Monday, January 31, 2011

Mama Sweat Winter Workout

More Snow?

Yeah, us too.

What else can you do on a snowy day?

This.

All you need is:

1) Sled
2) Handsfree dog leash (or your own way to attach yourself to a sled)
3) Willing child or children (have done this pulling three kids)
4) Mama willing to move!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

One Great Hour at the Gym

If you're like me and you tend to trend the gym workouts more heavily in the winter months (hello -13 yesterday!) then you know you must have a plan before setting foot in the door. Without a workout plan you risk wandering the treadmills and elliptical machines waiting for sweatspiration to strike or stare into the group fitness room with your nose to the window wondering if that class would be any fun. Maybe weights? Maybe yoga? Maybe just sit in the sauna, pretend it's a beach in Mexico and call it a day?

Welcome to my perfect one hour workout:

30 minutes on the stationary bike (level 9) as fast as you can.
20 minutes on the treadmill as fast as you can.
10 minutes in the pool as fast as you can.

This is not an original idea. There are indoor triathlons happening in health clubs the world over (and I plan to compete in one on Feb. 13). If you want specifics on why they're a good option and how they work, check out this article I wrote about indoor triathlons two years ago. But it wasn't until New Year's Day, when my husband suggested we do this on our own at the gym, that I saw the value as a stand alone workout.

I have since hosted my own little indoor triathlon three times and I'm motivated by increasing my distance covered in each sport. I do not wander the floor debating which piece of equipment to try next. I move quickly from bike to treadmill to pool and when my time is up I know I haven't wasted a minute of gym time.

Better still, there is plenty of time to shower before picking up the kids in the childcare center. There's even a few minutes to spare sitting in the sauna pretending I'm on a beach in Mexico.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

My Day as a Fitness Model

While I was over the moon to play diva for a day, I was just as thrilled to be riding the wave (that's what I'm doing above) of interest in pelvic floor strength, and sharing what I learned about postpartum fitness from Catherine Cram and, of course, the squats heard round the world when I interviewed Katy Bowman. Could I be more grateful to Jen Sinkler and Experience Life magazine for helping me get the word out? Nope. Enormously grateful. I know from the 40,000+ visitors to my website when I published the "Pelvic Floor Party" and "Pelvic Floor Encore" posts (which remain my top two blog pages by a looooong shot) that the information wasn't only news to me, but to the majority of women out there. So now we get to share it again in the May issue of Experience Life. The fact that I got to play fitness model was the frosting. Very yummy, indulgent frosting.

So if you don't mind indulging me a little more, l'd love to share what I learned as a fitness model:
For starters, I could easily get used to someone fixing my hair and make up and picking out my clothes. I felt like a little girl again, except that I was a polite little girl. I did not scream "stop it!" when my hair was brushed, or, "I am NOT going to wear that," when my outfit was presented to me. My children may not appreciate me as their stylist, but I reveled in the attention of having a stylist for a day.
Also, being a fitness model is harder than it looks. The photographer had me zipping through the Sahrmann exercises pretty fast and I usually do them much slower, or at least only as fast as my brain can work (four-time brain donor here, not very fast). Fitness models apparently are expected to do the exercises correctly. Retake!
After the shoot I learned that Experience Life Senior Editor Jen Sinkler also does some personal training on the side. All her coaching behind the scenes suddenly made perfect sense: "I want to see those heels down on the ground! I know you can do it! Shoulders back! Stomach in! Fight for that arch in your back!" In the picture below, Katy Bowman, my pelvic floor strength guru would say about my form: "Don't let this girl borrow your shoes when she goes camping."
All this while I was squatting and holding that squat... and holding it... just a little bit longer, "Relax your face!" And, correct form, too. This is how you want to squat in the woods to avoid peeing on your shoes.
When all was said and done (and don't get me started on the "said" part, I have a whole new respect for people in front of the camera--all I can hope for now is that I made the case for postpartum moms to repair their core and pelvic floor before taking off on their pre-baby exercise routines) I learned this: I get to keep the clothes! Now I know how it feels to be on Oprah! I got to take home my very own Lululemon outfit: capri pants and two (two! yeah for that trendy layering look!) tanks. Shoes: Adidas Fluid Trainer. Welcome to the barefoot (almost) running movement. I was so psyched. It's so dang hard to find time to shop for myself, and so because Lululemon is not currently carried at Super Target, I have been suffering without. Not any more.

