I’m not sure if I made it clear in any of my previous posts, but I have arrived in Virginia for the summer with our two kids and no husband. He’s still finishing up his work in Minnesota, and the kids and I came early for a house-sitting gig that we just could not pass up. So we’re having the time of our lives – I’m drinking coffee on the porch in the morning, we’re swimming, watching TV, reading, doing jigsaw puzzles – while poor Dad is left behind, in an empty house, working to pay for our endless summer fun (I love you, baby!)
Aside from the obvious (not having my husband here, and the kids not having their dad here), I really had no reservations about this set-up. I wasn’t worried about spending too much time with the kids, or getting bored, or being in a brand new place where we know nobody. I really only had one concern. And apparently it was a big one.
I discovered it one day when I was on the phone with my husband, freaking out about bills, and money, and who knows what all. He said to me, “Andrea, your mind is a blizzard right now. When we get off the phone I want you to make a list of all the things you are worried about. Just get them out of your head. Then we can look at it and see which ones we can address.” And I said, right! I love lists! I’m a Virgo, I can make a mean list. So I got out a piece of paper and wrote:
1. I’m worried I’m going to get fat because I can’t exercise.
Whoa. I was freaking out about bills, and I wrote this? I was sputtering to my husband about money, and housing, and imagined “what ifs,” but what I was really worried about was that I no longer had the freedom to exercise. It shouldn’t have surprised me – it had been eating at me from the very beginning, months before we even moved. And at the time of the list, I hadn’t exercised in nearly two weeks. Our kids aren’t big enough yet for me to leave them alone, and being in a new place with both kids and no husband meant no Masters swim practice. No Saturday bike rides in the hills. No runs. Alone. With freedom. And headphones.
In other words, no exercise.
So when my girlfriends showed up in the first week with all their kids, I watched one girlfriend diligently and faithfully count her points for Weight Watchers, despite all the rum drinks we were pouring (and the Krispy Kreme donuts I just couldn’t resist at the grocery store). I was absolutely inspired by her. Her diet was well rounded, healthy, encouraged all the fruits and veggies that I don’t get enough of, and showed me how poorly I had been eating over the past few weeks and months. I resolved that as soon as they left, I was going to start keeping a nutrition log again (more on that in a coming post). If I couldn’t swim, bike, and run, the least I could do was cut back on donuts and cupcakes and ice cream. Or at the very least, count how many I ate.
And I looked at my super-fit marathon runner girlfriend (who was probably stuffing her face with donuts), with three kids and a husband who is repeatedly deployed for months at a time, and I asked her, “How do you do it?” And the answer was so simple, I was embarrassed that I couldn’t think of it myself. She told me, “I go out in my garage and do circuits of jumping rope, pushups, situps, lunges, that sort of thing. I’ll jump rope for five minutes, do a set of push-ups, a set of sit-ups, etc, then start all over again.” Duh. No equipment, no need for a sitter, no need to even leave the house. And a super hard, super strengthening workout, to boot.
I had seen a workout station in the basement here, so I investigated the equipment and found some hand weights and a stability ball. I jotted down some basic, no-equipment exercises, checked online for stability ball moves, and within 15 minutes I had a workout plan for weight intervals:
Cycle through 3 times
50 jumping jacks
50 jumps jumping rope
20 crunches (I like crunches on the stability ball – works better for my back)
20 squats (can do these with or without weights, or holding stability ball above head)
12 stability ball jackknives (these are really, really hard)
12 weight press (can be done without a ball as well)
10 plank pike ups on ball (also really, really hard)
20 frog jumps with stability ball
20 lunges (10 each side, alternating legs) with or without weights
How simple is that? Of course I can exercise! This whole workout takes me about 45 minutes, and it’s completely adaptable to adding weights, sets, reps, subbing out exercises, and having Micky Mouse Clubhouse on in the background. And since it is not wise to strength train six days a week, my husband suggested I pick up some workout DVDs from the library so that I could still get that vigorous aerobic exercise that I crave. I’ve been trying different ones, and so far my favorites are Jillian Miichaels How to Win by Losing- Cardio Kickbox (makes me feel badass!), Strong Body, Ageless Body with Erin O’Brien, and the cardio kickbox segment of The Firm: Ultimate Fat-burning Collection.
Now, the best thing about all of this, is that after years of endurance training (running, cycling, swimming, triathlon), my new routine – girly aerobics DVD’s and all – makes me feel stronger and more powerful than I have felt in a really long time. With the swimming, and running, and even cycling, it got too easy to just go easy. It was so simple to psych myself out – “Oh, I’m not going to win this swim meet/bike race/triathlon anyway – I’m not a REAL swimmer/cyclist/triathlete since I am not a contender for placing.” I’d compare myself unfavorably to all the better athletes, cut workouts short, or just plain get grumpy when I wasn’t swimming/biking/running as well as I wanted to. In other words, I got to a point where I was feeling bad instead of good when I exercised.
With all this new strength training business, though, and with the cardio/sculpting DVDs, I feel amazing when I’m done. I feel strong in my body, I see and feel new muscles, and I feel good when I suck down the last of my icy water and go upstairs to start the coffee. Rather than feeling trapped here, a victim to circumstance, I feel liberated. And rather than feeling fear and dread, I am empowered. I can exercise anywhere, any time, and feel like a badass doing it.