Archive for ‘parenting’

August 10, 2012

Before Title IX

My son and I are lazing around, watching the Olympics, dreaming of glory days.

The Olympics got me thinking. How do I compare with most women my age in terms of fitness? Could I take them? I would have to say, honestly, that I can bike, play tennis, swim and dance slightly better than most women my age. A contest that involves running, softball or bowling? Not so much.

But why do I have to compare? I usually blame my three brothers for making me so competitive. And I blame society for not offering me more girls’ team sport opportunities. I came of age just when Title IX was introduced. The requirements had not yet trickled down to suburban Chicago. So I didn’t get to benefit. This is Title IX’s 40th anniversary. So YAY! Lucky for my girls. Unlucky for me.

Still, sports were essential. I played in a Saturday night high school volleyball league at Mary Seat of Wisdom church and I loved it. I loved volleyball again years later when I was in the cast of The King & I at the Depot Theatre (the alpha and the omega of my summerstock career!). We had games right before the matinee. I loved the sting on my wrists when I landed a bump. I think that is the technical term — a bump!

I loved the camaraderie of sports and the room for showboating (Hello, Usain Bolt!)

In high school we had gym every day. I was chosen to be the demo girl when we had gymnastics. I was proud. But then, in front of everyone, on the unevens, I could not kick myself up from the low bar to the high bar. The very next day, Ms. Sellers picked another girl to demo. That stung. Worse than a sore wrist from volleyball.

While I do not have to be the best, I prefer it. And I prefer that no one see me as I slip from my pinnacle — an inevitable decline from my Numero Uno standing in my own mind. (I’m not sure, but it is possible, that this post is about the downside of aging.)

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May 24, 2012

Moving Is Better than Exercising

I bike to work and do Pilates twice a week at lunchtime in my workplace. Sometimes I feel that I should have nobler fitness goals. This is why I love this blog post by Nick Crocker about Finding Exercise in Life’s Margins at Harvard Business Review.

Weaving exercise and intentional movement into the fabric of my life feels way more possible (though less sexy) than training for a triathlon.

I let our family gym membership lapse because I just wasn’t going. And I felt guilty — for not going, for the expense, for the lack of family pool time. I felt I was a fitness failure. But I wasn’t. Just because exercise is easy — like slowing down on my bike past the flower gardens in Riverside Park — doesn’t mean it’s not valuable.

You don’t have to hate exercise in order to get fit, feel good, or even lose weight. (The same goes for time at work — you don’t have to hate it.) Why not love what you do? I love playing tennis. Consistency is more important than breaking a personal record.

Personal brag: my son just won an athletic award this week. He was a triathlete — competing in three varsity sports as a 9th grader. But of one of the sports, track, he said he lacks passion. I say, Fine, drop it, if you like. Just keep moving.

Drop your gym membership too. Just stay active.

Weave fitness into every day. A little moving regularly is way better than a lot of fitness once in a while.

20120524-080911.jpg

A guy on the bus seated in front of me was carrying
this bundle of flowers. A rosy outlook only costs $3.99.

March 22, 2012

Going Running

How do you psych yourself up to go for a run? I tell myself, “Come on, girl. You can do it.” I talk to my body like it were a beloved family horse. “Yes, get moving, Ole Paint. Get out of your easy chair.” (I know that’s a mixed metaphor: horses don’t sit in easy chairs! Hey, it’s my blog. Write your own blog and mix up your own metaphors!)

There are a million reasons NOT to run. Here are a few:

Florida flower1. My feet hurt.

2. I am slow.

3. No one else is running. (Everyone else is going out for breakfast, in fact.)

And here’s why:

1. It will feel good when you’re done.

2. You will see some new things.

3. You will model fitness for your kids.

4. When you’re done, you can have a big breakfast.

Maybe I’ll go wake up one of my kids and see if they want to go with me.

I am writing this from a rocking chair on the porch. The kids and I are on a four-day trip to Siesta Key, Florida. It is our third day and inertia has set in. After a few days of vacay, especially in a warm clime, inertia always sets in. I must beat back inertia as if it were a horse sitting in an easy chair. (That’s a horrible image. But there you have it. As I’ve said, inertia has set in and I am mentally lazy, can’t come up with a better image. I could, if I really tried. But I have to go running.)

