Exercise Fizzle

Well, it’s been a few weeks since I implemented round #2 in my winter pursuit of exercise during pregnancy – mainly, dropping our gym membership and hitting the treadmill at home and doing a prenatal yoga DVD.

To tell the truth, the exercise is starting to fizzle out a bit. I’m sure it’s a combination of a number of things:

– It’s easier to make exercise a priority when I’m going to the gym, dropping the kids off, and getting some time to myself. It’s harder when I have to entertain toddlers simultaneously while hiking it on the treadmill or becoming a jungle gym during a yoga session.

– We’ve all been sick. This has been the craziest un-Michigan winter of all time – very little snow and crazy changes in temps from day to day. It seems like everyone has been sick – and we’re never able to get fully well. I don’t like to push myself too hard physically when I’m sick, saving my energy to fight off the illness.

– Much to my dismay, I can’t keep up the running. I feel great while I’m running, but the last two runs have sent me, hours later, to bed with a heating pad somewhere. I had to come to terms with the fact that even though I’m only about 20ish weeks along, my belly is making some serious horizontal progress (even strangers are surprised that I’m not due until June) and it’s causing strain on my muscles that just can’t take the hard pounding of running. With running out of the picture again, I lost a little of my motivation. Although, I have learned the benefit of simply putting my treadmill at an incline and kicking up the speed – I’m achieving some serious and embarrassing-looking speed-walking in my basement!

– Though the nausea of the first trimester has disappeared, I’m facing my own set of second-trimester whoas, including dizziness, headaches and migraine syndrome. I’m not complaining (well, kind of), just facing the facts and understanding my body’s limitations.

Overall, I’m able to get about 3 good sessions on the treadmill a week and sometimes I can sneak in a yoga session, too. My time exercising, overall, is greatly reduced (my treadmill sessions are 20-30 minutes instead of 40-50 minutes). I’m trying to be realistic about my schedule, my health, and my life with two toddlers. I’m doing the best I can for now, and trying to remember that life comes in waves, in seasons, in stages. This is a season…

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Sowing Goodness: Plant, Cultivate, and Harvest a Healthy Life

“People reap what they sow. Those who sow to please their sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; those who sow to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Gal 6)

I’m planting a garden this year – my first one ever. So I’m thinking about the imagery of a garden in other ways, too: the types of seeds we sow, but more specifically, what kind of harvest we will reap, depending on what we sow and what we cultivate.

The seeds of goodness that I want to plant in my life are ones of health. I want healthy relationships, a healthy approach to the work of my hands, a healthy investment in my relationship to God, a healthy balance (and challenge!) of exercise, a healthy dose of rest, and clean, whole, healthy foods nourishing my body.

But just as we do not reap a harvest the same time we plant the seeds in our gardens, so the seeds of goodness that I plant in my life take time to cultivate and nurture before they grow to a harvest.

Paul knew this would be difficult and he gives us the encouragement to “not become weary in doing good” (Gal 6). Cultivation takes discipline and the small, simple, daily acts of choosing goodness and health all day long. This can be a drag, but Paul reminds us that we will reap a harvest if we keep it up.

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A new seed of goodness that I have planted is the discipline of rising early – before my children – to spend time with God. This has not been easy since I’m pregnant and still have an almost-2-yo who wakes up at night sometimes.

But I made the commitment, and God has been faithful to meet me in that time. I set a realistic goal of “early” – knowing that I wanted to pick a time that I could maintain daily, but also knowing that sometimes that would mean my children would wake during my quiet time. I have slowly pushed the time back to wake up even earlier because I have begun to crave the time alone with God.

I’m about a month into this practice, and it doesn’t seem to get any easier…but I know it’s a seed of goodness and cultivating this discipline is worth it – there is a harvest of goodness on the other side – a deeper walk with my savior – that I crave which pushes me through the difficulty of the bleary-eyed early mornings.

What gets me out of bed most days? These verses from Hosea 10 that I memorized:

“Sow for yourselves righteousness/Reap the fruit of unfailing love/and break up your unplowed ground;/for it is time to seek the LORD,/until he comes and showers his righteousness on you.”

It is time to seek the LORD. I say this to myself as I lie in bed with my finger on the snooze button…and what I hear instead is: Get your butt out of bed and press into the LORD…it will be worth it. And so I do…

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If we keep up the work of planting and cultivating goodness in our lives, we will reap a harvest.

So let us not become weary in doing good – in pursuing health in a holistic, whole-person way. Let us continue to pursue discipline: drinking water, eating whole foods, making time for God, exercising…knowing that God is honored when we make good choices to take care of our temples.

In this way, our garden of goodness becomes an act of worship. And when we see the fruit of our labor, celebrate and praise God, because he is the one who makes things grow (1 Cor 3:7).

