Become Super Mom, if just for an hour…

I recall the exact moment I decided I needed reap the benefits of regular exercise. Isaac (my second child) was 8 months old. I was out on a hike, just me, my dog and a head full of thoughts. I was consumed by the idea of figuring out a way to regain control of my life. Being a Mom to multiple children (okay, two) was kicking my butt, I felt like the kid count had gone from 1 to 10. I was pretty overwhelmed.

Then all the sudden, right there on the trail, it hit me. I called Olivia immediately. I recall my exact words: “Olivia! I just decided what I want to be when I grow-up, I want to be the Mom who get’s up every morning and exercises before my kids are awake.” Of course Olivia kindly reminded me that, with an eight month old, my kids were awake at 8 pm, 11 pm, 2 am, 5 am, 6 am, and 8 am.

Normal sleep schedule Schmormal sleep schedule, I had something to look forward to.

It was a slow process. Eight months to be exact. No matter how much I wanted to get up early and exercise, actually doing it was a whole new ball game. Why it is so hard to do something you want to do, something that makes you feel so good is beyond me.

I can’t exactly say I get up “before” my kids all the time, (hard to beat kids who are up by 6am) but ever since January 8th 2011 I’ve gotten out for exercise at least 4-5 days a week, and usually early in the morning. Depending on the day, I hike up the hill behind my house (photo at top, mouse over for caption), speed walk with weights (just like my Mom did in the 90’s), mountain bike, or paddle around at the kayak park. Everything is no further than 10 minutes from my house. I know. I lucked out.

I’ve always been an active person. I’ve always hiked or biked at least once a week, but never consistently and never as much as I should have. I can’t believe I’ve lived my life thus far without regular exercise. I know I’m going to sound like an infomercial here, but it seriously changed my life for the better. How? I’ll tell you–and let me point out before I start, this is my personal experience–not what I read in Good Housekeeping, not what my doctor told me.  This is really what exercise does for me.

1. Uninterrupted Thoughts
You know how after you have kids it’s virtually impossible to have a thought longer than 2 minutes before it’s interrupted? When I’m out exercising not only can I let my thoughts explore a topic for up to 45 minutes, but the thought is also clearer, it’s like that Mom fog just lifts right off your brain! All my favorite blog posts are thought up during a morning hike.

2. If Only I Ran the World
Because of reason #1 I’ve solved a majority of the worlds problems. Health care, financial crisis, world hunger, education reform, you name it. I think our congressmen could benefit from a little exercise. I also try to solve problems a little closer to home: How can make learning to read more exciting, how are we going to pay for Joe’s root canal, what should I say next time an older lady scolds me for bringing my kids to a museum, etc…

3. Me Me Me
I get ME time almost EVERY DAY! For a whole hour the only person I have to worry about is me. Ahhh, such a refreshing way to start the day.

4. Give Energy to Get Energy
My energy level has increased two-fold. At first I  though I wouldn’t have enough energy to get up early AND to be ‘on’ the rest of the day. Funny thing about exercising, while it’s true it takes energy, for some odd reason it also GIVES you energy… Borderline creepy.

5. I Just Keep Going
When I get up and exercise I come home and I just want to keep going. Mornings when I don’t get up and exercise it takes me A LOT longer to get going and I end up feeling a bit lethargic the rest of the day. When you don’t drink coffee, the exercise regiment is key.

6. Mood Enhancer
Sitting still makes me depressed. Which is why if it was above 15 degrees I got out all winter long. I’m so much happier when I’ve been exercising regularly. Just ask Joe on this one…

7. Bye Bye Bird Legs
My initial desire to get out and exercise had nothing to do with losing weight. Sure I had a few extra post-pregnancy pounds left but I figured if they came off it would just be an added bonus. You can imagine my surprise when I actually started gaining weight. And my butt got bigger, I was growing out of my pants the wrong way! To this day I still have not lost weight, but I’ve lost some fat reserves around the middle and gained some tonality in my arms and legs. I’m looking less like a bird every day. (And for the record my butt is shrinking back down to size since I started varying my exercise, I think hiking strait up a hill everyday was giving me undesired butt muscles.)

8. Remind Me Again…
I was always so concerned with getting my kids their Outside Time, that I neglected my own Outside Time. Getting out everyday, inhaling fresh air, feeling the breeze on my flushed face, seeing the world in that morning light, doing something that makes me move reminds me constantly why the outdoors is important.

