Using Sports for Fitness

Staying in shape is a lifetime commitment. Half the battle is, of course, there’s the whole exercise part. But the other half is simply finding the motivation to get off the couch to do something even mildly athletic. Both halves get harder as we age. In most areas of our life, we like routines. But when it comes to working out, it’s easy to get sick of going to the same gym, running on the same treadmill, and blindly going through the same old free-weight or machine routine. And then there are all those pesky excuses that keep us from doing the exercise we know we should be doing: it’s the kids, the job, you’re too tired, too busy, and so on.

One of the easiest ways to break the monotony or find your lost or misplaced motivation is to mix your routine up and play a sport. Sports tend to distract you from the fact that you’re actually exercising; plus, a little friendly (or not) competition can up the motivation factor and get you to push yourself a little harder than you might be inclined to otherwise. It’s a pretty simple concept: The more fun you’re having while working out, the easier it is to keep your body moving. And the more you move (the more physical the sport), the more calories you‘ll burn while playing!

When talking about sports to do for recreation, the first ones you’ll think about are probably pretty traditional, such as soccer, hockey, and softball. But why opt for something old and boring when you can try out something quirky and completely different? With that in mind the folks over at Bubble Ball brought Bubble Soccer to the United States. Born in Europe and spreading fast, the game is a creative combination of bumper cars and soccer. As you can see in the picture below, you’re still kicking a soccer ball, but the top half of your body is inside an enormous, inflatable ball.
bubble ball
Bubble Soccer does a great job of distracting you from how much running and kicking you’re actually doing by engaging you and your opponents in bubble-filled, bumper-car-like mayhem. Why run a mile on a treadmill, when you can do two in a man-sized hamster ball? The calories you’ll burn running, jumping, kicking, bashing, and just keeping yourself upright will add up quickly, making Bubble Soccer as fun as it is exhausting. You can play Bubble Soccer on your own if you buy the equipment or you can join a league (or start one in your area) and compete against other enthusiasts. If you’re looking for a new way to get moving, this is it.

Hybrid Tigers + The Dolphin Way


Quanyu Huang, author of The Hybrid Tiger.
Topic:
Secrets of the extraordinary success of Asian-American Kids.
Issues: The differences between Chinese and American education; the advantages and disadvantages of both approaches; is it possible to say that one is better than the other> developing kids’ ambitions before discovering their interests.



Shimi Kang, author of The Dolphin Way.
Topic
: Raising healthy, happy, motivated kids without turning into a tiger.
Issues: What happens to kids raised by Tiger parents? the skills required to succeed in the 21st Century–and how Dolphin parenting encourages their development; The importance of play and downtime; what happens to kids raised the Dolphin way?

Sleep Woes: How Much Is Too Much?

Dear Mr. Dad: My husband and I have a three-year-old daughter and we’re a concerned about her sleeping patterns. Most people we know who have kids the same age worry that their children aren’t getting enough sleep. We’ve got the opposite problem—including naps, she sleeps about 14 hours a day! Is there such a thing as getting too much sleep?

A: Sleep is one of the things that parents of infants and toddlers struggle with the most—and, as you said, the problem is usually too little of it, not too much. Nevertheless, it’s perfectly natural to worry about anything child-related that’s out of the ordinary, even if it’s something that would make a lot of other parents envious. The general consensus among experts is that children your daughter’s age should be getting 12-14 hours per day of shuteye, including naps, so you’re within the range of what’s “normal.”

Children do a lot of their developing—both physical and mental—when they’re asleep, so there’s no question that sleep is important. But as we all know, kids develop at different rates, so it’s no surprise that what may be plenty of sleep for one toddler could be nowhere near enough for another. Bottom line, we all need as much sleep as we need—and those needs change over time. At six, your daughter probably won’t need any more than 12 hours per night. And by the time she heads off to middle school, she’ll be down to 10 or 11. When she hits the teen years, her sleep needs will increase (but since worrying about her will keep you awake at night, your family’s total average sleep time will stay about the same).

The thing to focus on here is the quality of your daughter’s sleep, not the quantity. And one way to assess that is to simply pay attention to her behavior when she’s awake. If she’s generally happy, energetic, playful, engages with you, and seems to be having a good time, all is well. But if she’s sluggish, tired, irritable, or behaves differently (worse) than usual, there could be a problem. It could be something as simple as iron deficiency, but it’s worth making a call to your daughter’s pediatrician.

A note on last week’s column on the Obama Administration’s exaggerated claims of the prevalence of sexual assaults on college campuses. I received a huge number of responses from men and women around the country. Most were quite supportive and some shared their very poignant experiences of having been falsely accused of assault and how difficult (or, in some cases, impossible) it has been to recover. A smaller number of people disagreed with my take on the issue and shared their equally poignant stories of instances where legitimate cases of rape or assault had been ignored and, again, how difficult or impossible it has been for the victim to recover. But whether they agreed or not, these emails had one thing in common: they were written by people who had an interest in a respectful, healthy debate of an important issue.

Unfortunately, there were a few outliers—people (all of whom disguised their identities in some way) who felt the need to call names, make accusations and threats, and even suggest ways I should kill myself. I truly enjoy interacting with readers of this column and am happy to discuss pretty much anything with anyone, but if your email is inappropriate (you’ll know it if it is), don’t expect an answer.

How Not to Calm a Baby on a Plane

Johanna Stein, author of How Not to Calm a Baby on a Plane.
Topic:
Hilarious, real-life lessons in parenting.
Issues: Going to war against the color pink; calming your child on a plane with a barfbag puppet–that someone else had used; your first emergency room visit; the most embarrassing and satisfying moments of parenthood; why to never play a practical joke in a hospital delivery room.

Pregnant Athletes + Hilarious Lessons in Parenting


Brandi Dion and Steven Dion, coauthors of The Pregnant Athlete.
Topic:
How to stay in your best shape ever before, during, and after pregnancy.
Issues: How to gauge your limits as your pregnancy progresses; eating well to support pregnancy and fuel your workouts; common myths and misconceptions about pregnancy; finding the best workout for you.


Johanna Stein, author of How Not to Calm a Baby on a Plane.
Topic:
Hilarious, real-life lessons in parenting.
Issues: Going to war against the color pink; calming your child on a plane with a barfbag puppet–that someone else had used; your first emergency room visit; the most embarrassing and satisfying moments of parenthood; why to never play a practical joke in a hospital delivery room.