Tuesday, September 30, 2008
If any of you are in the Twin Cities area or traveling here for the marathon this weekend, I'd love to see you! As some of you already know I'm co-writing a book called, "Hot (Sweaty) Mamas: Five Secrets to Life as a Fit Mom," -- it 's in the hands of an agent right now so keep your fingers crossed -- and my co-author, Laurie, and I will be speaking on Friday night at 6 pm at the expo. We're honored to be part of a great line up that includes Kristin Armstrong. I'm a fan of hers (she has twin girls too, so that seals the deal), plus I've also had an essay published in the same magazine with one of hers. I suspect she'll have an easier time drawing a crowd... so whether it's out of genuine interest or pure pity, I'd love to see your smiling face in the audience. And be sure to ask plenty of engaging questions. And laugh in all the appropriate places. And clap. Loudly. Then make sure to introduce yourself because I'll owe you a drink.
Monday, September 29, 2008
I remember when I was in my 20s, single, living alone, I could work out whenever it was convenient, which was most often in the evening after work. Eventually I saw the merits of early morning workouts (one less thing to get done at the end of the day) especially as I became more "serious," training for marathons or triathlons. I've always been a morning person, though, so the transition wasn't too difficult.
Now, 15 years later, married with kids, I work out whenever I can, which is to say is when it's convenient for all involved, which is to say takes planning, coordination and communication. The only workouts I can truly count on happening are those early morning sweats; my Tuesday and Friday runs with Pam. Normally I like to exercise five or six days a week. That's a good week. I'm always happy with four. But, because I have those two early mornings set in stone for my runs, I always know I'll get two workouts in a week. And last week, that's all I got. I was grateful for that. Two is better than zero.
I always loved having accomplished my workout early in the day, but doing so now has become even more important. The early morning workout empowers me as a fit mom (see, I can do this!) and makes me feel more capable all around. Maybe it's just having a little time for me before anyone else wakes up to help me feel more centered. Maybe it's that I don't have to be concerned about others who may or may not hassle me about spending time in the gym's childcare center. Maybe it's that I don't want to miss out on anything else fun going on during the day. Maybe it's that I also get time for a cup of coffee, a quick read of the newspaper, and a visit to the bathroom without small children barging in on my "quiet time," which is probably just as important as the time I allot for exercise. It's all good. Worth whatever sleep I miss. I highly recommend it.
Anyhoo, I consider all this because there was some great info on Jen Sinkler's Survival of the Fittest blog about benefits of evening workouts (and a killer sprint track workout). Me, I'm just too dog tired after 6 pm to have the motivation to raise my heart rate (assuming I could escape the three ring circus that exists for most families in the evening). I do make exceptions for Women's Adventure Night. I do know, for some moms it isn't until the kids are tucked in bed that they can lace up their shoes and head out for exercise. Which is it for you? Does the time you work out coincide with what works best for your body and your schedule?
Even if evening workouts were convenient, considering all the benefits I listed above, I still believe morning is best for me. Plus, I'd miss seeing the sun rise on those early runs.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Just a short vent today. Why is it everything my kids do requires a snack? Have you signed your kids up for anything lately that didn't include a "snack sign up" for parents? Sometimes I want to say, "Really, my kids can last two hours without a snack!" I realize at certain hours of the day, a snack might be smart--who knows what low blood sugar can do to an already temperamental kid--but it feels like we can't go anywhere or do anything without working in a snack. The girls get to preschool at 9 a.m. and have lunch at 11:30, and somewhere in between have a snack, too. This isn't the way we operate at home. But the funny thing is they've come to expect they'll have a snack just about everywhere we go. Can we stop the snack madness?
For those parents who are interested in more info on influencing kids activity and eating habits check out a recent post and a boatload of great comments over at MizFit.
Monday, September 22, 2008
Introducing Zoe, the Great Squirrel Hunting Black Greybador Retriever
Like many moms out there my "first born," was a puppy. We picked up our pup at the humane society for our one-year anniversary present. Probably the best anniversary gift ever. She was black, with a few white markings and if my husband weren't so tall he wouldn't have seen her locked up in solitary confinement in the top row of kennels. We were told she would probably grow to be a medium-size dog of some lab and border collie mix. In reality she grew into 65 pounds and if consensus is any indicator she is more of a lab-greyhound mix.
We named her Zoe and began spoiling her immediately. Case in point: While we were both avidly training at the time, we each walked her daily. Two long squirrel chasing, fish rolling, lake swimming walks. She always interacted well with other dogs at the dog park (conveniently located across the street) and had such a great temperament that she became a therapy dog and made visits to a nearby rehab and children's hospital. Zoe even knows a magic trick.
