Monday, April 14, 2014

Zoo Workout

Spring at the Minnesota Zoo means baby animals at the farm.
Last week I went to the Zoo with The Boy. We had a double date with a fit-mom friend who has a young son, too, plus 18-month-old twin boys. Besides logging more than 10,000 steps that day, I woke up the next morning with a slightly sore upper back. I thought back to helping push that double stroller (oh the memories!), hoisting kids to get a better view, and piggy back rides for the walking weary.

I officially declared "Going to the Zoo" a certified, fit-mom-approved workout.

I used to go to the zoo a lot when the girls were little. In fact, I started taking the twins when they were just a few months old. The indoor section of the zoo is warm and tropical during Minnesota winters and it's a nice place to get out for a walk. The path within the indoor zoo became a great place for toddlers to experience freedom and for moms to run sprints chasing after them. Once outside we discovered the Minnesota Zoo's playgrounds, sand pits, splash pad and climbing structures (I think sophisticated people call them statues). There was nothing more exhausting for me or for my kids than a day at the zoo.
Riding the wolves at the zoo.
The zoo workout does become easier as your kids get older. As that happens, make sure you find a zoo partner with younger children to share the workload (and the humbling difficulty of pushing a stroller), reduce the risk of losing children, and, of course, the fun watching little ones encounter animals.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Let's Put an End to Beauty Sickness

Last year I received an inquiry from a PR representative working for a national day-time talk show that needed guests. They were doing a segment on body image and how it impacts relationships. She told me the producers would pay for me and my significant other to make the trip to New York City.

While flattered a major network show would personally reach out to me, I knew instantly this would never work. I immediately responded:
Thanks so much for the email, I appreciate the consideration. I don't think I'm the best person for this. I'm the rare breed of woman who actually is happy with my body. I struggled some with body issues in highschool/college (don't we all?) but once I became active I appreciated my body so much more for what it could do. And, since having 4 kids I need to be nice to my body for going through all that:-) Can't believe I just turned down a trip to NYC!  
If you are ever doing a show about how to raise fit kids, be your children's fitness mentor, or how to fit fitness into a busy life--I'm all over that. In fact, shall I send you a copy of Hot (Sweaty) Mamas: Five Secrets to Life as a Fit Mom?
I know from past experience body image is a big deal. I know there are some women who remain consumed by it their entire lives.

I want to spare my daughters from ever feeling that their body--as it is--is less than what it should be. Instinctively I know the best way to promote a healthy body image is to project my own healthy body image. Not only is it important for moms to withhold saying anything negative about their body, but also to shut up entirely about how it looks and only talk about how it works.

But I can't shield them from what happens in the media. There is but one female media-approved body shape out there, which makes it difficult not to compare what you have with what you see. That, and we live in a culture that values beauty above more virtuous traits.

This is not merely the fault of media, this is wired in our evolution. But instead of beauty being a trait we can reasonably admire relative to character, people are clamoring and obsessing over attaining it. This is what Renee Englen, a psychologist and body image researcher at Northwestern University, says is "Beauty Sickness." You may think you're too smart and savvy to be affected by media images, but what Ms. Englen has learned in her research is, despite women understanding that the media projects warped images of beauty, "knowing better" doesn't protect us. Those images are like a siren's call to pursue the unattainable ideal. "Beauty will always matter," Ms. Englen says, "but beauty should matter less."

I've embedded her Ted Talk below, "The Epidemic of Beauty Sickness," which I have now watched three times.

Renee Englen tells us, "Beauty Sickness is what happens when women spend so much time worrying not about their education, their career goals, their family, or their relationships, not about the state of the economy, the state of the environment or the state of the world, because they are too busy worrying about their weight-loss goals, their skin-care regimen, the state of their abs, the state of their thighs... Instead of moving around looking out at the world you move around wondering how you look to the world."

And because of finite cognitive resources, Ms. Englen says, "You cannot chronically monitor your body's appearance and be engaged with the world. Between you and the world is a mirror."

That line absolutely crushes me. I mourn my youth when I most definitely was disengaged with the world around me and the world at large.

