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…

Little Changes, Big Impact


Too busy to admire nature? Put it on the list…

Have you ever had one of those moments when you make a teeny-tiny, no-brainer kind of change in routine, but it makes all the difference?

I’m feeling that way this winter, and still can’t believe it took me so long to figure out how to get myelf a little more organized. I’ll say a little more, because the transition isn’t 100%, but think I’m on the right path.

I have always been kind of Type A at career-oriented tasks. If I had a vision on a project, it had to be perfect and I’d work round-the-clock to ensure everything was just so, and of course, on time. The calendar and task list was solid. But on a personal level? I’m definitely Type B. Banking and finances, a mess; if I sent a payment in on time, it was luck and it didn’t bother me all that much.  Mail was in piles, unopened, all over the house. Nothing interesting ever comes in the mail anyway, right?

With friends and in groups? Whatever they want to do is fine, no worries. Go with the flow, that’s me…

A few years ago, when I was in the middle of my corporate work-life, mom-life juggle, the Type A work-mode took over, and I was notoriously bad on a personal level keeping in touch with friends. Between driving to New Hampshire, the corporate office, and traveling to visit clients in California, Utah, Seattle, Boston, and having those work-at-home days too where I would hide downstairs in my office until lunch, where I’d see Brett for an hour, maybe exercise, and then go back down and hide for the rest of the day, anything fun and inpirational like hanging out with a friend, that was the last thing on my mind.

My friend Marina and I were often trying to set up lunches, and each time that day came up on the calendar there was some reason to cancel.  Travel, or a super-important project, or whatever, and then by the time we would think to make a date again, a few months had passed and we would start this cycle over again. It got to the point where I was seeing my friend only a few times during the year, and she only lives 20 minutes away! She finally one day brought up the idea of a scheduled once-a-month lunch date.

The Rules:

  • Put lunch date on the calendar.
  • Schedule other appointments around it.
  • As soon as we get back from lunch, immediately set new date.

What a concept, put something fun on the calendar, and prioritize it?  It’s not rocket-science, but it worked, and although the dates aren’t always as often as once a month, we have had this routine for about 6 years.

Long after I put my career on hold and became the full-time master-of-the-home-and-child I am today, I still have a tough time

Well, I think I saw that to-do list here somewhere?

Well, I think I saw that to-do list here somewhere?

accomplishing everything I want to during the day. Aside from some lunch dates, most of what I put on my calendar and notepad-based to-do list are uninspiring chores.  I have often wondered how the heck I ever worked outide the home. The days go quickly. I still feel awful that I don’t see certain friends enough. I still forget to do pretty much everything on my to-do list because the notepad where I write my list gets lost under all the papers sent home with my son from school.

I was beginning to think my exercise habit was the problem, because I have been unable to focus on anything else. But how can maintaining my health be a problem? That’s not going anywhere…

Why was I so good at this when I was working outside the home?

Or was it in here???

Or was it in here???

Back in December, as I was considering New Years Resolutions and looking to set some goals for 2013 , I was still down about my lack of ability to begin some of the personal projects I had been thinking about but just never seem to have time to do because I was always in the midst of family chores. A friend had mentioned she just signed up for a program called the “Push Challenge”, by Chalene Johnson (

Do you know about Chalene? She is a fitness instructor and motivational guru, and I adore her.

Her workout program Chalean Extreme ( had been recommended to me last year. I was a little skeptical,  because I had never heard of it, but the workouts had great reviews on Amazon, so I crossed my fingers and placed the order. For the first few weeks I was not a fan; everyone in her videos is so darn cute! And they wear pink. And sometimes sparkles! I mean, me? My friends? People in my state? Nobody looks like these women. I’m guessing they are all California and Florida types, but we New England gals, we look like a whole different species. But over time I learned to love all the inspiring people in the videos, as well as the workouts, as they are all short, really effective, and that Chalene is one smart, motivating woman.

Based on being truly won over, I signed up for this challenge to see what it was all about. I’m not sure I ever went through the whole program, maybe half of it. But essentially, what we did was:

  • Establish Personal Goals.
  • Pick out one goal called the “Push” goal, work towards this every day, and
  • Organize it all on a smartphone to-do list.

My smartphone has a to-do list app?

But I like my notepad to-do list, it sits on the counter right in front of my face so I can’t ignore it.  Oh, and where is that to-do list, by the way? Underneath the school lunch menu, perhaps? Or the pile of drawings on the dining room table?

Seems kind of like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? I guess it isn’t though because I never thought of it by myself! My organizational system, if you can even call it that, was not even remotely taking into account personal goals. I wasn’t prioritizing them because these goals never made it to the to-do list in the first place!  I really thought something was wrong with me over the last few years, wondering why I haven’t been able to focus.

The Type A me, who I was used to seeing in my corporate life, only made infrequent appearances to ensure exercise and fitness-related goals were met, but then just went quietly away after that, where the Type B, go with the flow, disorganized me remained.

Within a few minutes of evaluating to-do list apps, I downloaded one and started filling it in.  The most important point Chalene makes about creating this list is that you must not only put boring chores on your to-do list, like I had been doing. You must put tasks associated with your “Push” goal, or enabling goal, on the list each day, so if your goal is to exercise more, or to be a better friend, or a better parent, tasks associated with you accomplishing this goal go on the list. If you need to get outside more and enjoy nature, or read more fiction books, or to take more photos, those go on there as well. Every day your goals are top-of-mind, and you work towards achieving them.

Kind of cool isn’t it?

I was so excited about this new approach, the next time I saw Marina at lunch I told her all about it. She sat there for a few seconds, looking at me with kind of a stunned silence. “What do you mean you never put your personal goals on your to-do list? I thought you always did!” She felt awful, neglectful even, for not clueing me to this bit of wisdom she knew about, but just assumed I had already done.

No worries Marina. I’m on the right path now.

My goal was to start writing more about what I’m interested in, and maybe inspire a few people along the way, and here I am.  Within a few weeks, I managed to get it done. I now have all my boring chores on my to-do list app too, and my family doesn’t think I’m too much of a space-shot anymore because I don’t forget to do things; my list doesn’t get lost amongst clutter anymore. Already my writing has started enabling one of my New Years Resolutions, being a better friend, and seeing friends and family more often, because when they get my posts I hear from them, we start a dialog, and then we put those dates to get together on the calendar.

I’m starting to see things happen. And am much more inspired throughout the day.

I may start a few new annoying habits, like checking my smartphone too often, but I’ll take it considering the alternative…

How do you organize personal goals into your day? Or do you? Have you had similar struggles?

Please comment, I would love to hear some discussion!