Exercising as a Mom

Pretty much all through my teen years I was slightly obsessed with staying fit. Truth is, I wanted 6-pack abs, but quickly came to the conclusion that unless I became a body builder, that just wasn’t going to happen. I think it all really started when I watched “Braveheart” and saw the scene where William Wallace is running along the mountain ridges of Scotland. Pretty much from then on I started running and worked up to about 26 km every week, split into two sprint days and one stamina. Along with that were some hiking and backpacking trips with my dad (he’s a wonderful fellow), which always spurred me on to keep working out. Then I discovered an Oya women’s kickboxing group just a couple minutes down the road and started going. I loved the full body workout that kickboxing gave me, along with skills in balance. My coach was pretty awesome too, pushing us all hard and encouraging us to do our best, but tailoring things slightly to accommodate each of our strengths and weaknesses. After that, I moved across the country (I was living in Canada) to help my aunt and uncle build their house. Even without doing any of the framing, I put on 10 lbs of muscle working around their property. Next came my attempt to thru hike the Appalachian Trail (2,176 miles) which I was only able to complete 600+, and then I bicycle toured with my now husband along the coast of California.

That all sounds like a great tradition in exercise and how could someone with that background ever stop working out?!

The answer is “mom-hood”.

My husband and I had a baby. Even though I tried to stay fit throughout the pregnancy, it was just too easy to relax and let everyone else do stuff. After Marin was born, Seth was a huge encouragement to get me outside for long walks, but the sore hips and pelvis were depressing, so I settled down to just going for shorter walks with the dog.

Now Marin is a 17 months, my hips are perfectly fine (unless I walk all the way downtown and back) and I have no excuse to not exercise. But Marin takes up a lot of time and it is nearly impossible to work out with her around as she climbs all over me. Running on these streets is hard with a stroller trying to maneuver all the curbs. Nap time is the only time of the day that I can really focus on projects that I want to get done, and don’t want to waste that precious time on working out. And… truth be told…. I don’t really want to work out. I’d much rather curl up on the couch and get lost in a good book with cup of chocolate ice-cream in hand. Besides, doesn’t housework count as working out?

Oh, what is a mother to do?!!!

I have not come up with the answer yet. a couple weeks ago I decided that I would take a rock climbing course at the local rock gym and start going early in the mornings before Marin wakes up and Seth has to go to work, but I still haven’t organised that yet. I think I’ll just have to force myself to go for a run in the mornings or evenings when Seth is around to watch the little one.

Today I got lucky as it is Seth’s day off and he took little Rinny down to OMSI for a couple hours, leaving me to do whatever I wanted. I knew I needed to get out and burn some steam, so it worked out great to allow me to take the dog for a run and do some extra workouts at home. Just as a side note, Lorax (the dog) was much slower than myself. I had to keep encouraging him to come along! Yay for me running faster than a pit-rhodesian cross!

I’m sorry, I’m sure you thought there was going to be a great grand and glorious answer to the mother’s exercise problem, but there isn’t. I’m in the same boat as everyone else, with just a wafting memory of the wonderful days of perpetual energy and a love to push my body.


The Day Is Not Over Yet

With my birthday almost here, Seth and I splurged and bought tickets for some acrobatic airial arts show later tonight. But the timing is just right that Seth had to ask for the day off of work. So, with a Saturday free to do anything, we started the adventure last night by setting up our 3-man tent and each of us sleeping in our own sleeping bags, caressed by a gentle breeze taking the heat off the day.

Yes, Marin at 8 months old has her own sleeping bag. One of those length adjustable ones from Mountain Hardwear. She slept quite well in it, which does not necessaraly mean that Seth or I got as good a sleep. I’m sure you parents can understand! But it was fun anyway and I think we will do it again tonight.

Marin in her own sleeping bag
Marin in her own sleeping bag

So that all was last night’s adventure, but what about today? Seeing as it was the first Saturday that Seth has had off since working for Columbia Sportswear, he wanted to head across the river to the Saturday Market to check out what’s new there. Today’s means of transportation was walking with a stroller. It’s not as fast as cycling, but we get to talk and catch up on inventive ideas that we just don’t get the chance to share with each other during the week or out weaving through traffic on our own sets of wheels.

The market was busy as always on such a bright beautiful day. We locked up the stroller and carried Marin through the crowds, gazing at all the interesting creations that are on display. Brunch was had at Horn of Africa. Same thing as we always get there, six samosas, two of each kind. Yum.

