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?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Not Late for Bootcamp with BabyWeight.tv

I am loving life in the sweet spot, mothering children who are neither toddlers not teenagers. Life as a fit mom is easier for sure. For starters, everyone can put on their own shoes and buckle their own seat belts. No diaper bag. No sippy cups.

Getting out the door with toddlers is typically worthy of a scene written for Lucille Ball. I remember one winter morning trying to get to the gym when my twins had just turned three and my younger daughter, JC, was about 18 months—the age of undressing. No sooner had I bundled the twins up in coats and shoes than JC had completely undressed herself and removed her “poopy” diaper. Not quite old enough to get herself on the toilet but old enough to know she didn’t like wearing a dirty diaper. The dog found the dirty diaper before I did. By the time I got her cleaned up and dressed again the twins had removed their coats and shoes. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Getting to the indoor cycle class that was about to start felt like an act of futility. Still I made the decision to forge ahead, herd my cats and get the gym, even if it meant showing up late. That morning was the inspiration for the video cartoon, “Late for Bootcamp.”

I'm pretty sure I would have loved something like BabyWeight.tv back then. Even though I'm in the "sweet spot" I'm eager to try it out because no matter what stage your kids are in, having home-workouts are important to include in your options. This is especially so when you have little ones. Micky Morrison, BabyWeight.tv founder, has generously offered a 6-month subscription to a Mama Sweat reader and that reader is...

Lisa Anderson!

Lisa and I will try out some of the videos and let you know what we think. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Katy and Kara Together At Last

Meeting Katy Bowman in person for the first time. I was
super self-conscious about keeping my pelvis untucked
and my rib cage down. Clearly forgot about rotating my shoulders.
I won't be long... all I have to do is brag about how I got to meet Katy Bowman in person last week. You know Katy, too, because most of my readers came about because of the blog posts Katy and I collaborated on regarding the pelvic floor. To be clear I had nothing profound to say about pelvic floor health, I just asked the questions. As you know, Katy rocked the world with her game-changing approach to pelvic floor health (aside from giving us permission to pee in the shower). She said last week had she known 80,000 people would be reading that post she might have gone about her presentation a bit differently. Alas, Pelvic Floor Party: Kegels NOT Invited remains my most popular post. The word continues to get out to the masses.

Getting my books signed.
I got to meet some of those people at a reading and book signing for Katy's new book, Move Your DNA. It is hard for me to convey how honored I was to meet people--many of whom were yoga teachers, physical therapists, pilates instructors--who read that post and were changed, not just for their own personal health, but then went on to help other people as certified Restorative Exercise Specialists.

I thought back to hearing one of my favorite writers Anne LaMott say once that she didn't like blogs, would never write one and, in fact, wished she had a t-shirt that said: "No one reads your blog." Thanks to Anne LaMott, I've had a bit of a complex about having any sort of audience here. But there I was last week, standing in a room with people who did in fact read my blog! (Thank you!)
Proof! That's Sandy Parker between
Katy and I. She owns a yoga studio
in Michigan and reads this blog!

That people read my blog still surprises me, but learning that they used it as a catalyst to change their life and help others, well, it gave me chills. Before that night I would have told you it was cool as a blogger to have a post go viral. Now I feel overwhelmed and humbled by the action taken by so many to take Katy's message, spread it, and do some good. I am so honored that Mama Sweat has been that gateway.

For those who have not met Katy yet (bragging!), she is just as funny and delightful in person as she is on her blog and in her videos. My three takeaways from her talk:

  1. The little changes we make to improve alignment, even when the correction only lasts a few seconds, is meaningful to our health and is an improvement if only to bring change into our consciousness. (This makes me feel better about being a chin jutter and my slacking shoulders. I try. I fail. I try some more.)
  2. Even when we go out on a walk or run we are never as far out of the chair as we think we are. (Yeah. Our shortened muscle length follows us around. We have to keep doing something about it. And so...)
  3. Your body adapts to what you do most frequently, not what you do most enthusiastically. 

Enthusiastically blogging about improving my alignment (while sitting) will not help. So up I get and off I go! Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 4, 2014

What we Need When we Need It (Give Away Alert!)

For the first time in a long time I don't have a membership to a gym. This is not a huge issue since I don't workout in a gym most days of the week. Still I used the facilities regularly the last 11 years as a parent (with special thanks to the child center, for which I owe my sanity during those toddler years). The last year I've especially enjoyed a weekly yin yoga class and Pilates session, which I have become addicted to grown to love.

