There’s a woman sitting near you in a restaurant, on a train, in a school meeting, at your kids’ sport, on a nearby desk at work, or walking past you in the street, feeling lousy about herself.
2 years ago today I started this “business”. Actually, let’s start that again.
2 years ago today I started this business. I have a tendency to put my business in inverted commas, because it’s small. It’s just me. It’s not 9-5. It has no staff. It doesn’t have a huge turnover (in fact, if I am honest, I don’t even know what, or if I am “turning over”. Note to self, make appointment with accountant tomorrow). It doesn’t have a huge social media following, my website is in desperate need of an overhaul and my assets include a bunch of good quality weight plates and medicine balls and a lot of odds and ends that I’ve picked up at the Aldi fitness sales.
But, I keep record of income and expenses, I make a little bit of pocket money (I’m serious. It’s pocket money), I pay my bills, I decide what to promote, when to promote and who to promote to. I invest in networking events and educational courses that I think are going to help me and/or my clients. I don’t think I have a business plan but I seem to have a good grasp on what I want to happen with the business and how I am going to go about that (big reveal: keep it ticking along). And despite never having had a day-long round table conference about it, I seem to have a pretty rock-solid elevator pitch.
So, I guess as small fry as it is, it is a business. No inverted commas needed.
Anyway, now I’ve justified it out loud; today my business is 2.
Exactly this time two years ago (8:35am), I was in my best active wear, loading my shiny fitness equipment and my new portable stereo into my car, I had a class plan that had been put together weeks before and I was NERRR-VUS. Excited nervous (which, according to my insightful son, who was 8 years old at the time, are brown nerves. Very different to blue nerves, which apparently are “sad nerves” and purple nerves which are “sorry-nerves”.)
I drove me and my brown nerves to the Ballarat Futsal Centre, which after a bit of shopping around best suited my needs as a long-term hiree for my group fitness classes.
And I waited. In the big cold stadium for people to arrive. I waited a little longer in the big cold stadium for the people to arrive. And I waited a little longer. And gosh darn it. People arrived!
And they’ve kept arriving for 2 years. I’ve had quite a few people stick with me since day one (thank you thank you thank you). I’ve had quite a few people turn up once or twice and then never again (No judgement. I’m absolutely, entirely comfortable with not being everything to everyone). And I have had new people arrive in the last month or two to check out if it is right for them (welcome).
I love it. I never (ok, almost, pretty-much never) loathe going to work. I love mapping out different ways for people to move. I love seeing people laugh (Renee, never stop being uncoordinated, please, and never-ever stop being able to laugh at yourself because of it), and chat while they workout. I love people groaning about being tired, but still keeping on keeping on anyway. I love seeing kids climb over their mums when they are trying to hold a plank. I love seeing mums grateful when their child needs help going to the toilet right when we’re about to start burpees (I see what you did there 😉 ). I love that when someone has an injury or a niggle, they still show up and do what they can. I love that when I try to incite competition into the sessions, it becomes clear that I’ve got such a nice bunch of ladies that no-one is out to beat no-one (and in fact if someone has picked the short straw too many times, others will come to her aid and swap. You guys.) I love that participants will often spend as much time talking after class, as the class itself.
All the feels, y’all. ALL. THE. FEELS.
The fitness industry is synonymous with “transformations”. And I have seen transformations.
I have seen women transform from dazed, confused, frustrated mothers, with no solid outlet for self-preservation to dazed, confused, less-frustrated mothers, who have had a work out, feel better about life and stand a little taller.
I have seen others transform from meek fitness class participants or personal training clients not really sure of their strengths and abilities, to people who walk out confidently knowing that they can do “stuff” that makes them feel healthier.
I have seen people with a vague interest in getting fit (“I probably should do something”) to making exercise a priority in their day to day life.
I have seen myself transform from a passionate health and fitness professional, not really sure where she sits in the fitnessy-world, to a passionate health and fitness professional who has a firm foot-hold on what health and fitness means to her and what she wants to pass onto clients.
I have seen this business transform from a “I’ll give it a go and see how it pans out”, to a brand that people recognise and ask about. I’ve seen, been part of; gosh darn it I’ve transformed this “business” to a business.
I’m looking forward to the coming years with In Your Element, indeed seeing what pans out, seeing if and how my elevator pitch changes, seeing new faces come in, seeing the kids that join their mums grow up, seeing more of the sort of transformations I like to see and, as a side note, seeing if I have made a turn over.
