Juggling a Balanced Life: The Exercise

the exercise

I love working out. I love to sweat. I love how strong I feel after completing a hardcore workout – like I can take on anything.

The problem is finding the time to work up a sweat.

To be honest, I took the time factor for granted in so many areas of my life before I had kids. But once the kids were here, life continues to roll on and something had to give. Working out was one of the first things to go.

I was an athlete. I guess I still am an athlete. My body is used to exercise and I find that it craves movement. Lately, the cravings have been so intense that I have decided that somehow, someway I must fit workouts into my schedule.

I keep a pretty detailed planner, so I sat down to search for time to exercise. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I would have to wake up at 4:30am in order to break a sweat the way I want to.   It took even less time for me to know that this would be a bad idea. I have to work around people…and be nice…and be compassionate. I know myself well enough to know that if I got up at that hour I would not be fit to enter society. I would turn into a bear. I would be in shape, but I would be a bear nonetheless.

I greatly admire the men and women who are able to successfully wake up hours before the sun in order to workout.  For a few days I did attempt to slowly adjust my morning schedule to see if I could legitimately wake up earlier.

This is how it went:

Day 1: Nah.

Day 2: The wind howled and sounded cold. I rolled over and stayed warm in bed. It didn’t seem to matter that I was going to workout indoors.

Day 3: I did wake up earlier, but I used that time to go to the bathroom by myself.

Day 4: The boys woke up early so I took care of them instead.

Day 5: Nope.

And that’s as far as that challenge went.

This never used to be a problem for me, but it was a problem in other ways. When I was younger, I would do whatever was necessary to get a workout in. I was obsessed, and in some ways things got a little scary. I was constantly practicing for sports, and then when I was done with my playing days I was terrified that I was going to gain weight so I determined that I would not become sedentary. I would get up and run before classes and then I would stop at the gym after classes in college. I knew exactly how many calories were going in and how many I was burning. There were days when it was all I could think about. Looking back, I firmly believe that I had a type of eating/exercising disorder. Through prayer and God’s grace, I have been able to break that cycle of negative thinking. But it has been nothing short of an uphill battle.

Determined to find a way to balance exercise with limited time, I have begun to do Pilates in the evenings while the boys are winding down.  Usually after their bathtime and before bedtime, they like to watch TV.  I let them enjoy a show and I get on the floor and run through a variety of movements that work my abs, thighs, and butt.  The reality of this situation is that I am planking with a 4- and 2-year-old on my back.  I am doing sit-ups with a toddler trying to crawl through my legs, and I am doing leg-lifts while trying to avoid kicking one or both of them in the face.  But the fact of the matter is, I am doing it.

I recognize my need to take care of my body, but now I recognize how important it is to keep a balanced view of what is healthy and what is necessary.  I am no longer training for anything, so attempting to do two-a-day workouts or beating myself up for missing a day of exercise because something suddenly came up just doesn’t make sense.  What does make sense is coming up with creative ways to incorporate exercise into the life that I already live.  I have found that summer is the best time to do this.  I am naturally more energized this time of year and we are always outside.  We have races in the backyard, I push and push and push the kids on the swings, and we love to go swimming.  Would I love to be able to go out and run several miles every evening?  Yes!  But that just doesn’t coincide with my life at the moment.  Someday, my kids will be able to handle themselves while I run, but today is not that day.

Today I must juggle the act of exercise with the more important job of motherhood.   Right now, a sick child takes precedence over my abs.  Catching up with my kids after a long day at work comes before a run.  I know that choosing sleep over exercise in the morning is an excuse/cop-out, but most days it trumps Jillian Michael’s 30-day Shred.  So I continue to balance things out by power-walking during my lunch break and doing strengthening exercises with the the ‘help’ of the kids in the evenings.  I know that eventually I will find a lasting routine to work up a sweat and juggle all of my other responsibilities.

Don’t forget to check out the ways I attempt to juggle a balanced life when it comes to food and clothing!

Juggling a Balanced Life: The Clothes

the clothes

I enter the dressing room and suddenly it’s as if all the other lights have been turned off and there is just one big, bright spotlight shining down on my body. It’s an interrogation chamber.

I look at the pieces I brought into the dressing room to try on and sigh. I was confident and loving myself until I walked in here and now every flaw is broadcast in this three-way mirror that should not be legal in stores. I mean, seriously, those things should only be found in the haunted house at the circus. Speaking of which, this mirror is telling me that I belong in the circus.

Sometimes, I walk passed a mirror or a window and I think to myself, “That can’t be accurate.” This is one of those times. I left the house looking decent but somewhere along the way I turned into an extra on The Walking Dead. Right now I have several different angles telling me that this is real life and as in-your-face accurate as it gets.

