Here’s an invitation to all dads: Get up, get fit, and take your daughter with you. I was inspired by Nalgene’s newest line of Marvel-themed athletic water bottles, which include so many options, that it you can find the right one for any Marvel fam. My step-daughter is often my inspiration for healthy living, and is the paragon of the “self-rescuing princesses.” She and her Daddy have been doing martial arts since toddlerhood, and she has grown into an amazingly capable young lady.
You and your daughter. Simple enough; right?
What kind of fitness?
Whatever works for you guys. Walk the dog together. Take a martial arts class. Find what works for the both of you. A joint gym membership can simplify this, but sometimes an activity is more your speed. Just don’t give up if it turns out your back hurts when you run. Try the next thing. YouTube has some great fitness videos, and you can even do yoga in your home together.
When does the challenge start?
The challenge starts now. It doesn’t end. This is about making the call, and sticking with it. If the two of you decide to do it together, you’re each other’s accountability buddies, and that makes it more likely to keep going. Start now, and keep going. It builds on itself, and now is better than never. Future you will thank you, as will future her.
Where is the challenge?
The challenge is where you’re commitment is strongest. In your head, your heart, Valhalla, the holodeck, the dog park, the grocery store, even your living room. Where you guys are happy is where you’re most likely to build a lasting habit.
Why your daughter?
Because fitness can be empowering, and being fit together is a good way to bond. Boys (whether we like it or not) are encouraged from all sides to be physically active. Whether it’s sports, wrestling with the dog, or general running/jumping/climbing trees, our cultural bias is to provide our boys with more fitness opportunities than our girls. It’s up to us dads to make sure our daughters engage and invest in their physical health.
Also, body shaming, rape culture, and the fashion industry have poisoned the well of healthy female role models for our daughters. Helping our girls take ownership and control over their fitness empowers them to be who they want to be. If your daughters wants to be thinner, work on cardio together. If she wants to be stronger, a whole-body weight program could be the ticket. If she wants to feel more in control, grounded, or safer, then consider martial arts. Remember, we’re helping her be who she wants to be.
How do you get started?
The same advice I give to writers and artists: Just start doing it.
A fitness routine is like writing, drawing, riding a bike, or juggling. We’re not born knowing how to do these things, but our bodies are designed to be good at them if we give them a chance. Likewise, fitness routines come from practice and perseverance.
One thing that helped me get back into fitness was bribing myself. This totally works on kids, too. These days, I have tools and toys I only get to use when I’ve worked out. I also have exercise equipment which makes fitness more fun.
Nalgene, for example, has 35 officially-licensed water bottles. I only use my Black Panther bottle when it’s time to work out. It helps me track my water consumption, and I like the way it looks. The bottles come in five sizes (12, 16, 20, 32, and 48 ounces), with dozens of designs, so finding one that’s your flavor isn’t the problem. This challenge is to pick which one you’re going to use.
If you can’t do it, she can.
It’s important to remember that you can’t do everything. If, like me, you’ve a bad back or other malady which keeps you from being uber-active, you can still encourage her to do it with your support. If she’s into roller derby, for example, you can’t compete together. And if you can’t do her particular activity with her, you can certainly be there to support her. Help her be active when she’s not on the rink, help her track her stats, share her enthusiasm, and make sure she’s properly hydrated.
Fitness + Fandom = gift ops.
Put one of the Marvel Nalgene bottles together with some other workout gear like Marvel fitness clothes, a themed Garmin, and protective equipment, and you can give your girl everything she needs to be fit with you in her own way. Always remember to buy officially-licensed merch, though! Money might trickle up, but the manufacturers who put in the honest work into creating a great product by the rules deserve our business.
Don’t be that dad:
Don’t make your daughter do ballet, gymnastics, or softball if they don’t want that. Give her the proverbial bloomers (pants originally adopted by women to facilitate bike riding) and watch her discover new ways to be herself. Also, don’t discourage her from boxing, football, and other “manly” sports. Help her be the revolutionary self-rescuing princess that lives inside herself.
- If she wants to do the “girly” sport, let her! Join her, even. You won’t get cooties.
- If you guys have difficulty picking a thing, try all the things. If that’s too expensive, check social media for local groups. Someone can likely let you borrow some gear while you try things out.
- Never, ever, ever buy a used helmet for any sport, period. From personal experience: the risk isn’t worth the savings.
- Don’t force her to do self-defense courses for her safety. Encourage her to take martial arts for herself and her interests, and she’ll go a lot further. Joy over fear, in all things.