Once upon a time I thought that my periods didn't really affect what I ate. I cruised though my cycle (as much as one can "cruise" through the most inconvenient and uncomfortable 3-7 days of EVERY MONTH) eating pretty much the same as what I would usually eat. I didn't really subscribe to the belief that periods equalled cravings. Oh, what I ate by the way, was a diet high in sugar, saturated fat, carbs and weekend alcohol binges. No wonder I didn't crave a darn thing: I was already well in comfort-food credit.
These-a-days, with a late thirties head on my shoulders and a late thirties uterus in my abdomen, it's a different ball game. Processed foods in my diet are limited, vegetables are unlimited, my main source of caffeine is from green tea and my water intake gets 5 gold stars.
That's all well and good for 24 out of every 28 days.
The other four days, I am
seeking storming through the kitchen like a possessed woman searching for something rich, warm, comforting and generally chocolate-y (maybe I just need to have Dwayne Johnson on speed dial?).
I know it isn't just coincidence, because the days that I feel a little outta control with my eating is the same days every single cycle. I can almost tell what is going on with my baby maker by what I am looking for in the pantry.
I wanted to get some confirmation that this indeed is a thing and not some female mind trickery. And if it is due to those bloody hormones whipping around our bodies like crazed flies at a BBQ, gain some pointers on how to tame them a little. So, I asked local naturopath Annabel Mason from Blossom Wellbeing for her take on it. This is what Annabel had to tell me.
"What you're eating throughout the entire month will potentially influence how you feel during the different phases of your cycle.
Many women experience food cravings during the different phases of their cycle, most commonly around ovulation and during the luteal (premenstrual phase) of their cycle. Cravings for sugar, chocolate or other carbohydrate rich foods are common at these times due to the declining oestrogen levels. Your blood sugar levels are more sensitive to swings at these times too.
Making sure that you include plenty of high quality protein foods, along with healthy fats (avocado is great for hormone balance. Raw, unsalted nuts and seeds are also helpful). Naturally sweet vegetables such as sweet potato, pumpkin, carrots or squash can provide natural sweetness (roasting vegetables also brings out their natural sweetness).
A few squares of high quality dark chocolate will provide some magnesium and chromium which also support blood sugar balance.
It is normal to experience lower energy at this time, so also check in with yourself as to whether you are wanting to eat out of true hunger or fatigue. As your hormones drop premenstrually, you may feel a little more emotionally sensitive, so also be mindful of not using food to manage this. Choose healthy, nourishing comfort foods like soups or root vegetable based stews and consider other ways non-food ways which provide you with a sense of comfort.
All throughout your cycle, aim to be minimising processed sugar and processed foods and include plenty of fibre rich wholefoods, greens (especially bitter greens such as rocket lettuce) and vegetables (especially the brassica family vegetables) will aid hormonal balance all through your cycle."
Ok, so phew. I'm not just using my cycle as an excuse. It really is a marvellous (sonnofabish) combination of hormones, blood sugar and fatigue.
At the helm of it all is Oestrogen (who really, we should all know is a little cray-cray. Sometimes she starts with an O - which make zero sense - and sometimes she starts with an E - more sense).
Despite challenging internal circumstances, it isn’t really the ideal time to throw all the good eating habits down the drain. Plant foods can come to our rescue maybe a little more than a block of chocolate. Or Dwayne Johnson.
(PS: I recently used this recipe from my good friend Bianca at Wholefood Simply. It doesn't entirely fit into Annabel's recommendations, but it was a pretty good compromise. And the smallest amount put O-E-strogen back in her box for a while).
Dear 7-year-old-daughter, you are full of deliciousness. You have a kind heart. You have energy in spades. You have sporting #skillz gurfriend. You have a sense of humour. You have a healthy dose of I’m-prepared-to-challenge-the-boundaries attitude. You have the most exquisite blue eyes. You have a giggle that I want to bottle up and then release into the world to make everyone smile. You have a sense of self beyond your years. Macy, put simply, I think the sun shines out of your gorgeous little bottom.
A few weeks ago my darling girl, out of the blue, you lifted your top, sucked in your tummy and said “Mum look how skinny I am!” You correctly interpreted my look of confusion panic heartbreak and quickly clarified “What?! I don’t want to be fat!”
Oh Macy, my magical little daughter, let me tell you want you don’t want to be.