Even if I don't dwell on the past, I absolutely don't want my daughters to miss out on life because they believe they are constantly being physically evaluated.

Ms. Englen says we can change society's misplaced value on beauty. She gives us tips. Among them, "Stop telling little girls they're pretty. When you feel compelled to comment on their appearance, comment on other qualities instead."

Hard as it may be (because I do believe my daughters are beautiful!), by doing so, she says, we can "undermine the system that teaches girls their best bet for social status is the pursuit of beauty." I felt like she was talking straight at me when she said: "Try to raise daughters who see their appearance as a minor side note to character and hardwork."

That's what you can do at home. Want to do more?

The Brave Girls Alliance, which believes "It's time to change our girls' fate. Our brave daughters have the right to a healthy childhood," is an organization that is pressuring media creators to "expand their version of what it means to be a girl and recognize our girls as whole complex people and not as gender stereotypes." You can take their pledge to: "use my voice to support, empower and encourage brave, adventurous, strong, smart and spirited girls."

What's more, you can support the Truth in Advertising Bill, with your grassroots support:
With bipartisan Congressional sponsorship, the Truth-in-Advertising bill (HR4341) calls on the Federal Trade Commission to develop a legislative framework for any advertising materially altering the human body (i.e. shape, size, proportion, color, etc.). The bill directs the FTC, as the nation's consumer protection agency, to develop recommendations and remedies for these photoshopped ads that are:
  • False and deceptive.
  • Linked to a series of emotional, psychological and physical health issues, and economic consequences - particularly affecting, but not limited to, girls and women.
Let's put an end to beauty sickness. Let's stop pretending we can be something we're not. Let's stop allowing fiction to be presented as reality. Let's stop allowing the media to define what are flaws and what is beautiful. Let's put the mirror down. Let's engage with the world with our capable bodies and our best selves.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Can you Implant Fitness?

I have lost my Fitbit for the last time.

Recently a start-up fitness tracking company called InFit reached out to me as a fitness blogger. They were looking for fitness enthusiasts who would try their new product for free and then blog about the experience. You know I rarely do product endorsements, but this one I couldn't pass up because, well, I couldn't find my Fitbit again.

I said yes. Right away they put me in touch with a local physician. This is no ordinary fitness tracker. This fitness tracker will never get left in my pocket, or on top of my dresser, or get washed with a load of clothes. This fitness tracker is now implanted inside my left thigh.

No major surgery was involved (you know I'd never go for that); all it took was a puncture to slide the small capsule (size of a vitamin pill) into place. No sutures were needed, the small hole required only a bandage. The hardest part was I had to spend the rest of the day as immobile as possible until the small wound healed. The irony! No steps recorded that first day!

Now with InFit I can track my fitness effortlessly, which is to say I won't start my mornings looking everywhere for the tracker or head out for a long walk with the dog and realize it doesn't "count" because my tracker is lying in the bottom of a laundry basket. All scatterbrained fitness enthusiasts rejoice!

This will be the first and last time I blog about InFit. April Fools! Did you fall for it?

What I'd really like is to test drive the new Fitbit accessories designed by Tory Burch, which come out this spring. No joke.

Meanwhile I still need to find my Fitbit.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Flashback: Springing Forward

In the four years since writing this post I have become less OCD about time and wearing a watch. I think it's because I finally sleep. And since my exercise detox I have been wearing my "stylish watch" around the clock... and my Fitbit. But I still have a thang for a cute sports watch. I just treated myself to this sports watch for dummies (it's only function is a stop watch and light). Still, four years later, I can't tell you where the time goes.

March 15, 2010
Springing Forward

In light of the time change, I thought I'd share with you my little addiction.

I have a bit of OCD when it comes to time. This does not imply that I'm obsessive about being on time. Sadly, I'm perpetually late.

The real problem is that I'm addicted to wearing my watch. Not just any watch, a Timex Ironman watch or if I'm being OCD about heart rate, my Polar HRM watch. I have worn one sports watch style or another since I began running some 20 years ago. The current version is the scaled down, petite, women's watch (in hopes of being less obnoxious).

