Monday, October 20, 2014

Life Cycle of a Running Stroller

Since The Boy turned five, I don't think we've used his stroller once. Is five the official graduation age out of a stroller? Now the stroller sits in our garage where we trip over it often to get to bikes, roller skates, and scooters. We had a good run with our Bob revolution stroller, and I can't help but look back fondly over the good years we had together.
Sure I used the stroller for exercise, but it was an excellent restraint system, too.
As kids get older, they need a few distractions like snacks and toys to go the distance.

Strollers are also rolling cribs. If toddlers fight naptime, like this one did,
the stroller is a great tool to induce sleep. Plan workouts accordingly.
When does a stroller become obsolete? Slowly the kid will spend more time out of it than in,
and as you push the empty stroller you will wonder why you didn't just leave it (the stroller, not the kid) at home. 
Strollers are for babies.
FOR SALE: Gently used orange Bob Revolution stroller. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

I am Strong! I am Smart! I am Bold!

Ella Runner Girl attends all of the More Than Pink workouts, including this 3-mile nature hike.
Last month I started coaching 22 girls (including my three daughters) at our elementary school, for a community education program called, "More Than Pink." One aspect of the program is to ready the girls (who are third, fourth and fifth graders) for a 5K run, but ultimately my job as one of the three coaches is to expose them to many physical activities so they get a sense for the vast options out there to stay fit and have fun, beyond our 16 sessions together. Ideally forever.

After we've spent about 45 minutes moving our bodies we go inside for girl talk, covering all kinds of topics from healthy relationships and peer pressure to body image and goal setting. The purpose of the program is to help girls become strong inside and out. Hurrah!

These girls are getting some great lessons, lessons I know from four decades of living are better learned now in their first decade of life. I don't know how much of it will sink in. We keep our meetings light and fun, but deep inside I'm dying to hug each of these girls tight and say, "Don't forget this!"

One quote I've written on the board and made the girls repeat twice was:

"When you know and respect who you are, you know where you belong, and you know where you don't belong."

I hope that if and when any of these girls find themselves in uncomfortable or compromising situations, they will hear a little voice from their past--their own strong, smart, bold voice--repeating those words.

True, sports builds more confident girls, but recently I read that by age 14 girls are dropping out of sports twice as fast as boys.

I know sports isn't the answer for everyone, but engaging in physical activity is non-negotiable for good health. I also believe a strong, capable body is good for the mind. We recently incorporated "power poses" into our cheer: "I am strong! I am smart! I am bold! I am more than pink!" I have read and heard a lot about power poses lately, how they not only boost confidence but also go on to help you succeed in your efforts. That is just one clear-cut example to me of how the strength of our bodies support the strength of our mind.

I hope each and every one of these girls I'm working with now stays active, whether they play sports or not, to stay strong inside and out as they grow up. In fact, I gave them assignments at our first session; homework I said they should do for the rest of their lives. It is this:

1) Be able to sit down and get up off the floor without using any body parts to help lower themselves down or leverage themselves to get up (hands, elbows, knees). Just squat down onto their bum and then rise up on their feet.

2) Hang their body weight from a bar (better yet, swing from monkey bars or do a pull up or two).

Can you do them?

If we are able to do just those two things as we get older, we will stay strong enough to live independently into old age. That certainly has repercussions for our confidence and mental health, doesn't it?

Just getting these girls through puberty with a strong head on their shoulders on a strong body is the main focus of the program, of course. Still I can't help but hope that if they stay strong, smart, and bold through their teens and early adulthood, they will go on to be strong, smart and bold senior citizens.

These are big ambitions for an elementary school 5K training program. Ambitions fueled by a few power poses and this cheer: I am strong! I am smart! I am bold! I am more than pink!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Hoop it Up

We have plenty of fun fitness equipment at our house. Now we have hula hoops that won't bend or break. My husband bought the supplies, which required nothing more than thick black tubing from Home Depot and some duct tape (the fancy tape was more expensive than the tubing). He dipped the ends in boiling water to mold them together. The girls were in charge of decorating. I've been saying for months how I want to take a hula hoop class. I will, still. In the meantime, when the urge strikes, I pick up a fancy hoop for a spin, for as long as it stays in orbit around my waist.

