Friday, September 26, 2008

Puberty – our Canary in a Coal Mine for the Benefits of Daily Exercise

Note=this one is not really about youth sports, just about the benefits of exercise for all ages.

As toddlers, kids moods seem to be fairly predictable, and are usually related to eating and sleeping patterns. But it’s still dicey and, at times, there are screaming tantrums that come and go with no real obvious cause. I think it’s nature’s way of preparing you for puberty.

Then, as small kids (say about age 5-10), and about the time they start playing outside for whole afternoons at a time with friends, having regular PE class, having regular recess, and/or doing organized sports and fitness programs the moodiness stabilizes and they are usually in a good mood. Thus the kid and the family is happy, they get mostly what they want and the cycle continues: happy happy happy. They start playing some sports, you notice they really like it and are usually in a good mood, etc. Thus you are lulled into thinking you have a happy, healthy, well rounded human being on your hands. Thank God we have this time and become thoroughly enchanted and bonded with our child(ren) and develop unconditional love. We will surely need it soon….

It never really occurred to me to question WHY they were in a good mood and so agreeable during this time. It’s the activity and the exercise, duh! (obviously it’s the sleeping and eating too, but I’m way too unmotivated to try to research that).

After raising quite a few kids (all athletes of some sort) and witnessing the drastic effect exercise has on their moods I have come to believe regular, high energy exercise on a daily basis is extremely important for our children’s mood/happiness factor/whatever you want to call it. Puberty is like a canary in a coal mine for proving this true and could save lots of research dollars….all you have to do is grab any one kid with his/her first few zits and a cell phone, and start taking notes.

Now that I’ve got yet another one, the last one (thankfully) in the beginning throes of puberty, I can very clearly see that there are very very distinct mood patterns and the signs are easy to read. For example last Saturday (which happened to be rainy and soccer practice had been cancelled) at approximately 3:05 pm, my daughter was skipping around the house with a phone attached to her thumbs and actual butterflies and unicorns were gently wafting out of her butt. Her face had the look of Brooke Shields right after kissing Christopher Atkins in the Blue Lagoon. The words spewing out of her mouth were “Sure, mom”, “your hair looks awesome Mom”, and “I’ll do the dishes for you” etc….. All was well (a little too well). Then suddenly at 3:19 with no warning sirens at all, I heard the sound that causes the rest of us to involuntary cringe…a distinctive moan, a beating on the wall, then horrible words start flying out of her mouth. They were words which I can’t even type w/out attracting the wrong elements to this blog. Just suffice it to say we (all people over the age of 25 and anyone living in our house) are totally ‘mentally handicapped’ and no one has any emotional intelligence whatsoever at our house. Furniture was kicked and broken bits of My Little Pony’s flew thru the air. Her face was red and contorted and resembled the Creature from the Black Lagoon. 18 minutes later, there is crying, sounds of depression and regret and then depressing silence. 27 minutes later….the butterflies and unicorns are back. This cycle continued throughout the day until, she went for a long walk with the dog which turned into a jog, and built up a good sweat. The rest of the evening was awesome.

Compare this to the following Saturday: she had a soccer game, which is an hour of warm up, stretching, cardio and light jogging, followed by a very rigorous game. The mood for the rest of the day: Awesomely, supremely, even-keeled. While we didn’t get the unicorns and buttlerflies, we got the normal, happy well balanced little human (she still had the zit unfortunately) we had grown to love during the happy age 5-10 stage.

So I think no more research need be done…it’s OBVIOUS: vigorous exercise improves mood in everyone. It’s just super obvious/enhanced/pronounced/underscored in the moody pre-teen. FINALLY… a use for them. We can stop sending them to boarding school, they have a purpose. They are the fruit flies of behavioral science.

There is tons of actual scientific proof (just Google it), but I feel my current demon/angel child (and the ones that came before her, all proud graduates of one boarding school or another) is proof enough.

I’ve witnessed it a lot:

1) Tantrums are wayyy worse when they’ve been laying around the house all day
2) Homework takes forever and seems much more painful when they haven’t exercised; and once they hit middle school the homework is too hard for the parent to do anyway so you can’t even it do it for them while they are crying into a pillow for no reason.
3) Once they get in the cycle described above they can’t be motivated to exercise or listen to any sort of reason, so it’s good to have things pre-planned early in the day if they don’t a practice or a game
4) Lack of sleep in Puberty is a terrible, circular pattern thing, they naturally want to stay up really late, but still have to get up early for school. Exercise definitely helps them get to sleep earlier.

Possible solutions:

1) if you know there are no games/practices for the day/evening pre-plan something physical like walking the dog, mowing the lawn, inviting a friend over to ‘play catch, play soccer, go to the pool, etc.
2) avoid at all costs a day with nothing planned but watching tv or movies, unless you child isn’t suseptable to this violent mood swings
3) I’ve even heard of parents who’ve paid their kids to go for a run with them; you know, try to treat it like mowing the lawn, or vacuuming, etc. they don’t have to know you are really paying for an enhanced mood.
4) Start young, way before puberty, to get them started in the early sports programs and make it positive experience, and if and hopefully by puberty you will have a kid who is playing at least one sport on a regular basis well into their teens.