9. What? I Did it?
It’s such a self-confidence booster to actually see yourself get better at something over time. There is a mountain bike trail near my house that I try to bike once a week. It’s about 8 miles out and back, up and over a ridge; thus 1/2 of those miles are uphill. When I first started I thought there was no way I would ever be able to bike the whole thing without walking my bike up the last and steepest rocky switch back. Just a few months ago I finally biked up the entire hill without having to get off my bike once (except to cross the creek, which was actually more like a river). I was so proud of myself. Eh, go home, cook breakfast, do learning time, start laundry, vacuum, mow the lawn, juggle dishes in the air, and have the kids out the door for an excursion to Lake Tahoe all in under an hour? Piece of cake! Accomplishing physical goals just makes you feel like you can do anything!

10. Super Mom
I know you’re going to think I’m embellishing here, but I really do have more patience with my kids after a morning excursion. I do. Positive endorphins rock.

Did I miss anything? Why do you exercise? Or maybe you don’t? Yet. In that case, watch for future posts on this topic How I Used Bribery to get Myself Exercising and Excuses I Used to Stay in Bed: A 15 Year Study

32 Comments so far

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  1. AMEN! I started doing this about 1 1/2 years ago and I feel like a new person. I’m so glad you discovered the secret to sanity and happiness (and jealous that you have a kayak park that close)!

  2. Bring the Kids – 1.5 years! Nice work. I really don’t think I can ever go back to pre-exercise, after 15 years I think I finally made it a habit. Just hope when we move we still have access to so many trails! And a kayak park…

  3. Lins, this is such a great post. You almost have me inspired to go out myself for a little exercise… well-written, and I love the titles to each of your ten points. =)

    • Olivia – First you need to find an excuse or something to escape from. Hummmm. Maybe next fall is when we tackle Mt.Whitney… Or Kilimanjaro, you know, just whatever works.

  4. Brandi

    Not a mom, but I agree with this post whole-heartedly! I started about the same time you did with a daily morning hike to exercise the Labradors, but I’ve found I need it every day. There’s just something about the fresh air, getting away from the city, and starting my day off with a clear head.

    • Brandi – Ya, I think a lot of it is the fresh morning air. I always take my dog too, and when a morning comes that I can’t get out, she looks at me all day like I ruined her life. Added incentive for sure.

  5. I started exercising after I had a baby because I was having lowerback/hip problems. I love to be outside and doing stuff and exercise has always helped with my depression and ADHD. It was/is so hard for me to make myself get up and out. My secret for me is when I wake up in the morning I put my exercise clothes on. Thay way I am ready as soon as the opportunity presents itself to get out.

    • Bethany – Wow, that’s impressive that you started exercising because of lower back and hip problems, that’s usually why people stop. I guess it worked?? I like the idea of getting right into your exercise clothes, after that, 1/2 the battle is won.

  6. Brian

    Great to hear the perspective of someone else who likes to get up early to get your exercise/me time. Early on (when Myelle was about 6 weeks old) I learned that this was the best time of day to get my exercise in. One benefit to the early morning routine, that I cherish here along the Wasatch, is the crowds are greatly reduced at 5:30 a.m. Routes I you would be waiting in line for at 10 a.m. we have all to our selves!

    One more thing. Last weekend I was came across a group at 6 a.m. half way up Olympus. One of them asked me if I was training for something. Of course my response at the moment was no, but after I thought about it I realized something…I’m training for life! Gave me a new perspective.

    • Brain – You make an excellent point. We have the same problem, so if you don’t want to in trail traffic you have to be there by 5:30. I like the training for life idea. That’s actually a really great thought, an epiphany that could only have happened out on the trail!

  7. Jana

    THIS is exactly what I needed to hear today. Thank you so much. Seriously.

  8. Jill

    So timely. I finally just started exercising again and I KNOW that I must eventually get up early – but for now just happy that I’m making any kind of progress. With two kids under two, my energy is not high enough to do all that I want to do with my boys (not to mention that all my old gym clothes/outdoor gear is at least 2 sizes too small!) So for now I will be the frumpy looking one in gym class and out pushing the stroller in the park – but someday soon, that will change! Thanks for the inspiration!!

    • Jill – Not to worry, for some of us, it’s all about baby steps. Good luck!
      PS Two kids under 2?? Wow! I’m impressed you get anything done at all ;)

    • I’m sooo with you. I have a 2.5yr old and a 3 month old and I’m definitely the frumpy tired one in too small clothes. lol. I am still trying to find my rythmn after the birth of my second…

      I loved this post. It’s how I felt the first time I back to rock climbing after the birth of my first. Like, the mommy fog just cleared for an hour or so….

      • Sarah – Welcome to OutsideMom (saw this was your first comment)! Glad you liked the post. You’ll figure out a rhythm, and hopefully it won’t take you as long as it took me! Isn’t it amazing how that fog lifts when you get out and do something you love? Something physically exerting. I often wonder if it’s endorphins, or just that for that period in time you feel “normal” because your out doing the stuff you did pre-kids. It’s like you find yourself again… Ya know?

