Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Master of Mom Guilt

When I first started adding exercise to my daily routine, I was worried about taking time away from my family.  I had to work, make dinner, help the kids with their homework, spend time with my kids, spend time with my husband, clean, do laundry, pack lunches, pay the bills, grocery shop . . . and exercise???  How was that going to work?  I had so little time with my family as it was that I couldn't imaging squeezing in one more thing.  The simple thought of it sent waves of guilt running through me.  My solution was to add exercise in at the very end of my day. 

For Christmas my parents gave me a very attractive bright orange reflective vest with even brighter yellow stripes and I was good to go.  I would get everything done that needed to be done that day and hit the street around 11PM for my daily run.  Fortunately for me I found that exercising that late at night didn't hinder me from falling fast asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.  This arrangement was perfect - no one had any idea that I was even gone since they were all sound asleep!  Guilt-free running!

Once I began to run 5k's, I realized that I had another perfect arrangement.  More often than not, I'd get up, go run the 5k and be home before my family was even awake (Yes, I am blessed with kids who have always been excellent sleepers!).  Once again - guilt free mom-time.  Love it!

Then one day it dawned on me - my kids had absolutely NO idea how hard I was working and how much I had achieved.  They had no idea because they were sleeping through my entire journey!  One of my reasons for starting this journey was to be an example to JJ and Ellie.  I wanted them to see how when you set a goal and work hard you can do it!  I wanted them to see how exercising on a regular basis impacts your body and your mind.  I wanted them to see how exercising is fun.  Instead, they could see that I was losing weight and that I was less stressed out and grouchy (at times!), but they had no way of answering the questions of how or why. 

I started to run earlier in the evening while the kids were doing their homework or taking showers.  I started to wake them up on Saturday mornings to go with me to some of the 5k's.  I started to take a Zumba class one or two nights a week. 

Did my family automatically embrace my new love of exercise?  No.  You would not believe the whining and complaining and carrying on that occurred when I left the house.  Man - did that Mom Guilt kick-in strong!  After all, I am the Master of Mom Guilt.  And I learned from a pro - right Mom??  (Ha!Ha!)  How could I take this precious time away from my family to be so selfish and do something for me?  That just wasn't right.  So, I started to skip Zumba class and I started to not run as often and I . . . started to feel lousy and lethargic again.  Mom Guilt was paralyzing me!  My family was definitely not getting the message now!

Three things happened to help me conquer Mom Guilt when it came to my exercising:

1) I had to believe that I was a good example for my family.  I was no longer a Chubby Mama dragging herself around the block every night.  I was a success story!  I had tackled health and wellness and I was winning! My family could look at me and visibly see the physical difference in me.  I started to believe that about myself by making sure that my self-talk was positive (self-talk is a very powerful thing!) and embracing the compliments that my family and others gave me. 

2) I had to realize that by taking an hour out of my day to exercise, I was not taking away an hour from my family, but rather giving them an important gift that would last a lifetime!  I was giving my family the gift of my health - a healthy mom will be around a lot longer to torture her family than an unhealthy one!  I was giving my family the gift of their own health!  I was giving my family the gift of a more pleasant mom who had pounded a lot of her stress out on the street!  Who doesn't like to receive a gift? 

3) I beagn to include my family in my exercise.    I didn't have to run every day.  Exercise could be going outside and playing basketball with JJ.  Exercise could be going for a family walk in the woods.  I took JJ and Ellie to a Zumba class so that they could see what I was doing when I went to class.  It's nearly impossible to feel guilty when your family is sweating right next to you!  And I think that my kids are actually starting to "get it!" -  they ask to go to the gym now.  How cool is that?!?

I'm not perfect - Mom Guilt still rears her ugly head occasionally.  My family still complains at times when I head out the door or drag them with me to an early morning event (though the promise of pancakes at Kings' has helped in this situation).  But Mom Guilt no longer paralyzes me and stops me from exercising.  Mom Guilt is no longer the master of me!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

My Story Part Three - 5 Lessons Learned

"Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending." Marie Robinson

Soon after I received the e-newsletter from Prevention Magazine about training for a 5K, I decided that this would be the path I would travel to create a new end to My Story.  I didn't have a lot of money, but all I needed was a pair of running shoes and a watch with a timer on it.  That was financially manageable.  I didn't have a lot of time, but I was able to run when I could fit it in, which more often than not was late at night.  That fit into my life without causing too much extra stress.  It had been a long time since I stepped outside of my comfort zone and tried something new.  This seemed like a safe choice.  I could do this! 

