A Different Kind of Date Night

One week down and I am proud of my progress.  Granted, come June I may be singing a different song.  Like most parents, at the start of a new season, we sit down and schedule the kids’ activities.  This winter, I have made sure to schedule my own.  Each day I have allotted time for myself- sometimes just a half hour and sometimes three hours.

To help me achieve my goal of being more fit and incorporating exercise into my daily living, I spoke with certified CanFitPro Instructor Vanessa Reeve last week.  Part one of this interview focused on the benefits of exercise and why it should be a part of everyone’s daily life.  This week Vanessa offers tips and suggestions on how to do just that.

Vanessa advocates setting a goal (realistic, people!) and telling everyone so that they can support you.  A realistic goal should be attainable and to give yourself a bit of motivation dangle, a carrot: i.e. buying a new pair of jeans, a dinner at a nice restaurant, a new book – whatever makes you happy!

An ideal fitness routine should include:

  • Strength/weight training 2 – 4 times per week
  • Cardio training 3 – 7 times per week (a minimum of 25 min of exertion)
  • Flexibility training 3 – 7 times per week

Before you throw your hands up in the air, insisting that you don’t have the time for this, consider a few things.  Firstly, flexibility training is stretching.  It can be as formal as attending a yoga class or more casual like stretching while your watching TV.  Just don’t stretch for the bag of chips!

Secondly, weight training does not mean investing in a set of dumbbells (although free weights can be an affordable option for at-home sessions).  There are many exercises you can do that use your own body weight for resistance.

Joining a gym provides an opportunity to connect with other like-minded individuals who are also working towards a goal.  The sense of belonging can be empowering and give you the nudge that you need to stay on track.  Classes taught by instructors take the guesswork out of planning a routine, and generally instructors kick your butt in ways you never would.

January marks the time of year when new gym memberships spike.  Many of people who rush to sign up at the start of the year stop going just a few weeks into their new routine.  Perhaps their goals were not realistic (in the beginning consider making a commitment to go to the gym twice a week instead of everyday and then slowly increasing your attendance) or maybe the gym environment isn’t the ideal fit.

How To Exercise At Home and Move More!

  • Walk more.  If it is possible, walk to work.  After dinner leave the mess behind and get for a brisk walk.  Taking your kids for a walk after dinner could the ticket to getting them to sleep better.  Older kids can ride their bikes while you walk/run and with younger kids you can makeup games en route.  Something I like to do with my boys is we run to the lightpost as fast as we can, then walk to the next one.
  • If you live near a school, take your kids with you and let them play in the field while you run/walk laps.
  • Don’t drive to the store if you can walk and if you do drive, park furthest away.
  • On your seventeenth trip to the doctor this month alone, take the stairs instead of the stuffy elevator.
  • Take a bike ride on a path.  Most cities have intricate bike paths that are family friendly.
  • While watching TV or talking with your kids at night, get down on the ground and do some simple abdominal crunches (younger kids love to count along with you), static squats and lunges.
  • Invest in simple equipment like a ball and sit on it while typing on the computer.  These stability exercises help to tone core muscles.  Newborn babies often love being lulled to sleep with a light bounce.
  • Make it a family affair.  Consider taking up a sport that the entire family can do together.  Hiking, skiing, biking and skating are just a few sports that both young and old can engage in.
  • Rent exercise/yoga DVDs from the library, borrow them from a friend, check on-line for free demonstrations (YouTube has plenty).

Date Night Doesn’t Have To Be In A Restaurant Or A Movie Theatre

Instead of the usual fare of dinner and/or a movie, why not try something new.  Lori  Lowe who writes a fabulous marriage blog recently featured Lindsay Rietzsch author of How To Date Your Spouse.  Rietzsch suggests to “ignite the romance” consider activities that allow you to be close such as:

  • Dancing
  • Ice-skating
  • Swimming
  • Walking/jogging

Why not take it a step further and try something neither of you have done before.  Take a snowboard lesson, rock climb or check out the neighbourhood yoga studio.  Lots of studios offer free trial classes so take advantage of them!

Last year, my husband and I tried spinning together and not only was it an incredible work out (I still do it) but it was a lot of fun learning something together.  At night we’d commiserate over sore muscles and during the class we’d motivate each other to keep at it.  Between pregnancies, he taught me to water ski.  Lucky for me, he’s a great teacher and very patient.  We had a ton of laughs and I still remember the look on his face when I lapped the lake.

