire generations of a family out walking down the road in a big pack. The sight of an elderly grandmother pushing a stroller, uncles and aunts engaging in jesting banter, and mixed-age children running ahead just seems to be one of the best ways to unite as a family. Even if it is only you and your dog celebrating this year, take a special walk -perhaps on a nature trail- and enjoy the time to reflect on the holiday and giving thanks.
4. Engage in a Seasonal Activity
The holidays are a great time to let your inner child run free. Whether there are young ones with you or not, there’s no reason you can’t go tobogganing, ice skating, or build a large snowman. All of these activities will have you sweating off enough calories for that pumpkin pie you ate.
Holiday traditions don’t have to be focused only on sugar cookies and stuffing. Embrace a tradition involving physical activity and your holiday will combat stress, lift your mood, and make the time richer and brighter. More importantly, you may not end the holiday season five pounds heavier and feeling like a sloth. It is never too late to start a new tradition!
Does your family have a healthy holiday tradition or story?
Member Kathleen Hermann takes over the blog today to talk about how you can use your Midtown membership to give your kids the gift of health and wellness.
Take it away, Kathleen!
What parents wouldn’t sacrifice to secure such a valuable asset for their children?
Unfortunately, we cannot acquire health with cash alone; however, we CAN armor our children against a host of chronic diseases and set them on the right track for a flourishing, balanced life. We don’t have to wait to give this gift – we can start right now!
Of course, there is no lack of obstacles to raising healthy kids. Recent statistics show 1 out of every 3 children in America is overweight. We are reminded of this with every McDonald’s arch we pass, every cartoon character encouraging the consumption of sugary snacks, and every child we pass tapping away on his portable Nintendo.
Now, more than ever, just as we protect our children from tetanus and diphtheria, it is of equal importance to immunize them against the growing childhood disease of obesity.
Here are four ways you can use your Midtown membership to help your children on their lifelong path of health:
The fall session of Midtown Varsity children’s programming is under way. Offered in addition to the excellent sports camps that Midtown offers over summer and school breaks, these classes have many benefits:
2. The Gift of a Lifelong Sport
Our Midtown Junior Tennis Program is nationally recognized and our Midtown Currents Swim Team excels at local competitions. If you want the best place in the greater Rochester area to get your children hooked with the confidence and skills they need to enjoy these sports, look no further than Midtown.
3. Kidtown and the Café
In most gyms, your snack choices are limited to the five rows in a standard vending machine.
Luckily, Midtown isn’t most gyms.
4. Leading by Example
The first step in encouraging a certain lifestyle for your children is believing that it matters.
Your family will sense you are passionate about staying fit and eating right by witnessing your own commitment to these values. When they are young, children accept our convictions without question, but even older children and teens are influenced by what their parents believe and do. That is why the best tool that we have in fighting childhood obesity is staring us right in the mirror. Much more than a celebrity spokesperson or clever cartoon, we have the power to encourage healthy habits in our children simply by our own demonstration.
When I pick up my kids in Kidtown, they often ask me how many miles I ran that day, or if I took a class with one of their friend’s mommies. To them, physical activity is as typical a part of daily living as brushing their teeth.
I can’t help but feel proud to see my example rubbing off when my three-year-old packs her doll in the play stroller and announces that she is taking her baby for a jog, before trotting up and down the sidewalk. I got the same feeling watching my five-year-old challenging herself to swim “laps” like the “grown-ups” in Midtown’s pool this summer.
Watching how they are forming habits at a young age further reminds me of the importance of introducing fitness and healthy living in their lives now. I know that the example I set will be the key to enforcing these values.
Luckily, most days setting that example is as simple as going to Midtown.
How do you encourage your kids to lead healthy, active lives?