As Leap Day approached I began to have this sense I was to get what I always seem to need: an extra 24 hours in the day. I didn’t write this blog post as usual on Monday because, well, I could do it on my “extra” day (and I also wanted the novelty of posting on Leap Day for no other reason than to have February 29 logged on the blog, which is about as significant as picking out a certain coffee mug to drink from in the morning to elicit a certain mood, but that’s what I do).
An extra 24 hours.
Would the laundry get washed, folded and put away? If so, Leap Day could replace my desire to declare “Naked Day” for this same purpose.
Would I have enough time to work on upcoming deadlines? If so, Leap Day would allow me to bring my head “above water,” rather than stay where I usually am, just below the surface, breathing with a snorkel.
Would time for my workout come easily? If so, Leap Day could become the “restart” day I’ve needed in the slow-to-motivate last two weeks.
Then I started to think that perhaps Leap Day should be designated a holiday so that people can take advantage of their 24 hours however they wished. I wanted my daughters home from school. I wanted us to approach our extra 1,440 minutes with intent. By marking this bonus day in some way special, we would celebrate time–really consider what it means to have time here on earth–and thus, our life and our time together.
Backstory: I spent the weekend at the Motherhood and Words Writing Retreat. I was cocooned with seven extraordinary women with ample time for writing my life and a bonus health coaching session that provided much needed tools for living my life (and don’t you know I’ll be blogging about that in the future). If you’ll allow me to continue with my metaphor, I feel as if I’m still snugged up in that protective cocoon built from my experience at the retreat. Sure I came home and dove back into “real lice”–oh my gosh, did I say lice? I mean life, although, yes, there was lice, too (again, another post, focus Kara!)–I can’t shake the serenity. There was a metamorphis. I feel different. I have new friends; new essays; new ideas; new knowledge. I am by no means ready to fly, I am still enjoying this place of comfort and transition–LO!–the PRESENT!
Is that truly possible? Am I here, living in the present? Or… is it the coffee mug I chose this morning? The one that evokes Eastern religion and meditation for me. The green is calming, the orange blossoms–my favorite color–make me happy. Or did I pick the mug because I’m already here, in the present*, where I should stay because, to quote a friend: it’s the only place my body knows.
Would you believe… while writing this post, the school district called with their automated message announcing that, due to severe weather, school is cancelled today, Leap Day. Coincidence? No, I can’t see it that way. God is so unbelievably good to me like that. I will embrace the day for the holiday it is.
*Disclaimer: I kind of hate it when people talk about the importance of living life in the present when I don’t feel I’m doing that very well, mostly because I’m hearing something I already know and forcing myself to thinkabout being present doesn’t seem to work very well. Therein lies my problem, as I learned on this retreat. I can’t just *think* about being present, I must act on living in the present. I can no more think my way about being present as I can think myself into running a personal best 5K. For that I am planning my workouts and diligently following the plan with specific speed and strength training. So it is with living in the present. Apparently mindful workouts (sitting still, reflecting, meditating) are necessary.
My mom says when you grow up in a fit family you have the advantage of never having to start exercising. Apparently getting started on the path to a fit life is the hardest part. Kids in fit families just don’t know any different.
Here I am working out with mom. Before I was born she would smuggle me into the fitness center.
This still goes down as our hardest workout together. What started as an easy walk around the maternity floor–throwing in some lunges and squats–became more difficult as the night went on. It left us both exhausted and crying. The exercise-induced endorphins were awesome though.
I don’t exactly remember any workouts those first few months. Maybe I slept through most of them. Maybe the dog wouldn’t let me out of her sight.
We still go to the fitness center together a lot. I have my workouts and mom has hers. Mom doesn’t need to smuggle me in or make an appointment any more, she just has to remember to carry more stuff in her gym bag. I’m old enough now to know better not to sabotage her workout with a dirty diaper. I’ve learned the day will go better for me if I let her workout… She’s a nice mom and all, just nicer after the workout.
Now that I’m three, my fitness world is expanding: swimming lessons, soccer, riding my bike. So much to do. Mom still makes a pretty good training partner. She says she always will.
Sometimes you know you’re the bee’s knees. Like those mornings when you drag yourself out of bed an hour early so you can squeeze in a workout before the rest of the crew gets up. Or, those afternoons you insist everyone (including Mom) enjoys a healthy afterschool snack. Maybe you’ve raised your chin a little higher because you’ve been consistent and dedicated to a new healthy way of life.
