You know how people say things like, "getting old sucks," or "I can't do (fill in the blank) anymore," or "ever since I turned (insert age) my (insert body part) hurts all the time.
I don't buy it.
For sure, getting older is a lot more work. Think about that car with 100,000+ miles on it (I happen to drive one). An old car might require more maintenance than a new car, but it should still get from point A to B just as well.
But as moms, we also ask ourselves to do more with our body as we age. So, that sleek sports car that you used to be? Yeah, now you're a heavy duty truck with tow capacity. The problem is--if I may carry on with my car analogy--is that we too often become mini vans (no disrespect to mini van drivers) who can seat a lot of children but don't have the strength for the heavy lifting. And then, we skip the scheduled maintenance and the service appointments because we just. don't. have. time.
Low back pain. Knee pain. Hip pain. Shoulder pain. Do I go on?
I'm not being accusatory. The maladies above are my own.
As a long-time triathlete I have known I should lift weights and include strength training in my workout routine since I started all this craziness. But I was in my 20s. It just seemed I could get away with not doing strength work. Better to run or bike or swim! I thought the hip pain I had was an overuse injury. A lot of athletes think their injuries are overuse injuries. They might be, but I'm betting there's a fair amount of muscle imbalance and/or weakness going on.
Once I had kids though, I was forced--forced!--to lift weights, because as anyone who's ever picked up a newborn in a car seat for the first time knows, you almost fall over at the shock of the heft. Then your adorable little dumbbell gets bigger, almost daily. You're loading weight whether you want to or not. The most dangerous weightlifting move for a mom with a compromised core is putting down and picking up a baby out of a crib. And how many times a day do you do this?
I finally get it. I finally understand that I have to be strong. I have to make time to strengthen my muscles and I also have to make time to lengthen them. When I get the opportunity I treat myself to a Cross Fit class or yoga class. I love doing both. But sometimes I truly don't have the time to make a class. Does that mean I skip those workouts? No excuse for that. A few squats here and a few push ups there not only count, but contribute to the maintenance I need. How do I know? I learned the hard way.
As my summer got busier and the triathlon training increased, I did what I thought made the most sense. I skipped the strength work. Within weeks my hip pain returned. My shoulder ached. Then I picked up my toddler to go one way and he flung his body the other and my back was caught in the middle.
Like a fitness elimination diet, now I know what causes all that. Remove strength training and watch mommy fall apart.
In Hot (Sweaty) Mamas: Five Secrets to Life as a Fit Mom we talk about the four ways to find time for fitness. When I can make time or take time for strength work I love going to a Cross Fit class and having the camaraderie of others to push me along with the advice and technique tips from the coaches. Often though I have to share time or snare time. There are options, lots of options for this. Cross Fit posts their workout of the day. For free. (Scroll down and look for workouts that don't require equipment.) I also keep hearing rave reviews about the Monkey Bar workouts.
One item that has been an enormous help with squeezing in strength work are the My Trainer Fitness Workout Cards. These workouts were developed by Carla Birnberg, who is also known as MizFit. While we've never met in the flesh, I virtually know her and so, when I'm doing these workouts I see her purdy picture and think I have a workout partner! Love tricking my brain like that!
These strength workouts are realistic. They are a no-excuses workout. They don't require an enormous chunk of time, minimal equipment (or none) is required, you can do these workouts in your backyard or your kitchen, kids can watch or join you. While they are not easy, they are easy to squeeze in. The cards can travel with you to the park, on a business trip or family vacation. They have filled in the gaps for my strength work and keep me on a "regular maintenance schedule."
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