Tag Archives: exercise

Exercising (Away) the Demons of Depression & Anxiety

I used to always say that I would only run if chased, but last year I got a good pair of running shoes and would run two or three times per week. I stopped once it got too cold, but this week I started again.

A woman jogging

I only run about two to three miles, but it feels great. I signed up to run a 5k next month to help me stay motivated. Thankfully, 5k is just over three miles, so I should be able to run the whole thing without worrying about training too hard.

For most of my twenties, I treated my depression and anxiety by doing aikido a few times per week. I didn’t really know that I had depression or anxiety. I just assumed everyone else was being an asshole when they didn’t behave the way I thought they should.

I admit that I hope one day I might be able to treat my symptoms without medication. Having two kids under the age of seven seems like a bad time to try. In the meantime, medication plus exercise is working as a great combination.

One thing I like to do to squeeze in exercise into my day is to drop my car off somewhere that I’ll need to come back to later. I often park my car at my son’s school, walk the mile and a half home, do stuff around the house, and then walk the mile and a half back to his school.

The other day, I did basically the same thing except that my son was attending a day camp 6.5 miles away. I put my bike on the back of my truck, drove to the camp, rode my bike around for about 10 miles then drove my son home. My husband thought that seemed odd, but it makes sense to me.

There’s something really motivating to me that I have to go back to my car. Plus, leaving it in different locations varies the areas I’m going to, and that keeps it interesting. On my bike ride yesterday, I found a beautiful garden I’d never seen before.

I personally feel best exercising outdoors. When I run around my neighborhood at night, I get to smell the handiwork of my neighbors who are much better gardeners than I am. I smell roses, jasmine, wisteria, and orange blossoms.

Of course, if you can’t be outdoors due to weather or sleeping children, walking around the house can be effective. I vary the path I take through the bedrooms, kitchen, and living room, again to keep it interesting. I also try to get as close as I can to furniture and walls to maximize the area I’m walking in and to pretend a bit like I’m doing an obstacle course.

Last year my doctor recommended that I get a Fitbit, a pedometer that you can link online to your friends’ Fitbit accounts and sort of “compete” for first place. Some of my friends walk way more miles than I do, but being only a few steps behind one of my friends can help motivate me to walk a bit more just to get ahead. You can even “cheer” or “taunt” your friends.

I aim to walk at least 10,000 steps per day, but I don’t sweat it if some days I walk over and some I walk under. It’s all just about keeping moving. I even wear my Fitbit to sleep. Sometimes I wake up in the morning with steps counted because I tossed and turned so much.

My son Zach is in a martial arts class with his friend two afternoons per week, so his friend’s mom and I walk around for the 45 minutes the boys are in class. This is great because we motivate each other to exercise (no matter that we sometimes stop at Starbucks on the way), and we get to catch up, when time to socialize is often hard to find.

Whatever form of exercise you choose, I suggest you make it fun, by inviting a friend, changing things up if they start to feel repetitive or boring, and see if “stranding yourself” without a vehicle helps motivate you.

A friend of mine runs half-marathons, which is great for her. I might be tempted to feel inferior except that I honestly feel no desire to ever run that far. Unless I’m being chased, of course.

How do you motivate yourself to exercise?

Teaching My Kids to Be Fit, Not Skinny

Kids Swimming

Photo by Kim Silkebækken

Although my kids are only 3.5 and 6.5 years old, I already worry about their perceptions of body image. My son has asked, “Does this make me look fat?” When I asked him where he heard that, he said Jamie Hyneman from The Mythbusters once said it. He’s also learned to say, “I feel sexy!” from Jamie. He doesn’t understand yet what these phrases mean, and it seems innocuous, but I know that before I know it, they’re going to be in middle school, and they will be much more aware of and more concerned about their appearance.

I want to kick myself every time I tell my daughter that she looks “pretty.” Then I wonder if I’m overreacting. I find myself telling her, “You know, princesses aren’t just pretty. They’re courageous, kind, and generous.” She’s usually too busy dancing around to pay any attention though.

