As I mentioned last week, I’m currently training to run a half marathon at the end of this month. I ran my first half marathon ten years ago. I can’t believe that it has already been an entire decade! After my first half, I did a few 5k’s and 10k’s here and there, but then we got married and started having babies and my running definitely took a back seat.
Training for the half this time around is so much different than it was ten years ago. Back then I was a full time college student and worked evenings in a call center to support myself. My husband and I had just started dating at that point. I came up with the idea of running the half marathon for cancer research (with Team in Training) and was able to convince him to do it with me since we were newly in love and newly in love boys will do anything for their lady.
This time around I work full time, have a husband who works full time and goes to school full time, we have two kids and a dog, I lead a small group at church, try to keep up with a blog (fail), and decided I’d grow all of our summer produce myself this year. Life is so much busier now, but interestingly I may be going into this half marathon slightly more prepared than last time. I thought I was busy back then. I’m not sure what I was so busy doing, maybe napping and dating that handsome man I now call husband, but in either case, life is a blur compared to the slow pace of my pre-baby days.
Motherhood has taught me a lot and I know I still have a lot to learn. Recently though, I’ve been learning how important it is to make myself and my health a priority. It’s important for me, it’s important for my kids, and it’s important for my marriage. But how are moms supposed to add in exercise and taking care of their own health when their calendars are maxed out with a million other things to do? My kids need me to take care of them, my house needs to be cleaned, my employer expects me to show up to work, my husband appreciates the chance to spend some quality time with me, my extended family plans events, the list is endless. I know you all know where I’m coming from.
I know that many (most) moms struggle with this. We all know how important it is to take care of ourselves. We know in our heads that we feel healthier when we exercise, we have more energy, we’re in a nicer mood, and our clothes fit better. But our head also tells us that our time with our kids is limited. Our brain tells us that the baby was up all night and we’re tired. It says our schedule is jam packed with meetings, school events, and ballet lessons. There just isn’t room, there isn’t time, maybe tomorrow, maybe when the kids are older, maybe next year, someday we hope to figure out how to fit it all in. But we never do. Unless we make ourselves a priority.
I am a happier mom when I fit in fitness. I am a more loving (and sexy) wife when I workout. I am a more productive employee when I get some exercise. I may live longer because I keep myself fit. I will be more energetic because I stay active. I set a good example for my kids because I make my workouts a priority. I take care of God’s temple when I fit in fitness. I teach myself perseverance when I reach my workout goals. You get the idea.
We all know these things in our head, it’s time to take some action and figure out how to prioritize taking care of ourselves.
Consider your life season.
You can’t do anything and everything in every season of life. It’s true that life goes by really fast, but the average life expectancy for women in America right now is about 80 years. There are lots of things that you can accomplish in 80 years! I have a dream of running a full marathon someday. I am not in a season of life where I have the time to train to run a full marathon, but if I have an average lifespan, I’ve still got about 50 years of life to go. I’m sure the older I get the harder it will be, but 80 year old’s still run marathons. I’m not going to let that discourage me today from doing something to improve my health.
When my kids were under the age of one my exercise options were pretty limited. Babies need their mommas, a lot. I was the primary source of food, the best comforter, and the coziest cradle. I knew all the tricks to soothe their cries and make everything better. I also couldn’t bear the idea of being away from my babies any longer than I needed to since I work full time and lose many precious moments as it is. This means that when my babies were little, I didn’t have the option of doing my favorite types of exercise very often (namely, running outside and attending yoga classes). But you can’t let the seasons of your life keep you from taking care of yourself.
We have to find options for exercise that fit our current life season. Maybe your best options right now are popping in some workout DVD’s during nap time or dusting off the exercise equipment in your basement after the kids go to bed for the night. Sometimes incorporating your kids into your exercise routine works great too. Bicep curls with baby as a weight, giving airplane rides to the baby laying on your shins, and push ups over the baby with kisses at the bottom are all really fun ways to incorporate fitness and little ones. One of my personal favorites (when my husband isn’t home) is to crank up the music and have a dance party in the kitchen. And of course, when the weather is nice, go for family walks, run races in the backyard with your little ones, or go on a bike ride to the park.
Now that my kids are older they love hanging out with their daddy and he’s more confident to be left alone with them since they can speak and eat real food. This means that I can head out on a beautiful Saturday morning for a 1-2 hour run or go to a class at they gym. I’m confident that my kids are being well taken care of and getting some quality daddy time.
When trying to fit in fitness, you have to consider what your life situation currently allows. Don’t get frustrated by your situation and decide that you can’t do anything. That is a lie. There is always something you can do. There are some amazingly fit and healthy moms who never leave their homes or children while exercising. You just have to figure out what works and do it.
Find your joy.
When I was in college I had a membership to the local gym. I went consistently for a while, but never truly enjoyed it. I’ve tried going off and on many times since then and just can’t get myself to stick with it. What I’ve realized is that when I exercise, I like to zone out. It’s my “me time”. I don’t want the “trainers” talking to me about bringing my friends to work out with me. I don’t want to have to worry about striking up a conversation with the lady on the treadmill next to me. I don’t want to stress about the young teen on the stair stepper judging my “curves”. I would much rather workout in the privacy of my own home or the open road where I can more easily block out the passing cars.