Monday, September 22, 2014


I have a desk calendar with quotes from Ann Voskamp that my sister gave me and it's stuck on July 29. It says:
Nature is not God but God revealing the weight of Himself, all his glory, through the looking glass of nature. This created world is but one of those two languages He speaks, supernatural word and natural world.
It's hard for me not to see God revealing the weight of Himself when I see a rainbow.

Or stop to take in beautiful flowers.

When I'm outside, it's not only to go after the health benefits of daily movement, it's also to soak up any beauty I see around me, appreciate the natural world we live in, and get energy from nature. How I feel after a workout in the gym versus one outside is completely different. I get a boost outside I don't get inside; I feel happier, more grateful, more content.

These last days of summer and certainly every warm fall day we get (and who am I kidding, come winter, too) I'll be reveling in nature.

Yesterday I attended the play, "Nature," at the Minnesota Arboretum, about the relationship between Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, and their relationship with nature. It's fantastic, and if you're in the area, I highly recommend it, as much for the play itself as for the fact the stage is outdoors and the audience walks to the different sets. The wind, the sky, the sun, the clouds, the birds were as much a part of the performance as the actors. Movement+outdoors+theater=my kind of art.

I know I need to be outside, but for those who need a prescription, here it is:

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


I feel as if a small bomb has exploded in my schedule. Keeping track of the lessons, games, practices, safety patrol schedule, birthday parties, etc. feels like trying to catch the debris raining around me without letting it hit the floor (or at least picking it up soon after). I have entered a new stage of parenting, for sure, and I am adjusting.

However, because I am attracted to chaos, I took on something new recently: Becoming a volunteer coach for a new program at our elementary school called, More Than Pink, which is an 8-week program to help girls become "strong inside and out." We will be training for a 5K, but the goal is to expose the girls to many fitness options so they can find one or five activities they enjoy as they grow up. You know I did not need to do one more thing, but you also know I couldn't possibly turn this down. I've been living this and writing about this for years; to bring this to life for 20 young girls, was a no-brainer. (So much for my 35 kid-free hours a week while children are in school.) You'll hear more about this in future posts, for sure.

Because I would be helping girls train to run a 5K, I had something to do before the program started (today). I had to start running.

A week ago Monday a took a lovely 4-mile walk with a friend. She was on the come-back trail too, so we both took small nips at a slow run pace as we felt up to it. Later that evening, while my daughter was at softball practice and the other three were riding bikes or rollerblading around the park I tested myself with a one-mile-no-walk-break run.

On Wednesday, at the same softball practice, I tested my running for somewhere between a mile-and-a-half and two miles.

On Friday, with two friends, we ran three miles with walking breaks.

On Sunday, alone, I ran three miles without stopping.

Check. I have officially started running again.

Still, I had more to take on. If I was going to survive this new stage of parenting, while taking on my coaching roll, while running again, I knew I would need to be dedicated to yoga and restorative exercise, lest my body and mind go on strike. I signed up for one month of unlimited yoga at my favorite studio to 1) see how many classes in a week I would really go and 2) compel myself to go to get my money's worth.

Honestly, with all on my plate, if I were only paying by the class, I don't think I would go. Instead going to yoga three or four times a week has been a standing appointment for me-time and has kept my body feeling great. Every time I get ready to go to class I argue with myself about how I don't have time. Every time I leave I am so grateful I went. I know that the busier I feel and the more hectic my schedule is, the more I need yoga, no matter how counterintuitive it feels to take time out.

I am still trying to "go to the light" as my previous post suggests, but the light keeps moving. Soon fall softball will end, but music lessons will begin for the twins; Saturday night tennis lessons will end, but Tuesday night tennis lessons will start; there's basketball and swim team looming in the future for certain children. My busy time has flipped. When the kids were all home, my busy time was during the day. Now my busy time starts after school and extends into the night.

