Happy Healthy Parents Equals Happy Healthy Kids

My 2 youngest ride in the stroller while the oldest rides a bike.  This day we did 7 miles!

My two youngest ride in the stroller while the oldest rides a bike. This day we did 7 miles!

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.  Not only does exercise keep you strong and healthy, it also keeps you sane!  People who regularly exercise tend to feel less fatigued, stressed and depressed.  When you are happy, the people around you are happy!

So, where do you fit in within these prescribed 150 minutes?  Do you exercise less?  More? Not at all?  It is understandable that life gets in the way and people tend to put exercise lower on their list of priorities.  Yet, maybe that is the wrong way to approach exercise.  More exercise might be tough to squeeze in to a busy schedule, but ultimately you will save time on illness and depression and you will be more productive and energized!

Personally, I know what it is like to be a stay-at-home mom & a working mom.  Neither option is an easy one.  Yet, I have found a way to make exercise a priority in my life because it creates a happier, healthier mommy and it also teaches my children to value an active, healthy lifestyle.  Sure, my family and my job come before exercise, but I have learned to put other items, like chores, lower on the list.

Here are some tips on how a stay-at-home parent and a working parent can find ways to incorporate exercise into their daily lives:

  • Invest in a gym membership that offers childcare!  This is the easiest way to do it, but only if you can afford it.  The YMCA is a great place and very family-friendly.  Not only do you get time to exercise (by yourself), you also get a break from your children (and they get a break from you!).  It can be a great opportunity for your children to socialize with other human beings (besides you).
  • Find someone to “trade” exercise time with.  This ultimately would be your spouse, but other family members and friends can be a great option as well.  Let them watch your kids while you go for a run and then offer to do the same in return.
  • Invest in a jogging stroller.  You don’t need to spend more than $100-$200.  Sometimes you can even score a great deal at a yard sale or online.  Strap those puppies in (seriously they do have jogging strollers for pets) and head out the door!  It takes a few jogs for you (the extra weight) and the kid to get used to it, but then you can go when you want and where you want (well, you do have to build up to pushing that thing up hills).  Not only that, but running moms without joggers are always giving you the thumbs up and “awesome job” shout out because they are totally impressed.
  • Do your kids play at the park?  You know that you don’t always have to be on their heels, right?  They need some independence once in awhile.  What can you do instead?  Tricep dips on the bench, squats, step-ups on the stairs, walking lunges around the perimeter, etc.  I think you get the picture. The same applies for being more productive during your evening t.v. time.
  • Moms tend to enjoy playdates.  So, why not enjoy them with a friend who loves fitness?  Grab your jogging strollers and head out on a run with each other.  Afterwards stop at the park for some exercises while the kids have a ball cooing at each other (if they are babies) or playing together.
  • Working moms might not have time for jogging strollers or play dates, so early mornings, lunch breaks, evenings or weekends might be the only options.   It sounds agonizing, but waking up an hour early for a run isn’t all that bad.  It just takes consistency and dedication.  Once you have been doing it for a few weeks it becomes second nature.  As for the lunch breaks… well, we all know that no one takes lunch breaks.  But did you know that your productivity during the second half of the day will soar if you take time for a bit of exercise?  Honestly, most employers are on board with their employees exercising during lunch, but most employees don’t think to ask.  Find out what your company’s policy is.  Some employees even get some of their gym membership paid for!
  • Start off slow.  If weekends are all you can manage, then start there.  Once you physically feel and see the benefits, then you will be more motivated to find ways to fit exercise into your busy schedule.  If you only have 10 minutes, then exercise for 10 minutes!  That is a step in the right direction.

These are just a few ways that you can incorporate exercise into your busy schedule.  Just think about all of the benefits and how you are impacting your children!  They will see how you value exercise and that will be imprinted on them forever.  If all parents led an active, healthy lifestyle then the childhood obesity rate would not be as high as it is today!

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Track Workout

My blog basically tells a story.  It discusses my fitness endeavors.  I have always used a story format in my blog, but now I am starting to think that I should add a bit more technical information.  Once I obtain my personal trainer certification I can even include more fitness tips and workout ideas.  However, I am still in the learning period of this blogging.  I know I have written this blog for quite some time, but I have not figured out ways to add data, pictures and videos.  I think my next step will be to figure that all out and if you have any tips, then please feel free to share!

So, today I will be sharing some data.  One way to motivate yourself is to post your goals and accomplishments for others to see.  When you do so, you feel more obligated to hold yourself accountable.  I have a friend who just started discussing her 10K training in her blog.  She mentioned that she would run that 10K on her birthday no matter what!  Now, it is beneficial that I know because I can occasionally ask her “Hey, how is training going?”  She doesn’t want to be embarrassed to say that she has been skipping workouts, so she will make more of an effort to do that evening run.  Yes, peer pressure still works wonders even at our age.  The best part about it is that I will feel like I am part of her cheer squad from afar and I will be excited for her when she crosses the finish line.

I need to keep myself motivated and hold myself accountable.  Not only that, but I would like to share my experiences with others so that they can learn from my successes AND my failures.