My darling girl, you don’t want to be cruel and hurtful. You don’t want to be the arrogant person that people can’t speak fondly of. You want to be kind and well respected. You want people to feel they can depend on you, trust you and enjoy being in your company.
My gorgeous daughter, you don’t want to be a victim of domestic abuse. You don’t want someone to overpower you physically, emotionally or verbally until your spirit is exhausted. You want to be vigilant against people who are hurting you or causing you harm. You want to have the confidence, self-respect and strength of character to be able to walk away and create for yourself a life of love, health, happiness and positive growth.
Macy, you don’t want to be illiterate. You don’t want to hold a book or a pen in your hand and not understand what a gift it is. You don’t want to fear words. You want to be able to sit in an arm chair and escape to untouched destinations that are only accessible through literature. Books, newspapers, magazines and articles will forever provide you with the opportunity to explore people, places, circumstances and events. And writing, oh my girl, writing, you want to be able to write. You want an ability to express yourself in a way that you may not be able to verbally. Writing will give you a superpower like no other – you can fill out forms for a passport to travel the world, a bank account to save for anything you wish or a student loan to open the door to a lifetime of education and discovery. Creatively, writing will allow you to release the amazing thoughts that whizz through your beautiful mind. Being able to write gives you the opportunity, if you want it, to impact someone so much that you change the way they think, speak or react.
Macy, my magnificent creation, you don’t want to be void of empathy. You don’t want to lack the ability to see the world through someone else’s eyes. You don’t want to be unfeeling to the emotions that they might experience. You want to be able to understand and appreciate people in all of their various forms – their pain, their victories, their circumstances, their fears, their worries, their views, their heartache, their joy.
Macy, you don’t want to be afraid; don’t be afraid of the unknown, to fall and get back up, to fail and try again. Whatever you dream, my darling you can become. Whatever you want to do, wherever you want to go, don’t be afraid of what might happen - go seek the adventure my girl, in all its glorious mistaking making forms!
My stunning little lady, there are many things in this world that you do not want to be. Ignore whatever advertisement, whatever movie, whatever person, whatever picture made you think that you do not want to be fat and put your undeniable energy to where it counts; be a nice person, a good person, an adventurous person, a confident person, a person with heart.
That is what you want to be.
(Oh, you also don’t want to be afraid of birds. I am afraid of birds and it’s stupid and frustrating and debilitating in Spring).
A couple of years ago, after a bit of time under some dark greyish clouds, I visited a psychologist. I imagine (based on movies and sitcoms, because: real life) that my appointments were pretty cookie cutter discussions – mother issues, father issues, in-law issues, daughter issues, son issues, friend issues, ex-friend issues and self-issues. That’s pretty much where the buck stopped. I was feeling pretty lousy about myself and I needed to not feel lousy about myself. As an outcome of one of my appointments, I vowed to not describe people, either in my mind or in discussion with others, based on their physical attributes (I had a clever psychologist who made me come up with my own strategies. Very well played). I wasn’t “allowed” to describe the other mum at school as “the one who always looks so stylish”, or the checkout operator at the local supermarket as the “larger woman” or the sports umpire who “sort of walks funny.” Instead, I had use things like “that mum who is really social and chats to everyone,” or “that checkout operator who is really efficient,” or “that woman who is always so enthusiastic.”
‘Twas challenging. Damn challenging.
Our automatic response is to go for the physical description every time, it’s not necessarily derogatory, it’s just the easiest way to differentiate one person from another. (Thankfully I didn’t witness a crime during that period. Can you imagine me ringing crime stoppers: “The offender was mean, but I got the impression he was more sad than mean. He was very skilful with a flick knife and his pronunciation of profanities was on point”).
Even though the challenge was huge, so too was the impact on my sorry-self.
Suddenly, unintentionally and subconsciously, I started see the non-physical characteristics in little old me.
BOOM! BOOM! and BOOM!
My confidence went up. I stopped moping about the way my stomach rolls when I sit. I stopped wishing I would “catch” a wee-little dose of anorexia. I stopped seeing the bits of me that I hated and started considering the possibility that people saw more to me than the size of my arse.
It was a real revelation and (sadly) I got to ditch my psychologist appointments pretty quick (I really liked her).
Here’s the thing: If we look at people physically, very few people fit the mould of “beautiful”. But if we look at people characteristically, very few people fit the mould of ugly.
