Category Archives: Sports and Rec.

Help your child realize that he or she’s a confident and capable person who is able to accomplish significant achievements through sports and recreation activities in the backyard, at the park or local community centre.

Kids Love Riding Horses, and Dads Should Too!

Equestrian families know riding and caring for horses can be good motivation for getting kids outside and into something other than video games and bad music. Horses raise the bar, and ennoble kids’ outdoor adventures.  Grooming and caring for horses while practicing riding can be a good way to help kids defeat obesity, set goals, learn proper nutrition as they master horse-person ship to build confidence in and out of the ring.

Horse riding students

Kids, especially preteen girls dream about horses day and night, and they doodle these animals in their sketchbooks. Horses are in our nation’s blood. Canada has wild horses and our culture is filled with equestrian myths and ceremonies, like the Sable Island Horses and the RCMP Musical Ride. These creatures are magical to our children, even more magical than they are to the rest of us. Horses make wonderful childhood companions. Children are naturally attracted to them, and that makes horses great bait for boisterous boys and girls and reason enough to spend the day outside at the stables.

The cast of Heartland on CBC reminds us every week of the quality of life on a horse farm. The drama that perplex these characters fascinate our teenage children. One of the most compelling aspects of the character driven show are insights into Alberta regional horse competitions, and the way the horse people desire the glory of performing and winning trophies at these events.  As our children watch these young people perform and achieve their dreams, it motivates them to seek glory in their own endeavours, be that horses or performing arts, mathematics, creative writing; CBC Heartland is a model that encourages teens to seek excellence in any discipline.

Boy gets riding lessons indoors at riding academy

Children riding horses also come to understand and participate in the many activities involved in caring for a horse,. grooming, hefting buckets and saddles, and cleaning stalls. This  can make for a great upper-body workout as children learn how important good diet, veterinary check-ups, dental work, and regular exercise are to a horse. It may just cause them to consider their own health needs, and the disadvantages of choosing improper feed for their own bodies.

Horses are Huge in Every Child’s Eyes

Learning to ride and care for an animal that’s twice their size can really empower children.  The horse trainer turn riding instructor is primarily a human trainer who can boost the confidence of their young riders through encouragement and compliments, highlighting areas where they’re gaining new skills and rewarding them for showing improvement.

At the end of most six or eight week riding lesson packages there’s usually an option to compete in a horse show which formalizes the training and is a real gauge of proficiency. But competing in public doesn’t necessarily mean entering into formal competitions. For students taking riding lessons there are a dozen challenges everyday, and each horse is both partner and judge. The riding instructor is the facilitator and trainer – the best riding instructors plant goals in their – finality

But when competing the risks and rewards are doubled. The value of perseverance and dogged determination, hard work, the rewards of empathy, how to deal with disappointment and losing, while also experiencing the sweet taste of success are all aspects that come into play.girl poses on horse in riding academy

Our Child has a Pony and Friends at the Riding Club

Sometimes our child is just happy brushing his pony or helping to muck out, and that’s okay. Other days he’ll ask for a ride and we hope his confidence continues to grow. He’s made a good friend in his pony.

New environments are a great way to help them make friends. Riding can lead to social-life benefits and meeting new people that could develop into life-long friends.

2006 Research from American Youth Horse Council uncovered a significant positive relationship between horse skills and life skills development.

Sponsored by the American Youth Horse Council, the research found that equestrian activities do indeed enhance a range of life skills in children. The study looked at youngsters involved in 4-H, Pony Club, the American Quarter Horse Youth Association, and the National High School Rodeo Association.

Results of the study, published in February 2006, found a significant positive relationship between horsemanship skills and life skills.  A sample of 982 youth between the ages of twelve and eighteen, all active in the above youth equine organizations, found that handling, riding, and caring for a horse or pony can develop a host of positive traits in a child, including responsibility, accountability, patience, levelheadedness, empathy, kindness, and self-discipline.

When the whole family gets involved, the time spent together with horses can enhance the bond among family members and become the stuff of treasured childhood memories. Moreover, the benefits of horse involvement are enduring, as a child’s “horse habit” can evolve into a rewarding lifelong hobby.

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10 Unforgettable Fly Fishing Locations in the U.S.

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Lists aren’t easy. We know because it was hard setting a limit when we reviewed five of Alaska’s foremost rivers. It’s probably impossible to narrow down the country’s best fly fishing to just 10 locations, but we’re giving it our best shot.