Come on, girl. Let’s go.

December 27, 2011

Can Cleaning Be Exercise?

broom by creative commons

I have updated one of my four blogs (about faithcreative writingNew York, or this one, fitness) at least every other day during 2011. When I began in January 2011, I posted every day for 66 days, because I’d heard that’s how long it takes to make a habit.

When I traveled or wrote my NaNoWriMo (November’s National Novel Writing month), I slacked a bit. But mostly I’ve been consistent with my blogging.

I need to retire a couple of my blogs and this one, Running Aground, is the lead candidate for retirement. This has been my least popular and least updated blog. Reading about my attempt to run a 5K may not have mass appeal. And I don’t write on this one because I think that if I haven’t exercised by swimming, running, or going to Pilates class, I haven’t worked out. (Although, yes, I’ve written about sleep and diet, as well.)

But wait — I clean a lot and, living in New York City, I walk a lot! So let’s remember — Cleaning is a good work out. In an hour, you burn:

  • Sweeping: 240
  • Packing/Unpacking: 220
  • Scrubbing floors on hands and knees: 325 (Who does this?)
  • Cleaning, light (dusting, wiping down counters, picking up clothes): 100
  • Cleaning, general (washing dishes, doing laundry): 200

according to a post by Divine Caroline (Brie Cadman).

This post is an attempt to encourage myself to believe in the power of the clean-up work out! Now, Mary Beth, get out there and clean! I have about an hour to unpack from our Chicago trip and pack for our Adirondacks trip, take down the Christmas tree, and generally tidy up this apartment where I’ve hosted four parties in one month!

There’s been a lot of stash and dash over the holidays. Now let’s burn some calories by cleaning. But wait, first, I have to update my Facebook status and check my friends’ news.

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December 11, 2011

Get Outside

My mother raised me following Dr. Spock’s advice that every child must spend at least two hours outdoors, no matter the weather. When my kids were babies, I tried to do this. I tried to “air them out,” as Mom would say, for at least one hour a day. Now that they’re preteens, it’s hard to pull them away from their computers and push them out the door.

“Direct sunshine contains ultraviolet rays, which create vitamin D right in the skin… Changes of air temperature are beneficial in toning up the body’s system for adapting to cold or heat. A bank clerk is much more likely to become chilled staying outdoors in winter than a lumberjack, who is used to such weather. Cool or cold air improves appetite, puts color in the cheeks, and gives more pep to humans of all ages. It’s good for a baby (like anyone else) to get outdoors for 2 to 3 hours a day (!), particularly during the season when the house is heated. … in the northeastern part of the United States, most conscientious parents take it for granted that babies and children should be outdoors 2 or 3 hours a day when it isn’t raining and the temperature isn’t far below freezing.” – Dr.  Spock.

A few months ago at the top of an Adirondack mountain.

I like that the outdoors “gives more pep.” Who doesn’t want more pep?

I must remember Dr. Spock’s admonishment on the occasional Saturday or Sunday when one of my darlings hangs out at home in front of the TV all fricken day.

I will ask her, “Have you gotten outside at all today?”

“No.” I will remind her of the scientific truth, Newton’s Law, that says a body at rest tends to stay at rest and a body in motion tends to stay in motion.

The National Wildlife Federation is bolstering my argument with their new campaign Be Out There. And there’s a ton of research that shows that a child who is connected to the wild is a healthier and happier child.

Hiking, family time, living an active life? This is What We Value. I would like to write more about this, but I have to wake the girls. It’s time for their basketball league, which interferes with church, but that’s a different story! Just for today in the battle between caring for the body and caring for the spirit, the body wins! (We may still get to church, but late!)

June 29, 2011

Mommy Needs Sleep, Part 2

Morpheus and Iris bringing sleep to mortals

This morning I was writing in my journal. Hayden stretched in the doorway.

“There was a lot of commotion because we kept seeing the mouse,” he said by way of explanation why he and Chris woke me at 1 am.

I was crazy like a banshee in the middle of the night, “I told you two I need my sleep. As a writer and mother! Chris, your medicine or disease may keep you up all hours of the night but I need my sleep!”

