The inertia of busy mothers – not good for our thighs, or so I hear.

new balance shoesI am not a runner. Don’t like it, never have. Unless you count fifth grade during which I ran an actual 5-mile race, or that one time, Sophmore year in college, that I was so angry at some guy, I actually ran. Probably a whole half mile before I slumped back to my dorm room, defeated and physically drained, and wrote a ranty essay for my English Class. It was called “Why I Hate Men or The Time Liz Ran.”

(Yes I know. How very 19 year-old of me.)

In case you’re wondering, the essay got an A. My running got an F.

Last week, Cool Mom Pick ran a post for mothers who run in the new Cool Mom Fit series, which is obviously inspired by my partner Kristen, and not me. The comments on the post answer the question, “why do you run or why do you want to?” and I read each one with a combination of awe, guilt, a little resentment, and quite a bit of enlightenment.

Besides the obvious answers about health, I was struck by the following:

To deal with the everyday chaos. It’s time to myself.

I exercise so that my daughters know it’s okay to make your health a priority.

To spend a bit of time completely alone

Running provides me with energy, motivation to be a better person.

I run for me! Running gives me balance and provides a very necessary outlet for stress reduction.

…because it makes my spirit stronger.

To preserve that little bit of sanity my family has left me.

That’s just…wow. Amazing to me, if obvious to some of you.

And then I realized through the wisdom of these women, that ugh, here is something at which I am failing miserably once again.

I know so many working mothers whose husbands feel like “they come last.” They’re wrong. I think that often we do.

In some ways it’s the trap of women who do so much: we just do not make ourselves, our health, a priority. I’m pretty good with getting pedicures or squeezing in an hour after 11PM to make my way through the Hatfields and McCoys (ZOMG – must watch!). But when it comes to the commitment of physical health–and its ensuing effects on mental health– I stumble.

Which is why, if I’m to be honest, when I read about the joys and utter fabulosity of taking time for yourself, I feel that resentment. I justify. I wonder what’s going to give? Because it’s definitely something.

I can seek out a yoga class at 5 AM before everyone is up, which means, well, starting at 5AM. I can try to squeeze in a Jillian Michaels video after work, while the kids run around making messes and beg for dinner.


Truly I’ve at a loss. And suffering from a major case of inertia, which doesn’t help matters.

So I was really inspired by this beautiful, honest essay about self-care for mothers, written this week by one of my favorite, most thoughtful, amazing friends in the world, Asha Dornfest. If you don’t know her, you will feel copious levels of joy in your life for having discovered her common sense thinking about parenting and life in general. (Also why her site Parenthacks is so successful.)

I loved reading from Asha there is more complexity to taking care of our bodies and minds than a simple, “well, just get up an do it!” I don’t do well with commands from perky authority figures with tight abs. I also don’t respond well to advice like, Don’t worry! That important project can wait! – because no, that important project can’t always wait. Maybe in your life, but not in mine.

Then I think, wow, I sure feel defensive about people trying to help me.

But never with Asha’s Accidental Expert column. Instead of reading about all the women who are already doing great things for their bodies and minds (i.e. more guilt on my part), it was about the tiny steps to get you started back on a path to balance.

Tip one from her post:

Choose a single, small thing that, if you did it consistently, would make you feel better. You get to define “feel better.” For me, it was taking a shower (like I said, small). If I could get up 15 minutes earlier each morning, and then spend it cleaning myself up (instead of cleaning the house or mindlessly Web surfing), I would hold my head a little higher all day.

My inclination has always been more toward intellectual stimulation and brain games. If I have a free hour I automatically grab a crossword puzzle or a copy of Vanity Fair, not even thinking that those dusty running shoes in my closet are viable alternatives. Even if it does mean a few more minutes trying to find a ponytail holder in the mess somewhere.

It’s made me realize that if I can figure out how to move my ass (and thighs and pathetic excuse for triceps) maybe I’m not giving something up–maybe I’m gaining something. That’s a big mindshift for me.

So I’m trying to establish the physical thing I can do consistently. Because something is telling me that I desperately need it–the physical benefits, the spiritual benefits, and the essential clearing of my head. I can only convince myself for so long that playing Word Welder on my commute for 20 minutes each morning counts as “me time.”

I’m thinking those Shred tapes will be a good place to start. And this time, maybe I’ll stick with it for more than a month.

But as Asha reminded me–one day at a time. Because sometimes I will fail.

And then, as she counseled, “you will restart.”

I can only hope.

Is there something you would do with your time if you had just 15 minutes? Something purely for you? What small addition to your schedule would make you happy? Or if you already do it, what is it? And how do you fit it in?

Help a mama out.



66 thoughts on “The inertia of busy mothers – not good for our thighs, or so I hear.”