1. Manistee River, Michigan

Its 200-mile run through the northern regions of the state’s lower peninsula ends at Lake Michigan. The river produces great salmon, trout and steelhead action especially downstream from Tippy Dam. We really enjoy the year-round crystal clear water.

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2. Penobscot River, Maine

Let’s swing east to the west branch of this river known for its world-class salmon fly fishing. The 11-mile stretch between Ripogenus Dam and the Abol Bridge presents some of the wildest angling available. We strongly suggest this one for fishing, not relaxing.

3. Connecticut River, New Hampshire

New England’s longest river offers more than 400 miles of fly fishing adventures. Whether you drift or wade, cast your luck, and sharpen your skill chasing trout, salmon and sturgeon. The Connecticut always looks its best when it’s wearing fall colors.

4. The Florida Keys

Obviously, this one isn’t a river, but we really recommend the action off Key Largo. Bogie and Bacall would definitely approve and join us for some of the finest saltwater fly fishing in the Western Hemisphere. We sound prejudice because we are.

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5. Little Red River, Arkansas

As we head back up and across the country, we have to stop in north central Arkansas. Since their introduction in the mid-1960s, ‘bows and brownies have earned their reputation as the state’s favorite sporting fish. Be sure to try the river’s stretch between Greers Ferry Dam and Pangburn.

6. San Juan River, New Mexico

We love the high country and endless plateaus in northwestern New Mexico. We go crazy for huge river trout below Navajo Dam. The San Juan River makes it on our list because it consistently produces fish in one of the American West’s most beautiful settings.

7. Glenwood Spring, Colorado

We’re including one more non-river location. This is the Rocky Mountain State’s center for amazing fly fishing action. The Colorado and Fork rivers roar through town, the area enjoys 300 days of sunshine every year, and even winter fishing is fun in Glenwood Spring.

8. Yellowstone River, Montana

You know it’s the longest undammed river in the country. You know the headwaters are filled with cutthroats. You know downstream teems with huge populations of big ‘bows and brownies. We know we’d hear from you if we didn’t include this one.

9. Snake River, Idaho

Head for the Snake’s south fork, and enjoy year-round fly fishing just 45 minutes from Jackson Hole. We favor the canyon run through Magic Valley for cutthroat, brownies and rainbows. The scenery is breathtaking wherever you fish on this legendary river.

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10. Kvichak River, Alaska

From Lake Iliamna down to Bristol Bay the Kvichak River is spotted with some of the best fly fishing lodges in the world. The river flows wild and wide and did we mention that the world’s largest red salmon run happens right here every year? Enough said.

You might not agree with all our choices, but you have to admit it’s a pretty good list. It’s certainly reason enough to keep expanding your angling horizons and checking locations off your fly-fishing adventures list.

Outdoor activity, even napping, in winter leads to happier, healthier and more resilient kids…

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Kids of all ages love to ride the toboggan down slippery, snowy hills


Well, its finally happening…

The cool, crisp air of yet another onset of winter has finally arrived. While it would be easy to light the fireplace and snuggle up inside for another long, cold winter— rather than retreat inside, we should actually be spending more time outdoors. Walking, hiking, playing, skiing, snowboarding, learning, exploring discovering and even… napping. Yes, napping. Outside.

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Nordic (or Cross Country) Skiing is a great way to have fun, get fit and actually enjoy winter.


While it is easy to think that winter is long, and cold and hard to endure year after year, it really is more of a state of mind than a set of circumstances we have to endure. When you take the time to actively engage in activities that force you to dress up and get outside and move around for extended periods of time, winter can actually be really fun. If you set your mind to it, it becomes a great opportunity to seek out and find ways and things to do that build resilience, shorten the season, and put you in great shape emotionally, physically and mentally.

Outdoor learning is alive and well in Sweden – a priority even. The team at the Swedish think tank Movium has been able to advance a national agenda in support of outdoor play and learning, mobility and independence.

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Get the kids outside skiing early on in life and you will give them a gift that lasts a lifetime.


Here in Canada, we see signs of movement in that direction. More schools and school boards are encouraging play and learning outside and creating school grounds that are healthy for kids living in cities.

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Running, jumping and all around tomfoolery in the powdery snow is a great way to burn off steam and get plenty of fresh air. Dress them up right and they won’t even notice its cold outside.


Cam Collyer, Director of Programs at Evergreen, shares what Canadians can learn from outdoor education around the world…

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Back Yard Hockey rinks are a bit of work in the fall, winter and spring, but well worth the effort if you can get a cold enough winter in your area. Here in Toronto, it is hard to believe we can actually do this in the city, but it is possible if you roll up your sleeves and are dedicated to the cause.


