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…

The Balancing Act – Fun vs. Fit

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My focus lately has been a little off.

Actually, very off, and all over the place. Based on the subjects in my last few posts, you can see my mind is outside. It’s finally starting to look like it’s supposed to in the Green Mountain State: very, very green, and I have become brain-swept with a renewed urge to just spend all my waking free time thinking about what I can do out there.

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columbine is in bloom!

Look, Columbine! Where’s my camera?

Hey, frogs are back!

Oh, ramps are out, so are morels and fiddleheads–lets go find them before it’s too late!

Look rose breasted grosbeaks are at the feeder, where’s my camera?

Ooh! Gardens–I need to get going on those!

It’s nice to be inspired. But this change of season is seeping  into my my typically rock-solid, gung-ho attitude towards the inside fitness I feel is really important.  My scheduled workouts have become kind of an afterthought. I’m procrastinating, waiting until the end of the day to do them. This may not be so bad for some people, waiting until later, but I’m really beat by late in the afternoon, and my mind isn’t really into it by then. Yesterday I clock-watched through the entire workout and was feeling down on myself.

look! an RBGB!

look! an RBGB!

If I’m like this now, this summer will be worse!

Trying to figure out where that super-motivated, fit and focused me went, and how to bring her back, I started thinking back to an experience that really make me thankful fitness is an important part of my life.  At about this same time last year, I attended a fly fishing class.  This was the 2nd time I took this class, because I needed a refresher on the knots and casts I learned the year before, and thought this women’s-only class would be a fun, more relaxed group. On the second day in the afternoon, we went out to a local stream.  There was one very reluctant woman in the class, I’m guessing she was in her 60s, who was there only because her husband had sent her. We were wading in the river on somewhat slippery rocks, most of us wearing borrowed and unfamiliar wading shoes,  trying to reach the bank on the other side, and working against the current. There was another woman, there on her own free will and excited to learn, in her mid-fifties. And she also was struggling to stay upright and cross safely, becoming a little more discouraged by the minute.

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a little fun with casting at class…

A few of us had to offer an arm and walk slowly with them, across the river, and over to the other side.

At the end of the day, as we all headed with gear towards our cars, I sided up to our wonderful instructor, Molly Seminek, who was visiting from Montana just to teach this class. We were silent at first but then began kind of a reluctant conversation about how tough it is for some people, wading in the water and having the balance and strength they need. She often advises clients to work on their balance and agility and their overall fitness and strength levels off the water, because it’s something that definitely works to their advantage when in the water, and on the riverside when you need to step over rocks or logs, or high banks. I mentioned how I feel strongly about the need to stay fit as we get older, and how yoga and weight training, has helped me too, in many ways. Hearing this was something she works on continually to keep herself in good form to keep guiding and doing what she loves every day as a career, was very reassuring.

This conversation comes to mind from time-to-time for motivation when I need it, as well as advice I hear from other sources, most notably from P90x, one of the strength training programs I like to rotate into the mix a few times per year. Tony Horton, the trainer mentions a few times throughout that jump training, and yoga and some of the other moves included are so great to practice and learn to do safety in a controlled environment, because it helps train you for all the great things you want to do in real life and in real settings. And I guess it’s because these are on DVDs and I have heard the same lines over and over again, that I can hear his voice in my head when I’m lunging down to dig up dirt in my garden and throwing it in a pile. And I’m reminding myself to not arch my back. Or let my knee go over my toes. And when looking for salamanders with my son, always bend my knees when lifting up heavy rocks, instead of pulling them from a standing position. Or when lifting him to cross the river when he’s about to swamp his boots.

My friends and family, when I ask for advice on this, tend to think it should be easy for me to just let go of my need to do any

always ready to join me on that hike...

always ready to join me on that hike…

formal exercise inside, because it’s just so nice out. I should just hike. Or run. Or whatever keeps me moving, as long as it’s outside. I don’t think one really replaces the other though, and with a set amount of free-time, I worry I’ll lose all that great endurance, flexibility and strength I work so hard to build the rest of the year, that enables my success on so many levels. But then again, it’s super-depressing being inside doing pull-ups and push-ups, or planks when I hear an oriole out the window chirping and the river rambling along, and always a labrador ready and waiting to be walked…

I have to figure out how to let my fitness life and my outdoor life live side-by-side this season, without slacking off in either. I want to be in my sixties, and crossing that river on my own, without someone else lending me an arm, and worry if I let it slide, even a little, I’ll lose momentum long term…

How have you balanced your fit lives when more fun activities are calling your name?

Do you make changes that help keep the strength training more interesting? Or take that outside?

Do you let fitness slide a bit throughout certain times of the year?

Do you have the perfect mix of both?

I’d love to hear some ideas and discussion.

For more information:

Molly Seminek: http://tietheknotflyfishing.com/wordpress/

P90x: http://www.beachbody.com/product/p90x-what-you-get.do