These are the lessons I learned during the three months I spent training for my first 5k.  (In case you are interested, here is the link to the 5k training program I followed:

Lesson #1 - Write your goal down and post it where you will see it on a regular basis.

Once I made the decision that I would train for a 5K, I had to find one.  I picked my starting date as January 2nd and counted fifteen weeks on the calendar which put me in mid-April.  There are numerous websites that list 5K's and other running events.  I went to and and found the Genesis Riverside Run on Saturday, April 10th, 2010.  I wrote down my goal and posted it in multiple places - inside the cereal cupboard, inside the front cover of my planner, by my desk and tucked inside the visor of my car.  I will complete a 5k on Saturday, April 10th. 

My son, JJ, cheering me on as I head out for my first training run.
I laugh now at how bundled up I got - four layers!
January 2010

Lesson #2 - Share your goal with others.

I probably took this one to the extreme.  I told EVERYONE that I came in contact with that I was planning to participate in this 5k.  As a lifelong people pleaser, my thinking was that there was no way I would humiliate myself by backing out and not completing this challenge.  People I knew did me a HUGE favor by remembering my goal and asking me about it often through those three months.  They truly pushed me to work harder and keep going.  I was shocked with how many people encouraged me at work or on facebook or through e-mail the week before my big day. 

Lesson #3 - Make your exercise schedule work for you.

At one point in my training I became very frustrated because I was always too busy and tired on Tuesdays and kept skipping the workout.  I was ready to give up.  Talking to my mom about it, she asked me "Who is telling you that you have to run on Tuesdays?"  That question made me stop and think.  "The schedule on the paper," I quietly answered.  "The paper?  Do they have a day to rest on the paper?" she asked.  "Yes, on Sundays." I replied.  "Why don't you rest on Tuesdays and run on Sundays?  Don't give up.  Just make a simple change to make the schedule work for you."  I always knew my mom was a wise woman!  Making that switch was a huge mental turning point for me.  I had been trying to fit myself into the training schedule, when what I really needed to do was fit the training schedule into my life.  It worked - I didn't quit!

Lesson #4 - There is truth to the statement that your body with become addicted to exercise.

During one of my annual doctor visits my doctor started in on her annual "You Should" lecture.  I remember her saying that if you push through the initial hurdle of exercising on a regular basis and wanting to quit, your body will become addicted to exercise.  Your body will CRAVE exercise.  Seriously?!?  Like I believed that one!  Then one night about half-way through the training program, I decided that I was too tired to run and I crawled into bed.  I couldn't relax.  I couldn't fall asleep.  My brain was going over my day trying to figure out what was wrong.  I wasn't necessarily stressed out about anything specific.  I hadn't had any caffeine late in the afternoon.  I definitely hadn't had time for a nap.  Why couldn't I fall asleep?  Then it dawned on me.  I got out of bed, put on my running clothes, ran a quick mile, came home, hopped in the shower, crawled back in bed and fell fast asleep.  I was addicted!  My body couldn't relax and rest until I had exercised.  I was so excited to go back to the doctor and tell her that she had been right!

Lesson #5 - It is important to have someone to hold you accountable.

I knew that my brother-in-law, Chris Tomley, had run 5k's in the past.  I asked him if he would run my first 5k with me.  This was one of the best decisions I ever made!  On the day of the 5k I was SOOOO nervous!  We gathered with the other runners at the starting line - my heart was racing.  I looked around and saw all of these thin people in their spandex running pants and fancy running watches.  There I stood in my capri sweatpants and ball cap.  I definitely did not look like I belonged with this crowd.  The starting gun sounded and Chris and I took off.  Everyone seemed to be bumping into me as they tried to pass me.  After about 100 yards, I came to a complete stop and burst into tears.  I was saying to Chris, "This was a HUGE mistake.  I can't do this.  I'm not ready.  Let's just go."  I am so thankful for what Chris did next.  He took me by the arm and pulled me to the side of the path.  "We're just going to stand here and let everyone pass us.  Then we are going to get back on the course and we are going to run and walk and run and walk until we reach the finish line."  I got myself together and when the last of the crowd had run by, Chris and I started to run.  We did just as he said - we ran and walked and ran and walked until we crossed the finish line.  Throughout the course Chris encouraged me and joked with me (My favorite was when a young boy passed us running the other way toward the finish line.  Chris said, "Just ignore the fact that the little 7-year-old is running faster than you."  Ha!Ha!).  If Chris had not been there with me, I would have given up!  I needed him there to push and encourage me.