Whenever I need to relive my day as a fitness model, all I have to do is put on my fitness model clothes and come April, when the video gets posted and the May issues comes out, I'll have another way to bring my fond memories to life.

Monday, January 17, 2011

I'm the Fit Mom Make-A-Wish Winner

You know those secret wishes you don't share with anyone because they're too silly? Unless it happens, and then you want to tell EVERYONE? Tomorrow, a wish comes true...
When Experience Life Senior Editor Jen Sinkler asked me to chime in on an answer for a postpartum exercise question for her advice column, I didn't hesitate. My answer reflected my love for the Sahrmann Exercises, which are impossible to explain in 300 words. So I suggested a web link. And then she said:
Maybe you can come in and we could have our camera folk shoot you describing and doing the exercises? Lemme know if that’s possible.
Possible? Would that make me a? Gulp. Would that make me a fitness model? I replied with an affirmative and fast. Heck ya! Cross that off the bucket list!
I was even more giddy when the stylist (stylist!) emailed me for my sizes. I took a moment to think about what *real* workout clothes I'd get to wear. If they were afraid of what a mom of four would show up wearing for a video shoot, they should be. (As I type I'm wearing my comfy black Old Navy sweats, a blue stripped turtleneck with crusted oatmeal on the sleeve and fuzzy brown slippers. Hair=pony tail. Make up=none.)

I gave her my range of sizes (because is there a woman out there who wears just ONE size?), which earned me the humiliation of sending her my measurements (on paper, as in life, I don't actually have a waistline).

I did not mention the twin skin, for fear that would become a deal breaker. Too complicated. "These are my sizes but it all depends on whether this extra skin here tucks in to the waistline or hangs over it."

Maybe the stylist has special clips for the twin skin?

Then I had a moment of panic: what if, because we were shooting abdominal exercises, the stylist chooses an ab-exposing outfit, like Jillian Michael's might wear? Almost instantaneously I remembered that Jen knows I have twins, and as far as I can tell she likes me.

I'm not worried about doing or explaining the exercises. I learned about Sahrmann exercises from Catherine Cram at a prenatal fitness certification course about 5 years ago. I've been at them ever since. But what more does a fitness model do to prepare for the shoot?

Shaving? Waxing? Plucking?

Too late to book a facial. Please God, spare me another pimple on my chin tomorrow morning.

I wasn't so worried about the chocolate cake with almond mascarpone frosting that I endulged in, several times, last weekend, as I was the big bowl of roasted root vegetables I had for lunch today. You all know how embarrassing it is to fart in yoga class (of course you do, don't deny). Imagine me demonstrating Sahrmann Exercise #4 with sound effects. The horror!

But if you think I've worked myself up into a neurotic tizzy, you'd be wrong. I'm unbelievably calm about this. I yam what I yam (although yam's were not part of the roasted root vegetable mixture I ate today).

Coincidently Jen Sinkler just posted on my Facebook Wall:

"Feeling fit and pretty? Can't wait to see you -- it's been too long!"

I'm going to turn that around to a positive affirming statement: Feeling fit and pretty!

I will be posting all about my fitness model experience tomorrow on the Hot (Sweaty) Mamas Fan Page and tweeting, too, at Mama_Sweat. Will she wake up with a pimple in the morning? What will the stylist do about the twin skin? Can Kara spare the crew any "special effects"? Stay tuned!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

How to Escape the Winter Blahs without Leaving Home

Mid January is the point in the Minnesota winter that I want out. Bad. This weekend I learned that if I can't get away, bringing the party here can pick me up like a sun-soaked day on a warm beach. How? Laughing with good friends has medicinal properties.