  1. Taking a shower. I too get up 15 minutes earlier then strictly necessary to have the bathroom to myself for a glorious hot shower and the privilege to dress myself without an audience. My family has no problem allowing me this since I’m not a morning person so I need a little time before I am approachable, those 15 minutes do the trick.

  2. I can relate to this so well. It is hard.

    I’m not an exercise person (I’d rather use extra time to read or write) but I want to model something better for my kids, so among the things we’ve done differently lately is get up early enough to get us all to the school on bikes (with the youngest in a trailer). It’s lovely.

    I think if I you really are looking for a suggestion I’d find yourself a little block of time to take a walk. I was worried when we got a dog in the fall that walking it would be a downside, but it turns out I really like having a reason to get out for a little bit every morning and evening in any kind of weather. I’m not a runner, but there’s nothing wrong with nice walk. I think at this point even if I didn’t have a dog I would find time to get out and walk for a little bit each day. (I listen to Radiolab podcasts most of the time when I take out the dog and I usually come back from my walks excited to tell my husband about some cool story I just heard.)

  3. Working out has become the thing I’m doing for me. After two kids, I’ve gotten to the point where my weight issues were crushing my ego. A little over two months ago, I made a vow to spend 30-45 minutes after the kids go to bed working out. That means my favorite prime time shows get DVRd and sometimes not viewed until the weekend. For 30 days I did Jillian Michael’s Shred (everyday!) and then moved on to the 60 day Insanity program (I have 2 weeks left!). Having that time to focus on me has been priceless. Honestly, my current workout is so intense, I literally can’t focus on anything but the workout for 45 minutes. Once I’m done, I’m drenched (ew), exhausted, but my mind is clearer and I feel better. And…I’m losing the weight and feel better about myself than I have in ages.

    1. I love hearing people use terms like “priceless.” I know it’s the kind of thing I’ll feel great about when I get my butt in gear…so why is it so darn hard to get started? You inspire me Alyssa!

      1. Mayhaps I’ve seen one too many Mastercard commercials 🙂 I think you picked the perfect word…inertia. The great thing is, once you get started, inertia takes over and it becomes like second nature. I won’t lie, that first week of Insanity was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. By day two I was thinking “I could learn to be OK with being overweight!” because the workout was kicking my ass. Now, I can’t imagine skipping out, even when I feel like I’m going to die!

  4. I’m in the exact. same. boat. I haven’t exercised in so many years that I don’t think Jillian Michaels had even been discovered yet. Finally started to feel so old (and gain weight, but mainly feel SO old) that I decided I’d spend this summer MAKING myself take care of myself, just to see what would happen. It’s the last thing I ever think to do so I really have to force myself to exercise or eat well. Today is day 8 of the 30 Day Shred for me. It has not been easy but I have to say even after just 8 days I feel my blood flowing a little better. I just hope I can maintain the will to get through the whole 30 days and then perhaps keep going after that. Solidarity sister.

  5. I do very, very little for myself. In other news – I’ve been a parent for nearly 10 years and we’ve never hired a sitter. That is how much I don’t do for myself. Or my husband. I don’t even get haircuts because when would I get them and how do I bring my kids?

    Sad. I know.

    But the one thing I do for myself(and don’t hate me) is run. The only way to make it work – I set my alarm and get up every goddamned day at 4:30am so I can run for an hour and then shower and then beer-bong a pot of coffee before my three kids wake-up. Does 4:30 suck big time..yes. But it only sucks for about 2 minutes while I’m trying to pry open my eyes and put my running shorts on. By the time I hit the pavement I know that it was worth it.

    But if I really had an extra 15 minutes each day? I’d try to finally figure out how to schedule that hair cut. You should see my ends.

    Great post, Liz.

  6. I’m one of the people who runs. I never thought of myself as a runner, but I realized I wasn’t serving anyone very well if I was unhappy and unhealthy. I forced myself through it and reveled in the alone time. Granted, I haven’t done it in almost two years because of pregnancy, breastfeeding, and a baby who is just now sleeping better, but my new sports bras came in the mail last night, I some shorts that fit that I can run in, and I’ve downloaded the C25K app to my iPhone and gotten a new docking cable for my shuffle.
    A little side note, depending on what you do, the kids may want to join in with you. Let them. You get some exercise and some together time. M loved jumping jacks with me, and now she likes to go for walks with me too.

  7. What timing! Just this morning, I got up at 5:55, and rolled out for a short run. I’m hoping to make it a routine. I have been resisting making exercise an early morning thing- my 2.5 year old still joins us in our room part way through the night, bedtimes don’t end until 9:30, so how can I get to bed early enough, etc. etc. And I am not much of a runner. I prefer kickboxing.

    But. My clothes don’t fit right, and I’m in the worst physical condition of my life. I supposedly get to come straight home on Tuesday nights and workout (I have a heavy bag in my garage) but too often, a meeting runs late and while I’ll get up and leave a meeting when I need to get to day care for pickup, I’ll push it and stay later if I’m just going home to exercise. Or someone gets sick. Or, as happened last night, traffic is unusually bad and I can’t get home in time to have my workout.

