The investment

July 7, 2010

I have been making a tally of all the paraphernalia that we have acquired over the past 6 years that make it possible to incorporate fitness into my life as a wife and working mother of 3 kiddos.  There is a lot of stuff out there, but honestly I think that I have come up with the things that I consider essential.

But before I list these things, I need to add something.  I have figured out what it takes to make it possible for me, and in no way do I think that what works for me would work for anyone.  Moms have it tough, that much is universal.  Finding time when we aren’t primarily responsible for the little darlings is challenging any way you slice it.  I can think of times I have tried to get on the treadmill, just to get moving, just to break a sweat, just to feel a little bit more like myself.  And I have this mental picture of me with two sports bras on, my infant strapped to my chest in a Baby Bjorn, while my toddler sat nearby armed with a huge bowl of goldfish crackers and 2 sippy cups, watching Disney Princess Singalong DVDs.  Every 5 minutes or so, I had to stop to adjust something or fetch something, but I persevered.  That’s how stubborn I’ve been.

I can go on and on about how to do it, but I know how crazy it will seem at times to go to all the trouble.  Find/make the time, find a way to keep the gang occupied and safe, and get moving, get the heart rate up, sweat.  But I don’t know that I can really explain that  effectively unless I also include an answer to one question:  Why Bother?

I like to run because it has the most “return on my investment.”  In terms of calories burned per unit of time, it’s got the most bang for the buck — better than walking or biking.  It’s a weight-bearing sport (unlike something like swimming) so it’s more likely to burn body fat.  It’s fairly minimalist, in that I don’t need much in the way of equipment other than good running shoes and a good sports bra (or two.)

There are subtle reasons too.  I like runners.  I like being a part of a running community, even though I don’t run with anyone.  I like running with my dog, running outside and seeing the seasons change.  I like the surprises of coming across a fox on the sidewalk in town, or seeing bats flying at dawn.

I like that running is the kind of sport that you can see yourself getting better, faster, leaner as you continue to do it.  I used to be a teacher and a coach, and I was always so glad when someone’s hard work paid off.  Running is like that.  It’s true that there are talented runners and not-so-talented runners, but when it comes down to it, if you keep at it, you will get better, faster, and your body will change.  Run more and it happens faster.  That is cool.

I really want my kids to see that exercise is important to me.  I want them to be a part of it.  And that is where all this paraphernalia comes in.

A glance out in my garage generates the list of gear that I use regularly:

1.  A Bob running stroller, along with rain cover and wind/bug cover, plus a little caddy that attaches to the handle.  In this caddy, I keep pepper spray and my cell phone right in reach.  Also, for chillier weather, I bought one of those sherpa-lined stroller inserts that are kind of like a sleeping bag but with openings for the straps.  Note:  I always, always use the safety strap around my wrist when running with my kids.  I would hate to risk slipping on ice, tripping on something like the dog’s leash or my own huge feet while headed down one of those Iowa City hills and letting my precious passenger careen away from me.

2.  A Chariot carrier — the double one.  Accessories for this include another rain cover, the infant sling, and the attachments that turn this from a running stroller to a bike trailer.  It is super super easy to switch it back and forth.  (Not that I want my patient husband to know that I know how to do this, because it’s so nice to have him do it for me.)

3.  A Trail-a-Bike.  This ups the ante on biking for me, since I can add a lot of resistance to riding (I connect all the pieces together and tow the kids, which means at least 130 pounds of children, plus all the equipment), which in turns makes me stronger.  (and a heck of a lot slower.) 

All together, this means that I can fit in some intentional exercise at a moment’s notice and in most weather conditions.  I can take one or two kids on the run, and all 3 on a ride.  I’m looking forward to the day my daughter can ride her own bike for a few miles, and I’ve told her so.  My corny little dream is going for a run with my boys in the stroller, with my daughter riding along.  I’m not racing these days or breaking any records, so the point is getting active as a family unit and enjoying the view.

It has been an investment, and not one I think we could financially manage all in one shot.  It took several years to acquire this collection.  And I guess I will close these thoughts today with a comment about this investment.  I know women who invest in a gym membership with childcare privileges.  I know women that invest in a babysitter to watch their kids while they work out.  I know women who work together to take turns watching their kids while the other one exercises.  The common theme?  That it takes an investment of one kind or another to make it happen.  It’s not accidental, and at first it’s not easy.  But it’s important, and the dividends it can pay go far beyond just weight loss or fitting into a smaller size jeans.

(But it is nice to wear a smaller size!)

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