It’s a pretty good practice, except maybe in the case of a bank robbery, to bypass the lazy old habit of describing people physically and instead try to describe them by their nature, their skills, their aura or their vibe. Just not their appearance.
And it’s darn healthy to do the same for yourself too.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll scoff at the idea of making a New Year’s resolution. A lifetime of experience tells you that they never stick and they only come back to haunt you when Christmas rolls around again. And experts tend to agree. According to many, New Year’s Resolutions are so last decade. Apparently it is the worst time to declare lifestyle changes and there’s a very slim chance that you’ll be high fiving yourself come December 31st. The New Year is amidst celebrations, frivolity and for us here in Australia, weather that calls for beach side holidays, alcoholic drinks, BBQ gatherings and icecream. It’s hardly a breeding ground for spectacular transformations.
But despite all of this, as I flip the crisp new page of the carefully chosen calendar, I find it hard not to reflect on the past 12 months and contemplate what might be possible in the year to come. Is it ingrained in us, or is there something in the cosmos that makes us want to seek out personal improvements when a new year clicks over?
What’s possibly the limiting factor in New Year’s Resolutions is they are generally a statement of declaration: “I’m going to lose weight!” “I’m going to be more organised!” “I am going to give up alcohol!” “I am going to start running!” There’s plenty of enthusiasm, but very little planning bolstering up our resolutions.
Despite a worthy protest, if you feel the gravitational pull towards implementing some new year changes, there are some things you can do to make your success a little more likely.
1. BE SMART ABOUT IT. SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and have a time frame. Replace “I am going to lose weight” with “I am going to lose 5kg by September.” Replace “I am going to start running” to “I am going to run in a 10km event in August”. You can even make us your own system of scale, for example “At the moment, on a scale of 1-10 on how healthy I feel, I am a 5. By the end of June this year, I am going to be at 8.”
2. CHANGE YOUR FOCUS FROM WHAT YOU WANT, TO WHAT YOU NEED TO BE DOING. Once you have your SMART goal, it’s time to carefully consider what actions you will need to be doing consistently to achieve that goal. The person that says “I am going to run a half marathon in June” may need to invest in some new runners, start going to bed earlier to make early morning training possible and set aside some time to run 3-4 times a week. Change is the result of a series of new behaviours done consistently, so make your behaviour the focus, rather than the overall goal.
3. GO AS BIG OR AS SMALL AS YOU CAN MANAGE. It’s an old cliché, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. Take one step at a time and appreciate that each of those steps are entirely customised to you; what fits your lifestyle and what you can physically, mentally and emotionally manage. If your SMART goal is to lose weight, and the changes you need to be doing consistently involve reducing portion sizes, it might start with simply reducing the size of one meal, one day a week. Once you feel that you are doing that fairly effortlessly you might move to two meals, two days of the week. Don’t let this step be dictated by impatience or pressure. It’s vital to long term success that each step is integrated gradually and easily into your lifestyle. The downfall of most New Year’s Resolutions is that people go too hard too soon!
4. OBSERVE, DON'T JUDGE. As Thomas Edison said “I have not failed, I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” If one week doesn’t go to plan – you miss a run, you overeat, you relax on a Monday night with a scotch, just make an observation about what lead you to that point. Rather than throw your hands up in the air (like you just don’t care) and rubber stamp it failure all over it, simply think about how you can adjust your ultimate goal, your behaviours or your environment to make it work. Like Thomas Edison, it could take thousands of attempts and you’ll learn a little bit about yourself each time.
5. KEEP YOUR RESOLUTIONS ROLLING WITH THE PUNCHES. Life happens. We get busy. We get thrown curve balls. We lose our way. Our priorities change. Revisiting your goal and being willing to adjust it (and the required behaviours) if it no longer fits within the realms of realistic or achievable, is totally ok. It’s far better to keep moulding it around life, than sidelining it altogether.
Whether it is habit or something in the universe that pulls us towards change around January – make your resolutions SMART, support them with small changes in your behaviour and when things don't go to plan, adjust the plan; and I expect there will be high fives rather than haunts by the time December arrives again.
Dear marathon number. Melbourne Marathon Number 3309. I had high hopes for us. With complete confidence I applied for you as soon as the virtual ticket booth opened. I worked hard. I was running at extremely early times on extremely cold mornings. I had a training plan that I was sticking to. I was exceeding my targets and was on track to give you a wee-bit-of-a-faster-run than what my preceding marathons numbers have experienced.
