The Fitness Blues

When I first started this journal, my idea was this would be the place for me to work out my thoughts about staying healthy through the years.

And I wanted this to be about me as a woman; not a mom.

I didn’t want, more than anything, to be a mommy-blogger.

Not that there is anything wrong with mommy-bloggers, I read and enjoy many of them. I just thought because so many women, once they become moms, become so absorbed in being caretakers, keeping track of households, careers, kids, etc, there needs to be a place to voice our concerns. Because as often as we get swallowed into everyone else’s drama,  we too are people who matter. We need to be strong, healthy, and yes, happy too, if we are going to be good support for our families.

And if anyone cares to read what I write, if they don’t know this already about themselves, they can be reminded of this fact too.

But as I look back at my last few posts, actually most of them from this summer on, would put me in that mommy category. Parenting issues have invaded my brain. And as much as I would like to mull-over interesting  issues and health trends, I often become interrupted.

Hmmm, should I continue to pursue intermittent fasting? I read it’s really healthy and helps you ward off disease, but after trying it for a few months, I need to re-evaluate…

Oh, time to pick up my son from school….

I need to find a local veggie source for the winter, need to research all the options.

Are you going to town today, can you pick up prescriptions at the drug-store?

My friend Maggie told me about this company, 23andme, about how you can get genetic testing for your family and find out if you are prone to Alzheimer’s and other diseases? Can you imagine doing that? Would I ever consider it?

Hey, get off the computer, you have been playing Minecraft way too long…

I need to reschedule that yearly exam I cancelled last month…

Actually, Brett needs his well-check too, I’ll schedule that first.

I’m unmotivated right now and need to create a new exercise program before I build a new habit of laziness, what should I do?

Don’t forget, come early for the Halloween Parade at school today!

Where does the time go!

Often as soon as these questions come to mind, I’m forced to come down from the clouds, back to the school, back to the doctor’s office, back to finishing the last Harry Potter book with my son. Back to helping him do his homework, and lecturing him about the need for balance with screen time.

And these questions are forgotten for weeks, unresolved, until I bring them up again and start the same cycle of putting them off, putting them off…

Oh yeah, and did you know, we are out of toilet paper too? 

Argh! The indignity of it all…

I just want to concentrate for just a few minutes…my health and sanity are at stake!

There isn’t typically an immediate downside to putting off finding answers to some of my health questions.  But one of them has finally become a problem.

It’s that one about about needing to find a new exercise program. Because I’m in a big slump. Completely unmotivated.

I’m one of those people who does well with a planned exercise program. I need a schedule telling me what to do each day. If I have a schedule, no questions asked, like it or not, busy or not… it gets done. And for the last few years, I had been happily switching off between a few programs (P90x and ChaLean Extreme) where I have three days of using weights, and then the rest of the days I have a mix of outside walks, hikes or some variety of strength training and yoga.

But last month as I reached the end of my most current program schedule, as much as I love them both, I couldn’t bear to continue. The workouts were getting redundant; I have done each of them, in 3-month intervals, 3x.

So I decided to be unscheduled for a few weeks, to think over what to do next.

Each time I tried to take the time to research something new, I was disappointed. First of all, if you try enough of these programs, they all start to seem similar after awhile and it’s just hard to choose. I think, but if it’s so similar, why don’t I just do another round of what I have already?

But I don’t want to do another round. I’m bored.

Decision, interrupted. 

I began to take hikes up in the woods behind my house every day. October is so amazing in Vermont, I need to enjoy it.

The view at the top of my October hikes…

These hikes were challenging, and a welcome change from scheduled weight lifting.  And when your mind drifts a million miles away in parent-land, just feeling that air. Seeing the colors. The different trees. The feeling I get when I reach the top of the little mountain and look out at our cute little rural valley, it’s intoxicating.

But the beauty doesn’t last too long. As I look out the window today, and see the leaves almost all down from the trees. The wind is whipping, and it’s pouring out. And the need to answer my question about what next comes back to the forefront, because I’m not going out there…

I have read it takes 21 days to build a habit.

And after my wonderful month off, mindlessly rambling in the woods, I realize I took a few days too many. I lost my good habit. The one where I’m all for the challenge of one armed push-ups, army crawls, vertical jumps, chin-ups, right angle poses and hip openers, and heavy weights.

Instead I am left with the new habit of just wanting to move around mindlessly, not having to think too much, or work too hard. When I’m particularly unmotivated and it’s cold out, I even started strapping on the headphones, grabbing my kindle fire and streaming Orange is the New Black on Netflix, while mindlessly moving my legs on the elliptical.

When I’m done, I don’t even remember working out. It just isn’t all that satisfying.

This IS really good exercise. I know you are all thinking that.

But I won’t be hiking or walking much in the winter. And I’ll be bored if I am on the elliptical more than once or twice a week.

When you are in a slump, the first bit of advice a fitness expert is going to tell you is that you need to mix it up. Well, I’m trying. I agree with that advice.

But here’s the problem I’m starting to see. I need to stay motivated not just for 3 months or a year, or two years, I need to stay motivated to workout for LIFE. I have been in-tune with my health, making sure it is always a priority, for about 5 years, and I’m in this slump already.