Doing activities together not only promotes a healthy lifestyle but it increases intimacy. If your partner needs a little encouraging to give hot yoga a try, share this tibit of info.  According to the Mayo Clinic, regular exercise enhances libido in women and decreases erectile dysfunction in men.  Now, if that’s not enough to get up off the couch . . . or maybe get down on it!

Just To Take Away Any More Excuses You Have, Vanessa Answers:

Q:  My ass looks like a pancake.  Any exercises to tighten and tone?

A:  Spot reducing isn’t ideal and doesn’t always work.  The best way to tone and tighten is to do a complete body workout.  That being said, lunges and squats are the best moves to firm a tooshie.

Q:  I know that weight bearing exercise is vital for bone strength but I don’t want to look like I could grace the cover of Body Builder’s Weekly.  Will pumping iron make me bulky?

A: No, not if you are using low weights and doing lots of repetitions.

Q: Does strolling on the treadmill count as cardio?

A: In order to see physical improvements/changes, you need to be doing a cardio exercise where your heart rate is up for a minimum of 25 minutes to the point of breathlessness.

In a few months, I will report back (part of making my goals known) for a check-in.  To get us all off the couch, please share your favourite songs to work-out to.  Music is a great motivator! And/or please share what it is you do with your spouse, friends or solo to stay active.


She’s making a resolution and checking it twice . . .

The New Year is upon us and like many I have made a resolution to dedicate more time to myself.  The past four years my body has been a vessel for my children and my days dedicated to fulfilling the needs (and wants) of my growing family.  Somewhere between play dates, mountains of laundry and laps around the grocery store, I lost sight of who I am.

2011 will be the year that I dedicate to myself.  That doesn’t mean abdicating all of my responsibilities and moving to the desert to mediate for a whole year (although the silence does sound appealing).

It means that this is the year that I am going to focus on taking care of my body, being a better friend, saying “no” (so I can say “yes”) and re-discovering what I like.

Through my mom’s group, I met Vanessa Reeve.  Vanessa is a wife and mother to two young girls and she is an inspiration to me.  Not only does she make time for herself everyday, she has also managed to start a new career in the midst of mothering – no easy feat.

After having her daughters, Vanessa said goodbye to the corporate life to focus on being a stay-at-home mom.  A life-long fitness junkie, Vanessa found difficulty finding the time to workout after her first born.  Never one to let excuses get in the way, she bought a pilates DVD and dedicated time everyday to get down on her mat.

Once her second daughter was born, Vanessa became acutely aware of the example she was setting for her children.  She wanted her girls to grow up in a home where exercise is a part of a healthy lifestyle and not just to be used as a crash course to weight loss.

She joined a gym and attended classes regularly.  After a few years, she has parlayed her love of fitness into a new career.  Vanessa is now a certified CanFitPro instructor and encourages people to set up realistic fitness goals and provides them with the tools to achieve results.

In an effort to stay true to my resolutions, I met with Vanessa and we had a chat about health, fitness and how to dedicate more of my (limited) time to exercise.

First off, Vanessa says that you should be exercising because . . .

  • As we age we lose balance, coordination, flexibility and reaction time.  Translation:  Exercise will help you from wiping out and crashing into the wall after stepping barefoot on tiny lego pieces in the middle of the night.
  • Exercise improves cardio-respiratory capacity.  Translation: You will be able to grab your destined-for-gold-in-the-hundred-meter child by his hood and prevent him from running into traffic (hypothetically, of course).
  • Fitness leads to improved health, adds years to your life and affects overall happiness.  Translation: By working out, you might be will be less bitchy and therefore more enjoyable to live with. For a long, long, long time.
  • Exercise helps to reduce stress.  Translation: You won’t lose your shit after asking everyone four times to pick up after themselves.  It will take between six and eight times.
  • Exercise helps to prevent the loss of bone density.  Translation: Decreases likelihood of a fractured hip in old age and having your children ship you off to the farthest nursing home.
  • Exercise sets a positive example for your kids.  Translation: An easy way to ensure that your kids benefit from all of the above too.  And really, what mom doesn’t want the best for their kids?

Excuses.  Excuses.

We all have them.  We all know them.

I work too much.  I am too tired.  I can’t afford it.  I will join a gym after I lose five pounds.  I don’t want to be away from the kids.  No one is around the watch the kids.

Own your excuses.  Say them out loud, write them down but ultimately, acknowledge that they are the barriers to success.  I ask myself, would I let something stand in the way of my children’s success or happiness?  Then why am I so willing to let something stand in my way?