Marin having her first drink out of a water fountain. She did well!
Marin having her first drink out of a water fountain. She did well!

After wandering around the tents, it didn’t take us long to find a spot where Marin could watch all the other little people running through the water fountain. She still is unsure about getting involved in the activity of getting wet by splashing water, but she loves watching everyone else.

Standing in water while watching kids play
Standing in water while watching kids play

After Marin started to tire of watching the kids, we sat down where there was less chaos and more flow to the crowd of people. Sitting and watching people must be one of our favorite things to do. So much variety! There was the older couple walking their bicycles through the crowd together with matching handlebar baskets and matching floofy dogs in the baskets. A fellow who looks like he spends all his time working out and watching too many survival videos on youtube, with a buck-knife on his belt walking a male dog that looked ready  to sire a mean looking litter of pups. A lady who looked uncomfortable in her much too short dress, having to discreetly pull it down an inch or two every ten steps. A fellow getting busted for smoking pot? Two dogs that looked like balls of fluff walking on the ends of leashes. A guy with metal spikes and leather arm cuffs, white boots with spurs and tatoos covering his arms while slowly peddaling around looking for customers to take for a ride on his tour trike. The best one by far was the guy in a Utili-Kilt, riding a unicycle, wearing a Darth Vadar helmet and playing a bag-pipe.

That was our day so far! Now we get to gear up and go to our show. Yippy!

My Cycling Father

Dad trying out the fat tire and watching how it worked beneath him.
Dad trying out the fat tire and watching how it worked beneath him.

While my dad was here I found out that he enjoys riding bicycles. We always lived a little outside of town (sometimes right out in the country!) and so cycling had no interest as you were always stuck on the same road. Portland is different though. There’s bike lanes and so many alternate routes that it is impossible to get bored especially when you’re only in town for one week!

Seth picked up a Pugsley Fat Tire by Surly last year, but my dad didn’t get to see it last time he was through. This time though, he spotted it and his eyes lit up right away.

“Who’s is that?” he asked with excitement in his voice.

When I told him it was Seth’s, he asked if he might be able to take it for a spin. Of course!!! So he tried it out on the street just in front of the house, and since we were heading out on a ride and I was taking the trike (which is slow), he opted for the fat tire ride. It was great to see him on it. He loved it!

Most our rides this last week has been with him on the Surly. It is slow, but still a heck of a lot faster than our trike which Marin rides in.

Grandpa cycling around proud as punch with his little granddaughter sleeping content on front.
Grandpa cycling around proud as punch with his little granddaughter sleeping content on front.

When I would suggest walking anywhere after the first couple of rides, his face would drop just a tad, then he would mention the option of riding to our destination instead. So we rode almost every day that he was here, including the last day when he had to pick up a few things for the kids’ school.

For that last ride, Seth stayed home with Marin while I rode Chester and my dad rode one of Andrew’s bikes downtown. We rode fast because we could.

First stop was Voodoo Doughnuts where we picked up a full dozen doughnuts and of course ate a couple of them right away. Had to get some energy to make the last few blocks to REI where Dad picked up some gear for the kids’ GoPro camera.

Heading home I got us a little off track, but didn’t exactly get LOST. Just didn’t know where we were going per say. Didn’t take too long and we were back on a familiar route, then we hit a section of heavy traffic being directed by cops, so we got on another detour, ducking and weaving between traffic. As we spun onto Clinton Street, Dad figured out where we were and took off like a rocket! Those doughnuts must have really given him a boost, because it was all I could do to keep up with him!

Core Workout

With trying to keep on track with working out, I focused on my core today while Marin was asleep on the couch where I could keep an easy eye on her.

I had just started getting some burn when she woke up and I had to try incorporating her into the workout. Every tried doing Russian Twists while nursing a baby? It’s certainly not the easiest thing in the world, but then again, Russian Twists are not the easiest themselves!

My favorite was doing hip raises with her sitting on the floor beside me. She would watch as I did a set on one side, then just as she was starting to get bored I would switch to the other side and do another set.

For trying to workout, Marin is an easy baby to have around as she takes interest in what I am doing as long as she is close enough to me. Trying to keep my workout interesting enough for her while challenging enough for me physically is a little harder!


Five Finger Run

5 Fingers

The winter has been full of it’s fair share of couch lounging with an occasional bike ride or yoga workout. Certainly nothing consistent!

When the weather turned nice I worked out in the yard and called that good. Not only did it get something accomplished, but it got me outside and physically active. Yeah, like that was a real excuse not to do a good workout!

