Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Just For You

Blogging for nearly seven years I've prided myself on showing up here every Monday on a mostly regularly basis. So I'm feeling badly for not getting to my blog until Wednesday, but I felt I had your permission.

See, Monday I took a long walk with a friend when I should have been blogging. I thought my readers would approve of my choice. I still had intentions of writing later that night, but then I got the opportunity to attend that hard-to-get-to yoga class. I asked myself, "What would my Mama Sweat readers want?" You would want me to go to yoga!

Then Tuesday came around, with a few inches of fresh snow. Blog or snowshoe? You said, go snowshoe!

Now, it's Wednesday, and while I could do something active (in sub-zero temperatures) I've said, enough is enough! Today I will skip that hike for you, my readers. It has nothing to do with me being sick and tired of bundling up beyond reason or that I am protesting ridiculously low temperatures in March. No, I'm skipping my outdoor workout today for YOU. To stop by, say hello and encourage YOU to get your workout in today.

Today is a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do, day. Go find yourself some Mama Sweat.

(What's great about this blog is that as sure as I say I don't want to work out, by encouraging you, I motivate myself. I'll just take my workout indoors today.)

Monday, February 23, 2015

Winter is Winning

I know everyone in the Boston area wishes they had a foot or five less snow this winter, but here in Minnesota, where we've had a record-low snowfall, we wish we could have helped the East coast out by taking some of their snow. Winters are so much more manageable with some snow to play in. Without the snow we are left with only the cold. I just can't get excited to go walk when it's -10 degrees. So last week, I gave in. I got on the treadmill. My dog was extremely distressed. She barked and howled as I ran. She understood that me on a treadmill was not in her best interest.

I tried to explain that a run on the treadmill (still wearing tights and long sleeves because our basement is really cold) was not what I wanted either.

I dream of a run outside in shorts.

Just when I thought winter was going to get the best of me, I saw the Go! Go! Sports Girls featured on the Today Show Sunday morning in a segment about the rising demand for smarter toys for girls. I perked up right away. Take that winter!

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

10 More Minutes Please (Plank You Very Much)

I put on my favorite yoga pants yesterday with every intention of going to my favorite yoga class that night. This was not a low-motivation ploy. I wanted to go. However, a 6 pm yoga class is not an ideal time for a mom, and so I had that shameful experience last night of taking off my un-yoga'd yoga pants before going to bed.

This is happening more as my kids' schedules get busier and well, mine, too. Experiencing these fitness-class fails have prompted me to take on more in-home exercise. If this is so accessible and convenient, why is it so stinking hard?

I don't know. Really, I don't know.

While I can tell you to make time, take time, share time and snare time, which are the genius strategies outlined in the book I co-wrote, Hot (Sweaty) Mamas: Five Secrets to Life as a Fit Mom, I'll admit, even I get sucked up into the whirlwind that is life.

That's right, even after nearly seven years of writing this blog, I want you all to know that finding 30 more minutes in my day--heck, even 20 minutes or 10 minutes--can be challenging. Something else pops up; the phone rings, the dryer buzzes, the school calls (that is the worst). Or, sometimes, it’s none of those things. It’s just me, thinking: I’ll do it later. And then later comes and I don’t want to be holding a plank, I want to be holding a glass of wine.

But I had to stop thinking about starting to do something I just had to do something. When a 10-minute plank workout showed up in my email inbox, I began earnestly to squeeze it into my day (which is to say, I did it twice last week). 

Check it out: The workout is called "Plank You Very Much 10 Minute Workout," at Chris Freytag's website, Get Healthy U.

The 10 minute workout seems easy enough to take the time to do, but you still have to stop somewhere to start the workout. You have to be deliberate. You have to set your intentions for the day and be bullish about dedicating 10 minutes to your strength. 

That pep talk was for me, folks. But if you needed the kick-in-the-yoga-pants too, I'm happy to be there for you.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Boy Turns 6 Today

This is The Boy's West Texas Rancher look. Or, maybe he could pass for the Pecos County Sheriff?
He received a Jedi costume for his birthday. He is already requesting a name change to "Luke." 
My dress-up loving son approaches me in the kitchen as I sit at the island. Today he is wearing his Ironman costume, a red cape borrowed from a sisters’ Wonder Woman costume, and his Spider Man glove that makes web shooting sounds. He is going for ominous, fearless, courageous and heroic. All that climbs into my lap to wrap his just-turned 6-year-old arms around my neck. I think about this birthday and the many more to follow. I wonder how many years left of believing he will grow up to become a super hero; how many years left of unabashed love for his mother.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Secret to Getting Kids Outdoors: An Inhospitable Home

The main reason kids don’t go outside anymore? Our homes are too comfortable.