What are you waiting for? Bundle up the kids and get outside!

 

Tips on Creating Inspirational Spaces for Kids

treehouse

It always seems that a good part of every weekend is spent working on some home improvement project. Either we’re replacing the leaky kitchen sink, fixing the upstairs toilet that keeps running, or the usual sort of stuff like cleaning the gutters and raking the yard. Sometimes we guys get lucky and can work on something we actually want to work on, like a mancave or setting up a home office the exact way we want. Another project that is worth the time and effort, that is also fun, is making something for the kids.

1. The Tween Cave

As much as we try and deny it, our kids are growing up. The happy little twerp that was glued to your leg is now a moody teen who wants to be left alone in his room. Why not make him a dream room he will love? Ideally, the best place is a basement or an attic. It gives the budding adult a greater sense of privacy, while allowing you to still keep an eye on him.

The key here is to let them have a major say in how the room looks. If they want everything painted black and dark purple, like their favorite band (or whatever sort of music they like) then let them paint the room that color. It will show them that you value their thoughts and ideas. Did I mention that they also have to help? Working on their own room like that will give them a greater appreciation for what they built.

Remember, it’s during these years that a teen will be tempted to do things like drinking or drugs. If they have a cool place where they feel in control, that along with your guidance, make all the difference in what choices they make.

2. A Tree House or Fort

The treehouse has been a staple for boys and girls of all ages for a long time. This is one of those things that has gotten better over the years, because there are more options than ever. If a yard doesn’t have big enough trees to build a treehouse, you can build a fort. Pirate ships and rockets are also an option.

There are tons of YouTube videos that can give dads a step by step guide to build whatever they want. If you aren’t gifted in the carpentry arts, there are kits you can buy. These are relatively easy to assemble, but still give the dad an excuse to bust out the tools and let the kids watch while he builds something. Failing that, there are even professional treehouse and fort builders who will do all the work, but where’s the fun in that?

3. The Classic Playroom

The best thing about a regular playroom is that it can be used all year long, regardless of the weather. There is also a lot of flexibility in what can be done. No matter what the kids are into, building the perfect playroom is a cinch. It can be a rough and tumble superhero lair, or the ballroom in a castle.

Decorating the playroom is easier than most people expect. The main thing is to keep it fun and fitting with the chosen theme. Having custom chairs with the most creative upholstery fabric is a great way to bring a playroom together, and spark a child’s imagination. To them, you aren’t building a playroom. You’re building them a magical place all their own.

Conclusion
The list of things a dad can do is nearly endless. The project can be indoor or outdoor, and depending on the age of your kids, the scope and tone can go from princess in pink to rock stars in black leather. If there is enough of an age difference, you might have to do more than one project. Like that’s a bad thing. Use these few ideas to get you started. Take them, run with them, and make them your own.

Health Benefits of Hula Hooping

 

Hulahoop on back porch

As child obesity rates rise in North America, some people are dreaming up really creative ways to get their kids to exercise and stay active. Let’s face it, not everyone their age is into sports and sometimes we don’t have the time or the money to join sports teams or leagues. Some kids don’t like competitive sports for all the right reasons. Soccer Moms know how much time and energy is involved in keeping their kids active, but really, all it takes is a little imagination to find fun activities that will increase heart rates.

Hula hooping has a long history and is now making a giant comeback. The hoop first gained international popularity in the late 1950s when a plastic version was successfully marketed by California’s Wham-O toy company, Now ‘hooping’ has found its way into mainstream gyms and studios as a fun and effective form of exercise. Classes can be found all across the US and Canada as more and more people rediscover that this exercise can be entertaining as well.

In the summer months you can check out various parks around the city and see the hoop jams that have been organized. Often you will find circus type people, impressing us with their poi skills or do trying to improve their juggling abilities. If you don’t want to join the circus school that’s ok, all you have to do is check out u-tube to learn some new moves. The internet is full of discussion forums, groups and a resource of resources for those interested in trying the join the active hula hooping craze. Don’t worry Dad’s it’s not just for the girls, hula hoops are great for hand eye coordination and there are so many types of tricks to do rather than use the feminine hips moves. Hula hooping is something you can try with your kids. There are so many benefits for the whole family.