Life changed for her the moment I became pregnant. And I mean moment, because I noticed her behavior change as soon as I took the pregnancy test. She became less a zeta dog and more alpha. She did not like other dogs anywhere near me. And when I had the babies. She took up vigil by their side; left bones under their cribs; and on walks, when people stopped me to coo at the babies she would lay her head on top of the babes in the stroller and emit a barely audible growl. She eventually became less protective of them as they grew older, but when I'm with child (like now) she becomes more protective of me.
Which is why I ended up in a rose bush on my last run. I was coming up a hill and another man was coming down (wearing headphones) with his dog. He was giving his dog slack on the leash so that the dogs might say "hi," as I was tightening the slack on mine, yelling to deaf hears, "she's not friendly with other dogs!" Since that wasn't working I scooted further back, along a slight incline, and fell into a rose bush, which I couldn't get out of without Workout Partner Pam's assistance. Really, what are running partners for?
And Zoe has also turned into one of my running partners since children came along. When before, if she saw us in running clothes she would refuse to go out with us (she knew this meant no squirrel chasing or time to find dead fish), now she knows this is her way out. Hey, we've all had to make sacrifices for the kids. Zoe is almost nine years old, but when I took her to the vet--one we had never seen before--she said while using the stethoscope: "She has a runner's heart!" Zoe is a great dog (except when she eats poo), but I was particularly proud of her for this and felt like a good parent for it too.
If people sometimes get a dog to "practice" before having children, then I have to say we've done a pretty good job as canine parents, which gives me hope for my children's future, especially when it comes to having "a runner's heart." I've always said I want to leave a legacy of fitness and health for my children and now I know I've at least done that for Zoe.
But before I go, here's a tip for the day for not so good dogs you might run into on a run or ride -- advice from my dog loving friend Ginger: Whenever you see a dog charging you (and I learned this while climbing a hill out in the Texas country where two HUGE white doberman pinchers came after us every time), yell in your meanest authoritative voice, "BAD DOG!" Any dog who has been around humans has heard this and it always makes them stop and look sheepish. I had the opportunity to use this tactic over the weekend and, as usual, worked like a charm.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Do you remember that moment of clarity (you might have been a little pissed off about it too) when you realized you will never finish the laundry? That there is no end point, no peak to reach and look out and then raise your arms in triumph? I remember those early hazy days with newborns (and so many many barfed-on clothes) when my biggest frustration was that I couldn't seem to put closure on anything I did. Five years later that's pretty much still the case, but now knowing the motherhood job spins in a never-ending cycle has reduced the stress of wanting to see a "finish line."
That's what life was like before kids. I set goals, trained, and raced toward a finish. Regardless of how that finish turned out I was always happy to be at the conclusion, take a little physical and/or mental break then get back to the business of reaching another finish line. My job producing a medical journal was like that, too. I delivered an end product every month. It was done. I could look at the finished product, take a breath, then start on the next issue.
Laundry just isn't like that. I tried doing the laundry on certain days. Mondays: Darks. Tuesdays: Lights. Wednesdays: Kid's clothes. Thursdays: Towels and Linens. That plan failed miserable. It might work if all I had to do was simply wash the clothes, but the folding and putting away? Nothing was ever done by Friday. Clothes--dirty and clean--sat around in piles or in laundry baskets on the weekend, and then before all the clothes could be put in their proper drawers and closets it was Monday all over again. I spent a few weeks feeling like a failure that I couldn't master the laundry (when once I had edited articles on umbilical cord blood transplants, capsule endoscopy, and non-small-cell lung cancer--why did this get to me?).
Even after I realized it couldn't ever be finished--and that was the victory people, you know what I mean if you've discovered that too--I still tried to put laundry duty on my weekly to-do list. It took all of one week when I remembered the futility of laundry. It will get done when it gets done. And it's so in-your-face, who needs the reminder? Likewise, if it doesn't get done, will the world come to an end?
By the way, this week I did feel empowered doing laundry. I like to separate the normal, everyday dark clothes from the sweaty dark work out clothes (this second pile is always bigger at our house--how about yours?) Even while being overcome with the smell, I was a little amazed by how many jog bras I pulled out, running skirts, yoga pants, smaller cycling shorts. Yeah me! I thought; I'm producing at least half of the smelly sweaty laundry! (This is at 18 weeks pregnant, is an especially significant accomplishment for me.)