I'm adjusting. I am adjusting with room for running and yoga.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

What I Learned Over Summer Vacation

School starts today (tomorrow for my Kindergartener making today torture for both of us). What a summer. What a great summer. I spent the last day reflecting on what I discovered.

1) My 11-year-old daughter on the gymnastics team is stronger than her mom. This is the same kid who knew her mom was strong enough to pick her up and carry her (kicking and screaming if necessary) into wherever she didn't want to go. Not anymore, although to be fair to her she doesn't pull those stunts anymore, just the stunts she's learned in gymnastics. She can do more pull ups than me. She can hang from a tree branch and then pull her legs all the way up. I tried this because it looked easy. I was wrong. But now this has become something I want to do, at least get my legs up to hip height anyway. I'll show her...

2) Because my other 11-year-old is taking tennis and I'm taking tennis, we have enjoyed hitting balls together. I am not any better than she is. We are well matched for practicing. What I know is this: if she keeps up with tennis, she too will surpass my ability. The only thing to do is to keep up with my own game.

3) I no longer scoff at the crazy schedules for kids who play ball. My sisters boys play baseball and she is forever driving to practices and games. It seemed too much; summer was supposed to be less structured and filled. Now having a daughter who has fallen head over heels for softball I am in that crazy. But here's the thing: a ball field is a pretty great place to spend your summer evenings. The other kids tagged along, played at the park, rollerbladed or walked the dog with me. The Boy learned to ride his bike without training wheels while his sister practiced. When she wanted to play fall ball I was happy to oblige. Let's go play!

4) Kindergarten is perfectly timed. Despite screen time rules at our house The Boy is constantly gravitating toward the computer. He has learned how to work the remote and so, can turn on the television and find his favorite recorded shows. I have worked hard to keep him busy but I am all out of answers for when he asks each night, "What are we going to do in the next mornin'?" Finally I get to say, "Go to school!"

5) I have a lot to learn about gardening. I doubled my vegetable garden this year and I am probably reaping half the bounty I did last year. The wet weather is partly to blame (white mold on all my squash and cucumbers), but the gardener needs to study up on best practices. I did enjoy the time I spent in the garden. I might be hard pressed to call it a workout though, since I usually held a glass of wine in one hand while weeding with the other.

6) In general I stand by my principle that my house needs only be "clean enough." A clean-enough house in the summer is not nearly as clean as a clean-enough house during the school year. That's just the way it is.

7) I struggled to find 30 minutes in my day to do my Exercise Snacks, the restorative exercise videos that help keep my back and hip from assuming their faulty positions that produce discomfort. I realized, it's not so much that I can't carve out 30 minutes to do what I know will help me, but that when it's summer and beautiful outside, I don't want to be doing anything in front of a screen (so unlike my son), I'd rather go on a hike or bike ride, be on the tennis court or on a paddleboard. My low back and hip are begging me to please prioritize some screen time.

I could go on, but alarm clocks will go off soon. There will be breakfasts and bagged lunches to make. Hair to fix. Backpacks to adjust. The bus comes in an hour. September is here!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Go to the Light

My favorite summer photo.
Our back-to-school night is Wednesday. Significant for me this particular year because all four kids will attend. All four kids will go to school. All four. All day. I can't wrap my brain around what that's going to be like.

I have fantasies of being crazy productive. Getting to every last messy drawer, wiping out cabinets, organizing closets and still having ample time to work and write, with time to spare for daily activity, yoga and meditation.

Seven hours a day seems downright excessive. Even as I write this I'm doing the math. That's 35 kid-free hours a week. That's a long time. I'm going to miss them.

Realistically I know those seven hours will fly by and I had better stick to my early bird schedule; get as much done before the house awakes. Time feels as if it ticks by faster with each hour. Plus, back-to-school comes with it's own back-to-busy schedule. Come afternoon when all four kids are heading in different directions (no one kid is overcommitted with activities but mom is overcommitted trying to get them to and from activities) my time will no longer be my own. 