    So I’m going to try to join the ranks of the morning joggers. Today’s run went well- but the first day is easy. It is day 15 or so that’s hard- before it is routine but after it is novel. I’m hoping I’ll be feeling the benefits by then, and will be able to keep it up.

  8. I’ve flirted with running but we’ve never made a commitment. However five mornings a week I get up at 5:20 AM so I can get my butt kicked by Jillian or one of the other tyrants whose DVDs I own. I sometimes wish I could do it on the weekends too but that’s when I let sleep win out.

  9. I’m not a runner and probably never will be. But I LOVE to walk. Mostly what I like about it is that I don’t have to schedule it, it just happens. (Which means it will always “just happen” and I’m never left feeling bad that it hasn’t.) Sure, it’s not hard-core, but if you’re starting from scratch, maybe you don’t need hard-core right away. (Or ever!?) Maybe you can enjoy some summertime family walks in the evening after work? (Then you aren’t sacrificing kid-time or dinner-prep-time or whatever thousand other things there are to sacrifice!) Or walk on your lunch hour. Or walk an extra subway stop in the morning on the way to work. Or, if all else fails, get your pedicure somewhere that’s a little further than your usual place and… wait for it… walk there.

    1. That’s such a nice idea. For what it’s worth I do get a hell of a lot of stair climbing in on my subway commute. But I love the idea of a walk with the kids.

      Does it blow it if we walk to get ice cream?

      1. Not if the alternate plan was to drive to get ice cream!

        Also – and maybe someone has already suggested it – have you heard of Zumba? It may be totally not your thing, but it’s actually really fun. Looking like a fool while trying to figure out latin-inspired choreography really takes your mind off the fact that you’re actually exercising.

  10. I needed to read this post today. Because YES! Also, I’ve been slacking off on the exercise lately — I’ve been sick and busy and (insert additional excuses here). And I need to restart.

    I bought the Shred DVD about 18 months ago. Because I was late leaving work one day and had to run to catch the bus. And I was embarrassingly out of breath. The Shred changed that. I changed that. And I love how much better I feel when I exercise… about myself, about my body, about life.

    Usually, I have 30 minutes between the time I get home from work until I have to pick up my son from school — enough time for the DVD. Or if that fails, I head downstairs to the elliptical after the kids are in bed. Not every day (HA!), but enough.

    Though if I had that extra 15 minutes just for myself, I would read more books.

  11. I think the key is to first think of something that speaks to you and you will enjoy. I don’t like running, using machines, or working out to the TV. So, there is no way that I was going to figure out a way to fit something like that in. I like two forms of exercise – yoga and walking. Right now, I don’t have the time or money for yoga, so walking it is.

    I had been struggling with this ever since my 2nd trimester w/ my daugther (now 18 months), when I couldn’t stand for more than 5 minutes without having to pee. Then, it was recovery from a c-section, and a kid who hated her stroller. Then, it was back to work and there was never any time in the day.

    Finally I decided I need to figure this out. I didn’t want to take time away from my daugther, since I work full time, but after she goes to bed at 8, I am too tired to exercise. And, I get up by 6am every day for work, and I just really know that I will not wake up earlier to exercise.

    Then, I read a blog post somewhere about “pajama walks”, where after dinner, but before bed, the family walks together in their pjs. I loved it, and started it right away. It’s slightly modified – only my daugther is in her pjs, and my hubby stays home and watches tv. But, every other night(non-bath nights), I get my daugther in her pjs, and we go for a mile walk. We go at a leasurly pace, and often she likes to get out and walk for maybe a quarter of it herself. When she is in the stroller, I walk faster to burn more calories. But, I make it just about getting out and moving, and I don’t worry about much else. All I know is, it’s better than what I was doing before. The whole thing takes about 30 minutes, and then we get home, finish the bedtime routing, and my daugther goes to bed.

    She and I both love the walks, and as she gets older, I can see this being a wonderful habit to continue that allows us both to take care of ourselves. In the future we might ride bikes, run, or go to a park. But for now, this fits perfectly into our lives.

    Except I just found out I am pregnant again – not sure what will happen in that 2nd trimester this time. But, at least I know the walks will be waiting for me when I am ready.

    1. I love pajama walks! I think they might arrest us for doing that in Brooklyn…although maybe not in Williamsburg, come to think of it.
      I’m also not a runner. I’m thinking a dance class? Maybe?

  12. I am a runner, do races etc. I have had 2 pregnancies back to back so I haven’t been running as I used to. I finally got back into it the past month after baby #2 started sleeping through the night. I finally am feeling like “me” again, but this does require me to get up at 5 am in order to be back before they are up. So worth it for my mental health!
    So if I had 15-20 minutes, I would run or read a book. Sometimes, even though I need to clean or do who knows what chore, if the kids are napping simultaneously I will pick up whatever book I’m reading in order to decompress. Otherwise I would probably go insane.