When I was thick into competing, I could store all of my splits on a 100-lap version. I hated the thought of ever deleting info. So I didn't, even though I rarely, if ever looked back on those race splits again. Since 2003 the watch's use expanded to timing contractions, then the time and length between feedings, and to acknowledge in horror and amazement how few hours of sleep I could get at a stretch.

My sister is always good to remind me that the minutes can drag on but the years fly by.

I tried to wear more decorative, stylish watches, but the switch never lasted. Watches with hands aren't precise enough. It's hard to tell if it's 4:22 or 4:23. It matters, people. And these pretty little watches don't light up in the wee hours of the night when I can't sleep (something I feel compelled to torture myself with). Since having kids I've given up my bedside alarm clock; it's just redundant when you have kids that wake with the birds and an alarm built into your trusty watch when you need one.

Still, I long to wear a pretty, unsporty watch. The urge usually strikes when I'm dressed to go "out." When my daughters take notice that I'm "fancy." When a clunky black watch just won't do. But I usually wear it anyway (or hide it in my purse so I can check the time when I need a fix).

Now that The Boy is sleeping (mostly) through the night I once tried sleeping without my watch. I was agitated the whole night. I wanted my watch back. Apparently it's as important to me as my daughter's yucky monkey is to her. So the watch is back on my wrist 24/7.

When I wake up (even on my own, without the assistance of a crying baby or a 4-year-old in my face, whispering "Mama!") I need to look at the time. How much sleep have I gotten? How much sleep could I get if I went back to sleep right now?

The time change has made these math sessions more difficult for me. How long do you spend in Day Light Savings purgatory, where you see the time, but can't let go of the old time? All day yesterday I was living in two times. The kids all woke up at 8 a.m., but I said, it's really 7. The Boy still hadn't napped at 12:30, but I said to myself, it's really only 11:30. Then last night I went to bed at 9:30 and was so smug about it because, I thought, it's really 8:30. Then when I woke up at 11:30 (and knew this because I looked at my watch) I groaned because.... ugh! It's really only 10:30.

Am I making you as crazy as I've made myself?

As of 7:30 this morning, right after looking at my watch and thinking, it's 6:30!, I decided to drop my two-timed life. As for the watch addiction, that might require some therapy. I do look longingly at stylish watches, but won't buy one until I'm sure I'll wear it. I'd like to get back to the business of using my sport watch for ... sports.

Perhaps I'm obsessed with time because I know how precious it is. Maybe this is why I can't take that bulky, easy-to-read sports watch off my wrist. When I look at the time I must be grateful for every passing minute.

What's on your wrist right now? What time is it, really? And where, oh where, does the time go?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Good Luck With That

I named the green smoothie I made this morning the "Good Luck Smoothie." I have since renamed it the, "Good Luck With That" green smoothie.

I figured St. Paddy's Day is the one time of year I might get away with serving a green, and yes, spinach-infused drink.

Ingredients for Green Smoothie:
  • Pineapple (with some of the juice)
  • Frozen mango
  • Full-fat vanilla yogurt (I'd prefer to use plain but wasn't going to push my luck)
  • Spinach
Notice how well the green smoothie accents the walls of my green laundry room. (Yes, I said laundry room, not kitchen. The Vitamix is so loud we keep it as far away from sleeping kids as possible.)

Only two of my girls were willing to give it a try.

Although I got one out of two thumbs up, the thumbs-up daughter did not go on to drink the rest of it. All for show. The third daughter flat out refused. This is the same daughter who also refused to wear green this morning, too, so I won't take her refusal personally. She's boycotting St. Patrick's Day.

Then The Boy woke up. He gave the green smoothie a sip and declared it disgusting. I firmly believe it wasn't disgusting, but it was green. Kids don't trust green when it's supposed to go in their mouths.

Anyone notice the pile of clean sheets on my dining room table? Fold or photoshop?

Not wanting to pour my Good Luck shake down the drain, I remembered that my sister told me she always adds blueberries to smoothies with greens in them. Purple masks green. So I added a heap of frozen blueberries to my green smoothie. Presto, the green vanished.

And, whaddaya know? A thumbs up. If he knew this same shake had spinach in it he would gag.

