4 Things I Learned While Working Out with My Kids

Fit dad working out on a playset with his daughter

I've worked out for the last twenty years, and I spent most of that time in the solitary process of physically training my body. My workouts were a sacred time for me where I learned the values of hard work, persistence, trust in the process, and consistency. There was a time when I spent an hour or more in the gym every day. Then a pandemic happened.

Like most people, suddenly, my everyday gym schedule was interrupted. I became an individual who started training at home, in the park, or at the beach. Also, like most people, I instantly had more time with my family. I have four young children who saw a different dad than the one who left for the gym every day and came back an hour later, all sweaty and tired. Instead, my kids got to observe the workout process.

Then they began to want to join in. My workouts changed, and so did my mindset. I realized that my kids could learn valuable lessons while I worked out. Here are the top four that stand out to me.

1) My kids need to see me work hard.

The value of hard work cannot be overstated, especially in our current culture, which is continually looking for the easy way out. After bringing my workouts home, I realized my kids were now seeing me model an ability to work hard. They saw me struggle and push and sweat towards a goal.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the live-action version has to be worth far more. My kids might ignore me when I tell them the value of hard work. They might discount the speech I give them about the importance of pushing towards a worthwhile goal. They might discard my attempts to teach them how important it is to meet resistance with effort. But it will be difficult for them to doubt the work they see me put in every day.

I no longer have to tell my kids that I work hard every day because they can see it with their own eyes.

2) My kids need to see me fail and try again.

Everyone fails. That is a fact of life. Despite our best effort, each of us will fail at some point. But, failure isn't what is important. What's important is the ability to try again. And again and again, if necessary. The older I get, the more I realize that the ability to persevere is one of the essential traits in life.

My kids are going to fail. They will attempt things they cannot accomplish on the first try, so it's one of my jobs as their father to teach them how to pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and try again. Perseverance is a difficult trait to teach, but that's where having an excellent visual aid comes in handy. When my kids watch me exercise, they see me work hard, they see me struggle, and they also see me fail. They see me fail to hit a successful lift, they see me have a bad lifting day, and they see me fail to meet my goals. But more importantly, they see me refuse to quit. They see me get back under the bar and try again.

I hope they remember what they saw when their own bad day knocks them to the ground.

3) My kids need to see the process, not just the result.

Before the pandemic, my kids used to see me leave in my truck and come back an hour later, sweaty and tired. They got to observe the result of the hard work and sacrifice I made in the gym, but they never got to see how I did it. They got to see a sweaty, tired dad without ever seeing why their dad was sweaty and exhausted. I showed them the result, but I kept the process to myself.

After spending several years working out at home with my kids, I've realized that my kids need to see the process. Much like the lessons they are learning while watching my examples of hard work and perseverance, they also need to see someone going through a process that leads to the eventual result.

In athletics, coaches often tell players to "trust the process." But trust is built. It's hard to trust that a road will lead you to a particular destination when you haven't seen anyone take that road. By letting my kids see my process, I'm letting them see me take the road. By observing the process, they get to link it with the result.

The ability to commit to a plan and stick with it is much easier when you've already seen someone you trust choose to commit to a plan, stick with it, and then see their results.

4) My kids need to see me be consistent.

Lastly, and in my opinion, most importantly, when my kids see me workout every day, they know the value of being consistent. We live in an instant gratification culture, which is doubly true for our younger generation. We are a generation blessed with microwaves, smartphones, instant food, and instant information. Everything seems to happen at the speed of light.

Unfortunately, that doesn't hold true for many of the most important things in life. It takes time and effort to build healthy relationships, healthy businesses, and healthy bodies. When my kids see me dedicate myself to something as simple as getting a good workout every day, they see the value of being consistent. They see the value of working towards a worthwhile goal regularly. They see me model grit daily.

When you exercise with your kids around, you learn the value of hard work, perseverance, and the process of being consistent as a family. When they get older, that will be worth far more than a thousand words.

John T. Prather

John Prather is an author, actor, and fitness model based in Los Angeles, California. You might have seen him in Men’s Health, Muscle & Fitness, GQ magazine, or on the TV playing a superhero or advocating for foster care and adoption. He is the author of The Nephilim Virus and numerous published articles on family and fitness. The accomplishment he’s most proud of is being the father of four young children. You can find out more at

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