  13. I had this same dilemma. At Christmas I decided to exercise more this year, so I thought: I’ll join a gym. But then I didn’t. So I thought: I’ll take ballet! I always wanted to take ballet! But there’s only one adult class per week & I can’t make that time. So I thought: I’ll start running! But, like you, I hate to run. So I never did that, either.

    Finally I realized that I only need 25 minutes a day of elevated heart rate, and that realization was, for me, the breakthrough. It freed me from a schedule. It also freed me from committing funds, which was a factor… So sometimes I run in place for 25 minutes, and sometimes I dance to the Gogos with my daughter for 25 minutes (!), and sometimes I hike up a hill for 25 minutes — whatever; it’s not about what I do, it’s only about elevating my heart rate. And viola. I’ve done this 4-5 times a week for three weeks now.

  14. For me it’s reading actual books. I have gone through better phases with it, but right now is a bad one. I miss it so much. Yet with kids, work, life, dog, house, physical therapy at the pool, kids activities, I just can’t find the time.

    Then again, I made time to watch Dance Moms last night soooooo. 😉

    Truth though, is at night is not when I can concentrate and read. After a long day my eyes are way too tired and my brain is too tired for reading. I’m just not quite sure where to find the time.

    1. That’s so much how I feel Issa. But aren’t these comments amazing and inspiring? I feel like if I could just giv e 15 more minutes a day to my body I might be better off…and maybe less tired?

  15. I do things for myself. Clearly not as much as I would do without a family, but I put in a good effort. And, truth be told, I don’t do it just for me. I do it for my family too. I don’t want my daughter to grow up thinking it’s OK to think of herself last. I don’t want my son to grow and marry someone who he’s going to expect to be at the bottom of the priority list. And, I’m a happier, healthier, kinder parent and spouse for it.

    I get up early to have coffee and a shower in peace. I also make sure I workout and eat healthy. It reduces my stress, increases my energy, and gives my self esteem a boost. It may be a little extra effort, but I’m a mom, I”m not dead. Of course I’m worth it.

  16. I loved this post so much, and I relate to it on a lot of levels (especially that your “me time” is 20 minutes of playing a game while on the subway). I have only begun exercising in the last year or so, and have a standing appointment with a personal trainer now. I am pretty lousy at it, but go with the “something is better than nothing” approach. You inspired me to write my own post on the topic, which you can click through to see, called “You Just Have to Miss It.” I realized I needed to give myself permission to not be home with the kids that one night a week, and that issue was just as hard for me to overcome as any exercise inertia. I hope you check it out.

  17. I work out on an elliptical in our own home. I get up every day (weekends excluded!) at 5:10 AM to do so, for 45-60 minutes. I PVR all my TV shows and watch them while I’m exercising. Recently I started biking to work (14 kms, 35-40 minutes) and on those days, I skip my elliptical. If I didn’t get up at 5 AM to fit in a workout, it wouldn’t happen. Bedtimes happens around 8 PM but sometimes drags out until 9 PM, I don’t get home from work until 5:30/6 PM, and if I waited until the kids were asleep, I’d never exercise (I am NOT a night owl). I am asleep most nights by 10 PM; always by 10:30 PM. On weekends, I fit it in where I can but always try for one cardio workout over the two days. My exercise doesn’t help me lose weight – my weight has refused to budge so this must be my body’s happy place. Sure, I’d like to be thinner, but most people say I’m thin enough already.

    If I had an extra 15 minutes a day, I’d use it to read. I already carry my Kindle everywhere and read it over my lunchhours, standing in line, when I eat breakfast, etc. But I’d love an uninterrupted 15 minutes that doesn’t rob me of sleep or family time to spend reading, since it usually seems something else has to give in order for me to curl up and read.

  18. So what you’re saying if I spend all the time running that I do playing word games I might actually come close to beating you?

    PS. You can read AND do your word games on the elliptical or the bike.
    PPS. The exercise really does help my mood. Also my ass.

  19. If I had an extra 15 minutes a day?


    I’d sit in silence and do nothing. (note that the silence part is a key component). I’d just be still and quiet. I feel like I move all day (even sitting at my desk). I feel like I’m assaulted by noise all day (it actually makes me claustrophobic at times). I never have the house to myself, and I never get to just sit and be still and be quiet.

    1. I should clarify – not in one session., but over the course of many.

  20. I guess eating brownies doesn’t count?

    And since when does reading Vanity Fair count as brain stimulation? Are you reading it in Chinese, maybe? I like to do cryptograms, myself. Maybe if I did them while pedaling the exercise bike, it would be healthier.