Toronto Hula Hoop Classes

It’s true the hula hoop is making a come back, at least in the Toronto area. Hoop Toronto has a lot more classes available across the city. This trendy toy hoop is not only twirled around the waist but also the other limbs or neck in very interesting ways that involve the science of physics. The hoop active play works more than 30 core muscles to sculpt abdominal, builds muscle as well as strengthens them, improves balance, flexibility, and cardiovascular health. Hooping has been known to promote happiness, self-esteem, confidence, and laughter. All the things to consider when searching out fun active exercises for your children or yourself.

hula hoop kids in usa better than most adults

In addition to the physical and mental healing qualities of hooping, learning a new skill helps keep the mind active, strengthening neurological pathways, thus reducing risk for dementia in your older years. That’s right, don’t forget granny or gramps, get them moving too. Try not to laugh at them too much. It always seems a little difficult at first. The rhythm of hooping has been likened to being rocked as a baby, a form of meditation, and concentration for those with special needs.

A Brief History of the Hula Hoop Fitness Movement

vintage hula hooping pictures from 1920sAlthough the exact origins of hula hoops are unknown, children and adults around the world have played with hoops, twirling, rolling and throwing them throughout history. Hula hoops for children generally measure approximately 71 centimeters (28 in) in diameter, and those for adults around 1.02 metres (40 in). Traditional materials for hoops include willow, rattan (a flexible and strong vine), grapevines and stiff grasses. Today, they are usually made of plastic tubing and include sparkly decorative tape, and some even fold up like a ninja. The LED hula hoops have lights to give those dark evenings twirls of beautiful flashes of colour. The fitness movement began through gymnastics programs apparently Marclaren in England recognized the importance of regular progressive exercise and the need for fitness and training programs for youth to help alleviate worry and stress. In 1176 – 1860, European Gymnasts brought fitness to the U.S. Franklin and Jefferson recommended regular exercise to maintain health, however the education system did not include physical exercise until the mid 19th century when industry and mechanical technologies replaced heavy labor jobs. And nowadays adult hoops for beginners are larger, heavier, and much easier to use than the small plastic hoops from the 50s.

Front-to-Back Waist Hooping

With one hand on each side, hold the hoop horizontally so that it touches the small of your back. Wind up by holding the hoop and turning your body in one direction to give the hoop an energetic spin around your waist in the opposite direction (most people prefer spinning the hoop in one direction over another). Push your belly/hip forward pushing firmly each time the hoop crosses your stomach, shifting your weight back and forth, forward and back. Keep both feet on the ground as you push your belly/hip forward with each revolution of the hoop, slightly bending and straightening the forward leg, shifting your weight, rocking front to back on each push of your hips. The push of your hip back is as important as the forward push.

Side-to-Side Hooping

Stand inside the hoop and place your feet hip distance apart and bend your knees a little. With one hand on each side, hold the hoop horizontally so it firmly touches the small of your back. Wind up and turn your body in one direction and give the hoop an energetic spin around your waist in the opposite direction. Move your hips side to side, pushing the hoop as it passes over each hip. Remember to keep your hands and elbows above the hoop.

Hoop Direction

Most people favor spinning the hoop in one direction over another. There is no right or wrong direction. Typically right-handers flow the hoop counter-clockwise to the left, and left-handers flow the hoop clockwise to the right. Your favored direction is referred to as your “first direction” or your “in-flow.”

Hula Hooping Tips:

  • Avoid moving your hips in a circular motion. This will slow down the hoop.
  • As in all exercise, it is best to exercise both directions to equally balance and tone your muscles as you hoop.
  • Bend your knees to get beneath the hoop while pushing your hips really fast to coax the hoop back up to your waist.
  • Turn your body in the direction of the flow of the hoop while pushing hips really fast.
  • The key to recovering a falling hoop is to push, thrust and shimmy your body much faster than normal hooping, whether or not you bend your knees or turn your body in the flow of the hoop
  • To level the flow of the hoop, correct your posture by standing up straight. If that does not work, adjust the position of your feet. If one foot is in the front, switch the back foot to the front.

There are many ways to learn to hoop: take classes, watch online tutorials, read books about hooping, attend hoop gatherings, jams etc. There are so many reasons to have a favourite hoop available for play. There are so many physical, social and emotional benefits of the various types of hula hooping. Try an internet search and see how easy you can begin. Simply make the hula hoops at home with tubing from your local hardware store and decorate them with your children. Involve them in the fun easy creation and decoration process and come up with different sizes and patterns to explore with. Who knows, this may make an excellent science project in the future.

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Men’s Health : A Decade by Decade Primer

Shawna and her best Man Magnus

You want to live a long and happy life? Live right by the decade you are in!

