Moms on Monkey Bars

Alum Creek Dam (monkey bars)

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Over the past three days or so, I’ve gained a better understanding of why women of my age (the specifics of which is an irrelevant detail) lose track of their gym passes and the will to fight the good fight on personal fitness.

I’m nowhere near quitting. I’ve done this for too long and believe that exercise tones a lot more than my body. It smooths out the rough spots in my emotions; it gives me spiritual muscle for Life’s considerable challenges. It gains me “thinking time,” enhancing my sense of perspective. It makes me smile more and wrinkle less.

But wow. I get it. This past week as I scrambled between back-to-back soccer games, track meets, practices for the aforementioned and “odds and ends” that included guitar lessons and daily school transportation, work-out time kept sidling a couple of steps beyond my grasp. Forget the grocery (I did). Forget the laundry (wish I could but soccer socks require hazmat removal if not laundered within three days). Forget taxes (yeah, right), a social life (sigh) and recreational reading (sigh again). It’s a crazy, but oh-so-normal life. I know this.

Alum Creek Dam (monkey bars)2It hit me last spring that my children’s athletic activities could adversely affect my own. At this point in life (still looking for a number on this, aren’t you?) I’d prefer any “Before” soccer season and “After” soccer season snapshots of myself to be a close match. The goal is to pause on “Before” for as long as humanly possible. And that requires maintaining the fitness routines that have carried me thus far (All right already! I’m 45!!)…

Twice this week, I’ve wheeled into the Westerville Rec Center parking lot having carved out a precious window of work-out time only to get a “please rescue me now” phone call from one of the kids. One time I actually made it into the building. “A” for effort, but “F” for application. Once back through the revolving door I sprinted to my truck, figuring that every bit of cardio counts and aiming hard for even a “D-.”

My surgically-enhanced ankle has eliminated some of my previous fitness flexibility. I used to run anywhere on any surface. In a pinch, monkey bars still work fine for pull-ups and chin-ups. Cardio cross-training and running on more cushioned trails, however, takes extra effort and planning.

Yesterday was the true test. After transporting Zach from high school to his guitar lesson, driving on to complete anAlum Creek Dam (steps) earlier aborted grocery mission, and then retrieving Zach to be the “at home” adult when Matt got off the bus, I flew down the road to run the steps at Alum Creek Dam (people are somewhat startled when I abbreviate that to “the dam steps”). I got twelve flights in before Hannah texted me that track had finished early. So I called my neighbor to say that I’d swing over to pick up our girls and began computing my remaining available minutes… If the boys were ready to go to their dad’s and if Zach had stashed the groceries away, if Hannah could gather what she needed at home in ten minutes or less, if traffic wasn’t too terrible… I might be able to fit in a real work-out at the Rec Center before closing time.

All the “ifs” ran green this time. Zach drove as I caught up on the kids’ days and verified the schedule for the next. We made it to their dad’s in twenty-five minutes. Five more minutes for unloading, kisses and hugs and I was on my way.

Totally exhausted (I’m 45, remember?), I recognized that this was the point at which it would be oh-so-easy to drive on home. It was late and I was hungry, but I also had this elusive “window” that might not be there tomorrow…

I yawned all the way there. I yawned as Liz waved me on in to the gym. I yawned between my weight sets. But I felt good when I walked back out the door.Alum Creek Dam (monkey bars)2

It’s a battle to be sure. Circumstances are rarely weighted in favor of my fitness goals. But I believe in both the process and the results with no apologies. It makes my life better. So if you spot me hanging from monkey bars during a soccer practice, maybe you’ll understand…

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25 Comments to Moms on Monkey Bars

  1. I hardly think you need to go to the gym, with all the hard work that you have to do. That is exercise enough.

  2. I feel your pain. But you still look ridiculously good considering your “advanced age”. 😉

    The Westerville Rec Center is a pretty nice place. I was a member there for a year some time back and don’t think I darkened the door once. LOL…

    When I first saw the pics of the stairs at Alum Creek, I thought it was down at Hoover Reservoir. When I was in my teens, I trained there for a hiking trip to Philmont Scout Ranch. I loaded up a backpack with some of my family’s Encyclopedia Americana volumes and went up and down the steps very few times. Then, I went walking out onto the rocks below the spillway…promptly fell on one of them, resulting in the waterlogging of the only encyclopedias my family every owned. Not a good move.

  3. Working out and juggling the kids is a hard one to win. I, smartly, put ‘off’ days into my workouts to keep from getting … what? … well, I’m 47 … it just seems smart (I so badly don’t want to say “injured.”)

    I found that too often the off nights kept getting extended into longer periods of time due to child-related things — and sometimes a week would pass. So I instituted a new policy — I’d workout every night I could and let the unexpected child-things be my nights off.

    And then something odd happened. There were no unexpected child things for two weeks … but since you can’t plan for those I still “had” to workout .– just in case. (I did take one night, each week, off on purpose.)

    It would seem that the increased frequency has brought to the surface an old, oddball, left-arm pain. Before it gets problematic, I’ve changed my workout model back to the older one.

    (That doesn’t read exactly like I want it to though I think the point I’m trying to make is in there somewhere. I don’t have time to clean it up as I need to dash off to pick a boy up from Play Practice … he’s the King of the Apes in Junglebook. It’s more fitting than you know.)