  21. 15 minutes to myself, oh boy the possibilities, and yet, I think I’ll just sit and put my legs up. But what I am currently trying to establish as a routine are night walks with the husband, after the kids are asleep. When far from the tv, ipod, ipad, iphone, pc … we actually talk! Alot! And it is so nice.

  22. Like some of the other commentators, I am not a runner and I’m starting to get frumpy looking here at 42. I knew that I wouldn’t do anything unless I made it very convenient for myself – as in a ready to go pile of workout: I went and bought running shoes that fit (ended up being a size and 1/2 bigger and wider as well), three pairs of running shorts, two nice pairs of socks, two good jog bras, then downloaded a great app (Nike + GPS) that tells me when I’ve gone 1/4 a mile in a very encouraging voice and plays super cheesy music I downloaded from iTunes. My goal is do to “something” twice during the workweek and once on weekends. Having a bit of a shaky start because I HATE TO GET UP EARLY but also noticing that my 2 year old could plop in the stroller and walk with me in the afternoon instead of us both staring at Buzz-n-Woody. Definitely baby steps but babysteps add up!

  23. First: Walk. With a friend who will appear at your door and who will not allow excuses. Walk to the corner, but walk. It takes about three months for the brain to get accustomed to a new routine. Walk especially when you don’t want to, when it’s too hot, too wet, too late, too early. That’s when you’ll be most proud of yourself. Walk for 15 minutes. That’s all.

    Buy the shoes, the clothes, the hat. Remember that French women jog in clothes that make them look really, really good!

    After three months walk to the Prominade.

    1. This is so true – it’s the days when I choose to walk (instead of drive) in the pouring rain to pick up my kids from school that I feel the best.

      Plus, I’m always looking for a reason to wear the Hunter wellies.

  24. finding that time is so hard no matter what the indulgence is but it is so needed, so important, so necessary. I know this to be true because there have been times my darling husband or one of my kids will tell me to get out and go do what that which restores my mental health for god’s sake…I’m paraphrasing them, especially the darling husband and the snarky, smart-mouthed 18 year old who is only living because I know thanks to her older sisters that soon, very soon I shall be smart again and she will be pleasant again.
    For me it is running. It’s Kristen’s fault that it is this thanks to that 30 Day Shred followed by the Tiarathon. The thing is it quickly became addicting and I needed that 30 minute (or so) fix or I was just ugly to be around with.
    It’s hard to find the time…regardless of the ages of the kids…it’s all the more challenging because I work 7pm-7am. Still I find that I need it. If I don’t get up sometime and move and run like crazy I fear that I just might go crazy. Which is probably why the darling husband and kids yell at me sometimes to get out and just run…now…please.
    Good luck with the Shred. remember Kristen started this craziness too.

  25. I think re-framing the workout as ‘time for myself’ instead of ‘time to workout’ has helped me a lot. My schedule only allows for 30 or 40 minutes at the most to work out, so I make the most of that time. I’ve learned that running sprints or lifting weights for 30 minutes does a lot more good than zoning out on the stairclimber, trying to read a magazine article for an hour.

  26. I bought Shred and new sneakers and…hated Jillian Michaels with a deep and burning passion. Hated bouncing around my damn living room, even though the kids were asleep b/c Hello! in my living room with the mess, mess, mess…Made me nuttier than when I started. Plus that Jillian? She tries to talk to you – it was like Romper Room’s magic mirror, except the person on the other side was YELLING at you. What do you like to do? Walk & talk? Stretch? Be yelled at? Learn something? A friend of mine has a walking partner – they laugh at themselves for being so…mommy-walkers – but still, every morning, right from their kids’ school, off they go, about 20 minutes, fast. pretty much rain or shine. It’s what they could do, and so they were able to keep doing it. I’ve found that I get that delicious endorphin rush after really sweating, and the rush is worth the pain/logistics/sore muscles. And I like that I’m stronger, inside and out. And I like that I don’t have to feel quite so guilty about the cookie-love that happens in the evenings…!

  27. I am 7 months pregnant with my second child and I walk every day. If it rains or it’s too cold and I skip a few walks my back aches, I feel more tired, and I find myself irritable. Even pregnant I still value my walks. Now that my daughter is 16 months old we do two walks a day- one long one with the stroller to tire me out and one short one without to smell the neighbors roses and tire her out. So I would say running can be stressful, exhausting and great for your butt, but walking is relaxing, energizing and good for your butt.