My Coach, Chris Tomley, and I at the Starting Line of my first 5k.
April 10, 2010

April 10, 2010 was a HUGE day for me.  My goal was to finish in under 45 minutes.  Chris and I crossed the Finish Line in 43:16.  The feelings that I had when I crossed that Finish Line are nearly indescribable - extreme joy and pride are what comes to mind.  I was SO happy!  I had set a goal for myself.  I had stepped out of my comfort zone trying something that I had never done before.  I had been ready to give-up and quit on a couple occasions throughout the three months of training and on the course, but I hadn't . . . I kept going. 

These five lessons that I learned spurred me on to continue this journey of health and wellness.  I had been at a point in life where I didn't like where I was, something needed to change.  I needed to start working toward a "new ending."  This was my first step in that new direction and it was AMAZING!

Are you where I was?  Are you in need of a new direction toward a new end?  I invite you to hop on the path of health and wellness that I'm on . . . there's plenty of room!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

My Story Part Two

Where were we?  Living life I had dreamed of . . . rug pulled out from under me . . . weight sky high . . . stress sky high . . . walked out the front door.

I didn't have a plan when I left my house.  I just started walking and then began sprinting down my street.  I ran as hard and fast and far as I could.  Soon my lungs were burning and I thought my heart was going to explode.  I stopped right in the middle of the street bent over with my hands on my knees sucking in the Fall air.  I picture it now like a scene from a movie - deserted street, a black sky filled with hundreds of stars, I stand alone illuminated by a single street lamp (I know - way too dramatic!  But this is my story!).  I looked around and realized that I made it about two houses down from mine, which in my Pittsburgh neighborhood is not that far.  Not ready to go back inside, I stood up and continued to walk around the block.  With every heavy step I stomped out my stress: the financial stress, the stress caused by lack of time and sleep, the stress of being a caregiving spouse, the stress of being a working mom, the stress of lost dreams and unmet expectations. 

When I had circled back to my house I paused in my driveway and realized that I felt better.  My thoughts had cleared.  My lungs felt crisp from the cool air.  My shoulders didn't feel as tight.   

I headed out for a walk again the next night and the next and the next.  As I walked I thought about all of the "you should" statements that people had made.  I thought about the health classes that I taught my senior citizens at LIFE Pittsburgh and our talks about not letting life pass you by, living on purpose and doing that by setting goals and constantly learning.  I found that after a few days I was feeling better physically and mentally.  Having a little bit of time alone at the end of the day was a real treat.  These walks were making a difference in my life.  Maybe there was something to the idea that exercise helps to relieves stress!

A few days after I started taking my late night walks I received an e-mail at work - Prevention Magazine's e-newsletter.  I didn't recall signing up for it and it wasn't forwarded from anyone.  How did it end up in my in-box? 

The lead article was "Sofa to 5K Training Tips."  I was instantly reminded of my high school classmate Jodi Barber.  She had begun running within that past year and was now running in 5k's all over New England.  Jodi looked fantastic and her pictures on facebook showed her having an amazing time at all of these events.  I began to think that it had been a long time since I had stepped out of my comfort zone and set a goal for myself.  Time was flying by and I was missing everything.  There was no excitement, no adventure - just BLAH!  My stomach began to stir with that feeling of excitement that you get when you are heading up the hill of a roller coaster - you know that you are in for an exciting ride, but have a twinge of fear mixed in there, too.

I made a decision.  I was going to run a 5K.  Who cares that I hadn't run since running the mile in my high school gym class (and even then I don't think I ran - just kind of stumbled along in the back of the class complaining the whole time!).  Who cares that I couldn't think of the last time I had done any type of physical exercise that caused me to break a sweat.  I was going to do this.

Remember that quote that I have hanging in my office - "No one can go back and make a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new end."  I was going to make a new end for myself . . . and I was going to do it wearing a pair of running shoes!

I'll share that part my story with you in My Story Part Three.

