Health and fitness: Setting realistic goals

Kristin writes about how the average mom can be totally fit. Desire is the only major requirement.

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Photo by Kristin Auger.

I do my Twitter catch-up late at night, after the dishes have been placed haphazardly in the dishwasher and after the baby’s bum has been patted enough times to enable him to drift off to sleep. The day, inevitably, has been long: A 6 a.m. wake-up coo from our five-month-old, scrambled eggs and lunchbox prep for our six-year-old off to summer camp. I mainline coffee, eyes bleary in the morning, and thrust my hair up into an off-the-face bun, grateful that I conduct most of my day’s meetings by phone and not in person. There are swirls of imperfection all around the house — laundry piled high in the baby’s crib because I can’t get to it and post-pregnancy hair fallout, clumped in the sink because there are more important things to clean. My husband’s work shirts that have been en route to the dry cleaner for three weeks now. 

I’m a career woman and a wife and a mother of a baby with two newly rearing teeth and most days I feel like I’m not capable of any of these titles. I need to reassure my sensitive older son and put together winning proposals, I need to clean and jerk 130 pounds, I need to write about all of these experiences and present them on the Internet for impending judgments and I’m a little behind on all these tasks. There are dents and bruises in my life package, and I am aware of this and I’m perpetually trying to smooth them out with hands that are simultaneously juggling six other balls. 

But, at the end of the evening when my babies are sleeping and the house is semi-clean and the sun has faded into grey light, I have a few minutes to myself. I catch up on my Facebook feed, flip through the few blogs I still read regularly and check my frequently neglected Twitter account. Tonight I see a reply to the Today’s Parent tweet that promoted my post from last week.

@Todaysparent: 4 months postpartum: Our @lucky_kristin (and those abs!) compares her pre-baby goals and her postpartum fitness.

And the reply that made me blink:

@Todaysparent, @luckykristin No thanks. I don’t want to read about it because it makes me feel bad. Not realistic for the average Mom.

I am overly sensitive these days: Lack of sleep and a feeling of drowning in obligation, likely, but tears pricked at my eyelids. Not realistic? How? Exercise is what keeps me from falling apart in defeat, from eating or drinking my way to complacency and the one thing that spurs me into a belief that I can manage all my obligations, that maybe I am stronger than I think.

It’s not the first time that I’ve heard that my fitness stories are unrelatable to the average woman. One friend commented to me that she cannot relate to almost anything I write here, even though we had babies that were due on the same day. Another very respected pal told me that there’s no way in hell that the average woman is going to look like I do four months postpartum. And I nod thoughtfully and I don’t want to offend by saying it out loud, but I guess I want to ask — well then, who is this average woman? Because in every way I’m completely average: A totally typical Canadian Mama.

I’m in my 30s, with two little boys. I have a husband and a full-time career, and we juggle every month to make our mortgage payments and eat healthy foods and ensure our boys have ample activity and clothes. We have a window that leaks downstairs and Corey and I share a 10-year-old Jeep that smells like old man feet. We love hard and we have stupid arguments and we’ve conquered demons and accomplished some cool things and we both want to exploit life to maximum capacity. Don’t we sound like every other family you know?

I look at my Twitter stream and I reply:

It’s not unrealistic. It’s a matter of priorities, and whether you want to do it or not.

You may not want to be fit, because there are way more important things in life, or because you’re too busy. I get that, and it’s completely fine. You may want to save the whales or invent a shuttle to Mars or use your Twitter voice to implore Lindsay Lohan to please get it together already and I agree that every one of those things is noble and worthy to someone and that all people must choose their priorities in life. I just write a totally optional blog on a tiny corner of the Internet with some random thoughts about exercise and what has helped me in my quest to be lean, strong and healthy.

I don’t waver in my belief that if you are an average North American mom and you want to be fit, you can be. If you want to avoid processed food and bloating foods, you can. If you want to start feeling better about your body and understand that you can get faster, leaner and stronger as you get older, there is so much room to do that. 

I’ve made fitness a priority in my life because it lends me patience in parenting and confidence in my abilities and in the body that motors me around this earth, that caters to my boys. It gives me an activity to do with my husband, an experience we can share apart from parenting our kids. My four-month postpartum body is the result of healthy eating and consistent skipping, running and lifting, not because I’m not an “average mom.” I don’t do anything insane, extreme or unrealistic.

Essentially: If you want to do it, you can. Grab a skipping rope and bookmark some Paleo or raw eating websites. Throw out your Wonder Bread. Go to Crossfit.com and do what they say, or make your own workout. Squeeze in 20 minutes a day of hard sweat: You can do it, I know you can. Log your progress, enlist a friend to keep you accountable. Push yourself hard every day. Do this for 30 days in a row, then aim for 60. You’re average, yes. And you’re capable of so much more, if you want it.

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