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The family way
6:00am Saturday 2nd November 2013 in Lifestyle
Olympic triathlon medallists Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee tell Lisa Salmon how they hope that sharing stories of their childhood sibling rivalry can encourage the nation's kids into action.
Even as children, triathlete brothers Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee were already showing the athletic talent - and steely competitiveness - that would lead them to their various world titles and last year's Olympic glory.
And now, while they sadly can't share this talent, they are more than happy to share the games and activities they enjoyed as kids, in the hope they will help keep our next generation of children active.
"I think parents have a certain responsibility to get kids active, and people like us do too," says Jonathan, 23, who took the London 2012 bronze medal.
"Parents need to give kids ideas and opportunities, but at the end of the day kids themselves have to choose whether they want to be active."
The brothers are teaming up with Warburtons Half and Half bread to produce an online scrapbook of activities for kids, aimed to get them up off the sofa and into the big outdoors.
Gold medal winner Alistair, 25, says: "We were always very active as kids - some of my earliest memories are going on walks with my parents.
"We're absolutely passionate about getting kids outside and active - that's why we've got involved in this campaign."
The brothers say that as children they loved doing anything outdoors, nearly always with an element of competition, be it playing football or playing conkers.
As well as told favourites like making a treehouse or a den, and having a paper aeroplane competition, other suggestions from the brothers' activity scrapbook include creating an Olympic-themed assault course, hose limbo, and designing an Olympic torch with vegetables.
Jonathan says he and Alistair have both had great fun casting their minds back to playing together as kids, and all the games they made up - even if it does mean he's forced to remember how Alistair usually beat him...
"As a kid, it can sometimes be tough being the younger brother," he admits.
"Alistair usually got the better of me."
Alistair chips in to agree: "I loved challenging my brother. As the older brother, I always won... of course!"
Jonathan is very keen to point out though that, nowadays, he gives his big brother a run for his money.
"Watch out Alistair, Rio 2016 is coming..." he laughs.
He also adds there were some hidden benefits to being the younger brother.
"I expected to get beaten by Alistair because I was younger, so in a way it was easier for me - I could compete and enjoy it more, whereas Alistair always had to win. I could learn from that."
He also learnt the idea of entering his first triathlon from his brother. Alistair started competing in competitions - inspired by his uncle who enjoyed triathlons - aged 11, and Jonathan quickly followed aged eight or nine.
Jonathan says: "I copied my brother into it really - I saw him doing it, thought it was cool, and thought I'd do it as well."
Indeed, new Warburtons research found that more than half of 1,582 British adults questioned had copied a sibling's behaviour - and a further 50% admitted they tricked their sibling to win a game of sport. 60% also agreed they'd had a more active childhood because they had a sibling.
The Brownlee brothers raced in different age categories until Jonathan was 17 and began competing at senior level. Alistair beat him in their first triathlon together. The first time Jonathan beat his brother in a 'serious' triathlon was in the London World Series in 2010, when Alistair collapsed before the finish line and Jonathan ran past him. He finally beat him without any collapses or injuries in the World Sprint Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 2011.
However, Jonathan stresses his motivation is not simply beating his brother.
"It's to get as fit and as fast as I can and do the best I can.
"I don't train or race all the time to beat Alistair - definitely not."
"It's all about winning the race, and although I'm aware that I have to beat Jonathan to do that, I'm not really that focused on him, there's another 50 competitors to beat as well."
Before the Olympics, there was speculation the brothers might try to cross the finish line together in a dead heat - although in the event that would have been impossible because the Spaniard Javier Gomez took second place.
"It would have been fantastic to cross the line together - but I'd like to do that if I knew I'd beaten him first and had to wait for him," says Jonathan.
Both men admit that having each other there to train with and compete against has been a major factor in their success.
"It's been absolutely key," stresses Jonathan.
"From starting at a young age and having someone to train with on those dark, cold nights and rainy days, to needing to spend four hours on a bike and having the motivation of your brother going out too - you're not going to spend four hours on the sofa if he's going out.
"It pushes you in those hard sessions, and you've got someone to go racing with and go through the whole experience with.
"It's been absolutely crucial."
:: Visit the Brownlee brothers' Half & Half Scrapbook at www.facebook.com/warburtons for more children's activity inspiration.
Ask the expert
Q: "My eight-year-old son doesn't like oily fish, which I know contains omega-3. Why is omega-3 important, and can he get it from other foods, or should he take a supplement?"
A: Oxford University researcher Dr Alex Richardson, who recently co-authored a study into the effect of omega-3 intake on children's behaviour and ability to learn, says: "The long-chain omega-3 found in fish, seafood and some algae are crucial for brain health. DHA is the most abundant omega-3 in the brain: it's essential for vision, and for building brain cells and the connections between them that support learning and memory.
"In children, long-chain omega-3 can reduce ADHD symptoms like inattention, hyperactivity and impulsive behaviour. Our latest research showed similar benefits for healthy children aged seven to nine years from 600mg/day of DHA, and this also improved reading progress for those children who were struggling in this area.
"Like your son, most children in our study weren't eating enough fish and seafood, which are the only natural foods providing appreciable quantities of EPA and DHA.
"Supplements are another option - but to match the doses used in most research trials, these should provide at least 500mg/day of EPA/DHA (the short-chain omega-3 ALA doesn't have the same benefits).
"Otherwise, foods and drinks fortified with DHA are becoming increasingly common - although again, do check how much each portion actually provides.
"Better still, many of these contain DHA from algae (as did the supplements in our latest study) which is suitable for vegetarians and vegans."
:: Aleva Naturals Bamboo Breathe Easy Baby Wipes
Wipes made from soft bamboo cloth enriched with natural saline, eucalyptus and menthol oils to gently clean and moisturises little stuffy noses without any chemicals. Suitable from three months plus, £3.99 for a pack 30, available from www.vitalbaby.co.uk.
:: Nurofen for Children Cold, Pain & Fever
Sugar and colour-free orange or strawberry flavour oral suspension which helps manage children's cold and flu symptoms including fever, sore throats, headaches and minor body aches. Suitable from three months to nine years, £3.99, available at all good pharmacies and grocers.
:: Nelsons Sootha
A pleasant-tasting homeopathic remedy for the natural relief of coughs, containing natural bryonia, purified honey and lemon juice and free from artificial colourings, flavourings and alcohol. Suitable for children from 12 months plus, £4.25, available from pharmacies, selected grocers and health food stores.
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