By the way - I'm still not sure how I got that e-mail.  I like to think that God sent it to me to push me into motion.  Thanks God!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

My Story Part One

I think that it is important to take a moment and share my story with you.   How else can you trust the ideas and suggestions that I share with you?!

My life had been going pretty much as I had planned: college followed by graduate school followed by getting married followed by two kids.  I was a stay-at-home mom, had been asked to serve on my children's preschool board of directors (The first step in becoming the Super Mom PTA President I had always envisioned myself being!), had just been elected to serve on our church denomination's district women's committee and was having a blast serving side-by-side with my husband in youth ministry.  Then the rug was pulled out from under us.

My husband began experiencing multiple chronic health problems which eventually led to his going on disability and my needing to return to work full-time to support our family.  At that point my emotional eating tendencies kicked into high gear and I began packing on the pounds.  After four stress-filled years, my weight hit 242 pounds (I thought for a long time if I should include that number, but it was what it was and it is no longer!). 

That's when all of the "you should" comments started.  "Lisa, you should really eat better."  "Lisa, you don't look too good.  You should get more sleep."  "Lisa, you should exercise.  You'll feel so much better."  "Lisa, you should carve out some time for yourself."  You should!  You should!  You should!  Blah Blah Blah!  Those are two words that I can't stand to hear. 

In September of 2009 I went for my annual physical.  My weight was up again.  My blood pressure was up again even on medication.  My cholestoral was up and my doctor was seriously considering medication.  YIKES!  He launched into one of his "You should" lectures.  He told me, "You have three factors that are contributing to your health problems.  1) Stress.  You have a chronically ill husband, two young children and you work full time.  That's not changing anytime soon.  2) Family History.  You can't change that either.  3) Your weight.  You CAN control that, but you have to make the choice to do something about it."  I tucked his comments in the back of my brain and went on with my life.

Then, one night in November of that year I was loading the dishwasher.  The kids were in bed and Jamison was watching TV.  I can't remember exactly what had happened that evening, but I remember feeling extremely stressed and angry at my situation.  At that moment I knew I had to get out of that house.  I didn't put on a coat.  I didn't tell Jamison what I was doing.  I simply walked out the front door . . . .

This sounds like a good place to pause for now. 

One thing I want to point out is that everyone has different stressors in their lives.  I can look to my left and find someone who's life appears much easier than mine.  I can look to my right and find someone who's life appears much more difficult than mine.  For you, my story would fit into one of those two categories.  You are either letting out a huge sigh of relief becuase your life doesn't seem too bad anymore.  Or, you are rolling your eyes because you know that I have absolutely no idea what stress is when compared to your life.  What I've learned as I've contemplated my story is that your stressors are just as important and real to you as my stressors are to me no matter where they fall on my stress scale.  This has helped me to stop comparing myself to others and worrying about what others are thinking.  As a result, I find that I am able to truly focus on ME and MY health. 

I leave you with a quote that I have hanging in my office:
"Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending." Marie Robinson

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Give your Health Journey a Kick-Start!

Before I started exercising on a regular basis, the thought of exercising never even crossed my mind.  I eventually realized that I had to throw the "HAVE TO" out the window and find my "WANT TO."  The problem was that I didn't know HOW to do that.

What gave my journey toward health and wellness a kick-start two years ago was trying something new.  I would have NEVER imagined that I would enjoy running (Trust me - I remember with great agony running the mile around the Franklin Regional High School Complex for the President's Challenge 20 years ago!).  To train for and then complete a 5K was completely stepping out of my comfort zone.  In the process of training, I learned something about myself: life had just been passing me by - wake up, pack lunches, go to work, make dinner, drive kids around, go to bed, repeat.  Trying something new added an element of excitement that I was missing.  I had something to look forward to everyday.  I had a new goal that I WANTED to prove I could accomplish, even if only to myself.  Challenging myself gave me an enthusiasm for exercising that hadn't been there before.

On Saturday, I was talking with a woman in her 60's.  She recently took up Synchronized Swimming.  Synchronized Swimming!!!  At 60!  Isn't that so cool?  She has a private coach.  Her group is training for a performance.  Seriously??  Isn't that amazing!  As she talked about swimming her face lit up and I could feel the enthusiasm bursting from her.  This woman told me that she never imagined herself swimming, but when she moved into a new apartment community there was a pool so she decided to try it.  That led to an invitation to join the Synchronized Swimming group.  Had she not stepped out of her comfort zone and jumped in that pool, she would not be having the amazing experiences that she is having now.

