by Amy Campbell Smith
A new year is about to dawn and we all know what that means. Resolutions!
For most people this involves list making. The enumeration of things to resolve; formal declarations of will regarding things we feel we should be accomplishing.
As in, the will to exercise regularly.
Exercise is on my list for 2009 and I state it in writing here so that my husband can see it, and with loads of compassion and without a hint of sarcasm, pull it out later as a gentle reminder should my willpower fail me.
The first question I asked myself was: does running around count? Working moms do A LOT of running around. I run my son to school. Then I run to the office. If I leave my desk at lunch, it is to run errands. Then I run reallyreally fast to pick up each boy at their schools and drive across town to pull into the driveway in time for the final stretch of the daily marathon: homework, dinner, baths, dishes, setting out clothes for tomorrow, and so on.
This sure seems like it ought to have cardiovascular benefits to counterbalance the stress of it all, but alas, it does not. I know this because if "running around" counted I'd have legs like Cameron Diaz and the butt of Jessica Biel.
I really would like to have a regular exercise routine. I love yoga. I don't mind the elliptical. I even once forced myself into a (short-lived) running habit. But the question for a working mother is when to fit it in? I'm pretty violently not a morning person, and a.m. exercise would require getting up very, very early to have enough time afterwards to shower and get ready for work. At lunch, by the time I get to the gym and change clothes, I've got 10 minutes before I have to shower and put work clothes back on. And what about my hair? Sweaty roots is not a look I can pull off. In the evening, after the boys have been at school and after-care, I can't take them to the gym playroom. They are tired and hungry and want to go home. I can't pick them up from one care center and dump them in another one while I exercise. Finally, at home after they are in bed, I could jump on the elliptical that is right there - in my house. But gosh that's asking a lot.
However, I must do this for my health, and so I'm searching for what will work for me. Here are three things I think I can work with:
1. Music. Everyone has songs they cannot resist! Music that makes you jiggle in your seat is a good sign. I put a notepad in my purse and started jotting down the peppy songs that make me smile and tap my toe, then put them on my iPod in an exercise playlist. I find it near impossible to do cardio without music that energizes me. Music can make all the difference.
2. Keep it simple. Don't worry about working different muscle groups, figuring out how all the machines at the gym work, or whether you are hitting your target heart rate. To get started, I plan to keep it as simple as doing something that gets my heart rate up at least 4 times a week. Develop a very simple routine first and then start to track time, and heart rate, and adding elements (like weights). One mistake I always make is "too much too soon". I over complicate it before I have a stable underlying habit. So I will start by not worrying about whether I've been on the elliptical for 20 minutes or 45 minutes, I will just commit to being on the thing on a regular basis!
3. Find something you like doing. This can be really hard. I like yoga best, but it's very hard for me to get to classes regularly so I'm staring down the elliptical from now until spring. If you don't know what you like, or can at least tolerate, try some things on. Take a rock climbing class, rent a bike, do a couple of water aerobics sessions, and see what feels like a fit. I am using this as an excuse to take a fencing class in the new year!
I hereby resolve to exercise regularly in 2009.
Is exercise a New Year's Resolution for you, or are you already a pro? What tips and tricks have worked for other working moms?
Amy Campbell Smith is a full-time executive by day, poopy diaper changing/teenage problem solving mom by night and author of the blog Milk Breath and Margaritas .