In the months preceding the start of 2012, I formulated a simple plan. I’d organize my house in the first quarter of 2012, then I’d get myself in order during spring and summer. Fall would be dedicated to finally paying some attention to my yard (which hasn’t had any love since my daughter was born more than four years ago).
My dedication to organization in the first three months of the year paid off. I can finally (sometimes) find what I’m looking for, my garage doesn’t look like it belongs on an episode of “Hoarders,” and we have actual shelving for books (not just piles, boxes, and bins). I felt really fantastic after achieving what I set out to in Q1.
In honesty, I had begun thinking about what “getting myself in order” would entail before April began. I came up with a three-pronged approach. I must find and ‘build-in’ some physical activity (since getting up to refresh my coffee probably doesn’t really count). I must create a set of meal-plans so that I both eat better and feel less stressed about dinner prep each evening. I must find time to shower. OK, really that last one is more like putting my personal presentation on the list in some fashion. So, first things first: physical activity. (I hope to address prongs 2 and 3 in the near future.)
While I feel surrounded by people who extol the virtues of and the wonderous fabulousness of running (not to mention every other car seems to have a 13.1 or 26.2 magnet slapped on the back of it), I do not like to run. Not even a little. People have told me I just haven’t done it enough, that if I practiced it I’d get to a point of enjoying it. That if I just gave it time, I would reach a nirvana-like state while running, where my thoughts become crystal clear and my IQ goes up 30 points and I feel warm-fuzzy love for the world around me.
The truth is, once upon a time, back in college, I was reasonably fit. I made several trips to the gym each week, making use of the treadmill (as well as weights and the floor for crunches and such). I was able to jog for some pre-determined sentence of 40 minutes or whatever; I even felt like I could keep going when I finished my time on it. But, I never, ever liked it. I ran outside, too. Despite my (running-loving) husband’s insistence that it’s soooo much better than the ‘mill, that was awful. I can’t keep an even pace. My IQ does not shoot up, but my thoughts do become crystal clear: I don’t like other people, especially ones who are walking dogs, or worse, also running. I hate cars, sidewalks, uneven pavement, hills, pine cones, wet leaves… I don’t really hate those things…. but I do when I run. It’s a fast-track connection with the grumpy troll in my heart.
So, after being honest about the likelihood of being able to “build-in” running (or jogging… or, rather, walking/jogging, as might be more accurate to begin with) and stick with it, I knew I had to find something else. I really loved yoga when I did it (in the early 2000s), but all the yoga studios around here seem to tout being “hot” yoga. Really? I don’t think super-heating the space where you do yoga is necessary (I sweated plenty in the cool basement yoga studio I used to go to). And I bet those studios smell ripe. I’ll readily admit, I’ve never been to a “Hot Yoga” studio, so I don’t really know… but, I’m OK with that. Also, I would feel completely self-conscious going to a yoga class. This is my own mental barrier, but it’s true. When you know your belly fat gets in the way of doing the easy stuff, like “child’s pose,” it’s just a natural next-step assumption that yoga might not work out so well at this moment.
Right before I got pregnant with my son, I decided the way to build-in exercise was to join a gym and also get some PT. I bought a PT package and thought that the commitment (financially and on the calendar) would make me more likely to stick to exercise. It did. But I did it begrudgingly. And I really didn’t see any improved fitness or weight loss, despite hitting the gym and dieting. On the whole, the experience was seriously depressing. And then I got pregnant. One of the things I enjoyed about that pregnancy: it was nice to have a reason to be fat.
Knowing I’d probably not be any more devoted to the gym this time around (and not willing to part with the cash for PT this time), I began trying to think of physical activities I’d actually enjoyed doing at some point in the past. “Tennis is fun,” I thought. But that requires another player and also a babysitter. And, since arming young children with rackets (which will inevitably be used as weapons) or beaning your toddler with a tennis ball (even with my weak forehand) is probably not good parenting, I don’t think having the kids join in is one of my better ideas. Then I hit a wall. “Yeah,” I thought, “I’ve got excuses for every option.”
And then I remembered, as a young teenager, how much I loved hopping on my bike and riding off. I’d ride for miles. It never seemed too difficult. I used to ride to other towns, inebriated with my first taste of freedom. Yes, perfect! A bike! I can buy a bike and one of those trailers to stick the kids in and I won’t need a babysitter. The kids will love it. I will ride to the neighborhood pool and back each Tuesday and Thursday (I work MWF) this summer, kids in tow, and we’ll all enjoy a regular schedule, fresh air, a healthy pool-side snack, and then, after lunch, the children will nap for a really long time after their full morning (…and there will be world peace). OK, so that might be a little bit on the hopeful side.
In April, I bought the bike and the trailer and a helmet. I got on the bike for my inaugural ride. It was 1997 when I was last on a bicycle. Really. I thought, “this will be fun!” After 10 minutes, I was shattered and thought, “I am really, really old and not at all fit.” I knew the totally not fit thing before, but this was a physical realization in a poignant sort of way. The “old” part was due to the fact that, even on the 35mph road by my house, the one that is super-wide, I flinched whenever a car passed me…. I used to cross a 6 lane highway on my bike when I was a teenager and thought nothing of it. Perhaps that is more exemplary of my idiocy than my aging, but, y’know, I still felt old. But, in between all of that, the little time I spent coasting downhill, wind in my ears, not flinching because a car was passing, was really quite fun. This plan is going to work!
But, the biggest barrier to my plans is the hill. Truthfully, the hill is only sort of biggish, but actually not that big or steep. Still, I cannot ride up it. I can’t. I have tried. But, dang it!, I’m going to keep on trying until I can do it.
On this past Sunday morning, the weather was beautiful. I packed up all the pool stuff, a snack, and stuffed the kids with their helmets on into the trailer. My husband hopped on his bike and we set off for the pool… big stinking hill looming in the way between us and our goal. I road maybe 1/3 of the way up the hill, and then I could do more (much harder with the trailer on the back of the bike). My husband offered to take the trailer, but instead I got off and walked the bike, pulling the trailer, the rest of the way up. Got on, road for a very brief while before another uphill section was in front of us. I barely managed any of the hill there atop my bike. I got off and walked again. My dear daughter cheered me on and my son joined in. Made me feel so good! And then we were at the very top. We sped down the (less steep, longer) other side of the hill, kids squealing and laughing in the trailer. It was fun and I felt free and lighthearted.
We were rewarded with a near-deserted kiddie pool and gorgeous, perfect weather. The kids splashed and played. We shared the grapes I brought. It was lovely. On the way home, we took the long, less steep hill on, but I let my husband pull the kiddie trailer. I got thisclose to making it the entire way up without walking my bike (of course with the trailer, I’d be doing plenty of walking).
At home, we were all exhausted. Alas, the kids’ naps were not the blissfully long ones I’d dreamed of. Still, I felt encouraged that I could really do this… I could really truly bike the kids to the pool twice a week all summer. And I’m going to. I can stick to this. This is my fitness plan.
I’ll update now and then on my battle up the hill – I’m going to be able to bike up that bugger at some point – I just have to keep at it! Whatever challenges you are facing today, I hope you also feel the optimism that you can achieve your goal if you just keep trying.