Early in the summer I started thinking about what I would do without a gym membership and planning for the change to my fitness routine. Before I could bend the will of the fitness world my way, fitness opportunities began falling in my lap, as if the Universe was saying, "Hey, got your back, try this!"

The first message was a gentle reminder that I wanted to explore Tai Chi. I took my first Tai Chi class more than a year-and-a-half ago, but the timing wasn't right to keep going. Despite looking high and low I couldn't find a class near me at a time that fit my schedule. Tai Chi was on the back burner until last month. My sister-in-law does Tai Chi every morning and, while our families spent a few days together "Up North" during the July 4th weekend, she let me join her practice. I was a Tai Chi tagalong. Suddenly the timing felt right. I turned to Tai Chi Chih Everywhere, with lessons that provide a text description as well as a video for each of the 19 movements. I'm learning at my own pace, adding a step as I feel up to it. According to the website, "Tai Chi Chih is a gentle discipline based on ancient principles capable of bringing peace and serenity to those practicing regularly." Yes please!

I had also been thinking about how I'd like to get back to tennis. It's been five years since I took lessons and anytime I cross paths with a woman who plays tennis, I say, "I sure would like to to do that." Then I heard from my former tennis instructor who told me she is giving free lessons once a week in a neighboring town. Free tennis? With my favorite instructor? Coincidence? As it turns out, this is not just the Universe unfolding benevolently on my behalf. She is part of the Shakopee Tennis Association, which is raising funds to build an indoor tennis center (necessary in Minnesota if you want to play through the winter). The more interest in tennis, the more likely this awesome center will get built. I attended my first lesson last week and that dangling carrot worked on me. I had a blast, met new fit mamas, and am pleasantly sore as I write this post. Can't wait to go back.

I also heard from Micky Morrison, a physical therapist and perinatal fitness educator, and author of Baby Weight, a fitness guide for prenatal and postpartum moms. She told me she launched an online fitness video series on BabyWeight.TV after the book came out because of the demand from her readers for videos. She tells me:

To date we have recorded 130 fitness videos, of which over 100 are available on the subscription-based website. The exercises are easy to do right in your own living room, and each class targets the specific muscles affected by pregnancy. We feature yoga, core, and cardio classes for all stages of pregnancy and postpartum, and for beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels. Many of the exercises featured in the book and on the website incorporate the baby into them, and so they are great for busy new moms.
That sounded great, but her email got better:
Because you mentioned on your blog that you were taking time off from running and instead focusing on an exercise detox plan, I thought you might be interested in trying out some of the many post-postpartum videos that I myself still love practicing (and teaching) even though my son is eight! Since you enjoy Pilates, I think you will really like the PowerMama classes that combine yoga flows with strong core work. I would be happy to set up a three-month membership for you so that you will have access to all the 100+ videos on BabyWeight.TV to check out.
I feel like I'm getting what I need exactly when I need it. I'm going to add BabyWeight.TV to my workout options and you can too, because Micky is offering a free six-month membership to a Mama Sweat reader. That reader will become my BabyWeight.TV workout partner. We'll choose one workout a week to do for a month, then come back here to tell you about our experience.

Who wants to join me? To be considered please sign up to receive notification for the release of my upcoming eBook, Finding Fitness in the Chaos of Motherhood. The book is currently in the editing process and I've just launched (but still tweaking) a new website, www.lifeasafitmom.com. Click on the "Books by Kara" button and then the link to sign up for the eBook announcement. I'll choose randomly from that list on Sunday, August 17, and announce the winner on Monday, August 18.
I'd love a new workout partner and I'm pretty sure the Universe will pick the perfect "sweaty sister" for me. 

We'll get started in September: Back to School month. I mean, let's get the kids out of the house first! 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Keeping it Real: Life with a Fitbit

Recently I was out with my youngest daughter running a few errands. I should say walking a few errands. We parked the car then walked to the library, walked to the post office, walked to the ice cream shop (yes, it was an official errand).

Before we got out of the car though I realized I left my Fitbit at home. I had already logged about 6000 steps before I showered and changed. My Fitbit was tucked into those sweaty shorts, probably still lying on the bathroom floor.

I was Fitbitless. All that walking I planned to do would not get tracked. Those steps wouldn't count! For a millisecond I thought there was no point walking these errands, we might as well drive to our destinations. And then I came to my senses. My heart, lungs, and muscles would track these steps in their own natural way. They are no less real without a Fitbit.

The silliness of my irrationality reminded me of a funny essay by David Sedaris in the New Yorker, called "Stepping Out: Living the Fitbit Life." If you have not read this, please leave my blog straight away and enjoy his humor. If you're like me, obsessed with your Fitbit, you may wonder if his essay is really satire.