Sunday, January 5, 2014

Fitting It In

New Year's is a great time.  A fresh start, clean slate... and that magical time of year where it is impossible to get a free treadmill or elliptical at the gym because five times the normal numbers of people are flocking in, determined to make this year the year that they get in shape.  While this is no small challenge to most people, it can be absolutely daunting to mothers.  Moms are the Keeper of the Schedules, the Doers of Laundry, the Chauffeurs, the Buyer of Toilet Paper, and the Readers of Stories. In most households they keep the world turning, keep everyone fed, happy, and clean... often to their own detriment.  So how does a mom with a house, a job, a business, and a marriage to take care of fit in fitness on top of that?  I'm no expert, but here are my thoughts.

  • Know YOURSELF, know WHY, then set a goal.  It's easy to make grand proclamations about your upcoming fitness while hoisting your third glass of champagne on New Year's Eve.  But if you are a rabid chocoholic, giving up all sugar cold turkey for a year might not be the right goal.  Nor would running a marathon if you've never ran a step in your life and have knee problems.  Similarly, resolving to lose 20 pounds because there's a contest at the office with $100 cash prize will probably not get you truly there (unless you really need that $100).  Your fitness goal should be deeply personal - something meaningful.  You need to have a reason why you've set this particular goal - not an amorphous "I want to look better" or "just want to try this", but rather something that makes you imagine yourself better in some way you really care about.  Lose weight because your parent(s) have diabetes.  Be a role model for your kids.  Complete a triathlon because crossing that finish line is something that redefines you in your own eyes.  There's no such thing as a "too big" or "too small" goal.  In fact having more than one goal is good - a short term and a long term goal will help you stay motivated and looking towards the future.  There is however, such a thing as a too-fast goal.  Zero to marathon in 2 months will only get you injured.  Losing 50 lbs in that same time will only make you frustrated when it doesn't happen.  Be realistic, and make it something that resonates with you.

  • Get organized.  All the dreams in the world will not get you onto the treadmill.  You need to become an organizational ninja.  You're busy!!  You want to be busier?  Where are you going to find an extra 5-10 hours a week to work out?  Look at your schedule - see what you can cut.  Yes, even if that means tevo-ing Downton Abbey and watching it later.  Plan out the week's worth of meals and grocery shop ONCE.  Ditto to laundry - make sure everyone in the house has 7 pairs of undies.  Pack lunches, backpacks, gym bags, and briefcases the night before.  You will never make it to the gym the next morning if you are looking for Susie's homework and packing snacks in the morning.   Politely say no when asked to bring a cupcakes to your kid's next Girl Scout meeting.  Graciously decline when asked to serve of the board of the PTO (when you're already on 3 other boards).  Wait, this is for my family!!  you scream.  Guess what?  So is getting in shape.  Cutting corners and saying "no" might violate your innate principles of mommy-hood, but trust me.  It is freeing.  

  • No excuses.  Life happens.  Things interfere.  But that never means that "I don't have time" is a valid excuse.  You will prioritize what you feel are the most important aspects of your life.  Period.  If taking care of a sick relative is more important than making it to barre class, then say that (it should be!).  If an extra hour of sleep is more important than spin class, then say that.  No matter what life throws at you, you are still captain of your life ship.  You are in charge.  OWN THAT POWER.  When I skip workouts, I don't give my coach excuses.  I tell him what was more important on that day (most recently, it was playing hot wheel cars with my kids).  There will be things that preempt your plans.  That is normal, and ok.  Excuses are not ok.  Take control.  Be a force that happens to your life, not the other way around.

  • Get out of bed.  This one is tough.  In my experience, the most successful mommy athletes are those that get their workouts over with first thing in the morning.  Even if it means setting the alarm for an hour previously reserved for catching flights out of Logan.  You are much more likely to not skip a workout if it's the first thing that you check off your to-do list.  Before the Job and the House and Being Mommy can steal your time away.  Use whatever strategies, however brutal, to make this happen.  Put your alarm across the room so you have to get out of bed to turn it off.  Have a mantra  "Don't Think Just Go" once you hear it.  Make sure everything is packed the night before (see above - I'm repeating this for emphasis). Prep the coffee pot.  Sleep in your gym clothes.  Yes, do all of these on a regular basis.  Go to bed early (don't worry - this one will come easily as you start collapsing on the couch in exhaustion at 8:30 or falling asleep in your kids' beds).  If you truly are one of those rare people who can stick to a training program of afternoon or *yawn* evening workouts, more power to you.  Please teach the rest of us.

  • Invest in yourself.  I'm talking time and money.  You will feel guilty for taking time away from your other responsibilities.  Banish this.  Do not let a single negative thought into your head while pursuing your goal.  Having a strong role model and a healthy parent late into their lives is a tremendous gift for your children, one that out-values a few hours of playtime here and there or having spaghetti for dinner twice in a row.  Similarly, you will spend money on yourself.  If at all possible, join a gym with childcare.  There is nothing better than these kind folks that will watch your kids for you while you sneak in a few miles or some laps.  Many of these gyms have kid gyms, pools, programs for the children, hot tubs, saunas, and other amenities that make it an great place for the whole family to hang out.  Yes, they are expensive.  But so are soccer leagues, swim lessons, and dance classes.  Most moms I know think far less about investing money in those activities than they would a gym membership.  I would argue that they are equally valuable for the kids, and way more valuable for mom.  Buy good running shoes - MRIs cost more.  Trust me on this one.  Understand that physical fitness is an investment for yourself and your family, and accept that it comes with both financial and time cost.  All worth it.

  • It's all mental.  No, not that kind of mental.  Well, sort of.... You will have more interruptions, jumps, and setbacks on your path to fitness than a seven mile run with a toddler in a jogging stroller.  You absolutely cannot subscribe to the "day is blown" mentality.  If your workout gets skipped for some reason, find another time in the day to do something else.  Walk the stairs at the office on your lunch break.  Park at the end of the parking lot and walk around the mall.  Be the weird mom doing laps around the field at soccer practice.   If you eat a donut for breakfast, enjoy it, move on, and have a salad for dinner.  What happens... happens.  Thou shalt not beat thyself up over it.  But thou absolutely shall find another way to make something good happen.  Every day.  A huge part of fitness is mental - that means being flexible, being creative, and being nice to yourself.  You cannot become thinner by mentally cursing your body in the mirror.  Your mind is what will let you be an unstoppable force on a mission to your goal - despite missing your morning yoga because your kiddo was up all night, how you look (or think you look) in spandex, or having only raisins and frosting left in your refrigerator for dinner.

We all know the statistics.  1 in 3 American adults are overweight.  Another third are obese.  Diabetes is at an all-time high, even in children.  There is no greater gift that you can give yourself and your family than being healthy and active.  Not because you want to look like a Kardashian or because a new diet is trendy - because teaching your children proper nutrition and to truly enjoy physical activity could quite literally save their lives.  The entire rest of their lives.  And yours.

Best wishes for your New Year's Resolutions.  Now make sure you're not on my treadmill tomorrow!!!

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