  28. I started with 15 minutes to take a shower, just like Asha said. That was when my kids were babies. Now that they are 6 and 8, my best me time is definitely spent exercising (usually at 6 am). I am the biggest bitch when I don’t exercise. Just ask my family. But you are absolutely right about the inertia – just remember that the inertia of momentum is just as powerful as the inertia of staying still. Loved this post, and I’m rooting for you 🙂

  29. I can relate on so many levels. The only difference for me, is that I love to exercise if it’s fun or if I don’t even realize it’s exercising. Before I got married and had kids I danced with my local community college. I had dance class or rehearsal every single day of the week and participated in the dance departments show each semester. I loved it! I was healthy and in shape and I didn’t have to mentally battle myself to do it. But now, I don’t have time to commit myself to something like that. Now I have to train my mind to exercise in ways that are completely foreign to me and in my opinion, just not fun at all. This post is very timely for me. I didn’t realize until after I had my first child just how much of my self-confidence comes from being “in shape”. I’ve struggled for the last few years to figure out how to do it all – be a wife and mom- and still make time for myself. Thank you for sharing your thoughts as well as Asha’s. I will certainly be reading and rereading them for inspiration!

  30. 15 minutes… that is where it starts, and oh, boy, does it matter.

    For me turning point was going to farmers market. I would muster strength to get out of the bed in cold December Saturday morning, while everybody was still breathing deeply, lulled in their dreams. It is 7am on weekend, and being winter, it is dark outside. But I got 60 minutes of being with myself, in city still sleeping, with streets quiet, only traffic made by occasional dog-walker. (Amazing, how much quietness means, we are all polluted with noise.) And then little small talk with down-to-earth people that don’t hold any crackberries and still have normal sense of the time (it is mine that is screwed up). It is not 15 minutes every day, and it is not official exercise (I don’t think strolling between stalls counts), but it is (for me) better than meditation. After that, I’m good all weekend. Plus, I have a feeling that I’m taking care of my family and my community, so it is not me-only (not that that would be bad). It is humbling and invigorating at the same time.

    And from there, I gradually collected enough feel-good feelings and determination to actually get up from my ass, stop with excuses and go to gym. I have a bit of breather at work between big projects, so I’m using THAT as excuse to go to gym and to be late in the morning.

    It is my second day, and boy, do those muscles hurt! Who said this is fun???

  31. Liz – what a great post and questions you raised.

    I want to share some research as a way to answer Liz’s request. (I’ve been researching how to help women change their mindset about exercising so they can stick with it for good.)

    Liz, you said “..maybe I’m not giving something up–maybe I’m gaining something. That’s a big mindshift for me.”

    You hit the nail on the head.

    Here’s something few know (and it’s based on research): The reason why we start to exercise/move/run determines our relationship with the exercise/movement/running – and that determines whether we stick with it or not.

    Our society has set women up to fail by socializing us that physical movement is something we “should” do to lose weight or prevent cardiovascular disease, etc.

    If we exercise out of shoulds exercise feels like a “chore” and then feel like we are giving up something when we do it.

    But our research at the University of Michigan shows that those REASONS to exercise, while important, don’t cross over for most of us to be essential to our daily lives – so we can’t stick with it.

    Many busy moms don’t have the luxury of doing anything not essential – there’s simply no time for something that’s only ‘important’.

    We have found that helping women understand how beneficial moving their body is, immediately, to their mood, well-being and energy level is the best to help moms make it a priority. Why? When we feel better, we are more patient parents, we are happier and more creative at work, etc.

    This helps women transform exercise from a chore into a gift they give themselves.

    The last thing I want to share, from my experience coaching women on this topic, is that it’s a mistake to consider running as being better than walking.

    Running is one way to move – and walking is another. Harder isn’t necessarily “better,” especially if you don’t like it enough to stick with it.

    I’ve seen this countless times, when women give themselves permission to toss out outdated gold standards about ‘what counts’ and mindfully choose to move in ways that feel good to THEM – their relationship with movement drastically changes .

    Moving Toward Happiness,
    Michelle Segar

    1. This is all so awesome Michelle, thank you so much!

      Although trust me, running is not better than anything in my book. I have an ex-dancer’s knees. No running for me. (Plus, I still hate it.)

  32. Just heard this yesterday: “It’s better to plan to walk around the block and do it than to plan to run a mile and never get around to it.” Point being, make your goals small and achievable. I tried that d@mn 30-day Shred and decided I could only do it every other day. Which I did for three weeks, and then was felled by a killer sinus infection. Now I just try to walk my dog 1 mile every day.

  33. Showers are most definitely vacation time for me. When I feel myself inching closer to the red zone, I break out my Shower Plan: turn on a movie, make ice cream cones for the big girls, put the baby in her crib with a few toys, and lock her door. As it turns out, the amount of time it takes to watch a Charlie Brown tape (oh yeah, we still kick it old school with our VCR) is the exact amount of time it takes me to chill the f*** out in the shower and not be a raging psycho with my kids. Water is healing.

  34. What a great question. For me, the answer right now is biking the kids to preschool (I love my cargo-bike that holds all three of us), hiking with the family on some weekends, remembering to run with the kids at the playground (instead of just standing around chatting with friends, which is my inclination), and getting my butt to Bar Class once a week. And it’s not enough. Not enough me-time, not enough outdoors-time, not enough time to get-myself-to-look-my-best. Maybe it’s never enough. I have no idea how you find time for a pedicure.

