Intenseness Does not Equal Healthness

borealis_exercise_2014_028

(Healthness should be in the dictionary)

I used to be that person, the one who wouldn’t do a workout if I couldn’t give it my all. If I didn’t have at least an hour to workout, then why bother? If I can’t get a good sweat going, what’s the point? For years that attitude more or less worked for me. I was living a single life and worked as a trainer at a gym. I had the time and convenience of taking classes and working out during breaks or after work. And I made sure I sweat every single time. It didn’t count as a workout if I didn’t have to change my shirt and sports bra afterwards. It was a great feeling really. To have to peel the soaking clothes off my body, proving that I had given my all, that I had an intense workout worthy of a fitness trainer and an all out workout beast.

That was me in my twenties. Pre-babies. I was on fire and unstoppable. What size clothes I fit into mattered more than the long lasting health benefits of my lifestyle.

Although it took some getting used to and some ego-checking, I am so grateful for the shift in my perspective and my approach to health.

Today, every little bit of physical activity counts towards my goal of lifelong health.

I didn’t really “choose” to change my outlook on fitness, I kinda had to make changes according to my mommy lifestyle. I didn’t have the time or energy to spend so many hours at the gym. I had to find other ways to stay fit and active. At first I was still striving to get that “perfect” body (whatever that is), still trying to look the way I did before I had children. My workouts were solely driven by a desire to improve my appearance. It worked some, but not fully. It was way too easy for me to skip a workout, or reach for an unhealthy snack, as I felt I looked “good enough”.

After my second baby arrived I started viewing physical health quite differently. And it wasn’t until my 3rd baby arrived, that I really got a good handle on what true health means for me.

Today being fit and healthy looks so different than it did in my early twenties. And funny enough, I feel like I look better than I did before I had my first child. Even if under my own scrutiny I notice the cellulite and stretch marks that weren’t there before, somehow, I find myself more beautiful than I did back then. My skin was tighter then, my belly wasn’t marked, my breasts were fuller, and yet I didn’t have the appreciation for how I looked the way I do today. Not only that, but I am much healthier today than I was at any point in my twenties.

What changed is I shifted my intense workout attitude for a more healthy one. My intense workouts were driven by a superficial desire to look a certain way. This kind of mentality is neither healthy nor is it sustainable. One day I was bound to burn out on spending hours at the gym. Today, I don’t have time to spend hours at the gym, but I do have time to spend hours at the playground! Working out at the playground while hanging out with my kids is a very healthy way to move my body. I don’t put many expectations on myself when I am at the playground, other than do a minimum of two exercises. Sometimes that turns into 10 exercises, sometimes it’s just two. But at least I moved my body. The next day, I might be on a walk and I decide to do a few jump squats on a bench and some pushups. That takes less than 2 minutes. Or I will run some of my favorite stairs with my boys after I drop off my daughter at school.

Moving my body a little bit every day guarantees I remain consistent. And if that is my only goal: moving my body a little bit every day, I rarely let myself down. Some days I get a full on workout and it feels amazing. Some days, I focus on my cardio and run stairs intentionally to get a good sweat going, and I love it. Sweating and working out feels great to me. But those things are not my priority anymore. Feeling good is. And sweating every single day, getting an intense workout every single day, doesn’t feel good to me anymore. Mainly because I don’t have the energy given the amount of sleep I get. But moving my body a little bit every single day, is a MUST for me to feel good and have a Good Life.

My point here is that to be healthy, I needed to make choices that are sustainable and convenient. Doing a quick 15 minute workout in my living room, is very convenient. Working out at the playground is definitely sustainable as I will be going to playgrounds for years.

I still love intense workouts. I love kickboxing. I love sweating. Yet I don’t believe those things to be essential on a daily basis to be healthy. I do believe in connecting with my inner beast every now and then to push boundaries and see what I am made of. But that’s not my every day approach to fitness anymore.

Once my kids are all in school, I wouldn’t be surprised if my priorities change again. Once I have more time to myself I will probably find a different way to act out on my desire to remain healthy. But for now, intenseness doesn’t equal healthness.

Run for your kids

20140926_091405

“Luca! LUCA!! COME HERE LUCA!!!” I hear her shouting from the sidewalk. I am down the hill at the playground and I look up. This overweight mom is shouting after her what appears to be 2 year old boy, to stop running as he is getting closer to the street. A passerby stops the runaway boy as the mother huffs and puffs her way to thank the man. She proceeds to grab the child and yell at him. Now, I won’t pretend to know what was going on in this situation. Maybe she wasn’t even the mother? Although her behavior and interaction with the boy made it seem like so. Maybe she has a health condition that makes it she can’t run or exercise? Very possible. But it got me thinking, so here I am sharing my thoughts.

If you have no health conditions preventing you from exercising, I say: Run parents. Or ride a bike. Or swim. Or play a sport that gets your heart pumping. Whatever you do, make sure it is something that keeps your heart and lungs healthy enough to run after your child. Not only will it be fun for them to have an active parent, but it will be SAFE.

What if there were no passerby’s to catch this child before he made it to the busy street? I was far enough down the hill to not have been able to make much of a difference.

I exercise regularly. I actually get paid to help other people exercise as I am good and knowledgeable about it. My reason’s for exercising are quite numerous, and here are some of my top ones:

  • I exercise so I feel good everyday. My youngest is 9 months old and sleeps in our bed. No matter the amount of sleep I get (or don’t get, really), if I am strong and fit, I manage to make it through my days without too much sluggishness. Getting my blood pumping and my muscles activated allows me to keep going even on little sleep.
  • I exercise so I can keep up with my kids. Being able to chase them around, to roll on the ground, to run up and down hills, to play at the beach and go on hikes, is how memories are created. Most kids are active by nature. Being active makes it that I can participate in their life, be a team player and not a “bleacher mom”.
  • I exercise so I can react quickly in any given situation (like my kid running into the street). Feeling strong and capable allows me to have more fun and be more relaxed. I can let my kids wander around as I know I am fast and I can get to them quickly if I need to. I can pick all three of them up at once and lug them out of the street if they aren’t listening to me as a bus is coming towards us. I can take them on more challenging hikes knowing that if they can’t keep up anymore, I can carry them.
  • I exercise so my kids see me doing it. I want fitness to be something normal and natural for them. I don’t want them to have to struggle as teenagers or adults because I didn’t lead by example.
  • I exercise because I like to look good. Yes it’s true. I am not going to pretend like part of my motivation has nothing to do with looks. Because looking good feels good to me. I am proud of my body. I have stretch marks and flabby skin. I have cellulite and muscles. I am strong. And I find strength beautiful. But in all honesty, looking good is not a good enough reason on it’s own for me to keep up with my workouts. I need all those other reasons first in order to be consistent.

I try not to let it get to me, but it can’t help it. It saddens me to see parents not take care of themselves like this overweight woman. It saddens me because there is no way this woman feels good in her body. Not when she is huffing and puffing like she was. And it saddens me because she is the person that this child has to look up to. She is his example in life, and she is not doing a very good job. Yes, by my standards, I am aware of that. But if my standards make it that I feel competent in keeping my kids safe, than why wouldn’t I want that for other kids?

Whatever your motivation for moving your body, if you are a parent, keep in mind that they will look at you for inspiration.

So what is your motivation? Why do you exercise? Why do you not? I would love to hear your thoughts!