But things changed. Due to some unforeseen circumstances, I had to make the call. I had to ask them not to send you. I had to tell them you wouldn’t be needed. It wasn’t an easy decision to make. It broke my heart.
I had hoped that you’d be allocated to deserving runner. A runner ready to take you to that start line, where the oxymoronic mix of nerves and excitement is so thick in the air, it’s like a psychedelic rainbow snaking its way through the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd of runners. Where the music is playing, people are stretching, hugging their loved ones, taking selfies, doing warm up runs; many are on their third trip to the porta-loos.
I wanted you to go to someone who would allow you, number 3309, to soak up the atmosphere that is the Melbourne marathon. A runner that would proudly pin you to his or her most chafe-friendly running top and take you on the 42.2 kilometre journey. Firstly, hopping up and around other runners, comrades, not quite keeping the same step as you; to the point where the cluster starts to stretch out a little and you find your stride. I wanted you to go through the drink stations and hear the unique tinging and tapping of the plastic cups hitting the ground; to the seemingly long and lonely stretches of Beaconsfield and Marine Parade, where the energy and excitement seems to dull, feet seem to be hit the ground a little harder and the faces of other runners show the mind’s wrestle between determination and regret (and in most cases, determination has the upper hand).
I wanted you to see the people lining St Kilda road, the children selflessly handing out lollies to weary competitors rather than scoffing them all themselves, the signs people hold up to push you just a little more, the random people clapping and telling you what a good job you’ve done. On the chest of your runner, curving around past Federation Square, I wanted you to feel the lift, the slight straightening out, as pride and self-belief resurrects: so close now, so close now.
And then, number 3309, the MCG appears and the step of your runner, somehow, just gets a little faster and the noise just gets a little louder. Already-finished competitors are making their way back to their cars, to cafes, to pubs with their in-awe family quizzing them about their accomplishment. Their finishers medal proudly beating against their number as they walk, or hobble, along.
3309, if things had have gone to plan you would have made it into the MCG with me, possibly a little weather beaten, a pin or two missing, creases indicating my fatigued posture. You would have been photographed with me, arms raised as high as I could manage crossing the finishing line. You might have even caught a tear or two, as for whatever reason I cry every single time.
But it didn’t end up like that. For some administrative reason, you weren’t assigned to another eager participant. You ended up in the letterbox of this tired runner who had decided this was not the year to do the Melbourn marathon.
But has it been so bad?
To be continued…
It’s the second day of spring. The sun is shining and for the first time in what feels like eternity I don’t have to dress like an eskimo to leave the house. I’m pretty sure we have been in the double-digits-of-degrees every day this week. Yippie-yi-yay, am I right? I took my group training session this morning and the gals were on fire. Everyone looked like they had pocketed the early signs of spring and popped it in their step. They did jumping lunges and sprints, squat jumps and push ups like they were gearing up for Tokyo 2020.
Despite their infectious energy and enthusiasm, when I got home I slipped into my trackiest of trackies and ate lunch (which started off with tofu and finished with chocolate), while propped on the couch (I never eat on the couch!). I watched 2 episodes of The Bachelor and one episode of Offspring. I sorted some washing and did some ironing, and for that I feel like a hero.
Laziness has me in her grasp, and has for a week or two.
My fitness professional brain says “just do something – a light walk, a gentle ride, a short run, swim a few laps….”
My laziness-possessed brain says “nah stuff it.”
I’ll go to bed tonight, like I have every night this week, declaring to get up early, spend some time on my wind trainer, do a light weights session and/or test out my injury-riddled body with a short run. But I’ll wake up tomorrow, like I have every “tomorrow” of the last fortnight, with a blanket of slight depression wrapped around me, untempted by the carrot of the fresh morning air, the endorphins buzzing through my body, the potential feeling of wellness and clear-headedness and the knowing that energy breeds energy and it will set me up in good stead for the day.
It’s not fitness instructory of me to admit to this laziness.
But it is human. I’m sure it has happened to anyone reading this post at some point.
There are a whole bunch of reasons that this could be happening. And there's a bunch of reasons I'm kind of ok with it.