Back to that to-do list, do you have one? I hate the never-ending list that can pile up on a scratch piece of paper and leave you like a deer in the headlights because you don't know where to start. Keeping that to-do on my phone or fancy software program has not helped me either. I have a calendar, but you have to write things down in it and then look at it every day for it to be effective. My best solution for keeping track of the things I can't keep in my head (severely limited) is to keep my weekly schedule in a word program (which I open every day because I'm either writing something or reading something or both in said word program). I have a separate document for week one, week two, week three and week four for the month. There's quite a bit that stays the same, like my twice-weekly runs with Pam, the girls' ice skating lessons, monthly editing deadlines, etc. So I write them down just once in those documents (I hate redundancy). I also include mundane things that I find easy to forget, like watering the plants and trash day. Then there's a column for the stuff that are one time occurrences: doctor's appointments, social outings, etc. It's been the only system I actually use and works for me. However after booking my family for a weekend away when I was supposed to volunteer for the Iron Girl Duathlon I realized even the best system fails with human error.
What you say folks? What works for you in keeping track of the many balls in your air? If this system does make you feel like you can reach the peak and raise your arms in triumph, please do share.
Monday, September 15, 2008
So Jennifer Lopez finished her first triathlon yesterday. While I generally don't follow the lives of celebrities (unless I'm getting my hair cut, which is the only time I read People) as a triathlete and mother of twins I suddenly had more interest in the goings on of J-Lo.
Although I know her primary motivation was to raise money for a children's charity, it was nice to see a celebrity take on sport as a way to get in shape post pregnancy versus the crash diets and secret workout of the stars to be cover model ready minutes after giving birth. What I had read in People (while getting my hair cut, of course) was that she wanted to do something to make her babies proud. Not make a movie, cut a new record, design a new line of clothes. Finish a triathlon. Suddenly I felt like I had a little something in common with the diva.
And at the same time I applaud that reason for racing, I remember how I felt the first six months with newborn twins. It was a maniacal schedule of feeding, diapering, clothing, burping, and catching my breath. Notice I didn't mention sleep. They didn't sleep. We didn't sleep. Training for a triathlon sounded about as much fun as sucking my eyeballs out of my head with my breast pump.
Oh, I tried running, but when you've had 13 pounds of baby on your bladder for a few months, your bladder doesn't respond so well to the movin' and a shakin'. Running with big boobs didn't suit me so well, either. I love the idea of having bigger boobs, but having had big boobs on loan during stints of breast feeding I know they're not for me. But mostly, I can't handle sleep deprivation. So it wasn't until they started sleeping that I started moving my body more. I know some women bounce back from pregnancy and childbirth much faster. I just don't happen to be one of them.
But when I did start working out more, I learned a very important lesson about motherhood. What I used to refer to as "me time," those luxurious moments spent frivolously on myself were no longer there for the taking. While I had never considered my time working out as "me time," now suddenly that's where it belonged. And I had to negotiate this "me time," with my husband or a sitter. That took some getting used to.
I would have loved to hear how J-Lo had managed any of the issues of body retaliation or managing training with motherhood (we all know by now she isn't using a nanny, right?). Certainly there had to be a few comical stories in there, no? Did she ever show up to a workout with a burp cloth draped around her shoulder? Wear gym clothes that smelled like baby poop? Bring her diaper bag instead of her gym bag to the work out?
But what I'm really waiting to find out is if J-Lo will be a one-hit wonder on the triathlon scene or if she'll be back to make her kids proud again.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
So I was having a wee problem with motivation this week. I thought a Monday morning spin class would be a great way to kick off my week, but when Monday morning actually rolled around I remembered how I hate doing ANYTHING on Monday mornings. You can't even believe how well I smooth-talked my way out of going to the gym. I vowed to go on Wednesday. While I was scrambling to get everyone fed Wednesday morning I looked up at the clock and realized it was already 9 a.m. The class started at 9:30. I started considering alternatives: getting my bike on the trainer (knew I wouldn't push myself as hard, questioned if I'd even get on the bike), going to a later yoga class (really preferred a good sweat), going to the track workout later that evening (wasn't sure I could make it there on time either, so it was a gamble). As the clock ticked I decided I'd go for it. The mad scramble to get three kids dressed and out the door began. I knew I was going to be late and I almost let this be my excuse not to go. But so what? Was the instructor going to hand me a tardy slip? Send me to the principal's office? Maybe I would endure a little heckling, but I decided it was worth the risk for the abbreviated work out. We were in the car at 9:30 a.m. Arrived at the gym at 9:36. Checked in at the childcare center by 9:40 (thank goodness the girls cooperated). On my spin bike by 9:42 (no heckling). Sweating profusely by 9:55. I got in a 45-minute cardio workout that wouldn't have happened if I had succumbed to my excuses. I was happy about that. Yes, I need to work on my morning plan to get to class on time, but if I don't, I'm still going!