This weekend my uncle and I were discussing the difficulty of getting kids to play outside (yes, this is a struggle for me, but my blog posts tend to focus on the being outside and less on the process of getting outside).

My Uncle Bob, who inspired me to be an outdoor active parent as organizer of family hiking, camping, and biking expeditions, made the observation that when he was growing up, his home had neither a television nor air conditioning. There was no reason to be inside, except to eat and sleep during a West Texas summer. 
My kids and their cousins jumping down a dune at White Sands National Monument
last weekend. A trip organized by none other than my Uncle Bob.
The secret to getting my kids to want to go outdoors to play (without prompting, suggesting, bribing or threatening) is simple: make your home inhospitable.

Of course, the likelihood I will confiscate all technology is next to nil. That train has left the station and we need to find a way to coexist with our modern comforts while cultivating a desire to be unplugged in nature.

What this means is, I have to remain the bad guy.
This was a medium-level of difficulty to get the kids out this day.
I promised I would show them a great climbing tree. I did not disappoint.
Sure, I post lots of happy pictures of my kids outside entrenched in active play. These aren’t fakes. I don’t stage these pictures. They do have fun... once they get outdoors. It’s the getting outdoors that is no fun. Rarely do my kids initiate going outside on their own. I tell them they should go outside to play. Predictably, they tell me they don’t want to. Just as predictable, I tell them to go outside anyway. Sometimes that’s as far as the resistance goes. Sometimes I need to add a gentle reminder of the freshly fallen snow perfect for snowmen, or in warmer temps, how few warm days we get to push them outside.
Getting outside this warm day was a low-degree of difficulty. Notice The Boy is absent.
I am certain he snuck back to the house to find the iPad.
There are also times I have to remind my kids what they can do for fun outside (“Mom, there’s nothing to do!”), which is frustrating because not only can I think of dozens of activities, I can’t recall ever in my childhood having to rely on a grown up to tell me how to have fun outside.

Once they are out in the fresh air playing, they have a blast. I think they will remember all the fun and want to get out again first chance they get. But it’s as if the following screen time session erases any memory of that outdoor joy. Do computer games override our kids memory of their intrinsic need to play outside? Does interacting with electronics rewire kids' brains to some default setting with a preference for screens? Because despite how much fun was had outdoors, the next opportunity to go out is most often at my request not theirs. 
Getting the kids to walk to school is a high-degree of difficulty,
but I'm going to push for this more as the weather warms up (she says with optimism).
In the summer I set hours of screen-free time between 10 am and 6 pm, which were not always followed religiously, but helped set up boundaries for electronics. Now I’m thinking I need to do the same during the school year by only allowing screen time when the sun goes down. I’m going to give it a try, with one caveat: when the temperature or wind chill is below zero. I may be the bad guy but I’m not into torture.

Who knows, maybe I'll succeed and my kids will get off the school bus each day and play outside till dinner time. That will be great. But as they say, be careful what you wish for. Because once my kids are outside playing on their own, don't think for a second I won't worry about their safety. (How did our parents just let us loose all day?) I don't know about you but I excel at conjuring images of worst case scenarios. 

I'm willing to let them go (with whistles around their neck) to earn their independence and experience the freedom of the outdoors, especially if they will go without putting up a fight.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Letter to Myself with Young Children (Two 5-year-olds, One 4-year-old, One Newborn):

April 2009

Let me just blurt this out. You are not going to believe how much easier your life will get in five years. Yes, I know, you’ve got to get through baby-proofing the new house, potty training The Boy (and this will come close to doing you in), sleepless nights and nap routines, and loads more pediatrician visits, which will make you feel like a rookie.

With this fourth child you already know how fast it will go. And when you come out the other side, when this newborn turns five, you will be in the sweet spot with four kids who are no longer toddlers and not yet teenagers. You will no longer be bolting home from preschool to make the Kindergarten bus with a babe in the backseat who fell asleep before you could get him down for a real nap (a child who will be wide awake after 15-minutes once you try to transfer him into his crib).

Now--and this is so juicy and amazing, I still feel giddy as I write it--you will put all four kids on the same bus in the morning. They will go to the same school. All day.

Think about that as your lap top sits on the kitchen counter while you work and assemble lunch, or mop the floor while your son breastfeeds in a sling, or march all four kids under protest to the gym’s child center.