Plus, inviting two friends to come stay with you when your dishwasher is broken is just plain smart.

It started on Thursday when Workout Partner Pam blew in for business, hauling her birthday girl pal Jen along with her. I've been around Jen only twice before, but as a running mom of four who writes, we feel separated at birth. Because I loves the big fails, I'll introduce you with this post from her blog about her failure at multitasking (let it be known she also teaches and attends grad school). Another must-read post is this one about her mother's inability to take photos. I promise you will laugh till you cry, which is how I spent the last two days.

With three adults to four children, I was able to cook a nice dinner: Autumn Minestrone with Tiny Turkey Meatballs. I love the kid-friendly recipes from One Family, One Meal.
The soup was divine and the kids loved it. Next time, I will omit the garbanzo beans for reasons I'd like not to explain.

For dessert: Chocolate Cake with Almond Mascarpone Frosting. Jen was so smitten I'd bake for her. Truth be told the gracious host in me is layered with self-indulgence. If I can create a reason to eat mascarpone frosting, I will. That said, Jen is definitely worth baking for.
I've learned from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything that homemade cake isn't that difficult and takes maybe 5 minutes more to pull off than a from-the-box cake. The mascarpone frosting (* see below for low-calorie option) is super simple:

12 oz. mascarpone cheese
1 3/4 cup powdered sugar

Cheese, sugar, what's not to like? Beat until smooth, and if you're so inclined, add a few drops of almond extract, like I did. Workout Partner Pam, below, also The Boy's Godmother, has introduced him to lollipops, syrup (yes, he ate plain waffles happily until she righted what she saw as big wrong) and now, mascarpone frosting.
[*low-cal option for frosting: invite more friends so you don't have enough cake left to eat a second slice.]

After dining and wining we hit the sack so we'd be ready for our 6 a.m. snowshoe. I had never been on the trails near my home in the dark because I was too chicken. In the company of friends I realized that with all the snow we didn't even need our head lamps. If there were coyotes out there, they kept their distance from the laughing hyenas.

Once we returned it was business almost as usual. One mommy made breakfast, while one mommy helped do last-minute homework, while one mommy washed dishes. It's mornings like that when I wonder how I do it alone.

Then I had my Twitter Tutor Lesson. For a year I've been dragging my heels and I think I know why: because everyone kept telling me I *had* to do it. As with getting organized, I don't like to feel pressured. This Jen chick, however, is a huge fan of Twitter and her genuine enthusiasm for tweeting wore off (along with a few helpful tips). From Jen I learned there is depth to be found in 140 characters. This happened because of Twitter. Cool. If you're on Twitter follow her at JennyleefromTN. Me, you can find at Mama_Sweat.

The other ingredients for this recipe of fun included a few games of banagrams, a honky tonk bar and more snowshoeing. Again, I point you back to Jen, who summed it up in verse.

That, my friends, is how I escaped the winter blahs. Good friends, good food, and a good sweat can jettison you to a better place--whether from a dark state of mind or a dark winter's day.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Kid Pro Quo

Since moving to my new house almost six months ago I have slowly been building my safety net of neighbors. You know what I mean: a neighbor you ask to go to the bus stop when you're stuck in traffic; a neighbor who will dog sit when you're out of town; a neighbor who will run with you when you don't feel like going it alone. I have found these blessedly nice people and even a bonus: the neighbor who can stitch up a wound in her own kitchen (I haven't asked her to do this yet, but I have no doubt I will some day).

Short of having sister wives, a good safety net of neighbors can ease the stress of motherhood, especially when it comes to childcare. The ultimate in friendship is being able to take on a friend's brood when she needs a quick getaway or her scheduled sitter has left her high and dry. Or, if you're me, you need a workout. Bad.