    My advice is what you probably already know from your marketing work: you have to make things into a habit, with a trigger (like, kids are in bed), and then the habit you want to acquire, followed by a reward. Rewards can be as simple as taking a deep gulp of fresh air — it doesn’t have to be ice cream — it’s just time to pat your own back, to keep your habit. A couple weeks back, The New York Times magazine wrote about how febreze used this strategy to infiltrate into so many of our homes, so you might as well use it for exercise.

    My other advice, which is maybe the same thing: make sure it’s fun. Belly-dancing. Rock-climbing. You already know that martinets with rock-hard abs barking orders at you just isn’t for you. Find something that is. Take a trapeze-flying class.

    And keep us posted, because this is inspiring.

  35. My daughters are my inspiration for taking care of myself. I grew up hating exercise in all forms and didn’t start working out until I was in my early 30s. Now I work out almost every day, and I love the way my body feels strong and healthy. But what I love more is that I’m setting a good example for my girls.

    I’d suggest including your daughters in your workout routines. If you do the Shred or other DVDs, have them do some exercises along with you. My girls think the Shred is HILARIOUS and love to watch Jillian yell at me while I sweat. I also take my 10-year-old daughter running with me sometimes. She’s run two 5K races with a friend and plans to run another one later this year, and it makes me so proud to watch her feel that sense of accomplishment after a race.

  36. I was not a runner – hated running with a passion but around this time last year I got tired of the extra 50 pounds and the sluggishness and the having a hard time bending over to buckle my snowboard all winter. So I started running because is was cheap and easy to schedule and the fast way to lose weight. I couldn’t run a mile w/out panting and walking some. I kept at it. End of last summer, I went out for my longest run ever – 5 miles – and halfway though – realized I wasn’t out of breath? And I felt good? Boom! I’m a runner. I’ve lost 35 pounds and this spring raced both a 15k and a half marathon and am part of a team of women who are going to race Reach the Beach in the fall – a 200 mile relay from the mountains to the coast! Insane!! Don’t knock running until you give it a good effort – you may surprise yourself!!

  37. Ever read French Women Don’t Get Fat? French women don’t do exercise DVDs. But they do take the stairs and walk a lot.

    You don’t have to kill yourself with exercise. You can make it easy — like doing something active with the kids (PJ walks — hooray!) I once heard some exercise “expert” say that the best exercise is whatever you’ll do consistently. (For toning, Jorge Cruise’s 10 Minutes in the Morning is awesome — and he never yells at me. You know, because it’s a book.)

    But there can be more to it than health benefits.

    A few years ago I started walking my dog every night for 40 minutes every night (pre-divorce — when I could leave the kids w/the hubby). I used that time to dream, to craft a life, to conjure the next bits of joy that I wanted in my life. I would walk until I felt like a balloon on the end of a string and the dog was just pulling me along.

    So if I liked running (which I don’t), I imagine that’s what it would like. Just faster.

    1. Thanks Trish, good idea. I am active for what it’s worth – my commute alone affords me plenty of staircase walking! What I need to do is something for my triceps. And I’m afraid pajama walking isn’t going to cut it. I may start with the tapes and see where they take me…

      that or you know, pole dancing lessons.

  38. I agree with you so much. I just don’t LIKE running is the problem. The only exercise I really enjoy is group ones. Playing some sort of game, etc or swimming I suppose I really enjoy. It just seems easier to jump on a treadmill for 30 minutes than try to organize a group of people to play volleyball or something. That said I do neither of these things. My me time is me and a computer, me and a TV, or me and my iphone. And I have lots of those me times throughout the day.

  39. Small changes add up over time. If you want to run, and I recommend it for all of the stated reasons. If you make it a habit it becomes fun.

  40. I´m one of those that has all the answers and tons of wise advice, but am not following it at all! I read this and kept hearing all the voices in my head echoed in your words….ugh..something will give, and that´s what´s scaring–err–motivating me now.
    Last year I started getting the worse back pain and overall body aches because I was just working too much and had abandon my health and my body. One day I had enough and walked straight into a gym after dropping my girl off at pre-school and ignoring all the little demons that were yelling “You’re not a gym person! Yoga classes suck in gyms!” and whatever other pretentious noise in my head. I went straight to the manager and told him I didn’t need a tour, to just sign me up right there and get me a personal trainer. I knew it would cost a fortune, but my body was hurting more than the damage I would do to my wallet. That trainer was the best idea ever. I NEED to know someone ELSE is waiting for me and I can’t disappoint them. Get it? It’s still not about me, but it worked. At least it got me motivated to start and feel my body again. I only went for 3 months.
    Now I know that if I have 10 minutes I can do squats or planks and feel good about myself. This after four years of nada…baby steps…your body will tell you when enough is enough, for sure.