How about you--if you're late do you bag it? If you're a fitness instructor, how do you feel about people popping into your class late?
Monday, September 8, 2008
Like most moms this time of year I'm trying to nail down our schedule. This includes the extra activities for the kids, yes, but mom's workout schedule, too. So far, my running days stay the same (the beauty of running before the rest of the world rises) and I can still make it to my weekly weight class. Now, what about yoga, cycling, kickboxing and any other fitness fun? (I want to try kettlebells like all the other cool kids--unless a bikini is standard attire, in which case I better not.)
But first... we must sign up for extracurricular activities for the chilluns. Tip: If you wait until the last minute, like me, then you won't be as inundated with options because most of those options will already be "full."
Once you've narrowed down the options (or they have been narrowed down for you), it's time to pick one activity. There are many merits of choosing just one activity, namely avoiding the overscheduled syndrome of many families (and so you still have time to workout yourself). Then there's the fact my kids are still pretty young. I want them to have plenty of time for dress up, hide and seek, playing babies and hanging out with me. But I'd be remiss if I didn't add that any activity times three is an investment. So, better pick something they're going to like.
A good place to start is by asking them what they want to do. This year I didn't need to ask. They have been telling me for about six months that they want to take ice skating. Their best buddy is in a hockey class and they've watched their cousin, a babysitter, and a neighbor skate in an "ice show." They, too, wanted to skate. Bad. So last Thursday I showed up at a nearby ice center 45 minutes before the scheduled registration time (although I was told some parents might be there hours before) and got in line with my three girls and many other skating and hockey parents. I was obviously a rookie showing up in shorts. It was cold in there. An hour later I had the twins in a skate class at the same time my 3-year-old and I could take a "pals" class. This was a coup--to get all three girls in a class at the same time. And even though I didn't have a strong desire to participate in the skating class... better to be moving than shivering in the stands with an oversized fountain drink and a bag of chips. I'll let you know if it "counts" as workout.
But I left the ice arena secretly hoping they would not love ice skating--enough to commit the rest of their childhood lives to it, anyway. I keep reminding myself this is the "hunting and gathering" phase. It's about learning new skills, trying new things and finding something they're passionate about. In an effort to explore, we also took a trial gymnastics class at two different places, and again, I'm not so sure I'd want my daughters to get caught up in such a high-stress sport, but man did they love jumping on trampoline's and swinging from ropes and bars. It's a lot warmer in their too. We haven't tried any martial arts, any "ball sports," and what about snowboarding or cross country skiing? Oh right. They're five and three... Relax mom.
In the process I'm trying real hard not to create any preconceived notions of what I want them to be. And how much of this is about me? Is their activity tied into what kind of mom I want to be: Soccer mom? Hockey mom? Dance mom? Gymnastics mom? Swimming mom? What if one of my girls takes up and loves curling? We live in Minnesota after all. Think of the gold medal possibilities... I could become the Debbie Phelps of the curling world.
Yesterday the girls watched their dad and uncle finish a half-ironman triathlon. We all had a good time and I can't help but wonder if the exposure to this sport (that I unabashedly love) will draw them toward it (but no pressure!) or if they'll look at it as "what mom and dad do" and then recall turning five by saying, "remember that stupid triathlon birthday party mom and dad made us have?" As they grow older will they distance themselves from triathlon or adopt the sport as part of their lifestyle too? Confession: I can't help but think of professional triathlete Lori Bowden, whose parents were triathletes too.
Oh, to have that crystal ball! OK, I'll just live in the moment and be glad my children are active and open to physical activity of all kinds--read: not part of the childhood obesity epidemic. I just need to make sure I'm open, too. Even if that means I become a curling mom.