What happens in 10 years? Or 20?

How am I going to keep mixing it up FOREVER?

Another bit of advice I hear from fitness experts, and try to add to the equation to pick me out of this slump, is that I need to set goals.  And I totally agree! I set goals all the time. But here’s the challenge. It’s all fun when someone wants to lose weight. Hooray, I lost 10 lbs! Or 50 lbs. I have reached my goal!  That’s so motivating!  But what happens when you are the same size for a long time. And you just need to stay there?

And then when you first start working out you can set goals like: I want to run a 5K, or a half-marathon. Or I want to increase my weights. Or I want to lose 2 inches off my waist. And you have reached these goals already. What’s next?

Keep going?

Make the challenges harder?

How long can I keep this up?

Do I want to keep this up?

And is it safe? Injury is not an option.

Thinking about how I might respond to these questions, about how far I really need to go with these never-ending goals to stay motivated, I am reminded of a phrase from one of my favorite workout videos, where Chalene Johnson tells us assuredly:

You are an athlete now!

Me, an athlete?

Because I show up every day and work hard at fitness? Hmmm…

I’m flattered by the idea, I hadn’t thought to categorize myself this way.  But it worries me too, because the more I get swept up in setting and achieving new goals, quantifying progress, looking at exercise as a sport, a competition or a job, or thinking about me, an athlete, the harder it is to ever feel like I am succeeding.

I don’t want to continue keeping score.

How do I show progress, without being so into it?

Without having to quantify every bite, every weight, every personal best?

I don’t want to think like an athlete…or a professional. I can’t lift more than I am already. Get more fit than I am already, unless I make a decision to take it a step further…

And I don’t need that.

I am after all, just a mom.

Decision on how to proceed?

Interrupted, once again, for now…

What types of tactics do you use to help get you back into the right frame of mind to stay motivated? Do you feel the need to continually one-up your goals? Or do you just not think about it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts…

14 thoughts on “The Fitness Blues

  1. Hey Robin. Always great to read what you have to share. I’m in a rut too with my diet and exercise. I need to create some goals and a plan for each. Thanks for sharing! xoxo

  2. Hi Linda!! I miss you! thanks so much for your comment. I’m sure your lovely NH weather is just as depressing as ours. I’m beginning to start seeing my slumps as seasonal. I know it’s temporary, but it doesn’t make it easy to work through when you have to deal with them. If I can think of anything new and exciting, I’ll certainly share…keep reading!

  3. Hi Robin, my life is constantly interrupted… Just like yours… Single mom of two toddlers work full time and the like. My exercise was walking 25-30 miles a week rain sleet snow and sun… Then my kids chamged schools and its a busy two to four lane highway to walk my kids– the neighborhood 4 mile walk was appealing perhaps mindless at times… I invited people to join me, certain days of the week I’d have walking dates or gym dates and that worked. Now that they have changed schools I’m in a rut. Looks like I should find a way to get through the beautiful golf course in between the new school and home to add it back to the routine. Thankfully there is a gym at the school so I can alternate the cardio with weights. It’s change. I need to invite people into a new routine that keeps me accountable and the experience enjoyable for me, and hopefully them.

    • I know what you mean–friends help for motivation! I can help you, but from afar! I have a little think-tank of gals who I talk some of this over with but we do it via online forum and I can’t tell you how amazing it is to feel like you are not alone in all these thoughts and concerns. I had a brainstorming lunch with my friend yesterday and we vowed to force each other out on skis more, and in the spring to do more fly fishing together 🙂 ….so that’s a start! Definitely find a way through that golf course; it may make a huge difference! thanks so much for reading and commenting friend! xxx

  4. My 2 cents:
    Exercise does not have to be about competition or “raising the bar”. Perhaps that mindset is the first hurdle to get over once you have met your personal goals (as losing weight and inches requires such a mindset). The truth is that life is a journey and so is our health, as it doesn’t stay static.

    Have you thought about combining your family and your exercise? I don’t know what your family likes to do but biking was our big thing growing up. Going on trips to the pool on our bikes or even around the neighborhood allowed for conversations and exercise. My husband and I are exploring our metroparks together hiking the trails. We have joined the AVA to meet other people with similar interests.

    In the winter, shoveling your own snow, starting an outdoor snow fortress for your son, going sledding/tobogganing and then climbing back up the hill to do it again. These are all great forms of exercise. There also seem to be many dance and fitness based video games that require stepping, dancing, balance and keep people up and moving. In the spring, there is always planting your own garden that will require digging, weeding, and watering. Such family projects can keep you active, give you a purpose and have you focus more on growing good family habits rather than just putting on time on an elliptical (you can obviously do that as well for some “mommy” time).