Is there something new that you've always wanted to try?  Kick boxing?  Skating?  Karate?  Rock Climbing?  Kayaking?  Zumba?  The list of possibilities goes on and on.  What's holding you back?  Go for it!  Who knows what could happen!  I'll share with you tomorrow how I decided on running.

For the record - I had mentioned in a previous post that I would set my 2012 health and fitness goals by 1/6/12.  They were ready on 1/6, but my house was invaded by 12 year-old boys so I couldn't get to the computer.  So, I'm a few days late, but here they are . . . In 2012 I will
1) Participate in one running event each month including 2 5-mile and 2 10K events;
2) Take 1 minute off of my 5K time;
3) Take at least 1 Zumba Class a week;
4) Try a Spinning Class; and
5) Lose 15 more pounds.

Have you set your health and fitness goals for 2012?  It's not too late!  I hope your goals include trying something new.  Trust me, it will give you the kick-start that you need.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Re-Define Exercise

As I SAT on my bed watching tonight's episode of Biggest Loser I was challenged to think of the excuses I had used to not work out today. Pittsburgh traffic combined with a couple of snow flakes added over an hour to my commute home so I missed Zumba.  After picking JJ up from basketball practice I was so cold when I walked in the door that I couldn't imagine going back out to head to the Y.  The new season of my favorite show was starting tonight and even though I DVR'd it, I didn't want to be up too late.  Those sound like great excuses.

Then I was reminded of something I learned early on in  my journey of improved health - Exercise is simply increased movement.  By changing my definition of exercise from having to do heart pounding, sweat dripping, breath stealing aerobics for an hour to simply increasing my movement, the guilt that used to come with not "exercising" was gone.  Don't get me wrong - it's important and necessary to do the heart pounding, sweat dripping, breath stealing aerobic exercise, but there is also benefit to moving more than before. 

Since making that realization two years ago, I've been having a lot of fun discovering different ways to add movement to my day.  And it is SO easy!!  I park far away from the entrance to the grocery store.  I take the steps instead of the elevator.  I dance around while doing the dishes.  I raise my toes while sitting in meetings.  I use the copier at the far end of the office.  I walk around the school or track while my kids are at sports' practices.  Even when time is tight, I can find a way to add more movement to my day.

So tonight, I got up off the bed, grabbed my exercise band and did arm exercises while Bob screamed at his team on the treadmills.  I marched in place while Dulvett challenged his team to step it up.  Did I break a sweat?  No.  Did I burn calories?  Yes.  Do I feel guilty for not running today?  No.  Did I exercise today?  YES!  

Think about that - how can you increase your movement today?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Let's do this!

Yeah!  My first Blog post!  I am SO excited.  The title of my Blog comes from the notes that I leave my family on weekend mornings to let them know why I'm not home if they wake up.  I'll grab a piece of scrap paper and scribble "went running" before heading out the door for an early morning run. 

Exactly two years ago I started my journey to change my lifestyle and get healthy.  It's a journey that I continue on today and one that I know will be one that lasts a lifetime (I'll share what led to the start of that journey in a later post.)  As a working mom with two young children and a husband with a chronic health condition, I was short on time and money.  As a result I have had to find creative ways to incorporate healthy choices into my daily life.  Sound stressful?  Absolutely not!  It's been the exact opposite - I'm having a blast!

I'm excited to start recording my ideas, my successes, my flops and my experiences in order to share them with others.  My hope is that others will share their lives with me.  Learning from others is the best way!

So here is one of the first ideas that started me on my journey:  Start with a small goal.  It's the beginning of a new year and many people make resolutions.  However, people often set themselves up for failure by setting a goal that is WAY to BIG.  For example - "I'm going to lose 50 pounds this year."  While that is a goal that is achievable, it is going to take a long time to get there.  It's easy to get frustrated or lose focus.  I'd start much smaller than that - "I'm going to lose 5 pounds before the end of this month."  When I achieve that goal I can celebrate and feel really good about what I've accomplished.  Then I do it again.  I like the quote by Louis Sachar - "It is better to take many small steps in the right direction than to make a great leap forward only to stumble backward."

My first goal for this year is this - I will set my health goals for 2012 by Friday, January 6th.  (Ha!Ha!  Remember that I mentioned being a working mom with two kids and a husband?)  That seems achievable to me!