Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Practical Suggestions for Exercising [Fit Mamas Series, Part 3]

Working out makes a mom more valuable to her family and there are many ways to fit it into even the busiest schedule.  There are also many things to consider that will help to make working out a reality in your life.
'kettlebells' photo (c) 2012, Hobbies on a Budget - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Repent No practical suggestion I can give will help if there is sin clouding this area of your life.  I find that when it comes to fitness, women often fall in one of two categories: laziness or idolatry.  Laziness comes in when we just don't feel like making the effort to workout (of course, we have lots of "good excuses" why we can't).  God allows us to reap what we sow, and if you sow bad habits, you will reap bad health.  Repent of laziness and ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with the self-discipline to workout.  This repentance may need to happen daily, so continuously bring your need and weakness in this area before God.

On the other hand, you may struggle with the sin of idolizing fitness.  You might spend hours researching the best and latest fitness trends and feel guilty about missing one day of exercise.  You only feel worthwhile if you are doing your workouts regularly and constantly compare yourself to others.  Repent of this idolatry, and realize that one day your body will wither no matter what you do, and ask God to give you a right perspective on working out in a way that honors Him (this repentance will probably also need to be daily!).

Repentance is the key to having clean hands and a clean heart and the Spirit's power as you seek to honor God with your body through fitness.

Pinpoint Specific Goals and Consider Your Life Stage When embarking on an exercise program (or tweaking your existing one) be intentional about the direction you decide to go.  Consider your life stage.  For example, are you pregnant?  Then you will want to exercise in such a way to help facilitate an easier delivery (by doing things like squats, endurance training, and core exercises).  Or, do you have nagging pain in a certain area (such as your back)?  Don't just live with it, seek out specific exercises from a physical therapist or chiropractor to help strengthen these areas, which can relieve or eliminate the pain.

Find a Workout Partner Working out with someone else is much more motivating and fun.  I find that when I am working out with others, I also put forth a lot more effort.  Having a partner can help you to stay on track and be more accountable to regular workouts if you are struggling with that.  Not only are you helping yourself to find a partner, you will also be helping a friend and growing a friendship.

Make an Investment Its tempting to want to get fit without having to pay much to do so.  After all, all you really need are comfy clothes, gym shoes and some sidewalks for something like running.  If you are really motivated, this might be possible.  But for some people, especially if you are starting to exercise after a long period of not doing so, making some kind of investment into exercising might be worth it.  When you make an investment of your money, you are more likely to follow with an investment of your time.  So, buy some new workout shoes or clothes, pay for a class or gym membership, a jogging stroller, new kettlebells/dumbbells/a jump rope or whatever will assist you in achieving your fitness goals.  And remember than even spending a few hundred dollars now on your health will probably save you thousands in healthcare costs in the future.  

If you are a mom who (like me) feels guilty about spending money on herself, talk to your husband to see how it can be fit into the budget.  Most husbands would be more than eager to support their wife's fitness goals.

Seek Guidance As frugal as I am, I do think that it is worthwhile (especially if you are new to working out) to hire a personal trainer for a time or at least join a class with a good instructor who will teach you important basics, correct your posture and form and teach you the best times to breathe.  Working out correctly is vital; in fact it is better not to work out at all than to do so incorrectly.  Similarly to the importance of making an investment like I mentioned above, paying now for guidance through a class or trainer will save you money on medical bills from future work-out related injuries.  Bad form is more common than you might imagine, because using bad form is usually easier than having correct form.

Another benefit of a trainer or class is that you will probably be pushed harder than you would push yourself on your own.  When you learn that you are capable of more than you previously thought, you will gain more from your time working out.

I can speak first hand to the benefits of learning from trained professionals.  The past two weeks our next door rec center has been having free classes, so I took advantage of as many as I could: core strength classes, bootcamp (functional fitness), pilates, dance and a few others.  While I wasn't intending to ultimately join any of the classes, I went to learn new skills and different methods of working out and be pushed by someone other than my own self.  Not only did I thoroughly enjoy every class I attended, I was surprised at how much I learned (considering that I workout regularly and and fairly well read on the subject).  A couple times I was corrected on lazy form and in a few classes the instructors reminded us about breathing techniques that I don't think about enough while working out.  So, even if you are well experienced in exercise, you can benefit from the teaching of others, as you have probably built up some bad habits over the years.