1) I’m vitamin D deprived: For someone who usually feels the cold, I handled the Winter of 2016 pretty well. The first 8 weeks of it anyway. I felt like I shivered my way to the Winter finish line. So now I’m tired, lethargic and I’m overeating. From a Chinese medicine perspective this is a thing. Our bodies can get too much of one element and cause disease or illness and/or; our bodies can’t cope with an abrupt change in weather. Either way, forcing myself to do some gruelling fitness session may not be the answer right now. To get back on track, I’m thinking it may be as simple as soaking some of this welcome-back sunshine into my skin.
2) I’m keeping a virus hostage: For this I bear no medical knowledge, other than knowing my body pretty well. Touchwood, I’ve been super lucky this Winter. Many friends, clients and acquaintances of mine have been struck down with some pretty horrid lugies. Thankfully, in my household our Kleenex supply-demand ratio has stayed pretty consistent with any other time of the year. But with this lack of energy and a sore throat that crops up every couple of weeks, I can’t help but think that a bug set up camp in my innards and is just waiting for the right time to pounce. If my suspicions are correct, it’s probably all the more important to not push myself too hard physically and instead focus on getting plenty of sleep, water and good nutrients into me.
3) I’m adjusting my sails: I’m a goal setter. And it takes a fair bit for me to swallow my pride and back out of those goals. I often respond with shock, awe, admiration and jealousy when people say, of their once set goals (particularly of the physical variety): “No I’m not doing it now…” or “…I just changed my mind.”
It drains me mentally, emotionally and physically to readjust my goal posts.
Anyone who knows me well, knows that I run the Melbourne marathon every year. And in recent times I have declared that if I run it every year for the next 4, I will become a “Spartan” (someone who has run 10 Melbourne marathons) in the same year that I turn 40. But after being diagnosed with a disc bulge in my neck earlier in the year, the long training runs mean putting extra time and energy into the pain management of that. I’m actually handling that side of things pretty well (and in fact, have been running the best I have in years) but two weeks ago my hip started giving me grief. I just don’t think I can handle having another thing to ice, anti-inflam, stretch, heat, massage or needle! I’m starting to weigh up if that Spartan goal is as significant as it once was and if there might be something as equally as fulfilling, but less taxing on my body. This soul searching and decision making apparently needs to take place on the couch. In front of D grade reality drama television shows.
4) I’m gathering stones: The Byrds sang it: “To every season … turn turn turn… a time to plant, a time to reap, a time to kill, a time to heal…” Unless I start digging up past series’ of the Bachelor – Australian and American - and my trackies become my “Sunday best”, I’m thinking this is just a little time for me to heal. I’m taking it as an opportunity to re-evaluate, reenergise and re-motivate myself with new goals and new routines. “… a time to build up…a time to cast stones.. a time to gather stones together…”
With the combo of all of that, it’s little wonder I can’t get my butt of the couch (that, and I just can’t pick if Richie will choose Alex, Faith or Nikki). In any case, I know it’s not long term. I’m confident that some time in the coming week when my laziness-possessed brain suggests that I stay in bed, my rested body will answer “Nah stuff it. Let’s go!”
(But if you don't see me around... please send in some help for an intervention).
Last week I blogged about the challenges I faced finding the time and energy for fitness when my children were just wee-little-cherubs (you can read it here). Now they are medium sized cherubs, it is a lot easier, so I like to combine hanging out with my family and some physical activity whenever I can. I now have a bit more time, a bit more mental stability and a fair bit more energy, but even so exercise+family can still = challenges…
My children both celebrated their birthdays in the last month. They were lucky enough to be given swanky brand new mountain bikes. Being family-bike-riding enthusiasts, hub and I were both pretty happy to see Sunday bearing a sunshine icon on the weather maps, and we excitedly pencilled in some quality pedal pushing fam-time.
With hub being away a fair bit of late and kid’s sports usually chewing through our Saturdays and Sundays, this bike ride became one of my non-negotiables for the long weekend. So at 2:45pm on Sunday we set out gleefully for the nearby rail trail. I made sure hub had his phone with him because I had banned myself from my own phone for the event (so that I could truly enjoy every magical family moment without being distracted by intriguing message and gaming notifications) but I still wanted access to a camera so that I could go to Instagram-town with this picture-perfect family outing.
We set off with Master 9 and Miss 7 cheerfully wagging their cute little butts in front of us as they called “we’re gonna beat you!” and hub and I sharing a knowing little smile to each other, celebrating the amazing gifts we have given the world. I am pretty certain bluebirds fluttered around our helmet clad heads and the admiring community hummed “Let’s go ride a bike” (to the tune of “let’s go fly a kite” if you missed that clever transposition) in our wake.