On the flip side, I know many people who thrive at the gym. They are motivated by the toned girl whipping around the weights. They love to make friends with the other gym goers to help pass the time. And they thrive on all of the different options for equipment and classes to keep changing up their workout routine. You’ve got to find the environment that works best for you and your exercise personality.
Recently I’ve really struggled with the fact that I’m a really slow runner and I really don’t like to push myself to keep running when my lungs are burning. It’s just not enjoyable. But I felt guilty calling myself a runner when I regularly take walk breaks. I felt embarrassed by my running times because they were several minutes slower then all my running friends. What I’ve realized is that I was missing the point. Last week I went out and traveled 11.62 miles in less than three hours with just my own two feet. And I did it before many people were even out of their pajamas on a Saturday morning. That is something to be proud of, not embarrassed because I walked for part of it!
My point is that you might not be the best at the activity you choose. Maybe you can’t quite keep up with all of the Zumba moves, but you’ve never had as much fun as you do during the class. Or maybe you aren’t quite sure how to use all of the equipment at the gym and your constantly asking questions, but you are thrilled with how strong you feel and you love to see the progress you make as you are able to increase the weights each week. Maybe all you can do is walk halfway around the block before you have to stop and catch your breath but you find that you love being out in nature, breathing the fresh air and watching the animals running around. Keep going. Keep doing what makes you happy. Tune out the voices that tell you that you’re not good enough, because you’re better than you were and you’re better than the person at home on the couch.
Try. Try every single exercise that you can come up with. Keep trying until you find something that brings you joy. I promise you won’t like to exercise every day. It will get hard, you’ll have to push yourself, you’ll need to do it when you don’t feel like it. But at some point you’ll find an exercise that stops you in your tracks, when you suddenly realize that you feel amazing, you feel strong, you feel life. You won’t get that feeling every time, but you’ll crave that feeling often and that will help you keep going and keep showing up on the days when it’s hard.
Make it happen.
I don’t have time to train for a half marathon right now. But I’m doing it anyways. No one has the time to achieve their dreams, but some people show up and make them happen anyways. Schedule your workouts as an appointment that you refuse to miss. You and your future are worth it.
I didn’t sleep well last night so I’m not sure I’ll have the energy to go on my run this afternoon. But I’m going to step out the door and give it my best shot. Moms never have enough energy to go around, but those who exercise have learned the secret that fitting in a workout is often better than getting a nap.
Remember how I said that I still have 50 years to run a marathon? Did you laugh and think, “girl, you aren’t getting any younger!” That’s why I’m doing what I can to stay fit and healthy now, so that when I’m older I’ll still be in shape to achieve my dream. Don’t tell yourself that you’re too old for anything. Just get out there and do it.
I pushed myself too hard when I decided to run this half marathon and messed up my calf pretty good and I couldn’t run for a few days. Instead, I grabbed my Kindle Fire climbed on my Elliptical and got in a really hard 45 minute workout while I watched Grey’s Anatomy. If you’re hurt or injured, get creative, but just keep moving. Most of the time, it will help you heal faster.
Whatever your excuse, you’ve got to push past it. You’re not too old, you’re not too young, you’re not too injured, or too fat, or too skinny, or too busy, or too stressed, or too tired. No one ever accomplished anything by listing all the reasons that they can’t, accomplishment happens when we show up and get to work, rain or shine.
Do It For You. Not for your weight, dress size, or inches.
Most people start working out so they can fit into their skinny jeans or lose the baby weight or get sexy for bikini season. In my opinion, this is foolishness. You are worth more than the size of your pants, the number on the scale, or your looks in a swimsuit. Your motivation to get fit and exercise needs to come from a better place, a place that goes deeper than your cellulite and dress size.
I’m not looking to lose weight, or look sexier, or fit into my old clothes, or to prove myself to anyone. I’m working to change my life, to live longer, to be more energetic, to be happier, and to thrive. Put in the work and you’ll see results. You will look better, you will start shrinking and getting more toned, and you will get to buy smaller clothes. But don’t make those things your motivation, it’s too easy to get derailed when the results your aiming for don’t happen as quickly as you want or in the way that you’re looking for.
When I trained for my first half marathon I gained 20 pounds and I have never lost it. This time around, I’m up about eight pounds. I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been in my life (not including pregnancy). But I feel amazing, I have great energy and stamina, and my stress levels are at an all time low. The reality is that these are pounds of muscle that I’m gaining. While many people would be discouraged or frustrated by the number on the scale I’ve realized that numbers don’t prove anything. My life, my joy, my health, my strength, and my accomplishments prove that I’m on the right track.
So get out there. Find an exercise that brings you joy. Prioritize yourself on your schedule. And I promise, your whole family will reap the benefits of your improved health.