Do something.  Start somewhere.  When we had four kiddos, I went from running 3-4 times per week to not working out at all.  Part of it was the time factor, but mostly it was because I told myself that working out was selfish, something I only did for myself, so I needed to sacrifice this luxury for the sake of serving our kids.  After a while, though I realized the folly in my thinking, and I started to make exercise a priority.  But, realistically, exercizing is hard when you have four littles, even if you are committed.  At that point in life, I was mostly doing ten to twenty minute workouts (I will give some suggestions on these later in the series) and walks.  I wasn't nearly as in shape then as I am now (mostly because I have more time now) but the important thing is that I was doing something

So if you are in the four littles stage of life, do your best.  Start somewhere.  Be realistic and have grace on yourself, but do make some effort.  You will notice a difference and feel better even with short workouts.  In time, as life allows, you will be able to build up.  As long as you are making some time to do it even now, it will be easier to continue and do more in the future. 

[I am just a mama sharing from my own experiences.  Don't listen to my advice any more than you would from a random person on the street.  Seek out your own health professional for what is best for you in regards to health and fitness for your life.]

Click here for part 4, some sample 10 minute core workouts...

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Fitting in Exercise for the Busy Mom [Fit Mamas Series, Part 2]

There are so many benefits to exercise for moms that it is well worth fitting into even the most full schedule.  But practically speaking, how does that happen?  Especially when you have a colicky baby, a tantruming two year old and energetic four year old all craving your attention every minute of the day?

'Attack of the stroller Moms' photo (c) 2010, Serge Melki - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Take lots of walks (especially to places you would normally drive) - I'm all about multi-tasking.  Taking walks is not only useful (because it gets you somewhere) but kiddos can come along with you for this kind of exercise, and usually even enjoy it.  Bonus is that you save money on gas and get to enjoy the great outdoors.  If you have a jogging stroller (and all your kiddos are small enough to fit in the stroller or are following on bikes/scooters) take it up a notch by running a few intervals during the walk.

Mommy Bootcamp/Workout Class - In recent years, I have seen numerous group exercise classes geared towards moms, designed in a way that kids can participate or play during the time.

When we lived in California, I lead such a class.  It was more on the informal side of things, just a group of friends getting together to work out and we did it in my back yard.  This is one of the things I really miss from California!  Not only was it a fun time to hang out with friends, it was also much more motivating to workout when there were other people around, plus the kiddos all enjoyed playing together while us moms exercised.  This would be doable if you could even find just one other mom who would want to work out with you a couple times each week.  If you aren't comfortable making up a workout, you could do a video together or something like Wii Fit.

Another great option is to get other moms together for a weekly group walk or run, depending on your level of fitness.

Write it into your schedule - This works best if you are very schedule/to do list oriented like I am.  For me, if its in my schedule, I will make sure it happens.  That is one way that I have stayed motivated to work out since we moved last month.  

Taking time to plan ahead also ensures that exercise will fit into your day, and won't get forgotten or brushed aside when you don't feel like it.

Trade baby sitting with a friend who would like to workout - This is pretty self explanatory.  The benefit is that this way you have some accountability to working out and your kiddos would have fun playing with friends, but a downside would be that you would probably have a hard time getting more than one or two workouts a week in this way (though you could combine this with other exercise times during the week, like walks).

10 minute workouts - Ten minutes might not sound like a lot, but it can add up.  If nothing else, its a good place to start with working out.  Most moms can find 10 minutes at some point during the day (maybe during nap time) to do a workout.  Later in this series, I will post a few suggested ten minute workouts that you can try at home.

Wake up early - Waking up early is a great way to fit a workout into your day.  Getting it done before the kiddos are awake ensures that nothing will get in the way of your exercise, and allows you to devote the whole rest day to what you normally do.  Bonus is that working out in the morning helps you feel energized throughout the day.  Just make sure not to be too loud so that you don't accidently wake them up!

I know one mom who for her fourth pregnancy decided that she needed to take working out seriously and started waking up a half an hour earlier than normal a few days a week to do so.  She had nothing but great things to say about how it benefitted her life and her pregnancy, in a way that was noticeably different than her other pregnancies (and like I mentioned she was on #4!).

Join a gym with a daycare - I'm not a huge fan of the concept of daycare, but if you have few other options, and you have an outgoing kiddo who likes playing with new friends all the time, this could be a good way to help you get a couple workouts in every week.

Find ways to incorporate exercise into your daily routine - I like to do air squats when I have 30-60 seconds of random waiting time during the day (like when Esther is sitting on the potty or I am waiting for my tea water to boil in the morning or while I am brushing my teeth).  Find an exercise that you can do in between (or during) other activities of the day (another idea is calf raises or push-ups against a counter top or table).  It all adds up!

Other ideas include parking your car at the far end of the parking lot so you have to walk longer to get into the store (bonus if you are carrying one or more kiddos!), or playing with your kids, purposely doing something really physical with them to get your heart going.

What are some ways, practically speaking, that you fit workouts into your life as a mom?

[disclaimer: I'm not a medical professional, just a mom who likes to be healthy.  Take my words as you would advice from a friend.  Talk to your medical professional before starting any exercise routine.]