So when my neighbor Cara (I know! Same name! I've never had a friend with my name before!) asked if I could watch her two boys for her I was honored that she would ask. When she offered to bring me lunch, I politely turned her down. I don't want lunch. I want the luxury of a workout in the middle of the day unencumbered by children.

Cara got what she needed. Kara got what she wanted. I think Cara and Kara have the beginning of something beautiful.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Will I?

Happy New Year from my still-cluttered office. Let me explain the bottle of wine on my desk... it's empty, I swear (and not emptied this morning). I like the "Mommy's Time Out" label. That big glass of water, IS what I'm drinking!

I tried to get organized to be organized as I mentioned last week, but alas, I spent more time with my family--lots of Boggle, Banagrams and baking--and on my snowshoes than I did "getting organized." But I sure did read a lot about getting organized. Kay, over at Cribsheet posted about the "push" to get organized, like the one to get in shape, this time of year, and so I'm wondering maybe *I* don't want to get organized so much as I feel "pushed." Who wants to be pushed?

Then it occurred to me: I'll never finish "getting organized" like I will never finish the laundry. I remember the day, shortly after becoming a mother when I longed to be done with the laundry. I looked over at my two pooping, spewing, spitting yet darling newborn girls and it hit me with the heft of their carseats on each side of my head: an endless cycle of dirty laundry would be as much a part of my new life as their coos and giggles and slobbery kisses.

And fitness is the same way too. It's not as if one day you become fit enough to stop working out. Staying fit is an ongoing process (yet one I enjoy much more than laundry) and requires a steady, and sometimes surging effort. If I keep at it, though, even little by little, I stay fit.

That's when the fireworks went off. Huge, colorful, loud fireworks. Do you see and hear them too?

Being organized is not a finished state of being. It is a process. It requires my time. Shit.

(Or, if you're my twin daughters playing Boggle that's spelled: s-h-e-t. I'm not proud, just confessing that the potty mouths haven't improved much...)

If being organized requires some of my precious time, then, how much do I value being organized? That's how I'll know whether or not being organized will be part of my repertoire.

While I don't want to be scatterbrained (says the woman who lost her purse twice last week), I don't need everything categorized and labeled either (says the woman who 15 years ago swore she'd walk out of her future husband's apartment if his CDs were alphabetized).

And what I decided, on my snowshoes, is that I just need to be organized enough. Like my house is clean enough. My house is never all clean (and as Kay on Cribsheet reminded me, cleaning the house with small children around is like shoveling snow while it's still snowing). I just have to tidy up a little this day and a little that day (while I tackle a load of perpetual laundry) here and there so I don't become an episode of Hoarders. And so it is with my fitness. A workout here, there and anywhere, manages to keep me fit enough. No, I'm not in shape to run a marathon or finish a half ironman. But I am fit enough.

Then I came across a gem in Experience Life magazine that cinched my new approach to being organized. It was a small piece in the front of the January/February issue called "Will I? Won't I?" The gist of the article was about a study that found if we phrase our goal as a question instead of a statement of commitment ("Will I spend time cleaning up my office?" she gently inquires to herself, instead of commanding "Clean up office!" on my to-do list) that we are more motivated to take on the task when we ask it of ourselves. In the article the researcher is asked why the question format is more powerful, and he says:
"The 'Will I?' sentence structure respects the addressee's sense of autonomy, inspiring a sense of responsibility rather than triggering guilt or shame. Hence, the person may connect with more intrinsic or autonomous reason for doing something."
For me, when phrased as a question, the goal is then dressed up as a challenge. I like challenges.

So, whether your goal is to get more fit, more organized, improve dental hygiene, use less profanity around the children, or something else, consider asking yourself if you will do it. I've already considered the implications for parenting, albeit slightly rephrased to better appeal to small children: "Do you want to go to bed with bacteria growing in your mouth?" or "Do you want your friends to see your dirty clothes on the floor?"

This post has gotten long enough for me to know that I am now procrastinating, which is an entirely different issue from being disorganized. Time to go. Will I clean up my office?