Although Kaylee does enjoy wearing poofy dresses, I’m grateful she also still wears pants and T-shirts with them. She is willing to get dirty, which is a big relief to me. It would bother me a lot if she refused to do some activities because she didn’t want to get her dress dirty. To me, that kind of “princess” is much worse than dressing like a Disney princess. Kaylee at least is still active, and not trying to act like a porcelain doll or something.

I’ve noticed that Kaylee only has one pair of pants with pockets. Is that a “girl” thing, or is it just that preschoolers’ clothes don’t have pockets?

I’m very careful not to remark that I feel fat or that I feel bad about my body. I try to remind my kids that people’s bodies come in many different shapes and sizes, and they’re all okay.

Zach has already said that he thought his uncle was “lazy” because he has a big belly, and he’s always napping. My brother-in-law is a pretty active guy, and he does tend to nod off when he’s just hanging out on the couch because it’s much less stimulating than when he’s working in his wood shop. When I asked Zach where he’d gotten the idea of being “lazy,” he said it was from some Thomas the Tank Engine episode. Clearly my kids watch too much TV.

I’m hoping that emphasizing eating healthy and exercising will teach my kids about the importance of being fit and strong rather than having a particular body shape, size, or weight.

I’m terrified of either or both of my kids developing an eating disorder when they’re teenagers, since so many teens do. If they develop depression or anxiety, which runs in my family, they’re probably more susceptible to having eating issues.

I don’t know how much of what I do now makes a difference later, but I’m hoping that I’m laying a solid foundation of body acceptance that will last into adulthood. Thankfully, both kids are quite active. Kaylee loves dance and gymnastics, Zach loves doing Wushu (a Chinese martial art), and they both enjoy swimming.

What do you do to encourage your kids to accept and love their bodies?

New Year’s Resolutions vs. Real Transformation

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions anymore. I already spend enough time feeling disappointed in myself, I don’t need to start each year by setting myself up for failure again.

It’s taken a little over 40 years, but I’m starting to learn a few things about how to create real transformation in my life.

Sometimes transforming ourselves is the only way to become who we really are

It doesn’t work to try to stop behaviors, especially by using guilt or shame. Instead, I’m trying to focus on the adopting new behaviors and finding ways to make them as pleasurable as possible.

It’s hard for me to stick with an exercise regimen. I’ve tried gym memberships, exercise classes, and martial arts, which all worked for awhile, but the one thing that’s working for me now is wearing a pedometer. I got a Fitbit, and besides tracking my steps, it shows me how many steps my friends have taken. I’m rather competitive, so if I see that I’m only a hundred steps behind one of my friends, I’ll purposely walk an extra hundred steps, even if it’s just in circles. I like at the end of the day that I get “credit” and visibility for my workouts.

I still eat way too much sugar and low-density carbs (mostly pastries), but I’m trying to also eat as many vegetables and drink as much water as I can. Over time, I’m hoping that the healthy food I eat will outweigh the junk food.

Cutting tasks down to size makes them easier to achieve. I love reading novels, and I hope one day to write one. I’ve started story after story only to get frustrated and quit. So, just recently, I’ve started writing short short stories, only about 3 pages or so, and building up my confidence that I can in fact tell stories, I just need to start small.

Getting a buddy to do the new behavior also helps a lot. My friend and I have started taking our younger kids for walks while our older kids are in their martial arts class. We both get to exercise and socialize at the same time.

Visualizing your future self can be a motivator. I picture myself happy, healthy, and laughing with my grandchildren some day. I know that if I don’t value and take care of myself today, I may not be around to meet them. Investing in my health and wellbeing pays off in my children’s and my grandchildren’s lives too.

Every now and then, look back at how far you’ve come. Reflect on how much you’ve learned and grown. Look at the wonderful people you’ve surrounded yourself with. Sometimes being able to transform yourself is to remember that you’ve already done it many times.

Embrace every attempt at transformation with gratitude. Whatever happened during the day, whether you did a great job or continued some behaviors you’d prefer to let go of, be grateful for your life and all the blessings in it. Maybe you ate too much junk food, but maybe you also smiled at a stranger.

What do you do to make long-lasting change in your life?