Now that I’m in a great mood, I begin to try on clothes. I always play it safe and pick out a size that I can basically guarantee will fit. Then, if it fits and there is room I will try on a smaller size and hopefully bask in the glory of a lower number on the tag of my jeans.

Not today. Today, my safe size in pants has created a muffin top that would make the Pillsbury Doughboy jealous. Maybe if I do some squats and lunges these pants will cooperate. As I am engaging in my dressing room calisthenics, it occurs to me that the pants are tight enough that I am dangerously close to enacting the you-bust-through-the-seams, you-buy-it policy that most stores have in place.

Cripes. What gives today? Obviously not my pants. Stretch fit my foot.

Why don’t we move onto the shirts? As I take the shirt that I own off, I stare at my torso in the circus freak mirror. It looks like I have more stretch marks than I thought I walked in here with. Normally, I am aware that I am pretty fortunate to have had two children in less than two years and walk away with only the amount of stretch marks I have, but right now I am a human road map. I go through some positive affirmation phrases in my head and remember that this is the price of life and it’s a price that I would choose to pay over and over again.

I try on the first shirt and it’s a disaster. I can’t even pull it down over my boobs. The second shirt looks decent until I catch a glimpse of my back in the mirror and see that it’s like the rolling hills of South Dakota back there. When and how did I develop back rolls and how do you get rid of them?

So let me get this straight – in an effort to make a profit, stores and clothing designers actually want you to buy their products, right? Then why in the world would they put the most unflattering mirror combined with the most unflattering light in the dressing rooms? I’m pretty sure this lighting just showed me that I have cellulite on my wrist – I didn’t even know that was possible. And why would designers cut their clothing to fit a 12-year-old girl and not a woman’s body? This chest would make a 12-year-old topple over. Not only do I NOT want to buy anything, but it’s a good thing I’m not at the mall or else I would march straight to the food court for a cinnamon covered soft pretzel right about now.

I take a deep breath and think about whether or not I should even bother trying on the last item I brought into the dressing room with me. It’s a dress. When I picked it up off of the rack, I thought that maybe it wouldn’t work for me – it might be more form fitting than what I usually wear.

Well, I brought it in here and I’m already in my underwear so I might as well give it a shot.

Once I get the fabric situated, I finally glance in the mirror. “That can’t be accurate,” I mutter. This time I have a smile on my face. This dress hits my body in all of the right places. I check my figure in the mirrors and all three angles show that there is no muffin top and my back rolls are gone. I don’t even need to do any stretches to see if they will help the dress to fit. It is not inappropriate in any way, yet it is sexy. I channel my inner Beyoncé and dance around the dressing room Like. A. Boss.

The dress I bought is a Large, but that is not what I think of myself when I wear it. I feel beautiful.

I have learned that it does not matter what the size tag says on my clothes. It is all about how I look and feel when I wear the clothes. We have all seen people walking around who are clearly trying to squeeze into a size that is not appropriate for them. Just because the button buttons, doesn’t mean the clothes fit. Also, I have found that if the fit is better in a bigger size, I look smaller. I don’t go around pulling the back of people’s jeans out just to see what size they are wearing. Who cares? But unfortunately, I have lived a decent chunk of my life feeling way too concerned about the number or letter on a stupid tag. And for what reason? All that has done is make me feel badly about the way I look when there is absolutely no reason to feel that way.

I would classify my style as ‘modern modesty.’ I want to be in-style, yet I still want to be age appropriate. What worked for me several years ago might not work now. For example, I recently tried on a pair of jean shorts that I have had for many years. They still fit fine, but when I walked downstairs, my son said, “Mom, why are you wearing jeanie underwear?” Perhaps they were a little short and now they’ve got to go. It doesn’t matter if my husband thinks they look great, if my son believes that I am walking around in public wearing underwear and not shorts, that’s a problem.

I’m working on treating my body well with the food I eat, and the things I do, but I also need to be kind to myself by choosing clothes that reflect who I am on the inside. Not everything is made for me nor will it all look nice on my body, but when I find the things that do it’s wonderful. Part of keeping myself balanced involves the thoughts that I think about my body. Just as I wouldn’t want to go around tearing others down, I shouldn’t be tearing myself down either. I spent years hating the way that I looked and now I know what a shame that was. I was bought at a price and I need to treat myself as Christ treats me – worthy of love. I am determined to keep a godly mindset for all things in my life, which includes balancing health, wellness, and body image.

 

Juggling a Balanced Life: The Food

the food

I just found out what kale was about two years ago and I have not been impressed. I could maybe choke it down if I drenched it in ranch, but correct me if I’m wrong; I believe that defeats the purpose. I’m not exactly whipping up kale smoothies as I happily bounce out of bed each morning. Perhaps I would, if I could figure out how to happily bounce out of bed.   I’m not making homemade kale chips and no amount of convincing will make me believe that they ‘taste just like Lays.’ Kale chips would be the only chips that could make me stop after just eating one.

