By Cheri Fuller
One afternoon when I was an exhausted young mom of three kids five and under with a part-time teaching job, I had a brainstorm. The coffee in the morning and at my afternoon slump wasn't working. I'd been complaining of tiredness on especially hectic days or when the baby had been up with an ear infection.
Then I had a bright idea. The next day as my husband strolled in the door amid the whoops of the boys, I kissed him, showed him the carrot sticks and cheese and cracker snacks on the kitchen counter, handed him baby Alison, and then jogged out the door to the track behind our house.
As I ran around the track the first time, I was huffing and puffing. Passed by every runner, I had to walk my way around the second and third time. But as I did, I found the stresses of a broken washing machine and a stack of medical bills awaiting payment begin to melt away with the miles.
After doing this daily for a while, I discovered some surprising benefits besides the increased energy I needed:
You may be thinking, "I can't take time out for me. It's too selfish and I've got too much to do." If so, let me share an analogy with you. When I was on a plane recently, the flight attendant pulled down the yellow oxygen mask and demonstrated an important principle: Secure your mask before helping the child or person who needs assistance seated next to you.
That translates for moms: take care of yourself so you can take care of others. Getting enough exercise is a big component of that self-care. Mothering young children (and even elementary, middle school kids and teens) is exhausting work; but you'll have more energy and stamina to do it if you regularly move your body instead of fueling yourself with candy bars, coffee, or diet Cokes.
Here are some simple ways to begin:
Start small. Aim for twenty minutes a day of brisk walking and build up to thirty minutes and build up to thirty minutes daily. How can you manage that? Trade time with a neighbor or get up early enough to walk before your hubby goes to work.
Find a walking buddy. You're more likely to stay motivated if a friend is counting on you to show up. Susan, one of my favorite walking partners of all time, lost 30 pounds in a year walking with me (we kept up a pretty swift pace!). Unfortunately, I didn't lose as many pounds but we had a great time talking and praying together as we ticked off the miles.
Walk your kids, your dog or your husband. Besides the fact that babies and children benefit from fresh air and will be impacted positively by your role model of an active, fit mommy, your dog will shower you with web slobbers and be healthier too if you walk him. You don't have to follow the same exact path every day. Walk instead of driving somewhere for a change. Walk with a destination (like a local park or library) in mind.
Walking with your husband is not only good for both of you physically, but good for your marriage. Holmes and I have had some of our best heart-to-heart talks when we were strolling the kids or our dog around the block.
Wear a pedometer, a little digital device that records the number of steps you take during your waking hours. It takes 10,000 steps a day for fitness, which can be divided into ten minutes three times a day or any combination and include gardening, running after your kids, or climbing stairs with a load of laundry. Wearing a pedometer helps you be aware how active or sedentary you are.
Find out what works for you. I admit it, I'm passionate about exercise because I've seen it make a world of difference in my own life and the countless people I've interviewed when I've walked at the mall, in 9 degree weather when we lived in Maine, or in neighborhoods we've lived in during the last twenty-five years.
But if you find walking boring, you could ride a stationery bike or treadmill at home (you can find them at garage sales for $50 up), take bike rides as a family or go to step aerobic classes at the YMCA. Make exercise fun and you're more apt to do it.
Different seasons of life can produce different needs: some seasons I played tennis with a weekly group, swam with my kids in the summer, or rode a bike in the basement when freezing rain kept me inside.
What matters is get moving and keep it up for a lifetime!
Adapted from The Mom You're Meant to Be: Loving Your Kids While Leaning on God (Focus/Tyndale).
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