Meanwhile you will struggle to squeeze in a workout and wonder what a routine looks like, but you will also start to grasp that change and challenge for you can also mean being still, holding back.

This does not mean you will lose your motivation and ambition completely. Thing is there have been plenty of times when you have not felt motivated or driven, but instead of letting yourself go through it you resist and forge ahead. It’s like that children’s story, though: you can’t go under it, you can’t go over it, you have to go through it. Being still, holding back doesn’t mean defeat or failure; it can mean your body and mind need to replenish. Sure, sometimes a lack of motivation needs a kick in the pants. Sometimes, though it needs a cup of tea, a little dark chocolate and a game of solitaire.

A lack of motivation can also mean what you’re doing is not working. Think about that, why would you feel motivated if there’s no joy? Try something else then. If you don’t know what else to do have a cup of tea, a little dark chocolate and a game of solitaire to allow motivation and ambition to bubble up. This seems so counterintuitive, I know, but trust the process, the tea, the dark chocolate, the solitaire. Being still, holding back isn’t what you think it is: being stuck, unproductive, lazy. Not in the least. The process allows you to reset, realign, refresh with intention and in the right direction.

And remember this when you feel unmotivated to get in some semblance of a workout. There will come a day when one daughter asks you to take her mountain biking, another daughter will join you for a hike or run, a third will require a steady dose of catch with her softball, and The Boy will beg you to take him rock climbing. It’s not always about you.

Love from your future,

Monday, January 19, 2015

Letter to Myself with Three Toddlers

April 2007

Your youngest daughter just turned two and you’re feeling a little like you can breathe again. You’re sleeping again. You’re reclaiming your identity as an athlete again. You’re wondering why the effort to get back to the essence of you is harder than you thought. Hello! Would you take a moment to consider what your body has been through during the last three years? Three straight years of being pregnant or nursing. But what do you want to do as soon as your body is released? Race.

I am shaking my head at you now. I understand you want to own, direct, and produce your body in action. That will be the fun part. But soon, you will be sitting on a bus at the butt-crack of dawn that will take you to the starting line of an Olympic-distance triathlon after a whacky and exhausting day trying to prep for the race while juggling three small kids and a sleepless night with a 2-year-old. Despite all your training you will hardly feel ready or excited to be there.

I don’t disagree that racing is within the essence of you. What you need to realize, however, is that 1) you don’t have to have a full race schedule to enjoy racing, 2) you can own, direct, and produce your body in action in other satisfying ways, and 3) there is a time and place for everything, and the more enjoyable time and place to go through the shenanigans of getting to a start line will come later. Like, a lot later. Like, stop trying to figure out when. Just be here now.

What you’re just starting to figure out--and embrace this because this will be part of your reinvention--is the little people you hang out with every day can be included in your fitness pursuits. Not only that, it’s good for them to be included so that they grow up knowing that an active lifestyle isn’t just something for mommies and daddies but for them, too.

I know this sounds crazy, because all you want is a workout by yourself; an hour without needing to meet the demands of others. It’s sanity-saving time. It’s become your me-time so working out with your kids around is not your first-choice. But you’ll stumble on this new view of inclusion by accident; when your husband is traveling and you have a sick kid, so you’re left with no other option than to figure out a way to get your move on in the presence of little ones. This scenario will be a regular part of your life and--I’m proud of you here--you will not become bitter or resentful; you will start looking at finding ways to workout with kids as the challenge that it is. You like change and challenge, remember?

The thing is you don’t have to be in constant pursuit of extreme fitness goals. Raising these three toddlers is a form of extreme fitness all its own. Don’t you see that? Keep your back healthy enough to lift them as they get heavier. Maintain a strong core and glutes so you can spring into action at a moment’s notice. You need to sprint to catch your kids and have the endurance to keep up with your kids. You need a goal? Be strong enough for motherhood.

There are still changes and challenges to come. This is inevitable with toddlers under the roof. Here are a few things you will say in your near future:
  • “Barbies can’t go swimming in the toilet!” 
  • “Did you put a pea in your nose?” 
  • “Time to take the stuffed animal out of your underpants.” 
Parenting toddlers is a joyfully exhausting experience, one you don’t appreciate fully until that stage is over. I know, easy for me to say now, when I’m no longer driving around town with a potty seat in my car, or steadying myself for bath and bedtime with a gaggle of little girls, or going head-on with a resistant and screaming child in a public place. You’re right, I don’t necessarily miss all that, but I do look back on those year with a smile.

Spoiler alert: You’ll be pregnant again in a year so it must not be all that bad.

Love from your future,