Happy Father’s Day to each and every one of you!

I sincerely hope that you enjoyed a wonderful day that was all about YOU!

How appropriate to reach out to you now with a new post this month, because not only is June representative of Father’s Day, it just so happens to be Men’s Health Month too! All the more reason to devote some time to reach out to all of you at HeadsUp Dad!

There’s an expression that says: “You are only as old as the Man you feel”. Wouldn’t you agree that a man’s quality of life is determined by how healthy he feels? At least that was the comment I received recently from both my father and my brother. They went on further to say that ultimate health to them does not mean resembling “The Rock” or simply exuding a fantastic physical shape, but that health is far more all encompassing than that. Feeling vital and virile is about a lot of things—maintaining a healthy body weight, eating right, supplementing smartly, being active with lots of stamina and putting in a good performance. Being fully engaged at work while also having the energy left over at the end of the day to make a meaningful contribution to your family life and certainly to exude a sense of self confidence through good times and bad. Wow—that’s not a lot to expect is it? Is it? How insightful. It got me thinking. We expect a lot out of you guys, not just in your youth, but throughout your whole life, so are you going to be man enough from here to eternity or what?

Kidding aside, the more I thought more about it, the more it occurred to me that life happens in fairly broad stages—doesn’t it? Decade by decade, your life, the demands placed on you and your own personal needs evolve.The roaring twenties so to speak, the thriving thirties, the “making it all happen” forties and the disease fighting fifties and so on. In order to sustain a long and healthy life, it might be worth at taking a look at what is really ideal for a man to concentrate on within each decade, so you can be your best and perform at optimum health, no matter what your age. Ready?

The Roaring Twenties:
For you guys in your twenties, savor the decade! You’re most likely very active, busy and full of energy, so feed the need. This is the time when you can generally out eat your older brethren and not see an ounce of evidence! You can afford slightly higher calorie/fat foods like nuts/seeds, cheeses, dried fruit and egg yolks with the exception of highly processed and deep fried foods of course. More calories doesn’t mean poor calories. You will also need more lean protein like chicken, lean meat, seafood, eggs and beans. And seeing as heart disease begins early, I would encourage eating fatty fish like salmon at least once or twice a week! Its a terrific source of Omega 3’s (Essential Fatty Acids) that are good for the brain, your heart and the prostate.

 

Thriving in your thirties:
Now that real life comes along in the thirties, a home, career and family probably eat up your daily agenda and you’re less likely to be throwing a football with your buddies in your not so spare time. So if you find that your activity has slowed down a little bit, remember that your appetite surely hasn’t! In order for you to keep your pant buttons from popping off, I suggest getting in the habit of eating more often. Instead of eating big, gorging meals a few times a day, consider about 4 or 5 healthy smaller ones. Less is really more.

 

Fab Forties
In your forties, you’re still feeling young and fantastic as you’re able to keep all of your plates in the air, but you also may notice that your health care practitioner is beginning to discuss your longevity and how to begin to pave the way to good heart health, strong bone density, hormonal health etc. Perhaps making a concerted effort to eat more soluble fiber is a good start such as peas, potatoes, apples and brown rice. Fiber acts like a sponge in the body and likes to soak up cholesterol. Your forties is the time to take heart disease seriously, especially of it runs in your family. So work your way up to 35mg/day of soluble fiber and consider adding Vitamin D to your daily supplement arsenal to encourage bone growth, strengthen immunity and improve circulation. Also, really try to work out hard with a well designed exercise program at least 3 times a week.

 

Fighting fifties:
Being in your fifties is about disease busting! Noshing on antioxidants such as colorful veggies and consuming plenty of blueberries, cranberries, strawberries and raspberries is a great way to add disease fighting antioxidants to your body. Be sure to cut down on sugar and fat and to remain as active as possible.

 

Six Oh! Oh My!
In your sixties and beyond, now your body really begins to tally the score. It takes a good look at how well you have taken care to preserve the temple in your earlier years. My best advice would be to wrap up all of the decades into one big healthy bow. Embrace active living, eat lean proteins daily to help counter losses in muscle mass, keep an antioxidant rich diet that is very low in fat and sugar and eat plenty of fiber every day.

 

As you can see, each life stage has its own nutritional emphasis. No matter what age group you are in, start now to make some healthy changes so you can cruise through each decade with strength and vigor.

As always, I’m here for you if you have questions. Your comments and concerns are always welcome—and I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time: eat well, stay fit.

SH