Monday, September 1, 2008
Well, well, well. It turns out, "little miss I thrive on chaos," discovered her limit last week. This was a real melt down, too. A full day of funk that I could not immediately laugh about (mostly I can cry and then simultaneously laugh about what I'm crying about). Actually, I still can't laugh about it, but I've recovered. And when I say "recovered," I don't mean that I've solved the problem... the problem? Let's see if I can describe it: Likely originated with the flood we had in June. Since repair work began at our house we have had a plethora of people arrive daily at about 7 a.m. We have had to be gone all day almost every day. Yes, we've had a lot of fun exploring, but deep down we're all home bodies (especially in the morning and late afternoon, say about when Oprah comes on, er, I mean when it's time to fold laundry). Aside from being tired of being gone all the time and tired of having people in the house, there are very few rooms that aren't effected by the flood and those unaffected rooms are piled to the ceiling with furniture from the rooms that were effected. We have no table and chairs on which to eat. We ate breakfast in our bed, which was fun at first, until my husband and I started waking up with bagel crumbs stuck to our back. The solution: dining on the ironing board. I must say, when I can rally like that, those are proud moments for me. But then I get sucked under because there isn't a living room to congregate in. No room for the girls to spread out their My Little Ponies or Barbies. No place to color. No place to read the newspaper (no, you're right, we still have toilets for that). I am not a neat freak by any stretch, but the piles of laundry (because when am I supposed to do that?), the dog hair accumulating on the floor, and the layers of dust on what visible surfaces we have left, were really starting to get on me. That is, when we were home. But I knew it could be worse, this was after all, just a flood from a possessed toilet, not a hurricane or a breeched levee. And I had constant reminders that I should be grateful it was summer and not winter. Truly that would be much worse. But after picking out a certain paint color for a room that let's see, how to put it, made me gasp in shock because I was so certain I would love it and I most certainly did not, the unraveling began. I don't like to think that being pregnant contributed to the unraveling, but sure, let's just throw it into the mix, too. Whatever.
A very wise woman who happened to be present for the unraveling summed it up very quickly: "You don't have control over anything in your life right now." It made enough sense for me to grab onto it like a life support. I think being able to wrap your arms around what is so upsetting gets you halfway out of funkville. I believe what she said is true and I do think that's the root cause of my meltdown, but the other side of me, that side which is rational, level-headed, high functioning and able to cope with just about anything says: "Who really ever has control?" Maybe we can control certain situations, control our intentions. But control our life? The lives of others? That perception was confirmed a few days later when I learned about the death of triathlete Barbara Warren, who crashed her bike, broke her neck, could do nothing but blink her eyes and through this blinking asked her family to take her off the respirator. Ultimately, I suppose Barbara had control. But I don't think that's how she saw it.
I think the absolute first lesson of motherhood is that, in fact, we don't have control. However we can have, and I think we strive for, the illusion of control. Is that happiness?
One of the reasons I believe I have a high tolerance for chaos is because I was raised on the Desiderata by Max Ehrmann. Growing up, a framed copy hung in our hallway. Anytime one of us kids was upset about something, disappointed with our lot in life, or generally unhappy (does this sound like the majority of teenagers?) my mother would hold us by the shoulders and walk us to the Desiderata and make us read it out loud, which we did grumbling and rolling our eyes. For those who didn't have a mother who made you memorize this by the time you were 18, here it is:
Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
Isn't that first line a gem? And a good mantra for motherhood. A good mantra for me as the work continues on our house. The next verse is even better. There is always people I meet who impress me and I have to fight off those feelings of, "why can't I be like her?"
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
That part about my humble career is nice, too. So what if I don't have a New York Times best seller. I love to write. Sometimes I get paid for it. I'm writing right now. It is a real possession for me regardless of how "successful" it is. And what is more humbling or more rewarding than the profession of motherhood?
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let not this blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment love is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
While I'm all over the counsel of years --wouldn't trade being 20 again--the surrendering the things of youth is a different story. I'm all done baring my midriff, if that's what he means. But otherwise, what makes "a thing of youth"? When my 97-year-old grandfather tried riding around on his bike a few years ago he got into a bit of trouble with his children. Me? I couldn't blame him...
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams; it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
My mom still knows what is best for me after all these years and being so many miles away. How is it that I can relate so well to the Desiderata as a teenager and as an-approaching-40-year-old mom? Apparently the Desiderata is still relevant to me and, like my mother always knew, a good antidote for meltdowns.
Later in my life another wise woman said to me: We can make life as difficult or as easy as we want it to be. This is not to say we have control over whether we "get" an easy life or a difficult life, an easy day or a difficult day, but rather what we do with those circumstances. In a way I think that sums up the Desiderata perfectly, and it's become words to live by.
Well, thanks for joining me in this therapy session today. I promise not all my blogging will be so cathartic, or so long. If this is a holiday for you, enjoy. And, strive to be happy.