Today was my second track workout here in windy Colorado.  This track stuff is a new challenge for me and I have no experience in working with intervals and splits.  I barely knew that 400 meters equals one lap around the track.  I know that is a surprise for most of you because I consider myself a runner, but I always kind of feared the track for some reason.  Probably because I would just drop my jaw in bewilderment as I tried to interpret something like this:

2 X 400 r=200, 8 X 300, r=100, 2 X 400, r=200 

??????????  Looks like a bunch of math formulas  to me!

Yes, that was our workout for the evening.  And NOW I actually know what it means (for the most part).  To sum it  up for you:  warm-up with a few easy laps, run 400 meters FAST, jog 200 meters, run 400 meters FAST, jog 200 meters, run 300 meters SUPER FAST, jog 100 meters (do that 300/100 8 times), go back to the 400 meters FAST (twice) and then run an easy mile to cool down.  Now, I won’t even mention the whole @5K pace or @10K pace because I am still trying to figure that out.  For now, I just run FAST and SUPER FAST when required.

Great stuff…. really.  It is only 300 meters that I have to run SUPER FAST (well, 8 times), but I feel like I am going to PASS OUT during the last 100 meters because I am pushing so hard.  Then they tell us to do it again and AGAIN.  Oh, maybe I should mention that 400 meters would equal .25 miles.  That would make 300 meters around .19 miles.

So, during each of these sprints we were timed.  These are called splits.  It is great if you can run each one consistently (in this case, all 8 for the 300 meters).  It is even better if you can run each one FASTER than the one before.  Those would be considered negative splits.  I was so thrilled during the Goofy marathon when I found out that my buddy and I had run the second half of the marathon FASTER than the first half.

Here are my splits for today’s workout:

400 meters : 1:40, 1:43, 1:51, 1:50 (sort of consistent, but I obviously hard more energy during the first one)

300 meters: 1:14, 1:14, 1:15, 1:14, 1:13, 1:16, 1:15, 1:14  (not bad for consistency)

After all the FAST running, SUPER FAST running and jogging, I realized I had run a total of 6 miles.

I’m not sure if it good or bad to run with people who are faster than you.  I love being challenged, but I think I about killed myself!

Somehow I have to get my poor body out of bed tomorrow morning at 6:00 am to go swim in a lake and follow it up with a bike ride.   Yes, I love torturing myself.

The mind plays tricks

I was just reading a book the other day that discussed how the brain is rather conservative when it comes to how much you can push yourself during exercise.  Basically, when your body’s core gets to a certain temperature, your brain tells it to stop or at least slow down.  I suppose it is when you are pushing yourself to the max and don’t think you can get any further (similar to hitting a wall).  Unfortunately, I don’t think many people even reach this point.  I say “unfortunately” because folks tend to give up too easily and aren’t willing to push themselves to the limit.  Hey, I don’t do it all the time, but I do it as often as I can.  It’s actually a great feeling even though you think you are going to hyperventilate and collapse.  Okay, I will admit that the “great feeling” usually comes after the experience is done and over.

After reading about the brain’s conservative nature, I went for a run on the bridges the other day and thought about ways to override the system.  “Okay lady, you are going to get to the point when you think you are about dead, but just keep pushing through and keep those legs moving.”  That seemed easy enough, right? Fortunately for me I was running with someone who moves at a faster pace.  I often try to keep up with him and manage to for quite some time (the longest being 8 miles, but he continued on to 14 miles so I have to believe that he was just holding back).  This is always a test for me and I force myself to work harder in order to keep up for as long as possible.  Some days just seem easier than other days.

Well, it was one of those days where I really had to work at it in order to maintain his pace.  As we started running up the bridge while the burning sun shined down on us, all I could think about was tricking my mind. My mantra for that long uphill battle was: “You are strong, you can keep going, don’t slow down!”  It seemed to work because I was on his tail the whole way up.  Then I made the mistake of thinking that there was still three more miles to go with 3 more uphills.  It was all over as soon as I thought that.  After another half mile I slowed down and told him I was going back for the other runners.  Geez, that was a defeat.  Okay, not really, because I worked my butt off during those first 3 miles!  Then I made another mistake.  I looked at my Garmin which told me how fast I was actually going.  That doesn’t seem right… I only ran that fast!  Who was playing tricks on me, my mind or this technology?

So, I am pretty sure that I didn’t outsmart my brain during that evening run.  It still managed to get the best of me.  I did learn something, though.  Positive thoughts can drive us, while negative thoughts can slow us down. I have no idea what my threshold is if I were to fully apply myself, but I will continue to reach for it and someday I may find out (hopefully not the day I end up in the hospital… maybe having a conservative brain isn’t a bad thing).

Serious Runner vs. Recreational Runner

So, whenever I am out running I am always checking out the other runners I pass.  Okay, maybe that doesn’t sound right… for my husband’s sake I will say that I am not drooling over the handsome men who run past me with their shirts off.  By “checking out” I mean that I am assessing their running gear, form & pace.  I kind of feel bad doing so because my best friend recently told me that she doesn’t like running outside because she thinks people are judging her.  I would like to think that I am not being judgmental when I assess other runners… I view it more as a learning process and comparison checker.  Hey, I have admitted many times that I do not have the best form so I will not break down in tears if someone mentions this fact (actually, it has been mentioned by others on more than one occasion so I just roll with the punches).  Best of all, “checking out” other runners keeps me entertained.