    • Kawookie, thank you for your thoughtful recommendations, You know, I am VERY active outdoors and we do a lot of activities as a family: hiking, gardening. I’m hoping to do more skiing and snowshoeing this year but the last 2 years we have had no snow! Need to play that by ear. One of the issues I have is exactly what you said: I need to get my mindset over a certain hurtle. I feel bored if I don’t have goals; but when I do have goals, I get a little obsessive! As for family, I originally got into the mess in the first place after my son was born and when he was little, because I thought I could be active just by hanging out with him. But really it didn’t always work because the workouts were never that intense once the family became involved. Lots fo stops and starts. Heart rate never really gets moving. So I told myself I always want to carve out at least 30-45 min/day of thoughtful workouts just for me. And the rest I consider just having an active lifestyle…does that make sense? But you are right, that made sense back then when I was first getting into shape, but after a few years? Maybe time to re-evaluate. Oh boy regarding shoveling–hope my hubby doesn’t see that because that’s his job! 🙂 thanks again, so appreciate your thoughts.

  5. JUST a mom!? Please! It’s a full time job 🙂 And I have to say, I was interrupted by about 4 phone calls and twice by my son in person while I tried to read your post. 1 post!
    So what I’m trying to say is that I totally hear you. For me, the rambling and writing especially has taken over what was once a good fitness routine. I used to run 6k 3 days a week and I used to do yoga almost every day when I took a break from running. Now what do I do? Not a whole lot! I sit and write. Which is great, but I can feel myself getting puffy around the edges. Blech. I need to get out there but I just don’t feel motivated. Even with goals and schedules, I can’t motivate myself. I know once I get going, though, that I form that habit or become addicted to the point that I can’t imagine not doing the exercise. I just have to start and do it enough to get to that point. It seems it takes less time to become un-addicted than it does to form the habit, sadly.
    Maybe we should bug each other, ask each other “what did you do today?” I think accountability helps…

    • Thank you so much for your comment. I see once again that we are on the absolute opposite end of the spectrum: I’m envious you write so much and I can only muster something every few weeks, but I do think about this exercise stuff all the time, every day. If you are serious about motivation on that front, I do belong to a great forum for motivation, accountability with fitness. Message me at the email under my contact and I can tell you more about it. So hard to do the back-and-forth communication, wish there was a chat, or private message, on WordPress but I’d love to support you on that goal too….

  6. Hi Robin, for me I need to always one-up my goals. I was getting into a slump with the programs for a while too. I couldn’t see myself doing them forever because I was already getting bored. A change was needed. I made the decision that I needed a sport that I enjoyed and that’s how I fell into running. I never run out of goals because I can always strive to go farther or faster.

    For me the battle hasn’t been to find the motivation to exercise, but rather to find the balance between weight lifting and running. I love both but I continually fail to incorporate both into my daily living. It seems to either be one or the other. When I only run, I eat horribly and that’s the current predicament I find myself in. I’ve gained weight and not just a couple of pounds. Now I’m forced to find the balance and that scares me.

    • Carolyn, thank you so much for your comment. I have to say I’m sorry you have this problem too but happy to find someone who gets exactly what I’m saying…so glad I have connected with you, at least we can brainstorm and try to work all this out, or at least motivate each other enough to keep us going through the slumps. I have stayed away from running because I worry about my back….every once in awhile if I try, it starts to bug me. But perhaps you are right, maybe I can find something like that, that I can rotate in w/never-ending progression. That would be fantastic.

  7. Yes, you certainly are a mom, but never give up on seeing yourself apart from that title. Otherwise, when you don’t have children at home anymore, you will say, “Who am I?” As for the fitness for life situation, boy can I relate! I am so unmotivated. I try to go to yoga twice a week at the Y, unless I’m traveling or have a meeting of some kind. But I also used to get to the Y two other times a week to use the elliptical and the weights, and I can’t seem to drag myself there. Once I am there, though, I actually feel good about it, so why can’t I get myself in gear?

    • Thanks so much for your comment. That’s great that you have at least something of a schedule, sounds like you are doing great! But I hear you, dragging yourself some days is tough; I’m still in a bit of a funk now. But usually it’s just a matter of getting into workout clothing first thing in the morning, that kind of tips me towards “go” every day. I’ll tell myself I don’t get real clothes or a shower until I do. Bribing myself is sometimes the answer! And of course, I usually feel great within 10 minutes of starting…

  8. “I just want to concentrate for just a few minutes…my health and sanity are at stake!” This is where I am right now so maybe it’s what shouted at me the loudest from your post — as we’d say in my writer’s workshop, this is at the heart of your piece. (At least for me.) Seems to me, less than an exercise regimen, you need to carve space and time for you — and then play by ear what you do with that time — run, walk, write, sketch, sleep. Or all of it…

    • Thanks for reading and your comment Jen. Could be the !!! …they come in handy sometimes to scream to the world! I am generally a disorganized, go with the flow, kind of person, but for some reason I have to be super-organized w/exercise, only then, I feel in control….and right now, am not, because everything isn’t well thought out. Purposeless, you know? What I do looks great to others, but it frustrates me. I think this is where the perfectionist mindset I used to use for my career comes out here instead. It’s a good point you make though about carving out the time, I think the stay-at-home parents time gets used up by the family, or not valued as much, because the schedule is seen as more flexible. We need to set some limits I think because the constant state of starting, stopping, starting and never crossing anything personally important to us off the list really dims the spirit.

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