A pirate, a panda bear and a three year old walk in to a bar…then some sweaty guy on a tread mill says…..

I can’t think of a punch line, but I was pretty sure in real life that something funny was happening.

I want to thank this “sisterhood” of working moms for allowing me to guest blog. As a spousal spectator, I’ve enjoyed watching the success of this ambitious group. Writing isn’t easy, so I am proud of all of you. Keep it up.

A frequent stressor of parenting, it seems, is the process of ‘trying to balance’ a lot of otherwise good and healthy things. Work, exercise, family time, etc. Things which barely seemed to fit before, like exercise, get squeezed. For my post, I thought I’d share what worked for me.

I got some help from an unlikely source. A book about Art. More specifically, the struggle to create it, called “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield. In short, Pressfield writes that all of us have some great works inside of us, but that there is a sinister, evil force he calls “Resistance” which is trying to prevent the creation of said works. What’s worse, is that “resistance” is so sneaky it weaves its deception out of a fabric of highly reasonable reasons for not getting started on our work.

Exercise is no different.  My excuses, or rather, the ones whispered in my ear by “Resistance”, had caused me to more or less quit exercising over past winters. “It’s snowing, I need to watch my daughter, not enough time to go to the gym.” This past November, with a pregnant wife—due in February—resistance was planning a full scale winter assault on me and my health.  Thanks to Pressfield, I was ready for him. While I had reasonably good, fair weather outdoor running habits, and a cheap gym membership, I sensed this time was different. While one child was safely contained inside my wife’s belly, the 3 year old was capable of creating havoc.

So I bought a second hand treadmill.  That solved part of the problem, but Resistance’s next line of attack came when my pregnant wife, politely, er, suggested that it was not fair to our relationship for me to expect she would watch our daughter each time I chose to exercise. (That’s not exactly what she said….but just imagine it in fewer words and more flare.) “Resistance” told me that I surely couldn’t put in a perfect work out and spend time with family.

Not exactly, but what about an imperfect workout? Isn’t that better than no workout? So I gave it a try…I told my three year old about the great fun we were about to have—she would help me exercise. Using what we had in the basement, we got to work.

The basement, at once a workout room and museum to my bachelorhood, also has a bar, a life size pirate sculpture and some great board games.  Add Mia’s dress-up clothes and a Giant Panda bear, and this is the scene.

My workout buddies.

My workout buddies.

For strength exercises, like push-ups, try adding a squirmy 30 lb. weight to your back.

 

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For arm curls, dumbbells and the wooden letter trays from Scrabble can let everyone lift appropriate weights.

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Treadmill running is a whole other challenge—it’s just not safe to do this together. But I wondered if my high energy daughter could be entertained for long enough to turn this into a heart-rate raising, good sweat of a workout. We’ve invented lots of nutty games, involving everything from wrapping paper to, of course to our partners, the Panda and the Pirate.  But here are the keys:

1)      Interaction—A few times I ran with a great group of people and runners called The Silk City Striders. One of their rules for group running was to run at slow enough pace that you could actually talk to your fellow runner. Likewise, with my 3 year old, I need to be able to shout out, from time to time, questions like “does the Pirate want to wear that? Don’t you think the Panda bear needs to go to sleep now?”

2)      Interruption—In a 40 minute time block, my daughter can do several dangerous things. She can also get hungry, or wander away. This means I need to hit STOP, and deal with it. With “I’m Hungry” I’ve had to STOP, jog upstairs and make a sandwich, and jog back.   Mia thought this was great fun. It also keeps the heart rate up.

3)      Encouragement—One of the risks of solitary ‘dreadmill’ running is our old friend “resistance” can tell us lots of rotten things—you’re slow, this isn’t for you, you’re nowhere near done, etc. Almost by accident I learned that shouting out encouragement to my daughter “The Panda bear looks really nice in that dress!” forced me to tune out some Resistance’s anti-encouragement. Eventually, I took to asking Mia to clap for me as I reached time and distance marks (normally, soliciting praise is tacky, but in joint basement treadmill workouts, all bets are off).

Even Baby Luke wants to join in on the fun.

Even Baby Luke wants to join in on the fun.

It’s not perfect, but this approach has let me squeeze in one or two more workouts that I might have skipped before.  In the grand scheme of things, it’s the best workout of all—the one I actually do!

Editor’s Note: While CT Working Moms is mainly a place for moms, every now and then we’ll be sharing posts from dads too.

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