Anyway, the other day I was thinking about my observations in terms of serious runners versus recreational runners.  Since I was not making any judgements, I had no way of knowing whether a runner I passed by was a serious runner or a recreational runner.  However, if I could hand them a checklist then I would know.

You might be serious runner if you:  1.  Are carrying some form of hydration and nutrition (usually when I am out running around my neighborhood I am the only one carrying water… therefore, I have to assume that I am running farther than the other runners I encounter, but some people just don’t need a lot of water so who really knows?).  2.  Have no issues running in any weather conditions because you would rather fight mother nature than run on a stupid treadmill.  3.  Are training for a long-ish distance run.  I am sure I might get complaints over this, but I do not consider a 5k a long-ish run.  You can be solely a recreational runner and accomplish this feat (but I will say that you could be on your way to becoming a serious runner).  Additionally, you always have some upcoming event marked on your calendar.  4.  On most of your running days you run farther than 3 miles.  5.  Kick yourself in the rear and drown in disappointment if you do not run a set number of miles per week.  6.  Go for a run when you are feeling a bit crabby, depressed, sick, stressed, disheartened, irritated (okay, you catch my drift) and end the run feeling a whole lot better than when you started.  7.  Are asked by random people if you are a runner because you just look like one (and you are on top of the world when this happens… more so than if someone told you that you should be a model or that you are smokin’ hot).  8.  Wear the proper attire.  Hmm, not quite sure about this one because I see older folks running around in cotton shirts/shorts and they have been running for 50 years.  Maybe I will put it like this: you do all of your other athletic activities (strength training, elliptical machines, spinning, yoga) in your running attire because you really don’t see the reason to own any of those stylish gym clothes.  9.  Run through the pain because you know that it will eventually go away (or get so bad that you finally have to seek medical attention).  10.  Have no issues waking up at 5:00 am on a weekend in order to go for a nice, long run.

Now, on to the recreational runner.  Basically, most of the above list does not really apply to them (one or two items might).  Recreational runners primarily run to stay fit or lose weight (and running is fabulous for both!).  They will most likely walk into the gym and decide to run on the treadmill because they did the elliptical the day before.  They really have no interest in training for a racing event and don’t feel the need to log mileage in some type of computer program.

As long as people are doing my favorite sport, I could care less if they are just running to run or actually running with a goal in mind because it all comes down to the simple fact that running is running.  Now, it can get a bit off the wall when you become obsessive… (but hey, I always say it is better to be addicted to running than addicted to drugs).

Rain or Shine?

During the summer in Florida, a runner dreams of cloud coverage.  At least this runner does!  And it doesn’t hurt if a little rain accompanies that cloud coverage.  What’s the difference if you walk outside on a sunny day or on a rainy day… you are wet either way!  Oh, I see.  Some of you in the western states have no idea what I am talking about.  It’s called humidity.  I think we pretty much average 90% humidity around here on a daily basis.  Couple that with nearly 100 degrees and you’ve got yourself a really HOT day.  Just yesterday, there was a black flag warning.  Well, that pretty much means that you should stay indoors with the air conditioning on.  Not a chance when you have to get outside to run.

So, the other day, I was standing in my garage with the jogging stroller taking a peek outside.  Lots of clouds. Lots of black nasty clouds.  Some light showers.  However, it wasn’t quite clear when those “light” showers would turn “heavy.”  It could happen any minute around here.  My only hesitation was the kid in the stroller (yes, my kid).  But heck, I had a plastic tarp for the stroller so she wouldn’t get wet.  It wouldn’t be as bad as the previous day when we were out shopping and all of a sudden it started pouring rain and we were not able to make it back to the car without getting completely drenched (there was even a puddle in the stroller when I pulled her out).  And we were actually waiting for my running buddy to pull into the driveway, so I really didn’t have anymore excuses left.  A few minutes later we were both standing there pondering over the question of whether or not to run.  But, it wasn’t a very long discussion because we both knew the conditions were actually ideal running conditions.  And hey, at least the sweat and salt would be washed off our bodies right away.

As we started our journey I looked up and saw a patch of blue sky off in the distance.  However, I was not craving its presence.  At that moment, I was actually happy to be running underneath the clouds.  Considering the soaring temperatures, it actually felt great to feel rain hitting me.  Not only that, but my daughter was flailing her legs in excitement as she watched the water trickle down the tarp.  Another runner’s dream is not to be hindered in how fast you can go.  The heat tends to do that.  Yet, that evening, it was so much easier to pick up the pace and I felt so good when we finished.  That was not the case a few days later when we attempted to run in the morning… 7:00 am is not early enough.  The sun rises in the clear sky and casts its death rays upon you.  My legs only felt like dead weights that day.

So, rain or shine?  When it comes to summer in Florida, I will choose rain any day.