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Fly Fishing Is A Family Affair

By Tracey L. Stroup

Wellness is the big buzzword in the healthcare industry. We all want to be well in our physical, mental, and spiritual health. And as parents, we want the same level of wellness for our children. In order to lay the groundwork for our childrens’ health and wellness, we must teach them healthy habits and relationships, and the balance to make it all work.

If this is the goal, then why do we struggle to relay this vital information? In February 2007, CBS News reported on a study conducted about ‘family time.’ The study by Martin Turcotte, titled “Time spent with family during a typical workday, 1986 to 2005,” reported that families today spend 45 minutes less per day together than they did 20 years earlier. On average, a modern family spends about 3.5 hours a day together. Considering a significant amount of that time is taken up by homework, dinner preparations, phone calls, text messaging, and numerous other distractions, how many of those 210 minutes is quality time? How much of it enhances the health and wellness of our families?

Our society is plagued with the ‘no time’ epidemic. Our schedules and our children’s schedules are packed full of obligations deemed “more important” than spending time with each other. Time investment in the family itself has taken a back seat over the last few decades. As a result, our children are receiving more influence from TV and video games than from their parents and families.

As parents, it is a challenge to provide balance between family and work in such a tough economy. We all want the best for our children. But what is the definition of the “best”? In order to teach the true meaning of health and wellness, we need to clearly define our perspectives and priorities when we are establishing the best life for our children. In the long run, healthy minds, bodies, and spirits are the best gifts you can give. Time spent together and the memories you create are what will stand the test of time and define the next generation’s health and wellness.

Solving the Problem

Economic pressure is a big contributor to decreasing family time. Our society is in a state of financial crisis, and the future can look a bit dismal these days. It’s an understandable impulse to want to work more and ensure the future. Unfortunately, we can’t predict the future, nor can we ensure it. We can’t even guarantee that all our hard work will solidify any financial stability. But we do have control on how we conduct ourselves as parents. We can instill healthy habits and relationships in our children. And we can create memories that, if nothing else, will make us smile through the tough times. In short, my point is simply this:

Go fishing.

Yes, fishing. Fly fishing, to be exact.

So many memories of my youth are with my dad and brother, fishing at the Little J near my hometown. Actually, a more accurate account of the memory would be me falling into the water more often than I ever caught a fish. Even through my family’s bankruptcy, my father, brother, and I still went fishing. My brother always managed to maim himself in some way, requiring stitches…and I, of course, could be counted on to fall in. Ah, the memories.

All kidding aside, the memories and relationships that were made in the process have carried into my adult life. They are a part of the complete health and wellness package—mind, body, and spirit. So much so that I actually married a professional fly-fishing guide! Okay, my meeting and marriage to Eric really had nothing to do with my ‘fishing memories’ and relationship-building with my father, but it was a nice tie-in.

My background is in the health and wellness industry. It has been my way of life and career for the past 25 years. My idea of wellness is a planned workout, good nutrition, healthy thoughts, healthy relationships, and being thankful and dedicated to God: mind, body and spirit in balance. Upon meeting my husband, it was a great surprise to me that the job he did every day had such wonderful wellness concepts and benefits. I soon discovered that fly fishing was not only fun, but it was a wellness activity we could do together!

Health is a balance of mind, body, and spirit. Fly fishing provides the avenue to wellness for all three.

Calming the Mind

The environment and pace of fly fishing can have tremendous effects on elevated stress levels. The serenity and solitude allow more introspection. Thoughts, burdens, and problems, which might seem overwhelming when intermixed in our everyday lifestyle, can be better processed and solved when attention is not distracted by the outside world. And, although the world’s problems aren’t going to diminish cast by cast, fly fishing is a wonderful way to escape and connect with the world around us and with each other. Meditation through fly fishing is yet another component unique to this sport. The practice slows the heart rate, reduces blood pressure, slows the adrenal glands’ production of the stress hormone cortisol, and improves the function of the immune system. On the stream, your focus is solely dedicated to the anticipation of the big one gliding just beneath the surface, and you visualize the cast and the catch. You are truly in the moment, and very much meditating! How wonderful it is that all the required props for the practice of meditation are present every time you walk out to that stream. The beauty of the atmosphere provides the place of serenity, the water is the symbol of rejuvenation, and the gentle flow of the stream is the focused sound. It all adds up to a great family moment.

Strengthening the Body

As a nation, our physical health is not much to brag about. Obesity is the second largest cause of preventable death in the United States. More than 120 million people are overweight in our country; more than 60 million are clinically obese. Why is this epidemic so prevalent? Obviously, nutrition, or lack thereof, is a contributing factor. Low-nutrient, calorie-dense foods have become a common (and overeaten) food source, but mostly our obesity problem is caused by the lives we live. Yes, our sedentary, too-busy-to-exercise, highly stressed lifestyles are making us fatter and more prone to obesity-related diseases. We’re spoiled with computers, elevators, escalators, televisions, intercoms, and remote controls. Who doesn’t search for the remote for 20 minutes instead of adjusting the volume or turning the TV on by hand?

Most of the problem lies in the computer-based jobs or activities we do daily. The average American is at his or her job from 10 to 12 hours per day, and most of us are sitting while we work. The only times we move are to use the restroom, refill our coffee, purchase something from the vending machine, go to lunch, or go home. At which time, we hop in the car and drive home to either chauffeur the children from activity to activity or sit in front of the idiot box for hours on end. We have become a culture of “indoor” people, and it has had an awful trickle-down effect on our children. The popularity of television, computers, and video games has translated into a sedentary lifestyle. Plus, these isolated activities contribute to the breakdown of the family unit. We all have to get moving again.

Some people do not find exercise an enjoyable activity. Finding alternative activities, especially those that can be enjoyed together, is something to get excited about. Fly fishing can burn between 300 and 400 calories an hour, depending on wading conditions and gear (waders). It requires balance and core stability. You are actually engaging muscles at all times to maintain the vertical position in the water. It is a wonderful way to get fit as a family while enjoying time together.

Feeding the Spirit

Spirituality is the way you find meaning, hope, comfort, and inner peace in your life. We are not sure exactly how spirituality is related to health, but the three (mind, body, and spirit) seem to be connected. It is believed that faith in a higher power gives hope. Hope breeds positive thoughts and a feeling of well-being. When you are on the stream, there is a sense that something greater created the beauty around you. (I’ve heard many a “Holy cow!” and “Thank God” when anglers have reeled in a big trout, so there has to be something to this Higher Power stuff, no matter what your faith.) I’m thankful every day to God for the gifts he has given me—especially the gifts of awareness and appreciation.

Eric and I are expecting our first baby at the end of June. I want the best life for my children and family. As small business owners, Eric and I know the struggles, hard work, and endless hours it takes to make it in our economy. Yet through it all, he still brings me coffee every morning and we take the time to chat over our cup of joe. Even if it means waking up a bit earlier than we have to, we make the time to be together.

We laugh when we talk about our unborn child. Our child will ultimately have a dumbbell in one hand and a fly rod in the other. This poor child will experience overkill of the wellness concept. But, hopefully one day when our child is bouncing his or her own child on a knee…the memories, relationships, and quality times we shared as a family will be remembered as the best life we could have provided. Be well…