My light was out around 10:45. It was the last day of school for Cath and Char. I left Catherine and Hayden awake, Hayden with his X-Box and Catherine with her iPod. Chris appeared to be playing some casino game on his computer. (Have I mentioned that at every neurologist’s appointment, the doctor asks Chris if he is is addicted to gambling? This is apparently a lovely side effect to the Parkinson’s meds.)

I made Charlie turn off her notebook and let her snuggle in with me because I have the only air-conditioned bedroom in the apartment and she promised not to bother me. All was well.

Until Catherine woke me around midnight. She had come into bed, tossing and turning, uncomfortable because of her sunburn. Then Hayden and Chris woke me around 1 — they were mouse hunting, thus the “commotion.”

Country mice don’t bother me, but city mice freak me out. I don’t know if they caught the mouse.

I only know I did not catch enough Zzzzzs. I was pissed in the middle of the night, and am tired this morning. Of course, I love my kids, my husband, but I truly love Morpheus, the god of sleep, and do not get to worship him enough.

It’s not like I haven’t told everyone I need my sleep. We even had that family meeting about it. https://runningaground.wordpress.com/2011/06/21/mommy-needs-sleep/ Ah well, I will try again tonite to get a good night sleep.

June 4, 2011

The Food Plate

The food pyramid is now the food plate. http://www.choosemyplate.gov/

Every year, I’d go into my kids’ classrooms and teach the kids about the food pyramid. I’d bring in posters I’d ordered free from mypyramid.gov. I had a whole spiel, talking with them about good eating habits.

The year they added the stairs to the side of the pyramid, I understood and ageed with the rationale — yes, of course, we should exercise — but felt the message was confusing. Does chasing a ball really have to do with eating healthy foods? (Maybe it does.) But the food pyramid, I thought, should be about eating the right foods.

There were and maybe still are very little discussions about how to eat healthily in public school classrooms — even though it’s something we do several times a day and kids enjoy sharing practical ideas about eating.

While the food pyramid required interpretation, the food plate is pretty obvious. Make your plate look like the one in the picture. Kids get that. I like that.

But even better than showing kids what to eat was letting them try it. I’d set up little plates for each kid with samples of each category of food — a spoonful of yogurt, broccoli, garbanzo beans, grapes, and popcorn. Kids loved it.

I’d also do some exercises on media literacy and food. I’d ask the kids, “What commercials have you seen for food lately?”

“Fruit gushers.”  “Big Macs.”  “Reese’s Puff cereal.”

“Right,” I said. “What about broccoli? Or grapes? Or chickpeas? Let’s make up our own commercials about vegetables, fruits, and beans.”

I assigned small groups to create commercials that included 1) some music 2) some tag line 3) some movement 4) some conflict. (Because, you know, conflict is the essence of drama. And we wanted the commercials to be dramatic.)

The commercials were very funny.

Invariably, one of the kids would ask, “Is it all right to eat candy?” “Yes,” I would say, “A tiny little bit is okay. Just not too much.”

One of the teachers suggested that I take my curriculum on the road to talk to more public school kids about healthy eating. I’d like to, but Michelle Obama seems to have that job. And she’s doing a pretty good job of it too.

February 14, 2011

Attitude of Gratitude

What are you grateful for?

Studies show that people who keep a journal every morning or make a gratitude list every night have an improved immune system. (I can’t find the link right now to support this claim, but just trust me!)

I have also heard that a child must hear 10 positive things to overcome one negative thing. The number is probably similar for adults. Today I made a conscious effort to remain positive, adding to other people’s positivity and not depleting them.

Sounds altruistic, but I am doing it for my own health. Remaining positive is good for me. 

I love a neuroscientific excuse to write, be grateful and pursue happiness.

Here are today’s 10 reasons for joy and gratitude — in no particular order.

1. The power of nonviolence and the peaceful overthrow of the dictatorship in Egypt
2. Valentine’s Day chocolates everywhere
3. Handmade Valentines left anonymously on coworkers’ desks
4. Kids’ health, especially my son’s heart, fixed by brilliant doctors
5. Wonderful boss
6. My kids’ singing voices — at this moment, the girls are singing a song from Grease. So fricken’ cute!
7. This warm day nearly melting the icy mounds of snow in NYC
8. My mother’s coming to visit in a week and a half
9. My friends, especially my book club friends
10. My own creativity and sense of humor

While I was watching the Grammy’s last night and making Valentines (see number 3 above), unbeknownst to me, one of my daughters was making one too. If I ever get down, and it is inevitable, I am going to look at this:

January 31, 2011

February = Month of Self Love? or Self Loathe?

bike riding in Switzerland last year. the layered look! (Shut Up! It was cold!)