Click here for part 3...

Monday, January 13, 2014

Why Take Time to Workout? [Fit Mamas Series, Part 1]

I have been wanting to do a series on working out geared toward mamas for a while now.  It just a coincidence that I happen to now have time to write the series, just in time for the new year when everyone is making their resolutions/goals that are often related to being healthier in some way.  So, I'm not trying to jump on the bandwagon here with this series (though it make fit with something you have been thinking about recently), but I am excited to write about it because working out is something that I do care a lot about and especially would love to see more moms be able to make a priority in their life.

'Attack of the stroller Moms' photo (c) 2010, Serge Melki - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
Why should working out be a priority for moms?  After all, we have very full, 24/7 schedules, and as such I think its important that we are wise about how we spend every minute of our day.  Should working out fit into the ever growing list of priorities for our week?

I would argue that working out is definitely an important priority for moms.  Fit mamas are an asset to their husbands and their children for many reasons.

Healthier Pregnancy, Easier Labor  Pregnancy is hard on a woman's body.  But working out can mitigate some of those stresses on the body.  Studies show that women who work out during pregnancy sleep better, have less stress and have more energy than those who don't.  Furthermore (and this is a big motivator in my book!) women who workout while pregnant tend to have shorter labors and are less likely to have complications during labor.  It makes sense that building up endurance and muscle tone helps with one of the most physical events that a body has to undergo.

There are also benefits to the baby: working out helps women gain the right amount of weight during pregnancy (usually 25-35lb of weight gain is recommended) and studies also suggest that women who gain the right amount of weight during pregnancy are more likely to have children with a normal body weight throughout their lives.

More Able To Perform Every Day Tasks (and Less Likely to Get Injured) The type of workouts that I do are called "functional fitness" workouts.  A functional fitness workout is designed to mimic typical movements of the body, which helps prepare the body to better perform these tasks throughout the day (and decreases the likelihood of injury while doing these normal movements).

For example, squats help strengthen the muscles you need to get down to your kiddo's level (to pick them up, play with them, etc).  Deadlifts help strengthen the muscles needed to bend over and pick something up (with kiddos around there are always an endless number of items to pick up off of the floor!).  Upright rows strengthen the muscles needed to lift up your baby from your lap.

Many moms deal with back pain, especially in the lower back, which can be debilitating and make it much harder to perform the tasks needed for motherhood (cleaning, caring for children, etc).  Working out your core is one of the best ways to defeat lower back pain.  A mom without back pain is much better able to serve her family.

Better Body Image (Which Leads to Better Libido)  Studies show that women who work out regularly are far more likely to have a good body image.  Now, I'm not the type of person to say that having a good self esteem is the most important goal to have in life, but the reason that having a good body image is important is because it is a strong predictor for a woman's desire for physical intimacy with her husband.  So if you work out, you are more likely to feel attractive, and if you feel attractive, you are more likely to want to be intimate with your husband (and I'm sure very few husbands would object to that!).  Therefore, working out is a great way to be a good wife to your husband.

Did I miss anything?  What is your motivation for working out?

Click here for part 2...

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

December in Our Home (or, On How I Became a Bear)

December was quite a whirlwind.  The first two weeks were solid with packing, the next few days involved driving from California to Indiana (via a stop with family in Texas), the next few days involved being homeless and looking for an apartment (well, not completely homeless: we stayed with Alex's family), then the weekend before Christmas we got a townhouse and moved in, then we unpacked and celebrated Christmas for a few days... and before we knew it, it was 2014.

Packing was a LOT of work.  I am so thankful for all the help that we had.

Driving across country wasn't the most fun thing, but went better than I expected.  Fortunately, Esther slept well (we did most of the driving at night for this purpose) and was patient to sit for 3-4 hour stretches during awake times.  My cousin and I listened to a biography of Jonathan Edwards and a fews sermons during the drive.

Since moving into our townhouse, it is slowly feeling more and more like home.  One of the best things about it is its location: our back door is about 200 feet from a rec center, where Alex and I have gotten memberships so that we can workout.  They also have a twice a week toddler program that will be a good way to get Esther's energy out in the absence of being able to go to the park in mid-January (something I miss about California!), and the fact that it is walkable is a big bonus since we only have one car.

We are also a five minute drive from our church and about five minutes from downtown Bloomington.  Every time I look up directions to somewhere, it has always been less than a ten minute drive.  I love this!!

Another great indoor activity for Esther we have discovered: the library.  Its about 100,000x better than our local library in California.  Its HUGE and has tons of books (granted, its only one of two library branches in the whole county, but its five minutes from us so I don't mind).  In addition to having tons of classes and story times for kiddos, they have an imaginative play room for toddlers, and you can even check out educational toys (things like wood puzzles) in the same way you check out books.  They even let you print three pages free per day- what libraries still offer free printing?!  We don't have a printer, so this is going to be really helpful to us.