Perhaps what I love the most about Vanessa is that she doesn’t advocate exercise to look like a Victoria Secret model (puh-lease, that ship has sailed!). Instead, she is vocal about the release that exercise provides: say goodbye to negative stress and hello to positive endorphins.  Those endorphins are also known as to stretch my patience, calm my nerves, quiet my voice and elevate my fun-ness meter.  In other words, my children and husband are also key beneficiaries.

Next week, I will spell out my personal fitness challenge of 2011 and I encourage you to reflect on your personal goals.  “Sharing your fitness goals with others makes you accountable and more likely to follow through,” says Vanessa.

Being a busy mom, Vanessa knows all too well the struggle to find a balance between caring for family and for your self.  Vanessa will be sharing her tips on how to incorporate fitness into your daily life . . . with your kids and for free!  (Cross those two excuses off your list!)

Vanessa’s enthusiasm is infectious.  She makes me want to take better care of myself so that I can take better care of my family.   And if I can rock a bikini as well as her, I will gladly accept that as a bonus!

A Mother’s Body

A Mother’s Body

The skin is pulled tautly over my rounded belly and my full breasts sit high on my chest.  The photo of my pregnant body in its ninth month is displayed on the bookshelf above my bathtub.  I look at that picture almost nightly.  Not only do I find the curves and silhouette of my maternal frame captivating, I am drawn to the expression on my face.   There are no lines indicating worry or discomfort, my lips rest lightly together, and slightly curl at the ends but it is the eyes that speak to me.  There is a peaceful calm exuding from my stare, owning my nakedness with a confidence that I had never felt before, or for that matter, since.

Many women feel at their most beautiful when they are pregnant.  Sarah, a mother of three from Ottawa, loved being pregnant and describes her first pregnancy as though it felt like an experience she was waiting her entire life for.  “My wide hips helped make my first birth a relatively easy process (as far as births go).  I just loved never having to suck in my belly – I could let it all hang out!  I really do feel like I never felt better than when I was pregnant the first time.”  Sarah is not alone in admiring how awesome a woman’s body truly is.  Mirielle, a Toronto mother of two, says of her pregnant body, “I was in awe of its incredible capacity every passing week… it was truly one of the best experiences of my life where I could focus on myself and the needs of my unborn baby without feeling guilty for neglecting something else.”

Some nights, when my self-confidence is wavering, I look at those pictures and long for that unbridled self-love.  Soaking in the bath water, I admire the toll three pregnancies have taken on my body.  Like battles scars the silvery stretch marks tell a story.  The long spindly looking one running up the left side of my abdomen is from the first time my belly stretched to cradle an unborn child.  The series of red claw-like indentations along my pubic bone are the newest markings to my canvas.  My breasts and stomach sag, the skin like a deflated balloon and a thickness has settled around my waist.

I knew that pregnancy would forever alter my body and most days I wear these changes with pride but living in a culture where celebrity baby bumps has become a spectator sport and images of lithe post-baby bodies are plastered across virtually every glossy tabloid magazine, I would be liar to say my body image hasn’t taken a hit.

I remember being shocked at how my body looked in the days following the birth of my eldest son.  I wasn’t prepared that I would still look pregnant.  The experts at Just The Facts Baby say that when a woman leaves the hospital after giving birth her uterus is still as large as when she was twenty weeks pregnant and Baby Centre reports that post-baby a woman’s body can appear rounder in the hips, thicker in the waist and softer in the tummy after she has bore a child.

Sarah’s first pregnancy was a singleton and she found that she was able to bounce back into shape pretty quickly but after the C-section she experienced with her twins her post-baby body image wasn’t as positive.  “Between carrying two babies to term and having a c-section my stomach is a mess of yucky, saggy skin and stretch marks.  I sometimes look in the mirror and wonder whose belly that is!”  While Mirielle was forewarned, by her mommy-friends that she wouldn’t be slipping back into her skinny jeans a few weeks post-partum she remembers being surprised by the length of time it took for her to fit back into her shirts due to breastfeeding.

A Mother’s Energy

Since having my third child a few months ago, in addition to the changes in my body, I have noticed a change in my energy.  Exercise and alone time used to re-charge me but now I find that the demands of having three young children under the age of four take up most of day and energy, leaving little left over for myself.  Sarah, Mirielle and many other mothers report the same thing.

This post is the first in a series.  Next week will explore how to incorporate exercise into busy lives, the benefits of exercise for a healthy body image, and how parents can use exercise to provide the ultimate self-care.

How has your body image changed since having children?  Or has it?

photo credit: http://www.blogcdn.com/www.parentdish.com/media/2009/08/naked-pregnant-woman-240js080509.jpg