In Part 1, we considered the various aspects of physical fitness as well as the most significant area of cardiovascular endurance, which is an area in which today’s children often struggle. In Part 2, we talked about the unique challenges that children face as well as the importance of healthy habits such as nutritious food choices and regular physical activity. Of course, much of your swim school students’ lives will be lived outside your pool and the constraints of swimming lessons and competitions. So how can you help your swimmers establish healthy habits? We’re about to discuss just that.
Do What You Do Best
As a swim school instructor or coach, you have influence. Encouraging healthy habits are about wielding your influence in a way that impacts your swimmers for the better. Certainly, as you aim to extend your influence into additional areas of your swim students’ lives, you may feel insecure at first. But that’s okay. You’re not responsible for the healthy habits your students choose, but you are in a position to help them make better choices.
When it comes to encouraging any kind of behavior, you simply do it the same way you are used to doing it. How do you normally motivate your swimmers? You’re probably used to using words of affirmation, celebrating their efforts and improvement. Of course, the greatest motivation for healthy habits will be in their swimming endurance as well as health benefits your students will reap later in life.
Make sure any tangible rewards you offer aren’t unhealthy foods, which would, of course, be counter-productive. Even if such foods are occasional treats, using them as rewards can encourage an unhealthy association of junk food with good behavior – by extension linking healthy foods to punishment.
Improvement Is the Goal
Like most life skills, healthy habits aren’t an exact science. But by tracking them and becoming more regular about them, each of us can make strides toward greater physical fitness. Perhaps you can provide a blank calendar for your swimmers and encourage them to chart some form of physical activity for each day. If a child who otherwise was engaging in no physical activity in the week records 5 minutes per day, 3 days this week, that’s progress! Celebrate it! Then maybe challenge him or her to go for 10 minutes 3 days next week. If a child usually eats a sugary snack every afternoon but makes healthier choices 2 days this week, that’s worth celebrating, too!
In addition to verbal kudos, you could help promote healthy habits among your swimmers by rewarding them for filling out a check sheet with physical activity or healthy food choices. You could also offer to help them create an individual fitness plan to help them get to the point of meeting the recommended 1 hour of physical activity per day, including 3 hours of strength training per week.
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