Good luck! Puberty and moody kids can be a real rollercoaster no matter what, but I can’t think of a thing that helps even it out more than regular exercise and structured, competitive, team or individual sports. I’ve tried pharmaceuticals, and exercise wins.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Juice and Drink suggestions for Post-Game Fun

Sorry for such a long delay, I meant put this up a day or two after the snack lists....but with school, club soccer, and school soccer all starting simultaneously, I've been a complete mess. It's a miracle that I've remembered to go to work; I even forgot my password to this blog. So anyway...Below is the twin to the snack list below, except, obviously it's for drinks...which according to some is even more important...something about hydration. Of course you want your kid to have access to water before and during the games, especially if it's an outdoor sport on a hot day, a hockey game, or it lasts longer than an hour. But below is more focused toward what individually packaged drinks could be provided after the games or competitions. Again, please let me know anything you'd like added...My goal is for these list to be ever evolving.

Healthy Drinks (relatively speaking)

Any 100% Juice,
Minute Maid
Welchs juiceboxes
Juicy Juice
Gatorade (Gatorade-G2 has the least amount of sugar and calories)
Capri-Sun individual packs of waters
Vitamin Water (extra points for "cool" factor)

Unhealthy Drinks (too sugary)

Hi C
Hawaiian Punch
Those gross, colored, sugar-water drinks in the plastic bottles (but, boy are they cheap)


Hi C
Hawaiian Punch
Those gross colored, sugar- water drinks in the plastic bottles (but, boy are they cheap)

Drinks to make sure you are never asked to provide snacks again

Coke or Pepsi
Full Throttle
Coffee Energy Drinks
Grape Juice
Prune Juice
Double Expresso (although parents would love these for themselves; especially at long, boring competitions with lots of waiting, like a swimmeet, gymnastics meet, cheerleading competition, could probably make some extra cash)

Drinks the kids LOVE to get

Gatorade, any type, but especially Fierce, which seems very popular at the moment.
Yoohoo (some kids love it, some hate it, i wouldn't risk it)

Friday, September 5, 2008

Snack Suggestions for Post-game fun….

Since about 99% of my Bloogle Search* (google blog and google search) hits are due to people typing in the something to do with “Snacks for soccer game, healthy snacks for volleyball, cheap snacks, acceptable snacks for a swim meet”, etc. I thought I would create these handy, constantly updated lists, for you to refer to. I’m posting it here, but also will put a button or something on the side of this blog so folks can easily find it in the future. I also have one for drinks...coming soon.

**Why on earth they didn’t name Google Blog Search -> Bloogle Search---- is beyond me. That’s what it’s called in my head.

So here you go, here’s your handy lists (I had it in a nice organized table, but couldn't figure out how to put a table, can anyone help? ) of individually packaged junk. This is just what I’ve learned from my own kids teams and our local grocery stores, but I need more help. What’s popular in your area? What’s your kids favorite to get after the game? What does he hate to see in the team cooler? Let me know and I’ll add.

Healthy Snacks (relatively healthy, we are not talking Brocolli and Cauliflower here)
Boxes of Raisins
Rice Krispie Treats
Nuts (always one allergic kid, though)
Granola bars (Quaker Chewy bars are a fave)
Peanut butter or cheese crackers (Nabisco, Lance)
Cheese sticks
Orange Slices
Small bags of Grapes
100 calorie Packs of anything
Fig Newtons
Kashi Bars
Kashi Mini’s
NutriGrain Bars

Unhealthiest Snacks (sugar/fat content)
Little Debbies
Fruit roll-ups
Chips-Fritos, Doritos, Cheetos, etc. (any fried chips)
Cookies (Oreos, Chips Ahoy, anything with frosting or chips)
Krispy Kreme doughnuts

Fruit roll-ups
Peanut butter or cheese crackers (Nabisco, Lance)
Fruit snacks (those little chews in the same section as the Fruit Roll Ups)
Jello packs
Koolaid Gels
Krispy Kreme doughnuts

Snacks the kids love
Nabisco Cookies (Chips Ahoy, Nutter Butter, etc)-also convenient as they come in packs of 12 instead of 8 like most
Fruit Roll-Ups
Freezer pops, great and different for a really hot day (also really cheap)
Mini bags of chips (Lays, Doritos singles, etc.)
Individual Pringles
Little Debbies
Krispy Kreme doughnuts

Snacks to ensure you are never asked to provide snacks again
Chocolate Cupcakes (esp. if it's a hot day and the kids are all sweaty)
Marlboro Lights
Candy bars
Big bowl of chocolate pudding and 12 plastic spoons
Fiber One Bars
Bubble Gum
Your kids Halloween leftovers (i've tried...they figure it out)

Please note, there is nothing on the Healthy list that is also on the Kids Love it list. Shocking.