The bluebirds continued to flutter; the community continued to hum.
We eventually came to a junction where we had the choice to continue on to a nearby township, complete with skate park, or turn around and head home.
Hub had a goal in mind and wanted to make it to the town. He was using the skate park as his best and only bargaining chip.
Miss 7 ummed and arred, but eventually agreed the skate park sounded like fun.
Master 9 was done and wanted to go home.
I didn’t mind either way. But was happy to split and accompany my son home.
But Miss 7 using tears, crossed arms and stomped feet, argued against a split and wanted the WHOLE family to stay together.
Now I don’t really know what other kids are like, but my two have stubbornness in spades. I knew that if hub or I made a call, we’d be leaving one child by the side of a busy, fast paced road, in tears with foot firmly on the ground and chained to their opinion like a hippie to a tree.
You know that crass but common Aussie saying – “he had me by the balls”? I know anatomically it’s not possible for me to be in that unfortunate situation, but figuratively speaking that’s basically where they had me. It’s not the first time and sadly, I’m confident it won’t be the last.
With thanks to experience, I handed the reins straight over to my youngsters. I encouraged them to think about the other point of view, to consider being a little more flexible and to weigh up the pros and the cons of what they wanted to do. It took about 8 minutes (and about four hundred and fifty deep breaths on my behalf) and we had a change of mind.
In fact we had two changes of mind.
Master 9 no longer wanted to go home. HE now wanted to go onward to the skate park.
Miss 7 had lost interest in the skate park idea and now SHE wanted to go home.
No more bluebirds. No more cheerful Mary Poppins tunes. Just me muttering profanities under my breath about how effed up motherhood really can be.
Hub, still erring toward the skate park, now realised his opinion was no longer being accepted as a valid bid. I had to move away from my bike before I threw it.
Again, I told my kids I had no way of winning here and they had to sort it out: “Tell me when you’re done”.
Between them there were dropped lips, tears, bribes, manipulation, promises they couldn’t keep – it was like watching the lead up to the election.
Another 8 minutes. Another 450 deep breaths.
Three rounds of dip dip dip. Three arguments over which hand meant which direction. Three times I considered riding off on my own. Towards Queensland.
Eventually, Master 9 conceded. Miss 7 won. Homeward bound, we rode, as a friggen family. A picture-perfect-instagram-worthy-friggen-family.
Stomping on my pedals, shaking off the frustration, I had to breathe in the fresh air, admire the setting sun, take note of the toadstools, the warped trees and the rabbit holes to remind myself this was still a great idea and a great outing.
One day hub and I will get the opportunity to ride as far as we’d like to ride without stopping for negotiations of epic proportions. One day we’ll cross that junction without having to even discuss going further or not. One day we won’t need the skate park as a bargaining chip.
But on that day our kids won’t want to be around us in our daggy helmets. They won’t let me photograph them, knowing I’m intending to use it as bragging evidence on social media. They won’t wiggle their little butts in front of us as they race up the nearest hill. They won’t be in awe at toadstools or decrepit trees, or ponds (/oversized puddles) and I’ll wish I could have it one more time.
Bluebirds might not flutter around us all the time. The community might not always turn into a chorus line. But while I can, I will still apprehensively excitedly pencil in some quality pedal pushing fam-time whenever I can.
We’ve just celebrated my eldest child’s 9th birthday. It’s a well-worn cliché, but time really does fly. It doesn’t seem that long ago that I sat me and my enormous preggy-belly down in a wicker chair, in the typically first-child decorated nursery, and imagined how my life would change with his imminent arrival.
Like many soon-to-be mothers, the images I had in my mind at that moment, in that wicker chair differed considerably to what became my reality.
Prior to falling pregnant, I worked full-time (in a job I wasn’t really enjoying), I also worked on the weekends and some evenings as a fitness instructor and gym supervisor, I ran religiously four mornings a week and my husband and I “pumped iron” every second evening and most Sunday mornings.
When I was picturing my life as a mother, I accounted for a little downtime on the fitness tools, but was feeling meekishly confident I’d be pounding the pavement - pushing the pram I’d bought specifically for jogging - and bench pressing well before my baby boy started rolling over.
Didn’t QUITE go to plan.