It’s okay to hate your body. It’s not okay to love your body.

Or is it?

http://fitnesscheerleader.com A Twitter friend is encouraging women to talk about why they love their bodies during the month of February, a month dedicated to Valentines, flowers, chocolate, hetero love. I’m feeling squeamish about this.

Janice suggests we start with the words “I love myself because….” ugh! Now I’m feeling squeamish AND guilty. The good girl in me says, “Good girls don’t blow their own horns!” (During my workplace leadership academyhttp://gettingmyessayspublished.wordpress.com/2011/01/20/leading-with-positivity/ I learned there’s a book called, “Brag: How To Toot Your Own Horn Without Blowing It.” Sounds good!)

Another good girl, deeper down, says, “Oh go on! You want to model self love for your daughters and son. Besides, you do love yourself!”

I’m no expert, yet I know I’m not alone. It’s hard for me, and likely a lot of my friends, to take a compliment, accept our unique bodies, and discover that deep down we do love our bodies.

So here goes! Diving in! (Once you leap off the side of the pool, you can’t leap mid-air back to the edge!)

I love myself because I take good care of my body. I go for check ups regularly. I am healthy. (I had that little skin cancer thing last month, but got it fixed.)

I work out regularly. (I can practically run a 5K without stopping.) I ride my bike to work. I eat vegetables every night (almost) and fruits every morning (almost). I don’t drink too much (except on book club nights). I don’t smoke. I have a decent figure. I like my crow’s feet and my laugh lines ’cause they show I’ve lived and laughed and squinted.

I have pretty eyes, a laugh that my kids make fun of, a great smile. I have a certain creative thrift store style of dressing that I like. (See above. And yes, my daughters did submit me for the TV show, “What Not To Wear.”)

I have a lot of energy and enthusiasm. I can keep up with almost anyone on the dance floor. I will go so far as to say I can out-dance anyone, except a professional.

Best of all — My body made awesome babies! And my body nursed them each for practically a year! Yay me! I’m awesome.

Boy, that felt good. And now, I’m going to go hide. I’m going to find a hooded sweatshirt and zip up. I’m going to bury my face inside my turtleneck sweater (thrift-store style).

Because that feeling is emerging again:  good girls just don’t blog about how gorgeous they are. Or do they — Self love or self loathe? Let’s talk about it.

January 24, 2011

Motivating for Fitness

Give the late Jack LaLanne props. Sure, he was a comical character. When I was a kid, my brother John and I would make fun of his TV show — yet he was an uber manly and enthusiastic man, unlike our intellectual (yet, of course, manly) father.

But Jack LaLanne inspired his viewers to get up off their duffs and get fit (and he was an old man when I was a kid). Inspiring others to exercise is not easy. As any hardened Middle School gym  teacher would probably tell you.

LaLanne made fitness look sexy and fun. I went to my lunchtime Pilates class today. It was neither sexy nor fun.

We had to hold the plank position for one minute and I managed 38 seconds. That might be my record. I can’t believe that the rest of the class could do it. I sat on my heels marveling at their ability. I was very jealous.

That was probably the advantage to working out at home with Jack LaLanne — you didn’t have to witness how the rest of the world had much better upper body strength than you (or me). (On YouTube, I checked out Jack LaLanne’s 10-point plan 1. exercise 2. nutrition 3. positive thinking 4. good habits 5. grooming 6. smile 7. posture 8. help others 9. relaxation 10. faith. YES!)

So to commemorate Jack LaLanne, I am going to motivate my kids to get fit tonite. I am going to make them do 50 sit ups, 50 push ups or one minute of plank.

I will join them.  Because I experienced a weird thing after Pilates today. I felt taller. I felt more aligned. Although it was exceedingly cold in NYC today, my lunchtime fitness workout warmed me.