  4. Heather

    JEAN-LUC: You’d think so! But honestly, if I didn’t work out I wouldn’t stand a chance of keeping up with my kids!

    CHUCK: Climbing those steps must have been a bit easier than the trip back home! Hopefully the fun of the hiking trip counterbalanced the agony of the encyclopedia bath. And thanks…

    DELMER: Yes, it’s that tricky balance between allowing for recovery time without sliding into a fitness decline. Not as big a margin between the two any more, is there?
    “King of the Apes”; you must be proud! That makes you a “king” too, you know!

  5. Hey girlie – 42 here – so I got your number!!! (And I completely understand – wink)!

    Reading through this dialogue was like flipping through the pages of my own personal journal… so very familiar (except different steps at different dams – but damn close)!

    =)

  6. I admire your dedication…. As if running around and keeping up with the children isn’t enough exercise. I’m surprised you have any energy left at all. Is there a big red “S” painted on your chest? (smile)

  7. Right, exercise is really important especially at ages like yours.

  8. Heather

    KIMBA,
    Ha! You kindred spirit, you!
    But I’m still shaking my head at your incredible bravery on Sunday… You’re a living breathing hero to that lady you rescued. http://kimba-the-white-lioness.blogspot.com/2008/04/dont-mess-with-me-mo-fo.html

    INTREPID,
    I’m dedicated because I have to be. Kimba (see above) gets the big red “S”. And a cape if she wants it…

    LAND PROJECTS UK,
    Hmmm… Is that irony or understanding? My kids simultaneously age me and keep me young. The exercise is my effort to tip the scale a little!

  9. I think your an amazing writer and recorder, you have a great voice for recording. Hope everything is good with you 😉

  10. Yep…it’s a life you no longer own but what would I know…in my neck of the woods I only look on in amazement and wonder how she does it (shhhh)…

  11. After reading this delightful post I have come to one important personal conclusion – “That I would make a terrible MOTHER!”

  12. Heather, I am heading to the exercise room NOW! Thanks for the reminder and {{{HUGS!!!}}} for being soooo busy.

    JJ 😀

  13. Heather

    mee mOe,
    I know I already sent you a note on your own site, but thanks for the encouragement! I appreciate both your creativity and your compassion…

  14. Heather

    ADRIAN: “She” misses a lot of (non-essential, I hope!) details and tries to rebalance accordingly. With grace…

    DONWILLIAMS: Somehow it always works out (there are afternoons that I repeat that to myself over and over…and over). That has less to do with the circumstance and a lot more to do with adjusting the attitude!

    JJ: I wish you lived next door because you always make me smile! Take it a day at a time lady. Can’t ask for more (or less!) than that…

  15. Wow, I really love your work. It is put together well and your posts are really good. You rock, I guess your my age 45,, I tell you I am feeling it because too much work ot enough play or excercise. Keep doing what you do it is really great.. cb here4u

  16. Heather

    Colorado Baby,
    You are always so encouraging, and I appreciate it!
    You’re right about “feeling it” when you get stuck in the all work/no play mode. Our mental health has a HUGE impact on our physical resilience. When I have no time at all, I try to make my daily tasks a little harder (carry laundry in multiple loads, run up and down the steps, park far out in the parking lot…). I don’t know how much it actually does for muscles and cardio, but it feels good to know I’m just not giving up!!

  17. WOW Heather, you do get a workout throughout your day. Sounds like my life with 4 kids in different age groups. But you still need that little bit of time for yourself. Besides you have to know how great you feel after, even if you have to crawl to the gym, that’s you’re time. You are doing great!! It all pays off in the end…at least that’s what I tell myself. 🙂

  18. Heather

    SpinDiva,
    You speak with wisdom, Lady. I can tell you’ve lived it! Thank goodness we have a history of exercise rewards to refer back to when we’re dragging and need some motivation!

  19. Sounds like you have enough endurance to run a marathon. I would have bowed at with the back to back soccer practices. Whenever I’m home in NZ, I sometimes catch glimpses of mothers hanging from monkey bars. I always thought they were revisiting their youth, but now I know there could be another reason.
    This post was a great read.

  20. Thanks Cate!
    I might have the stamina (on the good days!), but sadly, I no longer have the ankles and knees for that kind of distance. Fortunately, I can still run far enough for endorphins to kick in etc. -and I’m embracing the benefits of cross-training!
    I am so glad to hear other moms do monkey bars!! Next time I embarrass a kid, I’ll tell them… 😀

  21. Cool! Just read this post. Looks like you wrote it over a year ago, am I right? If so, the 45 is now 46 and you know what—it doesn’t matter. I never, and I mean NEVER, play the age card. I run with kids half my age and younger. Hey, if they beat me, they beat me. Ha Ha. I mean, I’m in better shape now than I was many years ago. But, I don’t need anyone saying I look good for ‘my age’. I just want to look good. And more importantly, feel good. It takes work and dedication to accomplish that. Looks like you’re on board with that. That’s great. Keep it up.

  22. Bartolomo,
    …Funny how those numbers keep going up! Yes, the “good for my age” idea was never a good incentive for me either. I like being able to do physically challenging things, and you have to keep all your muscles (including the heart) in shape for that.
     
    It bugs me a little that I’m not as fast as I was ten years ago, but I’m happy to say that my toning and strength are improved! Overall, the 40’s are feeling pretty good.

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