What seeds of goodness are you planting and cultivating these days?

Green Smoothies

I love a good smoothie. There’s nothing like drinking something sweet and creamy and smooth that is also secretly packed with vegetables and nutrients. And there’s nothing like being able to throw anything-from-the-fridge into a blender and know your toddlers will drink it…and ask for more.

Last week, my friend let me borrow her Vitamix blender so I could see if the machine was all that it was cracked up to be. I will gladly spill my love of this machine if Vitamix promises to send me a blender in return. (*ehem*)

The machine-of-my-dreams aside, we’ve been making a lot of smoothies recently. One rule for my smoothies is that I have to add something green – kale, spinach, chard, peas, whatever I have on hand. These greens are packed with nutrients and when your smoothie is packed with fruit, the bitterness of the greens is hidden. But how do I do that, you ask? Let me count the ways.

I found this Double Green Smoothie recipe on wholefoodsmarket.com and I’ve made it a handful of times. I love that it calls for lots of greens and the fruit and dried dates make it so sweet.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups unsweetened non-dairy beverage, such as almond, rice or soy
2 dried apricots or 4 pitted dates
1 banana
1 cup chopped kale leaves
1 cup spinach leaves
1/2 cup fresh or frozen berries

Method

Combine non-dairy beverage, apricots, banana, kale, spinach and berries in a blender and blend until smooth.

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Another trick I use for any smoothie I am making is to blend the greens first with liquid (unless you’re using the blender-of-my-dreams, then you can throw everything in at once and it all gets blended up smoothly). For regular-speed blenders, this allows the greens a great opportunity to break down and less of a chance to take a bite out of kale when you’re drinking your smoothie.

I love blending my greens with unfiltered, organic apple juice. The juice adds a nice sweetness to counteract the greens’ bitterness. But if I don’t have that on hand, I might blend it with a little non-dairy milk or even just plain water.

Then I add frozen fruit, bananas, sometimes a carrot or a stalk of celery, yogurt if I have it, flax meal and/or flax oil, cherry juice concentrate and whatever else I have on hand.

Blend and serve.

My girls love to drink with a straw because it’s more fun. Either way, a smoothie is an excellent way to pack more nutrients into your diet in a pleasing and delicious (and fun-with-a-straw!) way.

Enjoy!

(Photo from wholefoodsmarket.com)

Winter Pregnancy Exercise Round #2 (…the cheap version)

The winter is still in full affect here in Michigan and my belly is getting bigger, so I am digging into my creativity to come up with a new, at-home winter exercise plan that doesn’t include a gym membership (because we had to drop ours – *tear*).

I took stock of what I love about the gym and what I am regularly doing when I’m there. Aside from the childcare, I can easily re-create much of what I love:

1. Yoga: I love this and it’s a “must” for me right now during pregnancy. I dusted off a prenatal yoga DVD and am borrowing another from a friend so I can have some variety. It gets tricky trying to do yoga and keep two toddlers entertained, but sometimes they get involved with me and I love that they get to SEE me exercise.

2. Cardio: Yoga is great, but I’m discovering that a good cardio routine keeps me balanced on a whole, new, lovely level that no amount of downward facing dogs could produce. I started asking online about treadmills, and I found a free one from our church’s online marketplace! I can tell you over and over that God cares about how we take care of our bodies, but this, to me, was tangible proof. It’s such a huge blessing to receive this treadmill right now. We’re replacing the belt and it will run just like new (pun intended, of course!).

So there it is, my winter plan. The trickiest part will be occupying the toddlers while I exercise. But as with anything, I think once they get used to my routine, they’ll settle in and let me be. And I love that they will see me exercise and have an opportunity to get involved. That’s one reason I loved running with the double jogger this summer because I love for them to be a part of my healthy lifestyle choices.

And remember how I was talking about needing more time in my day? Well, cutting out the drive to and from the gym and the time it takes to check the girls in and out of childcare, I’m already gaining some new space in my day.

We have one more week to enjoy our gym membership, so I’m savoring the childcare and all the amenities while I can. But I’m excited to try round 2 of this exercise plan. I love a good challenge.

What free or cheap ways do you exercise and stay active?

Priority: Rest

Alright, I’ll go ahead and say it: there are not enough hours in a day.

I don’t always feel this way, but this week, it’s droning along in my head and heart.

There is so much I want to do – and it’s good stuff, too. I want to write more, I want solitude, I want to do more thrifting and sew my own pillows and refinish some furniture.

But I have two toddlers and I’m pregnant. So sometimes, instead of writing a brilliant essay that I just know publishers would clamor over, I am sitting on the floor coloring with my girls or emptying the dishwasher again or turning over another load of laundry.

Or sometimes, I’m just sleeping.