  41. During the weekends, when my baby wakes up at 6:30am, I strap her down to her stroller and make her watch me bounce tennis balls off a wall in our neighborhood park. She has to be approximately 5 feet away from me so that I can catch her if she falls off her stroller. So really it’s more like stationary tennis with the wall. I know, I might hit her with the ball or, worse, the racquet. Horrible. She is fascinated with the ball. I wonder how long that would last.

  42. With an extra 15 minutes, I’d take silence or alone time. I read through all of these comments hoping to find one person like me who has some advice for the single mom. Dad lives in another part of the world and visits for a week or two once or twice a year. So it’s me with my boys – all. the. time.

    I work full time. My commute is an hour each way, so I already get up at 5:00 so that I can get myself and my boys out the door by 6:45. And I don’t get home until 5:30 or later . . . . so of course my boys are begging for dinner at that time. With so little time at night for us to be together, I can’t justify not eating dinner with them. I can’t see giving them a meal and leaving them to eat in front of the t.v. while I go to the basement to walk on the treadmill . I’m desperate to find time to exercise. I miss being me. I’ve been divorced for 3 years and gained 80 pounds – because of stress, depression and just the sheer commotion in my life – I feel like I have so little time to make good choices.

    So here is where I am a failure, Liz. I want my boys to grow up eating healthful foods. I want them to see their mom as a role model!

    Walks after dinner – would be lovely if my 5 yo wasn’t exhausted and slow.
    Riding bikes – would be fun if we didn’t live on a main road AND my 5 yo didn’t use training wheels, or go slow.
    Walks in the morning – can’t leave a 9 y0 and 5 y0 home alone.

    Video exercise – at 6 p.m. right after eating dinner? Or at 8, just before I go to sleep? Neither seem ideal.


  43. I found these great free kindle apps called “Daily Workout” where you can do five minute little workouts for arms, legs, butt etc. FIVE minutes. And you get a nice little exercise. I’m not sure if they are available for other devices too.

  44. Last week, I walked into a music store and bought a ukelele. Just one of those “why the hell not?” kind of moments. I hadn’t played an instrument in 25 years. I think the reason I’m carving out time to learn how to play, is that I find it really, really fun. So, in the evenings, I spend much less time on the computer, and even less time reading before bed. Another change, small but signigicant: I’ve gotten into lipstick. Selecting a color (I’ve got a lot of colors) and putting it on takes only a few minutes a day, but it has changed they way I see myself. I’m enjoying my looks more.

  45. What a great post. I really struggled all winter “finding” time to exercise and since the beginning of May have been walking every morning and it’s done wonders for my energy levels and I can feel my body responding to the exercise. If I don’t getup and go at 6am though it doesn’t happen at another time during the day. I got off this routine a little this past week as I was out of town at a course and I now feel draggy and bagged. Am looking forward to my Monday morning walk tomorrow!

  46. I can so relate to this! About a month ago, I started the Couch to 5K running program, and I feel proud. I’m a pitiful runner, truly, but I’m trying, and that makes me happy. I’ve lost exactly 0 pounds, but I still feel proud. Many times my 3-year-old daughter has made positive comments about “mommy running,” and I’m so happy to know that she’s noticing this healthy habit I’m beginning. Fitting it in is NOT easy, but it is a nice feeling of accomplishment when those 30 minutes are over. 🙂

  47. 15 minutes to myself? Probably a long, hot shower, or reading.

    I, like so many of the other posters, use my workouts as “me” time. If I don’t work out, I am usually in a crappy mood the whole day. But if I get up at 5/5:30 to workout, the rest of the day? No matter how bad it goes, I can feel like I accomplished something good for myself, and in turn, for my family. If I’m happy and healthy, then I’ll be nice to them and a good role model (for my girls and my husband). And sometimes, it helps when work sucks, ‘cuz at least I did something awesome in the morning, on my own, before having to deal w/the crap that is occurring at work.

    Before kids, I worked out early before work, because I’d use every excuse in the book to talk myself out of working out during the day or after work. And now, it’s the only time I can do it. I have friends who workout at lunch time, but I hate having to shower all over again and rush off to a meeting still feeling sweaty. I do videos when I can’t get up early enough, and I have a few friends that I run w/and that makes getting up a must – they got up too, I can’t let them down! I”m a runner now, but for years I walked for exercise (plus, it’s better for your knees, and I’ve got bad ones from soccer). I love either the time hashing things out w/a friend while running, or letting my mind go when I’m working out on my own. Clears the cobwebs and the stress. My girls know that I workout, and if they wake up early, they love to stretch w/me, or pretend to do a plank or lift weights. That just adds to the joy I get from being healthy. Start little, and congratulate yourself, no matter how small or big the result.

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