In the Hollywood movie version of my life, I would have started an exercise program and magically fallen in love with sweating and being unable to breathe. I would have loved it so much that I became an inspiring [steroid-free] triathlete with insane abdominal muscles; unable to remember a time when I was a couch potato who ate pints of Haagen Dazs.
But alas, that is not quite how my quest to become physically fit has played out.
I hit a bit of a wall this week: an ‘I’m not really physically or mentally capable of exercising for 2 hours* every day‘ kind of wall. It’s mostly a matter of sore feet and struggling to set aside a large chunk of time in the day for improving my cardiovascular system.
I have no doubt that if you reviewed the way I spend my time each day, you could easily find 2 hours of wasted time. However, I rarely waste 2 continuous hours. Instead, I fritter away 15 minutes here and 30 minutes there, because when you live with young children, finding a large chunk of uninterrupted time is much like looking for unicorns.
Unless you’re exercising at 9pm (as I did this evening), in which case you’re not going to be able to fall asleep until 1am and your congested, barking seal of a three year old is going to keep you awake for the remainder of the night and you’ll wake up an absolute disaster; unable to pour water into your school-aged children’s water bottles.
Alternatively, if you try and work out at a slightly more normal time, (assuming you don’t have meetings or other scheduled obligations) you will either need a babysitter, spouse, or partner to occupy your children, or you’re going to have to put them in front of a movie for two hours, which would be slightly ironic: ‘here, you be total couch potatoes while mommy gets herself in shape. [And do not, under any circumstances, fight, because I can't afford to expend the energy it takes to yell at you while I'm doing my 160 leg lifts.']
And then if you manage the minor miracle of exercising, unless you’re Tracy herself, you’re going to be rather exhausted and possibly unwilling or unable to do the mundane things others expect of you – like, wash their little pairs of jeans, clean the house, or prepare food – and you’ll be eating rice cakes with almond butter or chocolate quinoa cake for dinner and whipping up boxes of Annie’s Mac & Cheese for your spawn; shrugging your shoulders with a perplexed look on your face when your trying-to-be-supportive spouse asks ‘what’s for dinner?’
Also, it will dawn on you that 34 hours of exercise doesn’t magically reverse
three six years of physical neglect and maybe the hint of muscle in your arms is slightly encouraging if woefully insufficient. Because it is winter, after all, and nobody can see the nanohint of arm muscle underneath your long-sleeved shirts. And you’ll ask your 8 year old son ‘am I getting any better at this?’ Meaning, does my version of dance aerobics resemble Tracy’s? Or do I (as I fear) look like a person whose limbs don’t work quite right? And he’ll pause, consider the question, pause some more, and say ‘kind of’. After which he’ll sit back in the stuffed armchair, lazily inspecting his youthful torso and announce casually ‘I have an 8-pack.’
And you’ll remember that day, 8 years and 10 months ago, 28 pounds of baby boys ago, when you did. Too.
[Now, if you'll excuse me, it's 1am and I'm going to snuggle my hungry self up next to my congested seal and hope for 5 hours of sleep.]
*According to my nemesis Tracy’s ‘book’ her ‘muscle design and cardio’ should take 45 minutes each for a total of 1.5 hours of exercise. I cry absolute BS on that. Maybe if you’re a fitness professional, you can manage to do 40-80 reps of 16 different exercises in 45 minutes, but when you’re an ordinary person with limited lung capacity and burning legs, it’s going to take you an hour. Minimum. And 40 minutes of cardio on top of that – 45 if you factor in technical malfunctions. Throw in a half dozen interruptions from your children and you’re looking at 2 hours.