For me, right now, nap time is about naps. Most of the time, I can’t sleep – my mind runs a million miles an hour and I usually think about food: what’s for dinner, what food I can plant this spring, next week’s meal plan and what’s for the next snack…you get the idea – food! (I mentioned I’m pregnant, right?)

Even if I don’t sleep, I make myself lie down and treasure nap time for resting. In the same respect,  evenings are for sleeping. These days, I’m going to bed between 8:00 and 9:00pm. Starting about 5:00pm, I start counting the minutes until I can go to bed again.

The real truth is that there is enough time in the day, but my priority right now is rest and sleep. I know these are vital to health, but it’s hard to put them on my to-do list and check them off – I never feel accomplished after I take a nap.

But rest should find its way onto my to-do list, and maybe yours, too. There are seasons for everything and right now, my season is one of rest. I still have my daily to-do lists and laundry and essay ideas and attempts at quiet time with God, but for now, I’m embracing rest.

What a great season for it! I think the high today is somewhere in the teens – there’s no better time to hibernate than winter in Michigan.

I’m embracing my new priority: rest.

Look, Ma, I’m Running! (…and also letting go of some judgemental attitudes)

Well, I did it…

I ran.

I loved it!

I’ve been wanting to start running again (I wrote about how much I’ve been craving it) and after getting the okay from my doctor to work it in now that I’m in my second trimester, I gave it a whirl.

The first time, I was cautious. I hopped on the treadmill and I planned to walk 5 min/run 5 min/walk 5 min/run 5 min/walk 5… So I warmed up with a brisk walk then I started a slow jog. It felt great in the sense that it was familiar – the initial jiggling, trying to find my rhythm – I had been here before. Well, 5 minutes of running passed and I kept going.

At about this time, I was starting to feel really good, finding my stride and I was tempted to yell out in the crowded gym: “I’m running!!”

It felt so freeing and seemed just what my body needed.

Although I did not shout anything out loud, I finished my run and got back on the treadmill a few days later and ran even longer, then I did it again a few days later. My sweet spot right now is a walk warmup then a 20-minute run, then cool down. After about 20 minutes, the pressure on my bladder is a little much and my pelvic bones start to ache.

But the running itself feels so good.

Honestly, I used to judge women who ran through their pregnancies and wondered what they were trying to prove. So part of what needed to happen was that I needed to get over myself and my judgements, listen to my body, and go for it.

I’m starting to realize that running seems to be such a sweet spot in general for me –  it feels good to find exercise that seems just right for my body – pregnant or not.

So I’m running – pregnant and all. And it feels great. Also, I’ve stopped judging women who continue doing hard exercise during pregnancy and I’m trying to check other judgements I have of people, too. Truth is, all of our bodies are different and we do the best service to our personal health when we listen to what our bodies are telling us.

 

Second Trimester and Exercise

Well, I’ve hit the magic second trimester mark…and beyond. Honestly, I wish I could report that I’m feeling better. The truth is, there’s nothing easy about pregnancy. It’s a miracle and a blessing, but it’s hard work.

One of the biggest changes for this pregnancy (my 3rd) is that I am adding a lot more exercise to my routine. In the past, I have gone easy on myself and backed way off from exercise once I got pregnant. But after two c-sections (only 16 months apart) and then training and racing a 15K and a 10K a year and a half after my second was born, I realized my body is capable of a lot more than I thought.

Granted, pregnancy is a different time for my body. Overall, I am a lot more cautious. I know I can’t push myself too hard because my body responds much louder and clearer if I go overboard (i.e. I’ve passed out a few times when I was pregnant). But, keeping that in mind, I’m listening to my body and trying to push it a little harder in terms of exercise – knowing that I’ll reap the benefits of a healthier pregnancy and a speedier recovery (hello, 3rd c-section).

I stopped running when I got pregnant because I didn’t feel comfortable with it. I took up fast, uphill walking on the treadmill, a little elliptical, and a lot of yoga. It’s been awesome for me. It’s helped alleviate nausea and push past some fatigue. Also, because I joined a gym, I get a break from my kid duties so my exercise time becomes my “me time” too – very refreshing. I’m amazed at how well my body is responding. Folks, I did my first side-plank EVER in class the other day! So I am strengthening my core even as my belly is growing.

But I miss running. I miss it a lot.

David and I were side-by-side on the treadmills and he was jogging along at a pretty good clip. I was jealous. So I upped my speed, ran slowly for a minute and went back to my fast-walk pace. It felt good to run. Everything moved differently than it did before my baby belly. But it felt good.

After getting confirmation from my doctor (it’s important to work with your doc) that picking up running again is okay for me, I’m excited to hit the treadmill at a faster pace. Even if I don’t run races or go fast or long or hard, my mind and body are craving a good run.

And since I’m doing my best to listen to my body, I’m going to give in to this urge to run. I think it’s a craving worth saying “yes” to.