And then, feeling confident and self-assured, you climb on the scale for a little extra validation. Which quickly becomes
Stepping on the scale isn’t always happy inducing, is it? Sometimes that number just doesn’t jive with what’s going on in your life and suddenly, faster than you can down a little high carb comfort food, your mood is soured and your motivation squashed.
Here’s where your mindset can be make-or-break. On a good day you might assume the scale is inaccurate, you’re retaining water, or the weight gain is the result of fat turning to muscle. You shrug your shoulders, step off, and move on with your life. A “bad” number is nothing but a small blip on your radar.
Other times a disagreement with the scale can leave you feeling like you’ve been kicked in the gut. You decide you’re a hopeless case who is never going to meet her health and fitness goals and make your way to the cookie jar. Or, maybe you’re prone to the opposite behavior and begin restricting your diet. Either way, there is no healthy escape.
We’re all prone to either reaction on any given day. Ensure you’re doing everything you can to foster your fit lifestyle. Live life a little more deliberately and follow these five pointers when you’re drawn to check the scale:
- Don’t weigh yourself every day. Lots of factors, especially water retention, can cause your weight to vary significantly from day to day. Don’t get sucked into those daily fluctuations in weight—your mood is likely to follow. Who needs another reason to be moody?
- Your weight can vary 2-4 pounds during the day so when you do hit the scale, do it at the same time each day. Morning, when you first get out of bed, is best since that’s when most of us are at our lightest.
- Use the same scale each time to weight yourself to avoid confusing accuracy with variance.
- Think through the consequences of meeting or not meeting your goal. Only step on the scale if you are confident you won’t let an unexpectedly high number defeat you.
- Chuck it (as in garbage heap). Remember that your weight doesn’t tell the whole story. Instead of judging your progress by the number on the scale, gauge your success by how your clothes are fitting, your energy level, or your general state of health. After all, that’s what this whole healthy living thing is all about anyway, isn’t it?
What’s your relationship with the scale like? Connected at the hip, separated for good, or somewhere in between? Do you own a scale? Why or why not?
When it comes to putting myself together each day I usually find myself choosing between hair or make-up. Rarely is it hair and make-up.
Fit moms are always slicing and dicing their day to squeeze in a workout, so it goes to reason we’d skip on the beautification process. Still, I want to look like I tried. Over the 8+ years of being a fit mom, I’ve accumulated my top ten beauty shorts cuts:
Only wash hair if you have to. Typically my rule is to wash my hair either after a good sweaty workout or after two days, whichever comes first. The fun in this is to try to coincide the sweaty workout on the second day. Still, there are times when the washing and drying and styling eludes you. And that’s when you…
Hide dirty hair with a hat. Hats are all the rage. Most definitely capitalize on style trends and hide your sweaty hair under a stylish hat. Fashion with purpose!
Grow a high-tolerance for body hair. Here’s where I luck out. The hair on my legs is light and fine, grows in relatively soft–and bonus! The longer it gets the softer it is! Even the underarm hair is understated. So, yeah, I take advantage of this physiological windfall and shave twice a week, picking up a third day in the summer. Still there are times when I should but don’t and that’s when you have to camouflage. Hirsute moms, can use this option when they need to to take a break from the razor, too. Cover the legs, skip the tank, and use the extra insulation to sweat a little bit more in your workout.
Keep nails short and unpolished. I file when necessary and every now and again buff them for shine. For me, having long painted nails is a major time suck. My toes are a different story. I really like pedicures. That’s my summer-time treat.
Don’t fall prey to the anti-aging industry. This one is a “do as I say, not as I do” tip. Now that I’m in my 40s I’ll admit I’ve succumbed. A few years ago I used a single jar of face cream from the drug store. That was all. Now, I own two different kinds of cleansers (one exfoliates!), a moisturizer for day and one for night, and–here’s where they can really suck you in–an eye cream. Once you start I don’t know if you can ever go back, so hold off as long as possible!
Prioritize make-up application. You and only you know what you need to feel good when you walk out the door. The lucky ones can get away with nothing at all. I go with a slathering of tinted moisturizer and mascara as my bare-bones basics. If time permits my cheeks get color and my nose gets a dusting of powder. On rare occasions I break out eye-liner. I think I wear eye shadow five times a year. I carry Burts Bees lip tint in every bag I own and keep some in the car.
Accessorize light. Bling. It’s important. I have a drawer full of goodies. However, on a day-to-day basis I stick with the basics so I’m always adorned: Wedding ring and the diamond studs my husband gave me 15 years ago. They never come off so I’m always accessorized. If an occasion calls for a different look, then I can switch out, if time allows. But if it doesn’t, I still have my sparkle.