We are loving our church so far.  Good relationships take time to build, so we are not unrealistic about thinking we will make best friends overnight.  But we have had multiple invitations to dinner so far, and visited several different home fellowship groups, all of which have been welcoming.  A week and a half after moving here, some of our new friends even gave us the key to their house while they were out of town, so that we could stop by and use the internet whenever we needed to.  I have found common interests with many of the women I have talked to.  One person told me "Oh, you do homemade kefir and sourdough?  You'll fit right in here", which I have found to be true so far.  Its also nice to be around other moms with multiple kiddos (most of the moms I have met have 3+ kids).  Most of my time as a mother we have had 2-4 kids, while the majority of my mom friends in California just had one (don't want to go around overpopulating the earth, ya know).  Three kiddos is way different than one, in a good way.

Speaking of kiddos, December was Esther's first full month of being an only child since she turned one.  She.  Is.  Going.  Nuts.  Come on baby Hudson, make your appearance!  On one hand its nice to have less kiddo-caretaking responsibility (especially after how stressful the past couple months have been), but at the same time its almost just as much work to have to entertain Esther all day in the absence of her having a sibling.

We haven't had internet since moving into our townhouse (we're hoping to have it set up some time this week), so I've felt a bit disconnected since moving in.  But at the same time, it has been kind of a relief to not check email and Facebook daily (or multiple times per day) and I have gotten a ton of reading done.  Currently, I'm reading Think Biblically by John MacAurthur and The Cider House Rules by John Irving, along with following the M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, which is about four chapters of the Bible per day.  I was also excited to meet some women from church who meet for a book group (I have been wanting to be a part of a book group for years now!) and so I am going to start Howards End by E.M. Forster when I pick it up from the library, which is the book for this month.

Christmas was nice.  After opening our stockings and having a nice breakfast with my mom, we drove to Cincinnati and spent the evening with my dad's side of the family, most of whom we haven't seen since two Christmases ago.  The next couple days we spent with Alex's family, which was also nice and relaxing.  We didn't do anything (except sleep!) for New Years Eve, but thus is the life of parents of young children.

Oh yes, on becoming a bear (I almost forgot that I titled the post that way... or maybe I was just trying to get you to read til the end!).  The combination of jet lag from California, mixed with the fact that it stays dark til 8am here, mixed with the fact that we all got sick right around Christmas, mixed with the fact that the beginning of the month was so stressful that we've needed time to recover (including two nearly sleepless nights on the road), mixed with the fact that its cold and we want to hibernate like bears... we've been sleeping in many days til 9 or even 10am.  Its pretty pathetic (I usually like to be up before 7) but I think its needed for a time for all the above reasons.  But its been getting better... I've been setting the alarm for 8 most days recently and dragging myself out of bed getting up by 8:30 or so.  But yeah, I kinda feel like a bear sleeping that late.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Top Eight Posts of 2013

Thank you for journeying with us this past year.  We have had many highs and lows, and most of it I have been able to share here at the blog.  It does give me joy to be able to share about what God is doing in my life in our family, even when it is hard stuff, knowing that he is ultimately working it for good, and even using it to challenge and encourage the readers of this blog.

Here are the top eight posts from this blog from 2013. 

3 Myths About Introverts - I'm not sure how this post blew up, but it has gotten almost 1500 views this year (to give you an idea of how much this is, the next highest post from this year got less than 300 views).  Being introverted is close to my heart, and important to understand whether you are introverted or just interact with others who are.

Two Big Announcements (and the Story of our Time in California) - This post is also close to my heart.  Our 4.5 years in California were an arduous journey, not at all what we expected when we moved here.  But God used it for so much good.

Am I Able to Love Again? Our First Couple Hours with our New Little Man - Written the night after we unexpectedly got Baby Boy R.  Little did I know that night how hard the next month would be! 

Holistic Dentistry: My Experiences So Far - This post has gotten lots of views, but also lots of spam.  Not sure why.  I have deleted at least 5 spammy comments from it.

Should You Adopt or Have Biological Children First? - This is an important question for adoptive couples to consider.  We are no experts on the matter, and older, more experienced couples likely have more wisdom on this topic, but these are my thoughts at this time in life.

August in Our Home: An Addendum - Another big announcement from this year (in addition to the two from the aforementioned post).

Fret Not Yourself [Meditations on Psalm 37] - Some written thoughts on one of my favorite Psalms.

Three Reasons to Avoid the Pill - Too many Christians have not deeply thought through their decision to use the Pill for birth control.  This post sheds some light on the issues involved.

Did I miss any posts that stuck out to you this past year?