Breastfeeding was a bee-atch. He’d feed for anywhere between 40-70 minutes (I have it documented) and even then he wasn’t entirely content. And according one of the dozen or so books that I had within an arm’s reach at any given moment, he was only supposed to be awake for an hour at a time. That didn’t leave me much time to change from my vomit covered tracksuit into some appropriate activewear (thankfully that craze hadn’t gained full flight yet) and head out for a jog.
The one time I did manage to test out the jogging-viability of my so called jogger pram, I ended up injuring my ankle, because the force required to steer the thing one handed (I think I was using the other arm to wing-clutch my tender milk jugs) threw any proper running technique I had into disarray. Not to mention I had to stop every 50 metres to pick up a dropped shoe/rug/rusk/beanie/teddy/drink bottle/other shoe.
Jogger pram became a regular pram from that day forward.
One night a week, my well-meaning parents would come by so that hub and I could go to the gym. Whilst it was supposed to be an evening of carefree bliss and fitness induced endorphins (and gawd 9 years on, I am truly questioning WHY THE HELL DIDN’T WE WAG THE GYM AND DO SOMETHING MUCH MORE COOLER WITH OUR TIME?!), it was far from it.
After cleaning up from dinner (of a cold steak and overcooked vegetables) which my husband and I had tagged teamed between bouncing a screaming child, I handed said screaming child over to my parents. They had a look on their face that said “really, we’re really doing this?” and I’d wave goodbye, close the door, pretending to be all gym-bunny-mummy, get in the car, practically in tears and tell my husband we had 30 minutes tops before my anxiety really hit the roof.
We’d flail through some sort of workout; me usually walking a slow pace on the treadmill (because you know, you shouldn’t wear an evil sports bra with all that constriction and underwire when you’re breastfeeding, and if you sweat the child may not feed from you afterwards because you taste different…... HOLY MOTHER, my poor what-to-expect-when-you’re-expecting brainwashed mind!!) and my husband, would usually be bicep curling and shoulder pressing as best he could with my hurry-up-we’ve-got-to-get-home eyes drilling into him.
Needless to say, gym nights didn’t last long.
I tried to do some work outs at home. But after 45 minutes of rocking a 6 month old boy (who weighed about 8kg) off to sleep and then commando rolling out of his room, I was hardly in the mood for aerobics oz style. So I just ate as many spoonfuls of milo I could in the 40 minutes I had before he woke up (read the books: 40 minutes isn’t the “ideal” amount of time for a 6 month old to sleep).
We welcomed my baby girl into the world when my son had just turned 2 years old. The pram remained joggerless, the gym nights remained absent and I continued to eat milo from the tin in my darkest moments.
Eventually, I started going to the gym one, maybe even two mornings a week. The kids went into the crèche where the staff were unperplexed by a screaming child, I wore a sports bra and raised a decent sweat (and my daughter didn’t resent me for the taste of it).
I started working as a fitness instructor again.
A friend invited me for a short weekend jog and I’ve been jogging 2, sometimes even 3 days a week ever since. (Actually, just recently I even amped it back up to 4 days a week. Look. At. Me. Go.)
My husband and I don’t pump iron together because we aren’t wankers anymore but we cherish any opportunity we have to go for a nice long walk.
My boy is 9 years old. My daughter is almost 7 years old. While I celebrate all the wonderful, amazing things that my children have brought into my life over those 9 years, I also celebrate the fact that I have waded through some pretty disappointing-not-as-I-imagined-it-moments.
Some people have babies that they can take for jogs in the pram (and they must have better jogger prams). Some people have babies that will sit and watch while their mums do exercise. Some people have babies that sleep for longer than 40-bloody-minutes at a time so they can handle a few rounds of an in-home workout.
But some people don’t. For some people getting a sense of regular wellbeing back into their lives takes YEARS.
If there is a reason I am passionate about women’s health and fitness, this is it. Ignore Pinterest and its booty circuits and “don’t stop when it hurts, stop when it’s done” kind of quotes. Shield yourself from Instagram accounts that flick you before and after body shots, #fitspo images and 15 second exercise clips.
Ignore what you once could do, thought you could do, imagined you would do.
And just do what you can, when you can.
Because time really does fly and one day the jogger pram will be sold, your dinners will be warm and the Milo will be just for hot milk drinks on a cold winter’s night. One day, you might even be able to do more than you could have ever imagined anyway.