Monday, September 5, 2011

Redefining "Fun"

When my babies were babies, finding time to exercise seemed impossible.  Many times, a sunny day beckoned me, urged me to strap my kid in the running stroller and go for a run.  Sometimes, the stars aligned and I got a mile or two in.  Most times, I would get ready and she would suddenly decide she needed a nap, or, if we got out and strapped in, she’d poop and I’d have to unbuckle her and get her changed.  For a new mom, this takes approximately 15-20 minutes.  Inevitably, she’d get hungry and the run would end before it began.  If she was well-rested and didn’t poop, we’d head out.  She was a busybody, so I’d spend half of my run stopping to get her another snack or picking up a dropped sippy cup.  She liked chatting, too, so I’d use precious breath to answer questions or acknowledge that bit of nature which she pointed at with such enthusiasm.  Sometimes, we’d be in a groove.  I’d be having a great run, moving at a pretty quick clip, when the worst of the worst would happen.  We’d run out of snacks.  I’d spend the final mile huffing it back to my car with a screaming child, effectively ruining what should have been the most relaxing part of my day.

Good news.  Those days are OVER!
This Labor Day weekend, Dave and I felt the full burden of babyhood lifted.  We started out Saturday morning by riding our bikes a few miles to Farmer’s Market with both kids in tow.  Afterwards, we braved the overly-cool ocean breeze and fog and rode along the boardwalk.  (In a few months, our Little Lady will be able to ride by herself!)  On Monday, we struck out for a hike.  The weather in Ojai was quite warm, and while we didn’t go too fast or make it too far, we all enjoyed the challenging terrain.  The Dude managed when he could and rode the shoulders when he couldn’t.  When we decided to turn around, The Little Lady decided she wanted to run.  Rocky trails on a descent?  Yes please!  Off we went.  She got her first lesson in trail running and rock-hopped like a pro! 

We’re only four years into our Adventure in Parenting and in most ways it’s tremendously easier than when we started.  We’re hitting our stride again, and it feels good.

In the beginning, the needs of my children dictated the day’s activities.  I built my errands and social interactions around their needs and schedules.  I often wondered if I even enjoyed the same things that I had prior to having babies.  I thought, “Why don’t I do those things* anymore?”  I felt like I’d lost some sense of my identity.  Foolishly, I lamented that I’d never get to do those things again.  Slowly and steadily, however, we do those same things again.  Sometimes the pace changes and we take more potty breaks, but we’re doing them.  We’re hiking and running and riding our bikes and loving it.

It’s work.  A lot of it.  But it’s worth it.  Turns out, my idea of fun hasn’t changed so drastically at all.  I still love a really tough gym workout or a quick-paced trail run.  I still love getting on my bike and coming home a few hours later.  I just don’t do those things as often (or ever) as I used to.  But when I get the chance to go alone, I GO!  However, the biggest change includes the little people.  Who’d have guessed that hiking with a 2 ½ year old on my shoulders or trail running with my four year-old would be more enjoyable than anything I could come up with at the gym? 

See, not that much has changed.  But really, everything’s changed.

 Kids do not need to hinder your progress in reaching your fitness goals.  Instead, try to find a way to include them.  Jillian Michaels has a great gig going, but there’s more than one way to get fit.  Get out!  Your kids will follow.  The Little Lady learned trail running from me.  She loved it, too!  Her little feet churned beneath her and she laughed when she leapt over rocks.  She’ll be my running partner soon enough.  If you feel stifled in your house, take your toddlers or teenagers with you.  You might not get as far, and it may be a bit of work, but if you keep your expectations realistic (you’re not going to get a challenging 6 mile hike in with a 5 year old), you’ll have fun as a family.  Your kids will probably even be excited to do it again.  And next time, you’ll go farther or faster, or both!  After doing it a few times, you all might notice a difference in how you feel.  Suddenly, your whole family is excited to challenge themselves with a longer hike or a steeper climb?  Really?  YES!  Maybe you’ll set out as a family on one of America’s best trails.  As parents, let’s take our kids with us, regardless of their age.  Let’s build “family time” around physical activities that challenge our bodies, minds, and spirits.  Let’s turn off the TV and put on our sneakers.  Together, family by family, weekend by weekend, we can combat lethargy, obesity, anger, selfishness, and negativity.  Each of us has the power to push back on forces that pull us apart.  Heck, you might even find that exercising together, as a whole family, really is your idea of fun.  You have the power to change everything.

*”Those things” include running 4-5 days a week, cycling, horseback riding, open-water swimming, quilting, sewing, knitting, wine tasting, going out to dinner with girlfriends, and reading until 3 in the morning because I didn’t have to work until 11.  You know, “single” or “married with no kids” stuff.

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