  9. Lacey

    I think the key to feeling refreshed for me is doing something OUTSIDE, I used to love to watch the sun rise on Web hill. Now I go to a gym and although I kick my own trash I come home exhausted and crawl back into bed. Uggh

    • Lacey – I agree, 1/2 of it just being outside. There have been a few mornings where I just feel lazy, so I stop my hike short and sit by the canal for 20 minutes. It still has the same effect. Although a gym is better than nothing I’m sure, I guess that’s where you can get your dose of cardio, then head outside with your kids for the dose of fresh air. Interesting observation…

  10. Kristen

    This is a great post indeed! Thank you for the inspiration. My favorite bit was this “Of course Olivia kindly reminded me that, with an eight month old, my kids were awake at 8 pm, 11 pm, 2 am, 5 am, 6 am, and 8 am.” And then following it with this, 4. Give Energy to Get Energy
    My energy level has increased two-fold. At first I though I wouldn’t have enough energy to get up early AND to be ‘on’ the rest of the day. Funny thing about exercising, while it’s true it takes energy, for some odd reason it also GIVES you energy… Borderline creepy.”

    Your inspiration was timely and much needed. Since you posted this, I have worked out every day since. And the sun just came out in Boone, so when Koen wakes up from his nap, we’re going OUTSIDE.

    Great work!

    • Kristen – Awesome! I really appreciate the comment, so glad you found is useful. Sounds like you are well on your way to Super Mom status ;). Now the key is to get addicted…

  11. Chastity

    I can wholeheartedly second this entire post–except for the chicken legs, that’s not my problem. ;)

    Jon is always weirded out that I have MORE energy because of the exercise, but it is so true. I just want to keep going and going, and I do feel like I can do anything. In fact, I KNOW I can! And somehow I seem to have more time to do things than everyone who’s not exercising…I’m still not sure how that works.

    Mornings are absolutely the best, but if things get crazy I always know that I can go out in the evening too, and I’ll still feel great (as long as it’s not so late that it interferes with falling sleep).

    And yes, sitting around makes me depressed faster than anything else–ESPECIALLY in the winter. Physical activity is the key to happy mommies/wives/people.

    Oh, and for anyone who has image issues: you just don’t worry about that anymore when you feel so darn good.

    • Chastity – I loved everything about your comment. And I agree with the last statement completely 100%. Oh, and for anyone who has image issues: you just don’t worry about that anymore when you feel so darn good.

  12. I love this post. So empowering. I just had my first child two months ago and just this past week I went for my first run since having a baby. It felt amazing. It’s been a challenge to work exercise back in with an infant in my life but it’s been worth the effort. I’ve been mostly going on daily long walks, although I’m thrilled to have also gotten back on my bike and out for a (slow, but wonderful) first post partum run.

    I can only echo what you wrote. I thought that trying to walk/bike/run would only make me feel more tired at a time when I’m not getting a lot of sleep but it’s had the opposite effect. On days I get out, I feel so much better and more energetic. And it makes me a better mom; a much happier and more relaxed mom.

    I hope that lots of other moms read this and feel inspired to get out and do something active. Thanks for writing this post!


    • Simply Bike – You’ve already been out on your bike! That’s awesome. So glad you’ve been able to get out so soon after having your little one. I KNOW had I gotten out more with my first, things would have gone much better! Thanks for the comment!

  13. Love your honesty and freshness. And miss your sense of humor!! Wish I lived close – that mountain you climb and mountain bike trail sound perfect!! You are amazing.

    • Haaaha, Thanks Liz. Not so sure my showing last week was that amazing however. I’m trying to redeem myself this week. Wish you lived closer too! Maybe someday…

  14. New reader here (via simply bike)! LOVE love LOVE it all. This one has been my keystone read today. Your words about Why it is so hard to do something you want to do, something that makes you feel so good is beyond me” are worth repeating and remembering. Where does that challenge come from and how can we jump that hurdle? Now that my youngest is nearly 2, I am finally waking up to exercise as more than weight control, it’s living a full life. Thank you.

    • Hi Stacy-
      Welcome! So glad you liked the post, and I loved that last line of your post, “I am finally waking up to exercise as more than weight control, it’s living a full life.” You just summed up in a sentence what I was trying to explain in a full post. It’s perfect.

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    I'm Lindsey. I'm an environmental educator, my husband's a biologist. The outdoors is infused into everything we do; which explains why I'm better at mud pies than home decorating. More About Me

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