Hummus?  There is a reason it was recalled – it’s nasty.

Avocado?  Green mush.

Quinoa?  I have been pronouncing it so wrong that I didn’t even know what people were referring to when it was said correctly.  So, I’m not going to eat it.

I do subscribe to the ‘everything in moderation’ theory, but sometimes that moderation leads to full-blown liberty to enjoy every crumb of junk I can find. Every now and then I need to rein things in again. When I start to feel sluggish and lazy and that’s when I know that my food intake needs a reboot. But what’s a girl to do?

After my first child, I could not get rid of the last ten pounds. Not to mention, I had been at my heaviest weight ever when I got pregnant, so I had about twenty pounds that needed to come off. Enter Weight Watchers. I knew if I paid for the program that I would be more likely to follow it.

The first week on Weight Watchers, I wanted to eat my own arm because I was so hungry. The great thing about their point system is that, at least at the time, most fruits and vegetables were worth zero points. That means that you can eat as much of them as you want each day. But, when you are used to chowing down on a foot long Philly Cheese-steak sub from Subway and then inhaling both of the cookies that came with your combo, a raw carrot just isn’t going to cut it.  I doubt this is the Subway diet Jared was on when he lost all of his weight.

It took me some time to adjust, but once I got it down, the weight came off and I really enjoyed the Weight Watchers program. Eventually I stopped paying for it and continued to follow the guidelines on my own. Then I got pregnant again and rediscovered Taco Bell.

Honestly, I didn’t eat as poorly throughout my second pregnancy as I did my first. Also, I have found that it’s not the pregnancies that get me so much as the few months following the pregnancy. I have no time to think about food or cooking so I reach for whatever is easiest to shove into my mouth. Usually that is Chips Ahoy cookies (chewy style) and leftover mac-n-cheese (heavily processed style). When I was nursing, I could get away with this crap. Then suddenly, the baby is celebrating his first birthday, the milk has dried up and those calories aren’t burning themselves anymore. Yet, I am still slamming all of the junk like it’s my J-O-B.

About six months after I stopped nursing, I stepped on the scale and saw that I was seven pounds heavier than when Jett was only five months old. Whaaaat!? I had a routine physical coming up and the doctor asked me about it (of course). She insisted that I have my thyroid checked. I told her that I was just making poor decisions, but that wasn’t enough. It took a $158 lab bill and a negative result to prove that I was slacking off. Insult to injury.

Recently, I have been attempting to clean up my diet….again. Someone had given me a sample of this ‘all natural’ appetite suppressant. All I had to do was add it to my water and I would magically not feel hungry all day.

First of all, I noticed that it said ‘ground spinach’ on the packet. That should have tipped me off right there. As I was dumping it into my water, I immediately wondered if someone hadn’t just gone to my yard right after the grass had been cut and packaged up the extra grass clippings and were now selling it to innocent people. While mixing the grass in my cup, the water turned to mud. The grass would not dissolve and I even added it to 20 oz of water and not the suggested 4 or 8 oz. I would like to see someone use only 4 oz of water and try to choke this stuff down. It was brutal. I took two sips and dumped it. I should have taken a picture of the grassy mud mess, but I wanted it out of my sight. Get thee behind me, Satan! I can see why it would be effective, though – lost my appetite for quite some time after just two sips. I probably wouldn’t have eaten for days if I could have chugged the whole glass. (side note: NOT condoning eating disorders!)

Next, I attempted a healthier option of my morning granola bar. This thing was packaged bark. Apparently all I have to do is go out to my backyard and gnaw on a tree and chew on some grass and suddenly I will be healthier. Also, I can attest to this bar tasting like bark because I tried some bark when I was a kid. So you can trust that I am speaking from experience.

I find it difficult to balance healthy eating in the real world. I rarely buy junk food at the grocery store – like chips and cookies – but we do have our fair share of processed foods. We also love the Dollar Menu or Right Price menu at local fast food chains. After a long day at work, the words ‘quick and easy’ describing what is for dinner sound like music to my ears. Making better choices when it comes to food will be a life-long process because it is a lifestyle. In order for good choices to become effective, good choices must be habitual.

My saving grace is the fact that I do like fruits and veggies. I love salads, too – just not salads made with kale. It’s almost Farmer’s Market season and I am beyond excited to get some fresh food into my system. The older I get, I realize that I am finally not as concerned with how I look, but how I feel. I am confident with my body and am grateful for all that it is capable of doing. That being said, I need to take care of it and feed it well. I don’t want to be a stick – I want to have energy! The more energy I have, the more I enjoy my life.  When I think of food fueling my body in these terms, it is much easier for me to make good choices.

If I want to keep my life balanced, food definitely needs to be a part of the equation.  Stay tuned as I prepare to sarcastically discuss staying balanced in terms of clothes and exercise.