Read This! Training Tips from a Toddler

A huge portion of my job boils down to this: teaching adolescents and adults alike how to move with the same precision and excitement that comes inborn for all of us, but that most of us lose over time. Forget about performance or a one-repetition squat maximum… I’m talking about re-teaching the basics of pushing and pulling.

It sounds totally cliché, but watching my 2-year old daughter’s development across all platforms is truly a joy for me. I could, of course, talk endlessly about her cognitive development, but I’ll try to exhibit some self-control and keep this limited to the lessons we would all be well served to apply to ourselves in our physical training:

1. Focus: Last week Ryan and I picked up the kids from daycare and were walking home. As we crossed our neighborhood pool’s parking lot, Arabella suddenly shouted “FAST!” and took off running! I laughed to myself and thought how wonderful and meaningful that short exclamation was.

She wanted to run fast, got into the proper mindset, and sprinted. How simple this is! And yet, so often I have to coach athletes in the “how” of getting themselves into this same focused mindset.

2. Go through a full range of motion: Toddlers are notorious for having impeccable squatting form. Part of this is because they’re all built like power lifters (short legs, long torso, and the classic belly), but even after we lose that physique, full-ROM should be the RULE, not the EXCEPTION. You’ll be strong, stable, and have some pretty excellent mobility all around.

This is natural.

3. Pick-up heavy stuff: Arabella walked up to SAPT’s line of kettlebells on Sunday, grabbed a 10-pounder and carried it a few steps. It was definitely heavy for her, but she moved it a few feet and was satisfied.

It was heavy, but she didn't care.

4. Be athletic: Run, jump, kick, throw. Doing these things every once in a while is fun and inherently human.

5. Show enthusiasm for what you’re doing: Adults who pine all day about going to the gym at night are setting themselves up for failure. Accept that humans are meant to be active and strong. Once you do, maybe you’ll start looking forward to doing something other than being witness to your body wasting away.

The next time I squat, I’m considering yelling out “STRONG!” before the set – I may get a few looks, but I guarantee it would do me some good.