Two years ago I posted "Back to School Rules for Fit Moms." I think it's worth repeating them again. September is a time to get back to a routine. Sometimes it takes a few weeks for patterns to emerge, and in between the obligations, prisms of light. Go to the light. That light is your "me time" and those rays of time often don't last long. When it comes to your fitness here's how to turn that time into a good sweat.

1) Acquire an appreciation for darkness. Days are only getting shorter. So much for all that talk about "go to the light." Instead, I say, "welcome to the dark side." I've said it over and over here, if you want to guarantee a workout, best do it before everyone wakes up. Mind you, not every day, unless you're sadistic like that. If you start with promises to get up at 5 a.m. every morning guns firing to make that exercise habit stick, you will end up too exhausted to carry on and very likely become, in your family's eyes, the scary monster that has indeed emerged from the dark side. My formula is is to determine the minimum number of days you want to work out each week. Subtract that number with the number of workout days you know you can get in on the weekend. That's how many days during the work week you need to get up super early. (Click here for my tips on working out in the dark.) If you don't get that workout in first thing, something will come up later and interfere with your workout. Often for me, it's an unscheduled trip to the pediatrician for something stupid like a lego stuck up a nostril.

2) It's acceptable to wear workout clothes to volunteer at school and/or attend PTO meetings. I know you want to look buttoned up like the other moms who will be there. But your kids' schools need your participation--they need a warm body. So what if it happens to be a little warmer than the other parents? If your opportunity to get some exercise comes with walking/running/biking to and from the school (extra points for the environment!), or a workout between leaving the office and that PTO meeting, do it. I'm not condoning waltzing through the school doors in running shorts and a jog bra (not cool, for so many reasons, don't make me list them). This is a situation when all-day workout wear comes in handy. (Here's a look at the all-day workout wear in my closet.) No need to change in a telephone booth supermom.

3) Acquire the tools to "couple up." (That's for the Thomas the Train fans out there). If you still have little ones who aren't yet in school, having some way to "couple up" for fitness time is mandatory. At least it prevents you from missing out on fitness opportunities. You can meet with a friend to run or ride and not worry about getting a sitter. You can run or ride errands (taking the bike trailer to Target is a great way to prevent "over shopping"). You can squeeze in that Plan B workout when you fail to get up early. Even for the kids who are in school, consider going on a hike, run or ride with them, too, after school. Great bonding time for the family. Worried about the whining you'll hear from your kids? Tune it out and stick with it. They need the movement as much as you do. They'll thank you later. Just remember you're right. You're the mom.

4) Learn something new. You're probably not in school anymore but you're still breathing in that air of excitement that comes with the start of the school year. Go for it! Try a class at the fitness center, set a new goal for yourself, do something new as a family. As I was signing kids up for their fall activities I noticed a Tai Chi class starts in September at our local community center. I am signing up! Don't wait until the New Year to try something new or make changes in your life. Now is the time.

5) It's OK to sit down. What with all these rules to find ways to move in your day, I have to include at least one for slowing down and being still. Busy moms often forget how to do this. Just the other day I was eating lunch, all but one of the kids was out of the house, and there I was standing up as I ate. There was an empty table right before me. Chairs. To sit in. But there I stood. I shook my head, brought my plate to the table and sat down. Beyond the simple and obvious ways to be still, try (and I know this is hard) to take time to center yourself. At a minimum allow yourself three deep breaths, even if you have to do this while sitting on the toilet because that's the only alone time you get. Don't forget to lock the door.

Frankly, I'm not ready for summer to be over. The best part of my summer vacation is that I haven't lost it with my kids this year. Not sure if that's because I've finally figured out the right mix of busy time and down time or because of their growing independence. We've had a blast and I'm not ready to say goodbye. Still, the thought of getting back some structure is pretty appealing, too. (OMG, 35 hours a week!)

Are you signing up for a new class this fall? What was the best part of your summer vacation?