Today isn’t exactly a pretty one, but it’s not raining either. It is grey and damp. Sidewalks are soaked from last night’s showers. Puddles are sitting at street corners asking for your spare change so they can lose it in their muddy depths. Dogs are stuck at home because their owners just don’t feel like taking them out.

That’s what kind of day it is today.

Somehow against all the odds of the day I got out for a run! Ok, I woke up cranky and pissed at the world, but hey, it made me break a good sweat!

The last time I went for a run I was wearing my old sneakers that I had hiked a couple hundred miles over the Appalachian Trail in. Comfortable, but still sneakers. Sneakers have a tendency to make my heals jam into the ground and the rest of my feet to follow with a slap.

So instead I wriggled into my KMD Sports (Vibram Five Fingers), enjoying their light weight and the way they force my stride to change.

The first few blocks (maybe 10?) were easy-going, getting used to the feel of running on the balls of my feet instead of my heals. Then I cranked it up. One and a half blocks sprinting, half a block walking. Alternating between the two until running one block was all I could muster and then I’d have to walk a full block just to catch my breath again. My toes were wet, calves on fire and my chest was burning as if a dragon was breathing into it at every breath. The feel of flying though was such an amazing feel that I know I will do it again in a couple of days. Landing softly on the balls of my feet and pushing off again without having any hard slam of my weight being thrown down onto the concrete through my feet was the most amazing thing a runner can have I think. I haven’t gone seriously running for a couple of years now, but why didn’t I think of running barefoot or at least just running on the balls of my feet instead of the heals like I’d always done?

The day was miserable but the run was exciting. I got that rush of endorphins that comes from a good powerful workout, and that’s all I needed for the rest of the day to be one of the best in this grey showers filled April.

One Way to Tucker Out Your Dog

Your dog greats you in the morning with so much enthusiasm that you know he needs a good long walk. You grab some breakfast and head out, walking for a couple of hours which leaves you exhausted for the rest of the day with the bonus of sore feet. Your dog? He is playing in the back yard as if he had never left.

I think all large-dog owners have experienced this little scenario at one point or other much to their chagrin. I know I certainly have and I don’t even own a dog!

As many of our friends, family and blog followers know, we are living in the full basement of Seth’s brother’s house in Portland, and Andrew has a dog. A beautiful well-behaved loving dog who lets the neighborhood children pull his tail, ears and climb on him. Despite how mellow he acts though, he is a bundle of energy that needs to vent every day. With other things on my to-do list I often have a hard time getting him out for as long as he really needs, especially as Andrew and the kids are still away on holidays and so there are fewer people to walk him through the day.

But I discovered a great fix to all that! We have a bicycle that attached to a special stroller similar to a Chariot, turning it into a trike with 2 wheels up front and one in the back. One of Marin’s car seats has been affixed into the stroller from which she has a great view of the passing scenery as we roll along. The whole contraption is quite sturdy, so I decided that with little effort I could take both the baby and the dog out for fresh air by making the dog trot along beside us.

For bike rides it certainly doesn’t get you anywhere very fast, but it gets the dog moving a lot faster than if we were all walking, which was the point behind it all. It worked so incredibly well that after cycling up to Mount Tabor, letting Lorax play with the other dogs at the park and then rolling back home, even with dog-piss breaks, he was well-worn out for at least the next 4 hours. But having a couple of hours of knowing the dog had gotten a good work out was wonderful!!

I know most people do not have trikes on which they can roll along slow enough for their dogs, but for those that do, it is worth a shot to try taking your dog out with it and see if you can’t outlast your canine friend!

Biking Trio

Having done extensive research on the proper age of a child before taking him/her for a ride on a bicycle, we came to the conclusion that “one year” sounds right if putting your little munchkin in a trailer or seat.

But what about on your back?

We have a wonderful baby carrier that is designed for infants, holding Marin’s head nice and close to my body, so muscle strength in her neck or lack thereof is not an issue.

On this one particularly pleasant fall day, we bundled Marin up warm inside her one-piece rain suit (in case the weather changes on us) and took off on an easy jaunt up to the top of Mt Tabor.

I started with Marin on my front as that is how I carry her every day, but before long Seth helped me switch her to my back, making it easier in me while riding. With frequent stops to check in on her well-being, we discovered that she quite enjoys going for rides as the few bumps and vibrations that make it through my body and up to her along with the fresh air have a wonderful sleep inducing effect.

Fresh air + bicycle movements = sound sleep
Snuggled tight, she’s like wearing a custom backpack.