Take time to eat nutritiously. A healthy meal takes effort, but eating healthy food is important for your inward and outward appearance. Taking the time to treat yourself to good nutrition is more effective than face creams or make up.
Redirect with self-confidence! There are days when I leave the house ready to be featured in a fashion magazine “Don’t!” Here’s when you let your inner-beauty shine. Especially if you’ve successfully finished a workout, let your sweaty glow ooze that inner-confidence and own it sister!
I’m sure you have your own fit mom beauty short-cuts to share. Let’s hear them!
I’ve been thin my whole life. It’s not some genetics thing; I was a mover even before my brothers used me for football tackle practice, had me run the bases, and positioned me in goal for hockey drills. Lucky for me I still love moving—both the hardcore sweaty stuff, and the more relaxed play that fills a mom’s day.
Being active has helped spare me excess worry about heart disease, high cholesterol and elevated blood pressure that run in my family. It’s also helped me control anxiety and depression, two of my other little DNA-powered gifts.
I know I’m not alone. In a survey we conducted while writing Hot (Sweaty) Mamas: Five Secrets to Life as a Fit Mom (Andrews McMeel, 2011), almost all of the fit moms who responded realized some mental health benefits from their fitness pursuits. It wasn’t being skinny that made them happier; in fact most of them probably wouldn’t even consider themselves skinny by societal standards. So it must be something else.
And yet we see the message that getting skinny means getting happy, don’t we? I saw it at the gym last weekend. Thirteen flat screen televisions on the wall in front of me and over half of them were playing advertisements (dressed as television shows) showing amazing product-related transformations—women who went from obese and unhappy to skinny and smiling.
If only it were that simple. We all have our struggles, whether it’s depression with a capital “D” or an occasional sadness that leaves us looking for more in life. Exercise is great medicine for mental health; it’s a proven physiological and psychological supplement.
But simply getting skinny doesn’t make you happier. As with most things, it’s all in the process. It’s what you’re doing to get there that’s really helping. It’s setting and reaching goals, developing a new (healthier) identity, connecting with a community of likeminded people, feeling cared about and caring for others as mentee and mentor.
Being skinny won’t make you happy.
Wearing $100 workout pants won’t make you happy (a post for another day!)
Breathing, sweating, and moving with intention—even just a little bit every day—will.
So, whether you’re on your way to being fit, or been there for a while now… keep your eyes focused on the process. Cause that’s what living a fit lifestyle is: a process, a (for lack of a better, less overused word) journey. It’s okay to enjoy the way your body looks, a nice side effect of the underlying increase in overall health. But if you’re looking for happiness, step away from the mirror. You won’t find it there.
Last week I took The Boy to a special story time yoga at our local library. He’s already been exposed to yoga at our house in various ways: Watching Mom do sun salutations out of the corner of his eye while he watches Thomas the Train; Knowing I’m going to a class while he plays in the child center at the gym; or together, as we read one of our favorite books, My Daddy is a Pretzel. The Boy knows Tree Pose, Triangle Pose, Downward Dog.
I wouldn’t go as far as to say he’s an above-average nearly 3-year-old yogi, but he likes yoga. That’s enough.
Story time and yoga? Yes! In fact, I’ve stopped going to the regular storytime events because he won’t sit still for them. He lasts all of 30 seconds before I get a look that says, “Let’s cut out and play with the train set.”
Quite honestly I don’t want to just sit there either. I get it!
So there we were eager for our yoga session (me especially so after running hills early that morning) among a room full of tots and their caregivers: moms, dads, grandparents. Who all took a seat. Or stood there. Not moving. For the whole. stinking. storytime.
Except me. But, of course.
I was the only adult besides the yoga instructor making monkey sounds, roaring like a tiger, hopping like a frog, stomping like an elephant, barking like a dog.
I tried real hard to focus on having fun with The Boy. And we did. Yet I felt–and you are not supposed to feel this way in yoga–pissed off at all those parents and grandparents. Sure I get it. I’ve been that mom who just wants to sit there with her coffee. Zone out. Score 20 minutes of someone else entertaining the kids. Still I had to work at not passing judgment while I was making monkey sounds, roaring like a tiger, hopping like a frog, stomping like an elephant, barking like a dog.
Because, come on!, I was the only grown up involved. Apparently no one looked at me and said, “Well, she doesn’t look that stupid, I’ll go ahead and do this too.” Nope. Just sat there.
Talk about a missed opportunity–not just for the chance to move and stretch for themselves, but the chance to show their children that fitness is a family affair, for the pleasure–the privilege, really–of being active together.
And I know what that means. I will never again be able to sit in storytime with my coffee and zone out.