The Motivation for Muscles
Are Teens Trying to Get Fit…or Famous?
David R Smith
Ripped. Shredded. Swoled. While those adjectives sound painful to a guy like me, that gym jargon is exactly what many teenagers want these days. But their efforts have nothing to do with overall health or quality of life.
It’s just a part of their never-ending pursuit of popularity.
Do These Kids Look Jacked to You?
I recently remarked to my wife that it seemed like young people were taking strength training very, very seriously these days. Maybe it was because of my penchant for following school sports programs. Maybe it was due to the infinite number of images depicting physical perfection flooding my social media streams. Or, maybe it was simply because we have a teenager living in our house. I don’t know, but this article from The Guardian, a British news outlet, confirmed my observations by walking readers through the mindset and training routine of a 13-year-old kid named Charlie who lives across The Pond. (Side Note: Evidently, pushups are called “press ups” over there. No wonder we won the Revolutionary War.)
This newly minted teen maintains a diet that would rival most female Instagram models and works out as if his middle name was Daniel Craig. The kid is incredibly driven (even if he does admit to skipping leg day).
So, what’s Charlie’s motivation? Olympic aspirations? Improved health? Long life? No, the prize he’s after is much more temporal: he just wants to be liked…and get “likes.” Even as a kid, Charlie knows, “You have to look good on camera, or people are going to judge you.” Charlie’s “mum” knows the score, too. “The boys want to be fit because it gets a lot of attention from being like this – from girls.”
Is it fair to assume this is the motivation behind every kid who’s working out?
Hardly. For the past few months, our son Josiah (who graduated 8th grade this week) has been training as if he were starring in Rocky 11. He’s consuming massive amounts of protein, very few carbs, and drinking nothing but water (in spite of the fact that we live in the majestic Land of Sweet Tea). Unlike Charlie, however, our son’s training is almost exclusively lower body. For several months now, he’s been doing routines that include lunges, squats, calf raises, and the like. That’s because, as a basketball nut, his goal has been to “get rim” by June (which he accomplished earlier this week).
The bottom line is obvious: different kids may be involved in a wide variety of physical activities for a multitude of reasons. What about your family? Do you know what regiment(s) your kids are undertaking, if any, and why?
I get it; the ongoing lockdown has provided more hours in the day than most of our kids can fill. And with summer on the horizon, that trend will continue for at least another two months. Many parents are looking for activities that will keep their kids occupied…and themselves sane. Exercise, training, and working out are fantastic ways to round out a healthy schedule. Granted, most gyms are still closed (unless you live in Florida) but there are plenty of terrific home workout apps available on both Apple and Android to help you get the job done. If your teenager has taken an interest in physical conditioning of any kind, I’d like to offer these three suggestions:
- Discover their motivation. Chances are good that their drive to work out stems from something positive such as “getting in shape,” or “joining the team next season,” or “meeting new people.” Great! But it might also be a response to flagging self-esteem or even bullying. If that’s the case, they will likely need much more than a training schedule. You won’t know until you find out what’s behind their endeavors, so ask some simple, unassuming questions to determine their purpose and how you might help. Speaking of help….
- Keep them balanced. We need to help our kids avoid the extremes found at both ends of the spectrum. It’s not good for teens to lounge around eating junk food all day; nor is it healthy for them to pull two-a-days for months on end at the expense of their academics, relationships, or joy. Help them strike a balance between the two so they can live life to the fullest.
- Join them in the process. Yep, lace up your sneakers and work out with them. Not only will you increase the amount of quality time spent with your kids, but you’ll probably improve your own health in the process. (And it sounds like many of us could use a little exercise to work off the effects of quarantine.) No excuses.
Take advantage of this unusual season we find ourselves in and provide a dose of healthiness for your whole family.
David R. Smith
David R. Smith is the author of several books including Christianity... It's Like This and speaks to parents and leaders across the U.S. David is a 15-year youth ministry veteran, now a senior pastor, who specializes in sharing the gospel, and equipping others do the same. David provides free resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, DavidRSmith.org David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.