Revised Ingredients for Green Smoothie Disguised as Purple Smoothie:
  • Pineapple (with some of the juice)
  • Frozen mango
  • Full-fat vanilla yogurt (or plain if you can get away with it)
  • Spinach
  • Frozen blueberries
Good luck with that!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Writing + Fitness = Good Stuff

I’ve done a lot of fun things in my life, and the list keeps growing. I recently added “Guest Author,” when I talked to kids at a nearby elementary school about how I became a writer and how fitness plays a role in my writing.
I told the kids that it was difficult deciding what to wear that day. Since I was talking about fitness and about writing, I didn’t know whether to put on clothes that I workout in or clothes that I write in. Ultimately, I told them, I decided on workout clothes since I often write in my pajamas. Plus, I was on my way to yoga class afterward.

The kids asked a lot of questions, such as: When did I start writing?
Here I am considering the books I'll write some day.
The first memory I have of writing "seriously" was when I was 8-years-old. I perched myself on the back wall to write poetry. (In hindsight this could not have been easy and was a sign-to-come of integrating fitness and writing.)

I was always active too, and this intersection between my passion for writing and my love for fitness was bound to happen. What I realized in preparing this presentation is that I've had the good fortune to write about fitness as I'm living it.

Becoming an Ironman: First Encounters with the Ultimate Endurance Event after finishing my first ironman.

See Mom Run while pregnant with my twins.

Hot (Sweaty) Mamas: Five Secrets to Life as a Fit Mom while finding fitness in the chaos of motherhood.

Go! Go! Sports Girls Series while raising athletic girls (I can't wait to start the basketball book).

I explained to the kids that not only do I write about fitness but fitness helps me write.

I used Ella's Runner Girl story as an example. This was a story I thought would be a cinch to write. I'm a runner. The words would flow right out of me, right? Wrong. The problem, I discovered, was how to make Ella become a runner. Most little kids don't love running. They don't think to turn to running as a fun way to be active, unless maybe their parents run, too. But I was sure I wanted Ella to inspire her parents to become active, not the other way around. As I struggled with the story line I went for a run and took my dog with me. The Big Idea came to me, and this is how the story starts:

I want to keep writing the Go! Go! Sports Girls stories. In order for that to happen these dolls have to succeed in a very competitive toy market. The Go! Go! Sports Girls have to stand out where "fashion dolls" such as Monster High and Bratz have the marketing braun to blitz toy shelves and children's television programming. Go! Go! Sports Girls, which are made in proportion to a real girl's body and promote active and healthy living, need to be a viable option for little girls along with iconic Barbie, now appearing in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, and Hello Kitty, which has a new partnership with Playboy (I'm not making this up).

It's more as a parent trying to raise three daughters, than as a writer, that I want these dolls to make it in a world where little girls are barraged by over-sexualized images down the very toys they play with. My girls love their Go! Go! Sports Girls. They still play with them. I took this photo last week:
Now I'm appealing to you, my readers, to help the Go! Go! Sports Girls have a fighting chance against the status quo on the toy shelf. The Go! Go! Sports Girls have started a crowd-funding campaign through IndieGoGo in partnership with International Women's Day in hopes of raising $7500 to promote their spring launch. Can you help in one of these ways?

Thank you in advance. The Go! Go! Sports Girls integrates my passion for writing, fitness, as well as parenting. I am going to follow the company motto to:

Monday, March 3, 2014

Buried in the Snow

That's where I was two weeks ago. I can't move my mind away from being there, to being back here.
When I step outside dressed in layers I try really hard to appreciate the beauty through frozen eyelashes.

As I type, it's -14 degrees, when monthly averages for March here are 20s for lows and 40s for highs. I turned to the 10-day forecast for hope, but there is no "meteorological spring" to speak of.

My good disposition is buried in the snow, much like my favorite sunglasses, which I lost while snowshoeing in our yard. Both are out there, somewhere, but I won't be able to find them until all that snow melts.

The only thing I can do is take my daily dose of vitamin D and dance to Pharrell William's song "Happy." Thank goodness we have that going for us this winter.